Isn’t the brouhaha at Ghana’s Electoral Commission simply shameful? It exposes sheer pettiness on the surface but a deeper interrogation points to not just the malaise that has plagued this country since independence, but also greed, disdain and envy towards progressives in the public space.
Charlotte Osei isn’t someone I know personally, however, from observation since her days at the NCCE, she exudes the sort of confidence that threatens many people. She tries to leave her fingers in pies, something many appointed to leadership both in the private and public sectors abhor.
She comes across as that woman who doesn’t go down without a fight and damn, this is going to be a long drawn banter that may end in much bloodletting. But given her posturing when she was accused of having slept her way to the top, my hat remains up for her. She can deal with this one.
I watched her closely during last year’s elections and publicly endorsed her sanctioning of lousy political parties ahead of the polls. However, spending time with her and other members of the Commission at the National Collation Center, my thoughts altered greatly, but that’s for another conversation.
When I first read her response to the petition for her removal, I thought it wasn’t tactical. I thought she spoke too soon, until my attention was drawn to the fact that the response was meant for EOCO and found its way into both social traditional media. I can’t question how, but I can question the motive of those who leaked both the petition and the response.
Government communicators gloried in the petition from the onset. But over time, the communication drifted to a middle ground. The NDC on the other hand has mounted a ‘Great Wall’ around Charlotte Osei, insisting that she’s done no wrong. We seem not to have learnt much under this dispensation. These partisan positions taken hurt rather than help douse the flames over this feud.
The EC Boss is human, therefore fallible. Should she be forced out, not only would her admirers be disappointed, it would further worsen the image of women in public leadership. Women’s desire to rise to the top would suffer a major setback even if her successor is a woman too.
Therefore, all who believe in the advancement of women must wish that the claims against the former NCCE boss, who made the Commission count under her watch, are unfounded. Particularly because of how former CHRAJ Boss, Loretta Lamptey went down. We need our women in high places to counterbalance the men and if these women have the mettle, we must commend rather than condemning them.
Many of the think tanks and civil society advocates have have suggested that the Commission in its current state cannot continue to function. I cringe at that suggestion because many of the infractions in the public domain, preceded the elections. The EC did not implode when it mattered the most.
Which agency in this country can stand up and get counted as corruption-free? Let’s hear them. Often the so-called advocates take positions for or against a process purely on parochial grounds. Are the political NGOs gearing up for funding to rid the EC of corruption?
It is worth noting that when the public, led mostly by the then opposition NPP, lashed out at the EC Boss, her deputy Georgina Opoku Amankwah became the face of the Commission. This happened at the time that per the speculation in the media space now, the two did not get along well. She deferred her position to a deputy just so she wouldn’t become the focus when attention was to be on the processes leading to the elections.
The high level of politically-fueled antagonism in Ghana’s public space serves no one but the political pundits, who fan the furnace. The dominant role of political leadership in every aspect of our lives is worrying. Politicians are charting our every cause.
They create the news, pay show hosts and editors to determine the discussion and heap utter garbage on us, requiring the persistent wearing of ‘bullshit helmet’ to stay sane. Sometimes, the ignorance demonstrated by show hosts and reporters about happenings over the last decade is as revealing as it is stupid. But many of our kinsmen are left to believe anything that comes from the media as sacred.
Isn’t it time to amend the constitution to give the power of appointment of EC Chair and members to the Appointments Committee with a two-thirds majority approval by the plenary? That will diffuse the partisan suspicions that characterize appointments into the office. I dare say that neither Rawlings, Kufuor, Mills nor Mahama appointed an enemy to the Commission and I don’t expect Nana Addo to do same.
We cannot pretend that our political leaders are any different from those we hear on radio. The thinking of the political class is what manifests in those discourses. The lines recited are cooked for our manipulation.
Twenty five years is long enough for any organization or individual to renew itself. Errors of the 1992 Constitution cannot continue hold us hostage. The mode of appointing the Chair of the EC puts the entire nation at the behest of a president and his conscience but parties in opposition only often feel hard done to watch their opponent choose the head of the elections management body.
Is it because the parties themselves believe that just by appointing any individual to that job, the person is beholden to them? My gut feeling is that the leading parties have crossed swords because the NDC sees the move as calculated to remove its chosen EC Chair. The NPP and its communicators are also trigger-happy; waiting on the fall of Charlotte Osei on this sword, just so the current President can appoint the next EC Chair.
It’s foolhardy for anyone to be intoxicated by the latter position. Not only will it set a terrible precedent, but it will further dent the reputation of our democracy and water down the gains made with our experiment. Despite running a democracy for just a quarter of a century, many have already lost hope in both the political system and the dividends thereof. Politicians have succeeded in directing it the way they want it for the most part.
It is uncertain that by removing all the Commissioners and replacing them, the ills that have engulfed the EC will go with them. What the EC needs, rather, is for the structures to work. It must kill the animosities within. Commissioners past, present and future must know that not until the law is changed, presidents will appoint only individuals friendly to their cause to man that strategic state institution.
The EC cannot be a den of our local ‘Me baha akye’, to wit, I was here before you. Those who feel too old or experienced to work under younger bosses should check into the train station and seek to be train drivers. Even there, age no longer matters.
If the EC survived the Election Petition, it is resilient enough not to explode over these allegations. The revelations at the time were damning enough. But it weathered the storm and faced the challenges. It can withstand this one.
All the allegations must be investigated by the CJ’s Committee, but anyone found culpable must gracefully bow out. African leaders like to stand chest out even in the face of wrongdoing.
The EC needs to ready itself for next year’s district level elections. The earlier it puts these allegations behind it, rid itself of saboteurs, the better for us all.
I rest my case.
By Kobby Gomez Mensah
The writer is a broadcast journalist