General News of Friday, 4 August 2017
The elephant in the EC room has returned from the bush and the punditocracy has gone into overdrive (no pun intended). Some of the Electoral Commission (EC) members have levelled accusations and counter-accusations following a petition against the Chairperson of the Commission, Charlotte Osei. She and her fellow commissioners have traded accusations of corruption and other improper conduct.
In reaction, partisans have lined up in their usual formations; for or against particular members and institutional leaders have opined on what should be done. Dr. Opuni of the Christian Council has called for a ceasefire and alternative dispute resolution! Kennedy Agyapong has called for the arrest of the duelling Commissioners and Professor Kwaku Asare has called for a Special Prosecutor while some CSOs have demanded the resignation of the warring commissioners!
All sides must chill and permit the process to work.
Fortunately, we are not in the middle of an election year. Therefore, while this issue must be addressed, there is time to address it properly.
The Commissioners, consistent with our Constitution, must have due process and the presumption of innocence. But while the language must be respectful, the process must not be truncated in pursuit of some farcical truce and alternative dispute resolution.
Our religious leaders are always preaching against corruption. And the Bible says, “Ye shall know the truth and it shall make you free “. Is the Christian Council against knowing the truth about these allegations? Let us know the truth so our democracy can grow. We cannot reconcile corrupt commissioners so they can continue their corruption.
That is why the statement by the Majority leader that there was corruption at the EC before Mrs Osei got there must trouble all of us. He stated that Mrs Osei’s predecessor had been unable to account for funds while appearing before Parliament. If we cannot trust the EC to account for our money, how can we trust it to count our VOTES?
While the substantive allegations are adjudicated, this crisis must not go to waste. In the end, whatever the truth, we must ask the side with truth while they kept silent while our nation was harmed? If they kept quite while our money was stolen, how can we trust them to speak up when our VOTES are stolen?
We need to do some soul-searching
First, does the EC function as it should? Yesterday, the EC Chair stated in a rare moment of humility and candour, “I am not the entire commission”. Of course, you are not, Madam. Unfortunately, too often in the last two years, Mrs. Osei has sounded like she believed SHE was the commission. The Akans say that advice does not change people only bad experience or ‘nsowhe’, as the Akans say it, does. Hopefully, Mrs Osei has learnt something.
It is important that there be in place, by law if necessary, institutional guidelines that ensure that what comes out of the commission is a collective product. These guidelines must address the question of whether the EC Chair can suspend a Commission member.
Next, there is amongst our institutions too much fondness for delay. These petitions and associated accusations must be adjudicated speedily and fairly. This should certainly NOT take as long as the election dispute took after the 2012 election.
Third, this case must be a caution of how unbridled partisanship can destroy our nation. Too many who get appointed to commissions, including the EC, unfortunately, see themselves as partisans sent to these commissions to do their party’s work. And those appointing them, too often, appoint them, not for their intergrity and nationalism but for their partisanship. If we care about our country, we must vow that partisans do NOT belong on the Electoral Commission.
Let us put Ghana first.