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04.08.2005 Feature Article

The Diaspora Vote: A Rejoinder

The Diaspora Vote: A Rejoinder
04.08.2005 LISTEN

In a posting on Ghanaweb on Thursday, July21, 2005, one Anthony Sallar (Tony)argued among other things that (!) 'The real intent of this bill is NOT to empower those of us living abroad to vote. It is a slick method to allow for massive vote stealing'; (2) that his wholesale opposition was based on the fact that the implementation would be chaotic since the measure was a prescription and fertile ground for stealing an election; (3) wondered why fair minded people would support such a bill. Tony believed this was not the time to engage in a political adventurism or useless experimentation and predicted that disputed elections resulting from ghost voters of Ghanaians abroad would only lead to an internal conflict, armed insurrection and military adventurism and therefore called on all 'peace-loving Ghanaians to take steps as necessary within the confines of the law to prevent the blanket passing of the bill into law'.

It is very worrying to see someone of Tony's academic standing arguing on emotions instead of substance. He appears to be a prophet of doom and perfectly falls into the gutter of the procrastinating syndrome. I am not surprised that Tony is writing in the same way as some other Ghanaians - if it is not me it should not be done. The history of Ghana is replete with examples of such behavior. When Kwame Nkrumah raised his voice for 'self government now' the then United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) argued that Ghana was not yet ready and that it was to be done on gradual basis. After all the hullabaloo Ghana attained independence in 1957 and today we pride ourselves that we were the first in black Africa to do so. While Accra-Tema Motorway was considered unnecessary, today questions are being asked as to why it was not extended to Tamale.

In the same way Tony and others who think like he is saying that making all Ghanaians eligible to vote in an election irrespective of residence is engagement in a political adventurism or useless political experimentation. It was not so when the British allowed us to vote and elected our own leaders for the first time. When the leaders of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) registered Ghanaians for elections, promulgated the 1992 constitution and turned round to form the National Democratic Congress (NDC) which contested and won the elections it was not a political adventurism? It was not even so when then President Rawlings mentioned it in his State of the Union Address. When an elected government under the same constitution presented a bill to change an existing law it is a useless experimentation and for that matte ' a slick method for massive vote stealing'.

Tony, when did a disputed election results lead to an internal conflict, armed insurrection and military adventurism in Ghana. ? I am yet to be informed of any of the successful coups in Ghana that was based on disputed election results. Perhaps the only one with some semblance would be the referendum on the Union Government concept where days after the results Akufo took over from Acheampong. This was described as a “ Palace Coup.” It involved only the ruling class. The ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) lost and vehemently protested the 1992 presidential elections on grounds of ghost names and vote rigging. The party went to the extent of boycotting the parliamentary elections. The PNDC Government, majority of whom formed the NDC conducted the elections, supervised and accepted the results. You saw nothing wrong and still trusted the government. That arrangement was not a prescription and fertile grounds for stealing an election. None of these ever resulted in military adventurism. What makes you single out “one provision in the constitution, FCUBE and other provisions enshrined in Chapter 6" alone for mention?. Why not any other? The constitution has no provision for its ordinal implementation. It is therefore very strange that opponents of the bill are arguing that it is not a priority. What is the definition of Priority? What are the categories? What are the determinants? What makes a provision of the constitution a priority over the other? At what point are those not considered priorities be implemented? Who determines that? How is it done? By the way the bill is not seeking to change any provision in the constitution

The problems as being peddled around by the opponents of the bill are challenges the Electoral Commission EC) will be tasked to deal with..The issue at stake is removing the legal barrier that prevents a section of Ghanaians from effectively participating in elections in Ghana. This is quite different from problems confronting the EC. They are problems that can be overcome. Everything human has its own problems. Solutions proffered for them create their own problems. Some women have died and others continue to die through childbirth yet it is the dream of every woman to give birth to a child. The existence of hospitals and improved medical care have relatively reduced the incidence. We can draw on the experience of other countries that allow its foreign residents to vote to come out with something that is conducive to us.

Ghanaians are capable of solving problems in a peaceful way. We have done that over the years and we will be able to do same when the call comes up. We have been able to prove to FIFA that Essien, Anthony Appiah, Abedi Pele, Tony Yeboah, Joe Tex Frimpong and all others are Ghanaians. This means we know who is a Ghanaian. If it comes to registering Ghanaians residing outside the country we will have criteria to use. The EC has conducted four consecutive elections to the admiration of all concerned and won world acclamation for them. It has also supervised foreigners' elections in Ghana. Thus the EC has the experience and a name to protect. If any Ghanaian has suggestions to make the EC more capable to handle additional challenges this is the time. It is manly to confront problems head on than to postpone them. If it is understood that it has to be done one day then today is also another day.

It is very unfortunate that the issue has been drawn into partisan politics with both NPP and NDC pitching camps as if their very existence depends on either the passage or non passage of the bill into an act of parliament. Those who are familiar with the Bible are referred to the story of Elijah who claimed that all followers of the Lord had been killed for refusing to bow to the god Baal. He was shocked to learn that there were about seven thousand souls who had not done so and were still alive. One party would be surprised along the line.

Opanin Kwabena Mensah Email: [email protected]

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