The Togolese register submitted by the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) to the Electoral Commission (EC) to back its demand for the compilation of a new Biometric Voters Register (BVR) appears to be credible.
This was confirmed yesterday by Masseme Esse, who said he was an advisor to Togo’s main opposition leader, Jean Pierre Fabre.
“I can confirm that I have seen the Togo register presented by the NPP and it is the same that we used for our elections,” he told various radio stations during their morning show programmes.
Controversy over the register was the basis for the National Democratic Congress (NDC) calling on the police to arrest NPP vice presidential candidate, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, for allegedly deceiving public officers.
Three NDC members lodged a bogus complaint against Dr Bawumia at the CID headquarters yesterday, even though their party’s General Secretary Johnson Asiedu Nketia had said he was not ready to report the erudite economist to the police.
The EC has since rejected the NPP’s request for an entirely new register and said it would rather do an audit of the document as recommended by a five-member panel that was instituted by the commission to look into the matter.
Interestingly, the EC opted for the approach which the ruling party – National Democratic Congress – proposed and seemed comfortable with (that is to audit the register), because the commission claimed the Togolese EC had declined to allow it access to that country’s register to verify the NPP’s claims.
“The Commission was also unable to confirm the authenticity of the Togolese Register used by the NPP in their analysis as the Electoral Commission of Togo declined to provide the EC with a copy of its register or confirm the authenticity of the soft copy of the register used by the NPP,” the EC said in a response to the party recently.
It added, “On November 27, 2015, the EC received a response from the Togo EC stating that they were unable to confirm the authenticity of the register submitted by the NPP as the Togolese register is a security document containing the private information of Togolese citizens.”
Masseme Esse, who said he was a leading member of Alliance Nationale Pour Le Changement – ANC – (National Alliance for Change), asserted that he had been following the development in Ghanaian politics since the NPP presented the Togo register in August last year.
“The NPP is not lying about the register. What the NPP presented is the exact copy of Togo’s register and it shows all the details as we have it in our register,” Mr Esse affirmed.
He said that some democracy-loving civil society organisations (CSOs) in Togo organised a news conference to raise the issue when the NPP presented the register to the EC in August last year, adding that the CSOs published the pictures of the people who were captured in both the Togo and Ghana registers.
“From our checks, those people were in the register given to us by the commission in Togo. I have seen the Togo register presented by the NPP and confirm they are the same people in our register,” he stressed.
Mr Esse noted that the issue of cross-border voting had been there for ages, saying, “It is very common for people to cross the border and register to vote in Ghana.”
He said all political parties in Togo were given copies of the register before exhibition and also had it unedited. “It is that register we used for our analysis and strategy before the election.
“It is because we have a register that we raised concerns and which made it easy for the Ghanaian parties to come to Togo and look for the register to solve their issue.”
He said the best way to deal with the issue was for the EC in Ghana to pick representatives from all the parties who would then go to the Togo EC to ascertain the truth “to put matters to rest. The Ghanaian EC can sit down with its Togolese counterpart.”
Mr Masseme Esse pointed out, “I think the Togo EC has no right to refuse or reject Ghana EC’s request to look into the Togolese register in order to solve problems in Ghana.”
He said President Mahama played a pivotal role in calming tensions in Togo last year when a dispute over their register arose.
“The time we were having problems, President Mahama came here to intervene and solve the problem between us. So if Ghana is also having a problem, the Togo EC can help them.”
He said the EC “should know how to go to competent people in Togo and solve the problem amicably,” adding, “We are sister-countries and we are members of ECOWAS and why can we not solve the problem between us?”
He also said his personal view on the matter was that the Ghanaian EC should compile a completely new register to solve the problem once and for all.
By William Yaw Owusu