Some of those fervidly engaged in the ongoing debate over whether there is enough time to open or create a new voters’ register, are conveniently either forgetting or ignoring the fact that then-Chairperson of Ghana’s Electoral Commission (EC), Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, created 35 new constituencies and about the same number of parliamentary seats with just about four months to the casting of the ballot in the 2012 general election (See “Prof. Gyampo Writes: We Need New Register but Do We Have Ample Time in an Election Year?” Ghanaweb.com 1/9/20).
You see, Dear Reader, the question of “ample time,” as so neatly and clearly and eloquently framed or defined by Prof. Edward Ransford Yaw Gyampo, the University of Ghana’s political scientist who was recently embroiled in the sex-for-grades BBC exposé, is a relative term.
Which means that it invariably depends on who is using this term or phrase and the moral and judicial/legal context in which this term is being used. In other words, just because there does not appear to be “ample time” between now and the December 7, 2020 general election, does it mean that the quality and/or the integrity of the upcoming election ought to be necessarily compromised in order to achieve a superficial semblance of democratic continuity in Ghana? The awkward construction of the preceding sentence, by the way, is deliberately intended.
But before we proceed any further, we need to also emphasize the fact that the disparate context or set of circumstances under which the current Biometric Voters’ Register (BVR) was used in the conduct of the referendum that resulted in the creation of the six additional regions last year – namely, the North-East, Oti, Savannah, Bono-East, Ahafo and Western-North – was very different from the sort of election that is set to take place on December 7, 2020 or thereabouts, depending on the outcome of the first round of the election, of course.
But even more important must be highlighted the fact that the region-creation referenda/referendums were decidedly local elections, which pretty much ensured that the level of numerical distortion or overvoting, such as blatantly occurred under the watch of Dr. Afari-Gyan, was significantly reduced, both by the hard work and vigilance of the staff and the administrators of the Jean Adukwei Mensa-led Electoral Commission.
Equally significant, if not even more significant, is the fact that even as the massive loser of the 2016 Presidential Election indicated innumerable times on the hustings, or the campaign trail, had the extant incumbent President John Dramani Mahama defeated his most formidable political opponent, namely, then-Candidate Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the region-creation policy agenda would still have taken place.
What the preceding observation means is that the region-creation policy initiative was a win-win proposition, with practically no winners and/or losers, irrespective of what the outcome might have been.
The DA, or District Assembly elections also fall within the same category as the region-creation referendums/referenda, in the practical sense that unlike our past general elections and upcoming general election, they were not held on a partisan basis. So, here again, there were no real winners and losers here, although even as President Akufo-Addo truthfully and wisely pointed out in the leadup to the inadvisably aborted December 17, 2019 Referendum, in retrospect, the DA elections are only nonpartisan in name and not in practice.
We must also glancingly note that the so-called PHC or Population and Housing Census is not only about the registration or the counting of Ghanaian citizens per se , but foreign residents of Ghana as well; so the discussion of the latter should not be mischievously conflated with the proposed creation of a new voters’ register for Election 2020.
The 2020 general election, on the other hand, is going to be fiercely contested along partisan or political-party lines. If Prof. Gyampo agrees in principle that the current Biometric Voters’ Register significantly lacks integrity, wholesomeness or numerical accuracy, and he well appears to do, then, of course, it goes without saying that merely reducing its contaminants or degree of inaccuracy or distortion cannot in anyway ensure that the outcome of the usage of such a carcinogenic voters’ register would be worth the quality of electoral democracy that many Ghanaians have fiercely fought for and, in some significant instances, even paid the proverbial ultimate price for.
I also strongly disagree with Prof. Gyampo that the integrity of our voters’ register has to be compromised because of a perceived “lack of time” for the key contenders involved to mounting and carrying out their respective electioneering campaigns. You see, elections are largely won or lost on the basis of the performance track-record of a political party and its leadership, and not merely on propaganda spiel. Besides, electioneering campaign debates are far less important than governance record.
Then also, it would be inexcusably scandalous for either one of our two major presidential candidates to lose the 2020 presidential election as a result of the flagrant use of a heavily contaminated voters’ register, only to appear in court with a petition and be curtly told by a Justice Julius Ansah or Chief Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah and their associates that “Dukadaya,” to wit, that elections are won and lost at the polling station and not in court, as then-Candidate Akufo-Addo learned to his horror and great disappointment in the wake of Election 2012.
You see, the irony of the entire Atuguba-presided judicial charade is that the overwhelming majority of the same judges who pontifically affirmed that “elections are won and lost in the polling booth,” also paradoxically, if not mischievously on the part of some, acknowledged that the voters’ register used for that election, both the parliamentary and the presidential elections, was significantly bloated with duplicated, underage and non-Ghanaian or foreign names.
Now, Nana Akufo-Addo has a prime opportunity and a bounden obligation to serve the Ghanaian electorate and the New Patriotic Party and himself as righteously well as he ought to and need to, or eternally have himself to blame in the breach. In sum, Election 2020 is inescapably and squarely about Fair Play and Foul Play; and on the latter count, President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo cannot afford to foul.
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., PhD
English Department, SUNY-Nassau
Garden City, New York
January 9, 2020
*Visit my blog at: kwameokoampaahoofe.wordpress.com Ghanaffairs
Columnist: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.