Editor's Note: The author of this article is the founder of the public policy research centre, Danquah Institute. Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko is also a member of the New Patriotic Party (NPP). He is questioning the competence and loyalty of two of the five-member panel set up by the Electoral Commission to hear concerns of political parties, civil society groups and every Ghanaian who raise issues with current voters' register.
As the title of this article states, I believe the political parties that are calling for a new register are left with no other option but to boycott this week’s EC public forum ostensibly to openly discuss the merits or otherwise of the case for a new electoral roll; what I described just two weeks ago as a “farcical circus”.
Mrs Osei has not acted in a way that chimes with the sincere intentions of an independent, impartial umpire on the controversy over the voters list. In my previous article, ‘Charlotte is Playing Games’, I wrote: “I have come to the conclusion that Charlotte Osei and her Commission have no intention to compile a new voters’ register. This conclusion is drawn from the conduct of the Commission before and during Charlotte, and her own conduct since.” In that article I focused more on the pace and actions taken since the NPP presented its ‘bombshell’ evidence On Tuesday, August 18, 2015.
This week she is putting up a big public show, which in my view merely sets the stage for discrediting the case of all those important voices calling for a new register, including six political parties. The EC is exhibiting the kind of blatant bias which if pursued could lead to disastrous consequences for our democracy.
There are five main political parties in Ghana: NDC, NPP, CPP, PNC and PPP. These are the five parties recognised by the UNDP, for instance, which is heavily involved with the organisations of our democracy. Three out of the five, NPP, CPP and PPP have all submitted proposals calling for a new register. The EC believes it has found a clever way to destroy their case:organise a public forum but constitute the panel of ‘experts’ in such a way that those who want anew register would end up with egg on their faces.
My prediction is that the panel will seek to discredit the evidence that non-nationals have been proven to be on Ghana’s register and also the EC database has been compromised. It will then proceed to conclude by recommending an “audit” of the register with the view of a clean-up exercise, if necessary. It would make the details of this audit so vague that it would make the task of seeing the head or tail of John Mahama’s economic policy seem as clear as water (perhaps, the iced kind he is so proud of) in a glass.
Accordingly, theEC on Friday named five people to sit on the adjudicating panel that will hear arguments for and against the EC compiling a new voters’’ register for 2016. The hearings will take place on Thursday and Friday, (29-30th October). Ironically this takes place at the Alisa Hotel. The same venue where the NPP, on August 18, presented its evidence of database tampering, non-nationals registering and other evidence suggesting the current register not to be fit for purpose.
After calling for and receiving some 30 other submissions on this matter, the Commission’s press release makes a bold boast: “In order to assure a transparent and accountable process for examining and determining the petitions, the EC has assembled a Panel of Eminent Ghanaians to hold a two-day public hearing on the issue.”
It brags further:“The panel of five will conduct the hearings in a free, transparent, fair and objective manner.The hearings will also be broadcast live on radio, television and on the internet for the benefit of Ghanaians who cannot attend but wish to follow the proceedings.”
Most importantly, the EC tells us,“The findings and recommendations of the Panel will be presented to the EC for final decision and communication to the public.” What this means is that the EC has shifted the task of objective and technical assessment of the evidence to this ‘independent’ panel to determine for the direction of the EC. The panel includes a statistician, who was responsible for compiling the 2010 national census, which captured among others, 2 million non-nationals. Also on the panel is a veteran in election management, who headed the largest election observer mission in 2012. Also on the panel is an internationally respected IT expert. Formidable.
So who are the actual members of the panel? His Lordship Professor V.C.R.A.C. Crabbe, Co-Chair of the Coalition for Domestic Election Observers, (CODEO), former Justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana, former Professor of Law, and former Electoral Commissioner of Ghana;Most Reverend Professor Emmanuel Asante, former Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Ghana and Chairman of the National Peace Council; Dr Grace Bediako, a former Government Statistician and former member of the National Development Planning Commission; Dr Nii Narku Quaynor, a renowned computer scientist, Chairman of the National Information Technology Agency (NITA) Board of Directors, and President of the Internet Society of Ghana; and Maulvi Bin Salih, Ameer of the Ahmadiyya Mission of Ghana.
An eminent list indeed. But, wait a minute. Even before the panel sits, we know the views of two of its eminent members. Two of them are known to not support the case of the opposition parties calling for a new register. It does not make them less eminent members of society. But, it makes their presence on this panel most questionable. In fact, in my view, their presence on the panel has incurably destroyed the expected fundamental objective of the entire public forum.
What is Dr Quaynor doing on a panel that is set up to conduct hearings “in a free, transparent, fair and objective manner?” Is he going to be transparent and disclose the fact that he is the godfather of IT for the ruling NDC? Will he disclose the fact that he has already given his expert opinion to the NDC on the evidence presented to the EC by the NPP?
On December 8, 2012, angry NPP supporters, led by Sammi Awuku stormed the vicinity of STL office in Dzorwulu over allegations that results were changing in transmission via the help of STL. The political parties were eventually asked to send their IT experts to STL to look into this matter. The NPP was represented by Joe Anokye, a renowned contractor for NASA in Maryland, and the NDC was represented by Dr Nii Quaynor, a renowned IT guru. What the two IT experts of international repute had in common was that they were (and still are) both loyal to the parties they represented. Anokye is a leading member of the NPP US branch and Quaynor is an NDC kingpin, full stop.
I have seen a police video of the technical meeting which took place at the STL office, with STL personnel taking the IT representatives, including Messrs Anokye and Quaynor, through the work which they claimed they were assigned by the EC to do: transmitting results. STL stated categorically on camera that the EC contracted them to transmit results and on the video you can see them showing how the work was being done in defence of the integrity of the process. The exchanges of disagreement between Anokye and Quaynor were all captured on the police video.
Oddly, moments later, the EC issued a press release to say that it had no business to do with STL on the transmission of electoral results. The EC said STL won the contract to give it technical support services as far as the biometric voter registration was concerned and not for results transmission. So who lied to Ghanaians on December 8?
But, let me get back to my main point. Charlotte Osei may be right. Considering the considerable international reputation that Dr Quaynor has, his inclusion is probably anticipated to give ostensible international‘credibility’ to the panel’s findings and recommendations on the technical issues concerning the register.
But, in reality, asking Dr Quaynor to be an adjudicator on this voter registration issue is like asking Arsene Wenger to referee a championship-deciding match between Arsenal and Chelsea.
The other obvious inclusion of contention is Justice Crabbe. He has a larger than life reputation on integrity. He is respected by all. In fact one of his biggest admirers is Nana Akufo-Addo, the NPP standard bearer. But, no, he cannot be a member of this panel and for a very good reason.
The NPP held its ‘bombshell’ press conference on Tuesday, August 18. The following Friday (August 21), Justice Crabbe was on air completely disagreeing with the NPP on the case for a new register. To him there was no need for a new register even if the current register was bloated. Not even the evidence of cross-border registration fazed him.
“Is it possible for somebody to be in Ivory Coast and also a citizen of Ghana? The answer is yes. Then there is a possibility that his name will be in the register in Ivory Coast and the register in Ghana,” he told Citi FM. He recommended cleaning up as the only option worth considering. - See more at: http://citifmonline.com/2015/08/21/new-voters-register-vcrac-crabbe-disagrees-with-npp/
Surely, the EC cannot feign oblivion to the views of Justice Crabbe and affiliations of Dr Quaynor when it comes to this voters’ register issue. Justice Crabbe is against a new register and for a clean-up. The NDC is against a new register and a for a clean-up. Dr Quaynor is NDC. These are two of three experts on the panel. Their presence therefore makes the entire exercise a sham.
So what stopped the EC from discussing at IPAC with all the political parties the matter of the composition of the panel? The consequence of the absence of consultation is seen clearly in the composition, which has fatally wounded the integrity of the public forum.
The only way the EC can seek to resurrect it is to reconsider a more credible way of implementing the suggestion from the Institute of Democratic Governance and the Civic Forum Initiative for an independent inquiry into claims that the register is bloated. They wanted experts such as IT professionals to be part of a committee to investigate complaints over the register. The EC listened but opted for an IT expert who is also an NDC guru.
Dr. Kwesi Jonah of IDEG said last month, “a lot of parties are complaining. There is actually the need for impartial committee.” We may have to look further beyond the shores of Accra for credible experts and organisations with international reputation on this kind of exercise to assist us.
Unfortunately, the EC appears to be harking back without apology to the very culture of election organisation which Africans are working hard to move away from. The way Charlotte Osei is handling this voter register controversy poses a sincere threat to the future of democracy in Ghana. She has careened from one bad move to the next, diligently transcending her last flap with a new one, as she pretends to be showing genuine concern over this new register controversy.
“The EC, in the discharge of its constitutional mandate to run free, fair and credible elections, assures the people of Ghana of its commitment to undertake its solemn duty dispassionately,” so read the EC release last Friday.
So far, Madam, you have not acted with the apparent sincerity that commands public confidence.If your tenure is to be a success, you must quickly figure out how to respond to genuine concerns over the electoral process sensibly, creatively, honestly, honourably, and impartially. You ignore the huge drop in public confidence over the work of the EC at the peril of our democracy.