By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Friday, June 24, 2016
Folks, holding Election 2016 isn’t anything worrisome for Ghana. After all, Election 2016 isn’t far different from the previous ones except for two needless niggling points. The first one is the rabble-rousing going on to create the irritating impression that the parameters for it are skewed to favour the incumbent, especially as far as the voters register is concerned. This rabble-rousing is situated within the NPP’s desperation to win Election 2016 at all costs, carrying along with it the delusion that its Akufo-Addo had been cheated at Election 2012. Thus, all that has been happening since it lost Election 2012 has been geared toward maligning the Electoral Commission and blaming it for that defeat.
The objective is to mobilize public opinion against it, especially in the context of the reasons given by Akufo-Addo for petitioning the Supreme Court in the mistaken hope that he would be judged the winner of Election 2012. All that noise about technicalities (“pink sheets” and a bloated voters register) exploded in their face, proving to them that elections are won at the polls, not in the dark chambers of the judiciary. One might think that they would listen to reason at that point and devise better means for Election 2016; but they haven’t, which explains why they are running around in the desperate search for just anything to hang on to for Election 2016. They are in court over what will turn out to be another wild goose chase.
This is where I insert news reports about what transpired today when a panel of the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice (Georgina Wood), revisited the suit brought before it by the PNC’s Abu Ramadan and another. The Court had earlier determined the original case and ruled that the names of voters registered with the NHIS card by the EC (who participated in Election 2012) should be expunged from the voters register. In the same breath, the Court owned up that it didn’t want those prospective voters to be disenfranchised; thus, the EC must re-register them. The EC has its own agenda in place.
The Court’s ruling was interpreted in various ways by interested parties, including the EC. In its understanding, the EC made it clear that it didn’t see anything new coming from the Court that lay outside its own agenda for cleaning up the voters register. To that end, it would use all opportunities to provide a credible voters register for Election 2016. It has already done a limited registration exercise and is putting things together to open the register for scrutiny. In that sense, its strategies for cleaning the register aren’t different from what it has been doing since its establishment in this 4th Republic. Yet, those bent on finding fault see things differently.
That is where the Supreme Court’s 5-member panel comes in. It has been reported that they “warned the EC against actions that could plunge the country into chaos”. According to them, “the lacklustre attitude of the EC with respect to compliance with their ruling in the Abu Ramadan suit must end” (See http://www.myjoyonline.com/politics/2016/June-23rd/furious-sc-judges-chide-ec-apathy-towards-abu-ramadan-ruling.php).
We were also given a graphic presentation regarding posturing and physical acts to back the fury. According to the report, “Georgina Wood, who became furious at the response from the EC, slammed the desk and in a stern voice, warned the Commission that they [Judges] will not sit and watch it destabilise the country, with the rest of judges nodding in agreement.”
What is that loaded posturing and utterance for? I am disgusted by this conduct at the sitting if, indeed, they happened as captured in the report.
Many meanings can be teased from this posturing and warning by the Chief Justice. First, it is not true that the EC is doing anything to “destabilize” the country. Clearly all the procedures that the EC under Mrs. Charlotte Osei claims to be putting in place for cleaning the register have been used over the years and no one has had any cause to bare the teeth. Why do the Supreme Court judges think otherwise? And why do they think it is “lacklustre” when everything has to be done within budgetary and time constraints?
Second, the EC isn’t doing anything to destabilize the country. It is rather those locking horns with it in the performance of its legitimate duty who are setting the stage to destabilize the country. We saw all that happened at the hearing of the NPP’s useless petition and thereafter that created the misleading impression that there was everything wrong with the EC, which caused Akufo-Addo’s defeat. In its judgement, the Atuguba-led panel didn’t even make any specific earth-shaking suggestion on the practical steps that the EC should take in smoothing the rough edges for future elections. It was all couched in a bundle of high falutin legal jargon!! So, why the fuss now?
Even in the move to appoint a new EC Chair, the NPP mounted rooftops to cause needless tension, warning President Mahama and creating the impression that if he didn’t appoint anybody dear to their hearts, they won’t accept the appointee. We have continued to hear daily their insults against Mrs. Osei and the empty threats too.
We heard all the ugly noise they made all over the place about the “bloated” voters register, their court actions, and muscle-flexing in the public sphere. We also heard all that Bawumia had led them to present about a comparative analysis of the Togolese voters register and the Ghanaian one to damn the Ewes as perpetrators of electoral fraud. What was that mischief meant to achieve? To position them for what they are now doing under the auspices of the Supreme Court?
The Chief Justice and her team need to know more than they do now about how countries get destabilized on the basis of general elections. What she portrayed today is one of the cAuses, especially if those empowered by law to help smooth the rough edges of our democracy think that they can do anything and go away with it unscathed. It won’t be so simple, if they care to know. The manner in which the Supreme Court is dealing with this issue of the voters register is weird, and it must be told.
Once the EC has acknowledged the fact that there are anomalies and that the procedures put in place for cleaning the register will be followed to give us a clean voters register for Election 2016, it must be encouraged to do so, not intimidated as is the case now.
Georgina Wood must be told that just like the Supreme Court (the Judiciary, generally), the EC is a statutory body established under our Constitution as an INDEPENDENT institution. Once it is so entrenched as such, no other organ of government should attempt stampeding it to do its bidding. Of course, the Supreme Court has the constitutional mandate to interpret the Constitution and laws, but it must know how not to lock horns with fellow statutory bodies. Our constitution doesn’t provide any clout for any statutory body to lord it over the other or to stampede it into doing its bidding. Each statutory body knows what falls within its purview and how to tackle it for the good of the country.
To reiterate, let me say that the EC has no need to obey instructions from the Supreme Court. It has its own constitutional responsibilities to perform and must be let free to do so. That is why I find the “intrusion” and stampeding by the Chief Justice and her fellow panelists as highly disturbing. They seem to have fallen into the trap set for them by the rabble-rousers aiming their arrows at the EC. That’s unfortunate.
Considering the unethical behaviour of the NPP judge on the panel (Justice Jones Dotse), one may even have more qualms. Why did he recuse himself from Thursday’s sitting if he hadn’t sold his conscience to his political paymasters? He loudly set the tone for this situation by giving a RARE interview on the Supreme Court’s earlier ruling, which not only compromised his “political neutrality” as a judge but which also lured the panel into the cul de sac that it now sits. Wasn’t it Justice Dotse who prompted Abu Ramadan to return to the Supreme Court, which has done? Indeed, the atmosphere being created by this panel isn’t bright; it is pathetically nauseating.
Now that the head-butting between the Supreme Court and the EC has begun for the benefit of those crying wolf, what should we expect? And what happens if the EC sticks to its gun and does things as it has planned to do in line with its constitutional prerogatives? Will the Supreme Court charge its Chair with contempt? And what follows?
More importantly, where have this Chief Justice and the other panelists been all these years that bye-elections have been held in the country, using this very electoral register that they are now barking wildly about? The NPP was quick to denigrate that very “bloated” register but didn’t have any compunction participating in elections using it. Why would that “bloated” register be good for bye-elections and not the general elections? Who really took any interest in the NHIS card holders who voted in the bye-elections?
At this point, the Supreme Court judges seem to have lost it. Their own credibility is on the line, and they had better look more deeply into issues before betraying their political interests. That credibility problem is indelible once Ghanaians now know how justice could be compromised on the basis of bags of gari, sacks of fresh snails, tubers of yam, and herds of bearded Billy goats, not to bring in massages in a cozy parlour!!
The EC knows what to do and must be supported to do it. After all, no Ghanaian loves Ghana more than any other Ghanaian. Those who are mindlessly stoking the fire need to know that when push comes to shove, they may not be alive to tell the story of our time. The Supreme Court judges need to tread cautiously. Instead of being furious, they should be cool-headed to help the EC conduct Election 2016 as it has been doing all these years. The desperate ones seeing themselves as the rightful rulers of Ghana had better reach out to the electorate with endearing campaign messages to win their hearts instead of sticking to the anachronistic strategies to win cases at court and not the elections at the polls. Fury doesn’t solve problems; it leads to madness, which Georgina Wood and her fellow panelists should take note of.
I shall return…
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