Thursday, 09 July

A new electoral roll: A valid nat’l need or an ill-advised arbitrary want?

Feature Article
Benjamin Akakpo

Ghanafo), on the back of newer and even more troubling revelations about the proposed creation of a new electoral roll for Ghana, I had to deliver a second take on this all-important matter.

Fellow citizens, in June last year, the Electoral Commission conducted a limited voter registration exercise at great cost to the taxpayer – “in order to enable citizens and qualified applicants located in riverine, distant and difficult areas who wanted to take advantage of the registration process” to be able to do so. Those were the words of Electoral Commissioner, Jean Mensa, herself. After all that, I ask: are we, after only some six months, going to jettison that entire biometric registration for another similar process? What sense is there in that?

You see, the same electoral roll that the Electoral Commission now vilifies is the same one it told us only last year was the best thing since sliced bread and praised and defended steadfastly - before the referendum to create new regions as well as the elections which saw us elect assembly and unit committee members only last month. The question is: between then and now, what, fundamentally, has changed? I smell a rat, and that rat stinks badly! A stinking rat can only mean trouble, so Madam Electoral Commissioner, please get rid of the source of this electoral stench before it consumes our beloved country in ways that nobody wants to see.

If we knew we needed new kits and a new software for our elections this year, why did we wait till the last gasp, in the election year itself, to effectuate plans to do these? And concerning a new register, will it not be bloated from day one as deaths continue to occur? Will that be any cleaner than the one we have now which, to all intents and purposes, at least form what we know as of now, is still worth using? We are contemplating sinking many millions of our taxpayers’ money into a venture that we, the people, are yet unsure of and which we may not be ready for, especially considering our precarious debt position right now as a country.

Also considering the concerns in the area of the register being manipulable, would that bottleneck not erode any hope of free and fair elections and render the entire costly process of elections one big sham? The truth of the matter is that we have been so hard-pressed as a country that we have even needed support from donor and other friendly countries to be able to conduct our elections in this country.

With our debt stock now at alarming levels per what the MIF has been saying recently, that can only be crystal clear indication of one thing: we can ill afford conducting a second election in 2020 or 2021 if the first one is deeply tainted by electoral irregularities and mistrust of the process. If the Electoral Commission botches this, every Ghanaian - man, woman, children and even those still in the womb - will have to pay the heavy price!

Madam Jean Mensa, listen up! I genuinely feel your predecessor, Charlotte Osei, did a pretty good job. Yes, there was the in-fighting, pettiness and high-handedness here and there. I lampooned her on some occasions for moves that I felt were wrong or ill-timed and didn’t inure to our benefit. But here's the bottom line: regardless of all her human failings that we can point to, Charlotte Osei, together with her team, gave us a highly-acclaimed election that maintained our democratic credentials and held high the flag of mother Ghana one more time. My piece of advice to you, Jean Mensa and crew? Don't mess that up! Don't even think of it!

One sad thing that I have come to notice about leadership, about many of those occupying high office in this country, is this: you often remain up there, in your ivory towers, befuddled by the clouds of praise and worship served in plentiful portions by the sycophants that surround and selfishly feed you with what you prefer to hear. You foolishly fail to listen to the people, the masses, whom you are supposed to serve. But when you do that, especially when something about which people are so polarised about in this country as elections are concerned, it is very much like dropping lighted matchstick after lighted matchstick into a whole mega tank full of a highly flammable liquid and hoping there will be no conflagration or explosion. Would that not be tantamount to living in a fool's paradise? Can that ever do you any good? Can it?

You see, for me, I am brutally honest about these things - not because I give a damn about the opposition parties in this country who are making noise all over the place - because you know what? I don't! I don't give a goat's beard about them! How did they, when they were in power, make my life and those of other ordinary people any better? They haven't proven themselves much better, more serious and committed to the people, or worthy of my trust in this, so they are not my concern in any way. I do this, however, for the poor people who already suffer so much. I do it for the ordinary Joes and Janes eking out a living. I do it for those who have not yet given up hope on Mother Ghana. I do it for posterity - for those yet to be born - so they can come to experience a really better Ghana. I do it because this is what true citizens do - while spectators sit idly on the fence.

We are a peaceful people. We need our country to remain that way so we can maintain the trajectory of development. Madam Electoral Commissioner and team, do not plunge us into chaos. Do not ruin the country for us. I can guarantee you this: having come from where we have in terms of our chequered socio-politico-economic history, we shall never forgive you if you mess things up! Bear that in mind!

My name is Benjamin Akakpo and this is A PIECE OF MY MIND, raw and unedited.