Many are the rhetoric that surround Student Politics in Ghana and it is admissible to state in this write-up that every Tertiary institution have unique histories concerning the electioneering process.
This documentation is meant to briefly give you the facts surrounding the process and not intended to destroy any individual or the great name of AUCC into disrepute but a write-up that should shape future processes that concern student leadership.
Thursday, April 19 and Saturday, April 21 are days the AUCC Electoral Commission picked for students of the morning, evening and weekend streams to vote to select SRC leaders who would champion the welfare of students into the next academic year.
The time stated for voting to start by the Electoral Commission was 8am to 5:30pm.
After vetting, manifesto reading, debate and a week of intense campaign by all aspirants and the positioning on ballots, there was a joint stakeholder meeting with the AUCC Electoral commission where after series of deliberations on the Electoral processes, an MOU was signed by all aspirants concerning where ballots would be counted and the factions(EC, Aspirants and Agents) to be present after the first day of Voting.(The MOU bit was hidden from the student voting populace)
Voting on the first day which was slated to begin at 8am delayed till after 12noon(over 4hours delay), an anomaly the Electoral Commission would only be able to explain.
When voting finally began, there were allegations that developed into arguments from supporters of some aspirants who claimed the Electoral Commission agents were doubling ballot papers to some specific people to rig the elections. A situation that was handled and settled amicably for the process to continue with speed.
The mood, euphoria and tension on campus was heightened with a clear evidence of a passionate desire for change in the administrative dealings of AUCC-SRC. Arguably, the most active SRC elections held in the great AUCC school.
The Electoral Commission were on top of their game to make sure every eligible voter got the opportunity to exercise their franchise without suppression, oppression and discrimination of any sort.
After some hours, the time to end the process arrived but due to the number of people in the queue, the process went beyond the earlier stated time(5:30pm) till after 6pm.
Then came the moment every voter delights to witness after every voting exercise; counting of ballots. An exercise openly conducted for the large populace to witness.(Standard practice in mainstream politics)
Unfortunately, the electorates(Eligible AUCC Students) were not aware of the MOU signed between the AUCC Electoral Commission and all aspirants at the joint stakeholders(EC, Aspirants & Polling Agents) meeting.
So, in an attempt to move ballot boxes to be counted in the AUCC Board Room as stated in the MOU, the students of AUCC who voted began to challenge the Electoral Commission with rantings and heightened emotions claiming it is a ploy to rig the elections.
Due to the lack of proper communication by the electoral commission and aspirants for that matter, the voting populace of AUCC gathered, chanting songs with rants demanding that the Ballots are counted in the open for all to witness.
For hours, the security personnel(Ghana Police Service) went through a tough time to handle the agitated students preventing the process to continue as agreed in the MOU signed by all aspirants. It was a near sight of chaos but the security agencies were there to restore calm.
*The Unpardonable Anomalies*
The Electoral Commission failed to put out a communique that explains how ballots would be handled and where they would be counted to feed the curiosity of the student body concerning the electioneering process.(This move arguably undermines the transparency of the process)
The Electoral Commission again failed to release accreditation to the media to professionally cover the entire exercise for documentation to enhance future elections or avert possible clashes from all stakeholders.
Also, getting to the end of the process, some known faces of the two mainstream political parties(NDC & NPP) showed up at the electioneering grounds.
For crying out loud, this is student politics and to ask one crucial question; why were the two giant political parties interfering indirectly?
A situation that also intensified the tension on campus consequently fueling and dragging the confusion which stemmed from where ballot boxes must be counted according to an MOU only known to aspirants and the AUCC-EC.
A situation that could have been prevented if mainstream media were present or a sophisticated P.A system that can immediately announce details of the MOU to calm the agitated students.
The lack of communication by the Electoral Commission and Aspirants, obviously caused the voting populace to challenge the decision of counting in the boardroom.
It took hours for aspirants to convince their supporters to calm down for the agreed terms on the MOU to work. A very unfortunate situation.
*The Must Condemn*
For the first time in student politics and elections, I saw some administrative personnel of our school verbally abusing students.
It was evident at the grounds that not one, not two but several students instead of being communicated to, were rather pushed with words from some well meaning authority figures of AUCC. Is it appropriate for an administrative personnel of AUCC to abusively jab his/her students verbally?
I thought teachers and lecturers have a great experience in how to psychologically control students without abuse or arguments?
No communique was flown around concerning capturing of the electioneering process, however at the polling grounds, students were forcefully asked not to capture any event even when things nearly got out of hand. What was the motive behind that rule?
When in mainstream or national elections, the media plays an instrumental role in protecting peace and security of all stakeholders.
In AUCC’s SRC Elections, where no accreditation was provided for media by the EC, students were also verbally warned not to capture any events by AUCC’s administrative personnel serving in the process.
What would have happened if there event had entered into a violent phase, how would the stories have been told?
Interestingly, when the ballot boxes were being transferred from the polling grounds to the boardroom, security personnel present were wielding tazers to prevent students who decoded the move as a means to rig the election. A move that also threatens the safety or security of the entire process. Better mechanisms could have been employed.
Again, this is student politics, so how do tazers become an option for the lack of communication which caused the students to challenge the process with inflamed emotions?
The lack of communication caused a lot of harm than good for the electioneering process. Let us learn!
Is this approach fair for the future of student politics and leadership in AUCC?
By the help of the Ghana Police Service and other security agencies present, ballots were successfully counted and the results of the first election is already circulated on campus ahead of the second voting date. Couldn’t this approach have any bearing on the upcoming elections on Saturday, April 21 when aspirants have an idea of who is winning or losing?
I believe this country has recorded lots of experiences in the democratic processes of conducting elections and if what is practiced in our tertiary institutions have a resemblance with that of the mainstream partisan politics, then I entreat my fellow colleagues and authorities to study the ropes well in order to have a chaos-free elections in the future.
Expect more. I rest my case!
By Listowell Acquaye(Chosen YesuBa)
The writer is a student of AUCC