With approximately 9 months to go before Ghanaians choose their next president, recent proclamations by leading members of the two main political parties, NDC and NPP, can be delineated as either edifying or stultifying. At any rate, we ought to scrutinize in tandem the inspirational speeches and the perfidious outbursts of these politicians and their aficionados, not that these kinds of speeches are particularly groundbreaking trends, or avant-garde phenomena, in contemporary Ghanaian politics. Elections all over the globe can be passion-inducing, tempers-flaring events, and as vital as these democracy-accentuating elections are to the freedom of expression and the rule of law, they can sometimes lead to unanticipated, revolting, and catastrophic consequences.
We should not be fooled by the fact that because Ghanaians are considered intrinsically peaceful and placid, the losing parties in the 2008 general elections would simply declare, once again, that “we should leave everything in the hands of God,” whether or not there is incontrovertible evidence of malpractice or fraud after the votes are counted. The periods of downright naiveté and unmitigated concessions of defeat in an election are over, and acknowledging the growing sophistication of Ghanaians' comprehension of the power of their votes will help excise the cacophonous reverberations in our collective psyche toward the naissance of a highly democratic state.
I want to begin by commending Nana Akufo-Addo for the inspirational and selfless speech, worthy of emulation, which he delivered when he visited the Chiefs and Elders of the Kpone and Tema Traditional Councils recently. Touching on a plethora of issues affecting the nation, Nana Akufo-Addo would go on to emphasize that “Elections did not mean war and expressed the hope that not a single blood would be shed during and after this year's elections” (Daily Graphic, as cited by www.modernghana.com). In addition, the NPP presidential candidate made analogous assertions about the sanctity of human life when he visited Hohoe in the Volta Region about two weeks ago, and all Ghanaians should applaud Akufo-Addo's statements as prognosticating the civility, decency and transparency that the entire world expects from Ghanaians in the upcoming election.
Because Nana Akufo-Addo has been regularly branded as a hothead, a man whose smoldering temper is matched only by Jerry Rawlings' occasionally inane and farcical outbursts, many people have feared that his candidacy might spell disaster for the country should his party lose the general elections in December 2008, but I have news for all of us: Nana Akufo-Addo, the gentleman that he is, the man I predicted will become his party's flag bearer, will never disturb the public peace. Akufo-Addo cares too much about the wellbeing of Ghanaians ― and the nation's image overseas ― to be seen as fomenting trouble in the aftermath of the 2008 general elections.
Ghanaians are already familiar with Atta-Mills' willingness to not challenge the results of the 2004 presidential elections, in the interest of peace and tranquility, even though the final declaration of the tally came from a questionable source and not from Ghana's Electoral Commission, the latter the body mandated by law to oversee all aspects of any general election, so Ghanaians can rest assured that they have in Akufo-Addo and Atta Mills two gentlemen they can count on to behave in a civilized manner after the polls close and the curtains are drawn on the 2008 presidential election!
Irrespective of Akufo-Addo's shortcomings ― no one is immune to sporadic tinges of anger ― many have come to appreciate the man's honesty and hard work in his quest to become the next Ghanaian president. Reminding Ghanaians about their constitutional right to vote has been one of Nana Akufo-Addo's hallmarks and hopefully people will turn out to register to vote when the National Voters' Register opens on May 17, 2008. In line with the preceding account was Jerry Rawlings' own appeal to Ghanaians several weeks ago to register en masse, so as to be able to vote in the presidential election. It is this urgent appeal to all eligible voters to register to make their voices count that brings me to my next point of reflection.
A March 2, 2008, Ghanaweb.com news item, “Mills concerned about bloated register in Ashanti Region,” caused a lot of consternation among well-meaning Ghanaians. And the large number of responses the article engendered was indeed a microcosm of the article's impact on the consciousness of the average Ghanaian. While I would not take sides in this highly sensitive matter, it behooves all of us to carefully examine Professor Atta-Mills' assertions before condemning the NDC presidential candidate.
In a previous article I had published on Ghanaweb.com and other pro-Ghanaian Internet portals, titled “Obviating Electoral Fraud,” I discussed the issue of a bloated National Voters' Register and called on all political parties and the Electoral Commission to make sure the final Voters' Register mirrors the number of people who are duly registered to vote. In other words, complicity by any individuals, groups or organizations to pad the final Voters' Register could lead to serious mayhem in December 2008. It is equally praiseworthy to observe that the Electoral Commission, because of the salience of Atta-Mills' apprehension, has announced it would immediately investigate the NDC presidential candidate's allegation of bloated registers in the 13 constituencies of the Ashanti Region under discussion.
In a concomitant and pertinent move by the NPP, Nana Ohene Ntow, the party's General Secretary, on March 3, 2008, raised the issues surrounding Atta-Mills' accusations at a private meeting with the Chairman of the Electoral Commission, Dr. Afari-Djan. Speaking for his own party, Nana Ohene Ntow affirmed each party's right to corroborate the accuracy of the Voters' Register, and this move by the NPP deserves great applause, for the simple reason that the NPP does not want to give Ghanaians the impression that it is hiding anything. As noteworthy as Mr. Ntow's comments were, he nonetheless took a swipe at the NDC for being “up to something” (I wish Mr. Ntow had clarified this statement), a move that most Ghanaians would consider to be unnecessary and inordinate. Additionally, future meetings between Nana Ohene Ntow and Dr. Afari-Djan could be held in public, to avoid harmful speculations that are already inundating the news media.
If the Ashanti Region's NPP bloc has nothing to hide, then attacking Atta-Mills for raising a legitimate question about the authenticity of the Voters' Register is completely unwarranted. Atta-Mills is not by any means attempting to cause havoc, as Mr. Ntow had alleged. On the other hand, if the NPP has a problem with the Voters' Register in the Volta Region, as Mr. Ntow was cynically suggesting, then the NPP, as a matter of constitutional right, could contact the Electoral Commission to launch an investigation. Akufo-Addo can make inroads in the Volta Region if he continues to do what he is doing now: visit the people on “their own turf” and dialogue with them. The NDC has no magic wand that it waves in the Volta Region, contrary to the discombobulated and perverse belief that all Voltarians are pro-NDC. Just like the Central Region turned its back on Atta-Mills in 2004, Voltarians will do the same to the NDC if Nana Akufo-Addo campaigns extensively and expounds his ideas to the people of the region.
I call on the Electoral Commission to properly investigate this matter ― and all others that will come before it in the near future ― with the seriousness it deserves, for should the Voters' Register be skewed in favor of the ruling party, we may simply be asking for trouble during and after the general elections. The Electoral Commission's job, although Herculean and monumental, must be discharged with complete neutrality, as the Commission has been in existence for about two decades, its officers having garnered the requisite skill and experience from their “on the job” training, dating back to 1992.
I call on Kwesi Nduom and John Atta-Mills to follow the path of Nana Akufo-Addo in assuring Ghanaians that they will do everything in their power to avoid mayhem during and after the December 2008 election. In fact, I call on both men to make substantive speeches to that effect, in order to calm the nerves of their fellow nationals. Ghanaians should also inundate the Electoral Commission with letters, e-mails and phone calls to remind the officers of this august body about the importance of supervising a free and fair presidential election.
Finally, we should never allow the parsimoniousness and absurdity that detracted party stalwarts in other African countries ― many lives were lost in those nations in the process ― to becloud our judgment and destroy our nation. Ghanaians owe themselves and posterity the survival of their nation. We also need to remind our presidential candidates that the presidency is bigger than any individual, and should one of these candidates attempt to cause havoc even when everything points to a fair and prudent presidential election, he must be made to face the full rigors of the law. I call on the incumbent, President Kufuor, to bequeath to Ghanaians what was bequeathed to him in 2001: a stable and prosperous nation.
The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, in addition to two undergraduate degrees, holds a master's degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at [email protected]