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Removal from office of EC bosses: Legally wise, politically unwise

Well meaning Ghanaians, including even those who petitioned the President for the removal of the Executive Chairs of the Electoral Commission should be sad today. 

The Committee’s proven charges of stated misbehavior and incompetence against the EC bosses are legally appropriate and justifiable grounds for the removal of the Executive Chairs of the EC. As a nation, we must not condone acts that fly in the face of integrity, gross display of incompetence and a clear demonstration of unwillingness to work together as exhibited by the EC bosses.

The President did no wrong in sending the petition to the CJ. However prior to forwarding the petition, the President could have patiently considered the political implications of the possibility of ” a footballer being accused of sacking the referee”.

Let me digress a little by saying that Akufo Adodo is a very bold leader with enough courage. No leader in Ghana since 1992 has demonstrated such boldness in dealing frontally with galamsey, sacking some CEOs, dissolving GFA and today, acting on a Committee’s report to remove the EC bosses.

Now let me continue the politics of the situation.

In the lead up to the 2016 Elections, there were threats by high level NPP elites that they would see to the removal of Charlotte Osei in particular, should the NPP win power. Upon winning power, we saw how some political elites, hiding behind some disgruntled EC staff, petitioned the President for the removal of the EC Boss. This is the politics of the situation that poisoned the environment and makes it quite difficult for discerning minds to accept the removal of the EC bosses without qualms.

We should be mindful of the fact that Public Servants aren’t saints. Justice Josiah Ofori Boateng was not a Saint. Afari Gyan wasn’t a saint, Charllote Osei isn’t a Saint and whoever replaces the current EC boss can’t be a saint.

Granted this, any regime that want to prefer damning charges against any future EC boss would always find those charges to do so. My father tells me that “se opolisini se obekyere wo a, obekere wo”, to wit, if a Police Officer wants to arrest you for a driving offense, he would always find the reason to do so.

I pray the decision does not set a bad precedent for other political parties to emulate when in power. Else we would destroy our independent institutions.

The President, until the removal of the EC bosses had always commended the EC chair for her role, boldness and competence in handling the 2016 elections. To my mind, the positive public utterances of the President about the EC boss, demonstrated a vote of confidence and played a role in the gradual rebuilding of crucial public confidence in the EC.

Had they worked together and been kept in office, the EC could have been described as the most credible in view of the goodwill extended to them by the President.

Now that they have been removed, we would need their replacements. There are more competent people in Ghana to fill the vacant positions. The problem however is the bipartisan acceptance of such appointees. Bipartisan acceptance is key to securing legitimacy of certain office holders, particularly heads of independent bodies. Will we get it? I pray we do. Ghana should not be in turmoil because of this and perhaps the sad departure of our former Vice President would lessen tension and dilute public focus on the EC as we mourn.

Let me turn my attention to the EC.

I have read the Committee’s report recommending the removal of the EC bosses. The three Executive Chairs should bow down their heads in shame for letting Ghanaians down through the display of immaturity and incompetence culminating in their removal.

They should bow down their heads in shame for stalling the nation’s electoral reform process. In 2015, electoral reform proposals were submitted to the EC following the 2013 election petition which almost relapsed our democratic gains. The EC couldn’t implement the reform proposals because of protracted litigations and other needless activities it undertook that diverted its attention from what really was needed.

As a member of the Electoral Reforms Committee, I was expecting the EC to use post 2016 as a period of implementation of the reform proposals. This is because the 2016 elections were peaceful not because of the implementation of any meaningful electoral reform proposals. They were peaceful only because of vigilance and some political miracle. No nation can protect its peace when its elections are guided only by vigilance and miracles.

The petition and investigation of the charges against the EC bosses deprived them of the needed peace to carry out the reform proposals. Anyone who knows what happens at the EC will attest to the fact that the work of the Commission hovers around its Executive Heads unlike well institutionalized systems where organizations function with or without their heads. So, once the Executive heads aren’t working, virtually no direction is given in the area of implementing electoral reforms.

Who caused this? It is the EC bosses themselves. Their misbehavior and incompetence have therefore slowed down the quest to fine-tune Ghana’s electoral processes to be able to deliver acceptable results. It would take time for the new heads to read and digest the reform proposals and it is not likely they may be able to implement all the proposals before 2020.

My Advise to all Public Servants

What has happened to the EC bosses should be a lesson to all Public Servants. If you are fortunate to be entrusted with a position of trust, work within accepted rules; vary the rules only when it is the sensible thing to do and can be defended; work hard to show yourself approved in demonstrating competence.

Irrespective of how smart, intelligent and knowledgeable you may be, learn how to work and live with human beings at the work place. Even if you consider some of them dumb, do not disrespect them, work with them in humility in the hope that they may soon learn from your intelligence and knowledge.

Adult and mature office holders must demonstrate maturity in handling their own internal conflicts without bringing their issues in the public domain in a media warfare in order to avoid humiliation.

Afari Gyan, Kangah, and Safo-Kantanka had issues too but they managed their differences and worked together. May what has happened never frustrate the quest to put women at the top.

In conclusion, I wish to say that rules, constitutions and laws are made for human beings. Rules must be adhered to in order to promote law, order and social harmony. But, when following legal procedures through the implementation of a particular constitutional provision, at a particular time may result in polarization, chaos , conflict, confusion, and potentially set a bad precedent that may be followed by some unscrupulous people, we may have to apply a certain difficult political wisdom in balancing legalities with “real politik”.

By Prof. Ransford Yaw Gyampo|Director of the Centre for European Studies|University of Ghana|3news.com

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