Afari-Djan’s credibility: The crux of the supreme petition

Afari-Djan's credibility: The crux of the supreme petition

Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Djan

The Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Ghana, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Djan, a respondent (or defendant, if you will), in the ongoing electoral petition, (Nana Akufo-Addo, et al. v. Mahama, et al.), before the Supreme Court of Ghana, has made several revealing statements under oath, that require further scrutiny.

“I am not sure of what the notion [or connotation] of Over Voting is,” EC Chair, Afari-Djan:
The EC Chair made quite a surprising statement when he said, he did not understand the notion of “Over-Voting”. One would expect the EC Chair to either offer an explanation for over-voting, or expand on how to curtail the perennial problem of ballot stuffing in African politics. Rather, he claimed not to understand the very nature of the problem. The “classical” definition and the “technological” definition of “Over-Voting,” he desperately sought to offer under oath, were nothing more than an attempt to be evasive, when a simple truth could suffice. How about, more votes in the ballot box than verified voters? Simple enough?

Checking the number of votes in the ballot box against the Voter Register has its own problems. It will not account for those who registered, but did not vote (because of travel, re-location, students at school, or those who unfortunately died between the time of registration and the election day). Furthermore, some voters were denied or simply unaware of the avenue for proxy voting, an option that allows a designated individual to vote on ones behalf.

Of the options available to detect over-voting, using the voter-register, I am afraid to hint, will allow even the dead to vote. The pink sheet, which is the primary record of voting, in-spite of its occasional imperfections, is the best available tool we have to detect over-voting.

After much court room theatrics, the EC Chair, finally admitted that, indeed over-voting did occur in the 2012 presidential election, under cross-examination by the lead petitioners’ counsel, Mr. Philip Addison, when the witness was shown the “pink-sheet'” from the temporary booth of Jinpenhi, (with polling station code K030405). The total votes cast were 67, while only 21 voters were on the voter register. A case that illustrates the inherent difficulties of relying on the voter register, as stated above.

This is not to assert that, the voter register for a particular polling station is completely unhelpful, but as a matter of fact, the statement of poll, (aka “pink sheet”) should be the primary record of election on the voting day. After all, The EC Chair has admitted that the voter register can be quite “dynamic,” or “fluid,” changing as more voters are added, deleted, or re-assigned elsewhere. With that knowledge, the “pink sheets,” in all fairness, should really be the reference record of voting on the election day.

“I will allow well known figures to Vote-Without [bio-metric] verification,” Afari-Djan:
Secondly, the EC chair’s astonishing declaration under oath that, he would allow potential voters who were not bio-metrically verified, but well known to him, like the paramount chief, to vote, smells like allowing the old problems of multiple voting with multiple identification cards, to creep back into the current voting system, which the BVD machines were procured at a hefty price tag to avoid.

If the EC chair can allow a “well known figure” to vote without verification, the presiding officers, and presumably the polling station agents may allow “well known figures” to them, to vote without bio-metric verification. The sub-chiefs, the chief electrician, the chief driver, the chief welder, the chief nurse(s), the chief local school principal(s), the teachers, the church deacons, the local mosque imam(s), the chief trader(s), the national service student(s), the phone seller(s), at the local level are ALL well known figures to someone, who can vouch for their eligibility as voters. The comical nature of Afari-Djan’s reasoning is obvious.

You see, Afari-Djan’s admission of allowing “well-known figures” to vote, invariably opens a back door to ineligible, unverified voters to vote creating the problem of over-voting, to say the least. The statement may be tacit invitation for double voting, and worse, ballot malfeasance. Foreign material in the ballot box?

In any event, the chair of the EC, is not vested with the power to over-ride what is otherwise, proscribed by applicable law. If we allow the EC chair to act in such manner, any one can take tangential liberties with the law, and doom our destiny. We deserve better.

“We did not have enough money for the election,” Afari-Djan:
A whopping Ghc 234M (approximately $125m US Dollars) was appropriated for the 2012 Parliamentary and Presidential elections in Ghana, including procurement of BVD machines. The statement was a big surprise indeed, coming from the EC Chair who requested for the stated amount, and was duly granted by parliament. Who is Afari-Djan kidding? Or who was he trying to “hood-wink”. The huge sum of money he requested and approved for the conduct of the election needs to be audited, if not fully investigated, in light of the new revelation that insufficient BVD machines were procured, with several stations without BVD back-ups, causing undue delays, and voter frustrations at the polls.

Voting without verification should really be in our rear-view mirror. We need to know the truth; who the electorate voted for, to govern the affairs of the nation. Enough with the meddling of the will of the people of Ghana. A credible EC should take all steps to ensure the sanctity of the vote.

‘There were Double-Registrations,” Afari-Djan:
Next is the issue of “Double Registration”. Several names on the voters register were entered on more than one occasion, making the overseas voter register for example, swell from 705 to 240,000. There can be very little explanation as to why such a scale of error could not be spotted prior to the election. The ‘gargantuan error” only came to light, when the petitioners filed their “supreme” case. Does anyone really believe that the error of double registration would have been uncovered, had the petitioners not sought relief at the mercy of the supreme court of the land?

The lack of credibility on the part of the EC with respect to double registration, is undeniably too obvious to ignore, given the fact that the registration abroad was conducted by senior permanent members of the EC, who unlike the hired temporary election workers, are experienced in what they do. For instance, we now know that, double registration can simply occur if the electoral agent fails to edit the “picture” of a registrant. The re-take of a picture of a voter can simply create 2 new voters out of one. Whew Ghana ! Are we making progress or back-paddling? Why risk our future to a highly manipulative system?

Can Afari-Djan adequately explain the issue of double registration after spending over $125M on a new voting system? We had hoped he purchased a voting system capable of stopping multiple registrations, since multiple registrants will have same finger prints.

To add insults to injury, the EC chair was hopelessly uncertain as to what legal instrument he derived his authority to conduct foreign voters registration exercise. Additionally, the highly selective nature of the overseas voter registration, was discriminatory, as observed by the lead petitioners’ counsel, Mr. Addison. Only Ghanaians serving in foreign missions, their dependents, students on government scholarships, and military personnel on international assignments were registered. Large sections of Ghanaians residing outside Ghana were excluded from the registration, and therefore the chance to exercise their constitutional right to vote.

“Unique numbers and serial numbers,” Afari-Djan:
More problems with registration. Not all polling stations had BVD machines with back-up equipment to spare. In case of software or hardware failures, a unique number on the BVD machine could help match the data to the device, and the polling station. Afari-Djan admitted that each BVD had a unique number, but the EC Chair won’t reference such numbers as serial numbers, even though he admitted each BVD machine could be identified by its unique number.

A serial number is a number that is unique to a device or a document and as such could be used to identify the device or the referenced document.

The chassis number of an automobile (or the vehicle identification number) embossed on a vehicle makes it unique to the vehicle. If two vehicles have the same VIN or chassis number, you know very well, one of the vehicles is stolen. Ask anyone who is an authorized car dealer from any corner of the planet earth.

Let me offer one more example. The unique numbers on any one Ghana cedi note is UNIQUE to that note. No two Ghana cedi notes of the same denomination have the same UNIQUE/SERIAL numbers. If two Ghana cedi notes have the same UNIQUE/SERIAL numbers, believe me, one is counterfeit!

If we can catch car thieves by Unique/Serial (Chassis/VIN) numbers, and catch counterfeit money printers with unique/serial numbers, we can detect electoral fraud with unique/serial numbers on pink-sheets, ballot papers, and BVD machines.

Friends, I offer to you that, the existence of more than one “pink sheet” with the same serial number is the “prima-facie” evidence that the election may have been “stolen,” “counterfeited” or simply rigged. Since the “pink sheets” are the primary record of election, the unique numbers on them are our best chance to detect fraud. The Honorable Justices of the Supreme Court of Ghana must marshal the courage to rule accordingly.

“I hired temporary Technical Support techs for the election,” Afari-Djan:
Mr. Afari-Djan admitted the EC trained some permanent Technicians and some temporal tech support employees to provide technical assistance for the BVD operations. Question is, to what extend were these technicians supervised? What changes to captured data could these techs, temporal or permanent, make to the Voter database(s). The answer to these questions may sound mundane to the non-tech savvy, but the bomb-shell admission by Afari-Djan, that the captured data could be removed by use of “jump-drive” or “flash-drive” is worrisome. One also needs to worry about the fact that, the BVD machines do not have centralized data base. The lack of centralized database could open avenues for the mischievous to be dubious. Can the Tech support network improve the protection of the database from manipulation?

“I am not a registration Officer”, Afari-Djan:
Now as if the above surprises were not enough, the “venerable” EC Chair, Mr. Afari-Djan, the sole return election officer for the presidential elections, and the one person constitutionally charged to register, and to conduct ALL elections in Ghana, stated under oath that, he is not a “registration officer,” and cannot answer questions about the process of registration. OMG! SSG (Oh my God, Someone save Ghana, as these text and #hash-tags would put it). The exasperating statement was Afari-Djan’s anemic effort to answer (or dodge) the lead petitioner counsel, Philip Addison’s cross-examination query about what Forms 1A, 1B and 1C were. The EC chair needed some prodding to answer that question.

Afari-Djan lost more than his credibility. Appearing uninformed about electoral procedures in Ghana, after stating impressive resume and “self-trumpeting” awards from notable world institutions, supposedly for conduct of elections, is self-inflicted blood-letting. Must Afari-Djan resort to such ends to secure a victory for anyone? At what point is the truth important ? At what point is the common good of Ghana more important than the entrenched partisanship on display.

Where is the statesmanship needed for the office of Chair of Electoral Commission?

Afari-Djan should come across as someone who wants to help cleanse the mess in the EC, not its cover-up. Or is the veteran electoral officer under such undue pressure from the “powers that be,” that the once revered and celebrated Ghana’s electoral chief, needs our help? If so, Our Lords, the Justices of the Supreme Court, and the collective will of ALL discerning Ghanaians, must be brought to bear to salvage the present predicament we find ourselves in, and to ensure the once bright future forefathers envisioned.

“I did not personally see the pink sheets before I declared the results,” Afari-Djan:
Finally, The above statement by the EC Chair, was made before he admitted in the witness box that, he had not personally seen any of the “pink sheets,” aka “statement of poll” sheets, before the declaration of the presidential election. If so, why didn’t the EC Chair take his time to investigate the petitioners “alleged irregularities,” (which he has now admitted indeed occurred in the 2012 presidential election), before announcing the presidential results, when the issue was first raised in the meeting with the petitioners, the respondents and the members of the PEACE Counsel on Dec 9, 2012?

The EC chair could have delayed the declaration of the results for say 48-72 hours, and critically examine the concerns of the petitioners if they had a case. He could have called for an audit of the pink sheets, and even sanction by means of annulment where credible evidence of irregularity, malpractices or violations of the electoral law or procedures had occurred.

Given the novelty of the introduction of the BVD machines, and the impact the historic election will have on the fate of the nation, Ghanaians as patient as we are, would have given him sufficient time to do his just duty.

“The presiding officers do not have to sign the pink sheet” Afari-Djan:
If presiding officers do not have to sign the statement of polls, then why even bother having presiding officers at all. Afari-Djan may be compromised beyond believe.

Friends, the above jaw dropping statements by the Chair of Ghana EC, may actually bolster the petitioners case before the supreme court. I believe more than statutory violations, irregularities, and trans-positional errors occurred in the 2012 presidential election in Ghana. CRIMINAL intent is quite obvious when one reads between the lines. Why? A credible EC that honors the sanctity of the ballot box, and voting as a sacred intent of the people, in my opinion, will not risk embellishing its conduct and outcome. Isn’t the EC constitutionally bound to perform such a function above reproach? A properly conducted election could have spared mother Ghana the ordeal of the last six months.

Ghana has come a long way in our democratic journey. We deserve a better Electoral Commission to safeguard the sanctity of voting, and the clear will of the people. It is TIME to dissolve the EC and reconstitute a new body to conduct credible elections in Ghana. That should be part of the relief the petitioners are seeking from the Lords of the land.