Ghana’s former Second Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Prof Mike Oquaye, has challenged the basis for the limited names being bandied about as possible replacement for the outgoing Chairman of the Electoral Commission.
With about 20 months to the next Presidential and Parliamentary elections, Ghanaians have become anxious about who takes over after Kwadwo Afari Gyan, who is scheduled to retire in June.
Already, there are six names making the rounds in the media as possible replacement for the outgoing Chairman, Dr. Afari Gyan. The names are current Deputy EC Commissioners Georgina Opoku Amankwah and Amadu Sulley, two Court of Appeal judges, Justice Senyo Dzamefe and Justice Kofi Gyan, Charlotte Osei, Chairperson of the NCCE, and Dr Emmanuel Akwetey of IDEG, the civil society group.
“But whose shortlist is it that is making the rounds?” the former Deputy Speaker, who is also the Chairman of the NPP Legal & Constitutional Affairs Committee poses the question.
“Looking at the very recent experience from Nigeria next door, and our own experience, any shortlist that does not include respected names in the academia, like the current crop of Vice Chancellors, makes me nervous. In any event, I think it is way too premature to be talking about a shortlist now. To me a shortlist defeats the whole debate about broad consultation before the appointment,” the former MP for Dome Kwabenya and High Commissioner to India argues.
He is convinced that the people behind pushing this shortlist in the public space have an agenda and it would be wrong for the country, particularly, the media, to be hoodwinked into accepting the names without scrutiny as a matter of fact.
“Someone out there is playing smart with us and deliberately narrowing our attention and point of reference to this shortlist they have created and pushing down our throat. Whose list is it? If it is from the Council of State, they should tell us. If they have already made up their minds they should be kind enough to let us know so we can advise ourselves accordingly”, he says.
With the 2012 election petition fresh in the minds of Ghanaians, and anxiety growing over the integrity of the 2016 race, the renowned political science professor and respected jurist is happy that the nation has finally bought into calls for broader, open and transparent consultation in choosing Afari Gyan’s replacement.
“I am aware that the chairmen of the various political parties with representation in parliament, including the chairman of the ruling party, are all supporting the need for consultation on this important appointment. So, my question is, if we all agree to consultation before appointment, then where from this so-called shortlist? Having a shortlist makes nonsense of prior consultation.”
To him, “the Council of State selects for the President to appoint. This situates the consultation squarely in the domain of the Council of State. So what we must now focus on is how the Council of State will go about doing the consultation. What is the framework? Who are the stakeholders to be consulted? What is the criterion for the selection? These are more important issues for now than putting the cart before the horse with this shortlist.”
There are seven members of the Commission, including its Chair. Currently, four are women and three men. The women are Paulina Dzadzawa, Rebecca Adjalo, Saadatu Maida and Georgina Amankwa. Bringing in another woman from outside to chair the EC will increase the number of women at the top to an unprecedented five.
Prof Oquaye, an academic of no mean repute, is advocating for the searchlight to shine “brighter, deeper and wider” onto the pool of academics, Ghanaian academics, in and out of the country.
Ghanaians were impressed with the calibre of academics who headed the Nigerian polls last March and April. The Chairman of INEC and all Returning Officers of the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory were University Professors or Vice Chancellors.
“There is a high calibre of men and women within the academia and it would be sad for that not to be taken into account. We are looking for a Chairperson who has the confidence, integrity, fortitude and patriotism to do just Ghana’s bidding, pure and simple,” he underlined.
Prof Oquaye is emphasizing on the need for “broader and wider consultation”, saying the personality of who leads the Commission should be determined by “an objective standard that no reasonable person can disagree with. We are in the process of adding flesh to our Constitution and it is in this light that we must understand the calls for open and transparent consultation process. This must include the making transparent the criterion for the selection by the Council of State.”
Throwing out names without an acceptable criterion is inefficient, he argues. “What matters now is the process of selecting and appointing the person. And, none of us is clear how this shortlist came about. We must resist it and call for a broadening of the debate,” he added.
“Let us look beyond these five and cast the net wider. But even before that, let us agree on the framework for the consultation,” he stressed.