There was bizarre spectacle at the premises of Joy FM in Accra on Saturday when the chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC), Charlotte Osei, stormed the station for an interview.
In what looked like a crime scene or a war zone, heavily armed policemen and others in plain clothes together with several police vehicles, were seen cordoning off the Faanofa Street linking Kokomlemle and the Accra-Nsawan highway at Avenor Junction at the time the EC boss was granting the interview.
In fact, the situation compounded the problem of motorists plying the area while staff of Multimedia, owners of Joy FM, had a tough time entering their own offices at that moment.
Mr Charlotte Osei talked about wide-ranging issues particularly the thorny issue of whether or not there should be a new biometric voter register before this year’s general election and her appointment at Ghana Reinsurance Company, which is sparking another heated political debate in the country.
The heavy police protection made it look like somebody was after Mrs. Charlotte Osei’s life. Interestingly though, her immediate predecessor, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, moved around town freely, even during election periods and sometimes drove himself.
Throughout the interview Ms Osei appeared to spite the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) for the party’s stance on the voter register and other election-related matters and said cynically at one point that if the commission dared listen to the suggestions of the NPP, Ghana might end up with an ‘elitist’ register.
She said that the decision to audit the electoral roll, instead of acceding in to the demands of the NPP and other parties and groups for a new register, was still in force.
The EC 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 looked into the issue.
Interestingly, while the EC has declined the NPP’s request, it has opted for the approach which the ruling party – National Democratic Congress (NDC) – is comfortable with (to audit the register) because the commission claimed the Togolese EC even declined to allow it access to its register to verify the NPP’s claim that the Ghanaian electoral roll is fraught with names of Togolese.
It is turning out that the EC did not push its Togolese counterpart hard enough to get the register to enable it (EC) authenticate or otherwise the claim by the NPP that 76,000 Togolese are in Ghana’s register – although an opposition spokesperson in the neighbouring country has claimed that the NPP’s exhibit appeared credible.
According to Mrs. Charlotte Osei, the NPP’s mode of compiling a new voter register requirs that Ghanaians show proof of citizenship, using either a passport, a driver’s licence or a national ID card since the NHIS identity had been found to be illegal by the Supreme Court.
“How many Ghanaians do you think have these? Five million, six million?…I doubt if you can get even 10 million,” she insisted saying, “for those who do not have a passport, driver’s licence or a national ID card, how are they going to be identified as Ghanaians?”
She said that if a new register were to be compiled the NHIS cards would not be one of the requirements as pronounced by the Supreme Court and old voter ID cards would also not be accepted as proof of citizenship.
She said there are some limitations in the NPP’s approach because the EC could also not use the accepted practice of two Ghanaians testifying to the citizenship of a person who does not have any of the three acceptable requirements.
“We are going to end up with a register that is very elitist and excludes the large majority of citizens. That is not our idea of inclusive democracy and that is not where we think we should be going,” she insisted.
The Electoral Commission has maintained that the absence of a National Identification System is forcing Ghanaians to get a voter ID card because it is the easiest method of identification and added that in countries such as Kenya and South Africa, citizens have national ID cards and therefore do not need a voter ID card to determine citizenship.
She also said bizarrely that a new voter ID might worsen fears expressed by political parties that there are minors and foreigners on the electoral roll because everybody would rush to obtain one, even if they are not eligible to vote. “We are going to bring all the Togolese and minors in,” she noted.
On the raging issue about whether she is still a board member of Ghana Reinsurance Company, the EC boss said “I’m hoping that whoever made this allegation is going to file some petition, so we will respond when we get there.
“I did resign but I’m not sure that should be the focus; let’s stick to the Constitution,” she added.
By William Yaw Owusu