The first female Deputy Chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC), Ms Georgina Opoku-Amankwaa, is optimistic that the outcome of the presidential election petition will go a long way to shape the commission’s delivery in future elections.
Admitting that the credibility of the Commission had been put to test by the petition, she nonetheless was of the conviction that the EC would take the criticisms in their stride and find ways to improve on its performance in future.
In an interview with The Mirror in Kumasi, Ms Opoku-Amankwaa, who assumed office on August 1, 2013, maintained that the commission had worked hard over the years but as a human institution, it was bound to make mistakes.
“But such little mistakes should not lead to the bastardisation of the commission,” she stressed, adding that in many instances the EC had been attacked unduly.
A woman of many firsts, the new deputy commissioner, who is a lawyer, was also the first female chairperson of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) of Ghana in its 62-year history before her current appointment.
Before then, Ms Opoku Amankwaa had held the position of national chairperson of the Public Services Workers Union (PSWU) of the TUC.
Recounting events leading to her appointment as Deputy EC Commissioner, she said she never had any idea that an appointment of that nature was on the way for her.
“Even though the President had spoken to me days earlier I had no idea he was going to appoint me to the position.
“So everything came as a surprise. But I thank God for the honour done me, and also thank the President for the confidence reposed in me.”
According to the 48-year-old woman, at the last national May Day Parade in Takoradi, she had the opportunity to talk to the President on various national issues.
“That was the first time I spoke with His Excellency the President, but he did not give me a hint he was going to appoint me to the position.”
Ms Opoku Amankwaa said two days later, a friend called to tell her that the President was impressed with her delivery during their interaction.
“The next day, I had telephone calls from friends informing me that I was being investigated and “I asked myself what I had done for an inquiry to be conducted on me”
“Friends and relations who learnt about this became concerned. As a matter of fact, my uncle said if it concerned my role in the Labour Union then I should resign,” she said.
Continuing, the Deputy EC Chairman said in spite of everything she knew deep within her that she had not committed any wrong in her work with the trades union, or in her other previous work engagements, so she kept her cool.
“Later, staff in my office called to inform me of a letter that had come from the Office of the President to be delivered to me. And when I opened it, it was the appointment to the EC.”
Ms Opoku Amankwaa said she received the good news with mixed feelings.
“Even though it was a call to duty to serve my country in another high position, I was leaving the TUC less than a year after taking up a leadership position.”
But, as she puts it, “I was taking up a new and bigger challenge in my working life, and there was every reason to face up to it.”
Concerning the task ahead of her, she said she would have to develop a thick skin at the EC to overcome the name calling associated with persons working in top positions at the commission.
At the TUC, she said, she met similar challenges as some called her a witch, Osama Bin-Laden and all sorts of names “but I worked to the best of my ability”.
She observed that quite irrationally some people were not comfortable with forward-looking females in positions of authority and so tended to denigrate them, which was bad for society.
A native of Sawua in the Ashanti Region, Ms Opoku Amankwaa is a twin and the fourth of nine children born to the late Sawuahene, Nana Opoku Adusei II, and Mrs Theresa Opoku, a retired banker.
She was educated at the TI Ahmadiyya Senior High School (SHS) and Osei Kyeretwie SHS all in Kumasi for the Ordinary and Advanced Level Certificates respectively before gaining admission to pursue Diploma in Estate Management in 1987 at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST).
She later pursued a B.A. in Social Sciences (Sociology and Law) at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) before enrolling at the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana for the LL.B and then for the Professional Law Certificate, which led to her call to the Bar.
Ms Opoku Amankwaa has also worked with the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE) rising through the ranks to become a deputy director.
The Deputy EC Chairman was once a member of the Bosomtwe District Assembly in the Ashanti Region and has participated in a number of local and international conferences.
She is married to Mr Ralph Frimpong, an educationist, and the couple have two children.
As a former civic educator, Ms Opoku Amankwaa wants to take keen interest in education at the EC. “I am bringing my 20-year experience as a civic educator to bear on the EC.”
As a woman, she hopes to employ ‘feminine touches’ to her work in her new area.
And the seasoned trade unionist would also take issues of human resource development seriously.
She is ready to receive criticisms but wants them to be positive. “When it happens that way, you see to correct your mistakes and move forward,” she said.
From Kwame Asare Boadu, Kumasi