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16.02.2006 Feature Article

The Diaspora Vote; no need for a retreat

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The debate on Diaspora vote has fuelled emotions and triggered threats from many quarters to the nation in general and in particular to debutants, yet we are all Ghanaians in the same boat and we sail or sink together.

It is unacceptable to threaten and insult in political debates and it is time to move away from confrontation to dialogue. The days where people were jailed in kangaroo courts, lynched for not thinking in line with the government in power, where people with dissenting views were branded enemies of state has unfortunately characterised our recent past history, so that if today Ghanaians have opted for a parliament and democracy it is expected that they anticipate all parts in parliament to debate any issues that is of their interest. We as a people are prepared to look at and accommodate all sound views. This is how we can get the populace informed and educated on burning topics, and then maintain stability in the long run.

It is sad and destroys our democracy and reputation as a peaceful nation when the minority walks out of parliament. They have always been preaching Mayhem and by their action today they are telling investors and the international community that there is nothing different between Ghana and the Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, that the tendency of future unrests in Ghana is real. Ghanaians need to see the other side of the story and the opposition cannot walk away now when the debate has just begun. Dialogue, giving and taking, discussions behind closed doors, debating and arriving at a consensus is what will see us through in any of our democratic engagements as a nation. Let Ghanaians be accommodative and refrain from looking only at the negative side of the story only. For all is possible if we try to find opportunities and solutions instead of adopting a mind of resignation and problem oriented ness.

I am a staunch supporter of the ROPAB position of allowing Ghanaians living abroad to participate fully in our nations affairs including the chance to vote in Ghanaian elections. But it all starts with debating and making our case known to the Ghanaian public, believing in the fact that voicing our views from afar, we have listeners. That we have listeners who love and care about us as fellow brothers and sisters away from home much as we love and think of them.

Citing instances where countries have extended a welcoming hand to its citizens living abroad the DVC noted; "…..we are painfully aware of the implementation issues ahead of us but please could we at least start from a legal basis to solve them with the electoral commission upon a mandate from the passage of ROPAB? How about that for peace sake? All heads are needed for the next step because while we can learn from those countries that practice the absentee voting, each has to be customized to its peculiar circumstances. There are no presumed winners. The new voters are a blank slate to be won over by anyone with a winning message. Let us fear not and think straight….." And explaining the importance of the Ghanaian human capital resources living outside the country, the ROPAB is right in its call for a generous and an extended hand by Ghana to her numerous and valuable human resources abroad starting with the vote.

But perhaps more right is the oppositions brilliant exposition last week through the minority statement published for our reading friday 3.february on ghanaweb.com. I must say it was a great job done and I commend those who spent time and resources on that work to help educate us about the other side of the coin. The opposition fronted by the main opposition party the NDC raised fears about constitutional and legal implications much as some problems of logistics and how to finance the venture. I think these are founded arguments too and must be listened to. Both parties are right of a sort.

But in the real world of politics and hard facts, and in the constant struggle between two and many truths, being right alone cannot be enough. It's a world of giving and taking in order to suffice the peace and stability we all so cherish and are craving for. Political debates and people-to-people dialogue is the only peaceful way out of any chaotic situation without necessarily giving away basic principles. It is possible to engage in listening instead of insisting on standpoints with attendant threats. The alternative is a situation where neither party will be a winner.

Both the NPP government and the opposition led by the NDC need to do some serious soul searching and to extend hands of cooperation to one another. For with all the articles we have written and the facts about contributions made to Ghana by the Diaspora, all will agree with me that Ghana's sons and daughters abroad cannot be snubbed in this debate.

Secondly, the minority opposition parties in parliament cannot command the majority to do as it want. The sitting regime with the majority in parliament reflects the majority view among the people and this is democracy. If this view is abused the NPP will answer come 2008.

The majority however cannot pretend to bury its head in the sand but must engage effectively the NDC. Just as Ghanaians must live and cooperate with one another as one nation one people, we want our politicians to work together as a people mandated with one interest eschewing partisan politics when it comes to the business of the nation.

What the minority needs to do is to show the people the invaluable contributions it is giving through the debates to help smooth up the rough edges of the bill on the table. By doing so they will be helping to also pave the passage for their next coming through winning the trust of the people.

It is desirable once again that the NPP extends a hand to the opposition parties and listen to their views and concerns. A committee constituted from the parties could be composed to look into all the views raised by both parties and to find for us a common ground where all Ghanaians can feel comfortable to walk on. This is how the president can show the way with maturity.

Supporters of the bill can also retract a little by for instance calling for the first vote in 2012 and first on experimenter basis in fewer cities around the world. The acceptance and the gesture if extended to us, matters most. But we can wait for a better day and time for the implementation. It is possible to allow voting only in say ten major cities around the world, eg.; London, New York, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Berlin, Oslo, Lagos, Toronto and Moscow, these can be added to the amendment and the electoral commissions of the host countries can assist us in doing a good job.

All who want to vote can travel to Ghana before 2012 to register for a particular city at the electoral commission's foreign office and at a fee! Lets say $50 pr. person. These monies can finance the entire voting costs both in Ghana and abroad. When the electoral register is established in Accra for the various cities, the next step will be a travel to the authorities in that city by an electoral officer from Ghana for arrangements before voting day.

It is not possible to vote in every country around the world and the opposition to the bill is right on that score, but a middle way can always be found and it is absolutely possible to implement the bill if passed into law. Ghanaian associations abroad can solicit the help of their host government's electoral commissions to help carry it out and a clause in the bill can ensure that these associations inform the electoral commissions in Ghana one year before elections start in Ghana about their preparedness.

There is no rush however and we are all witnesses to what ad hoc decisions and shoddy works have led our country today. The making and building of a nation takes time, patience and scrutiny and then mountains can be moved. We are all losers with no winners if we fail today in this all important debate. We want to see our parliament become a model and an example to many, not a breeding ground for warriors.

Knowledge can develop best in a peaceful atmosphere, and even in our parliament we need knowledgeable men to debate our problems.

Let the star of Africa show to the world that the black man is capable of managing his own affairs. Presently, Ghana needs the redemption song and yet; "……..how shall we sing the love song in a strange land, where neither us nor our song is regarded and accepted?"

Let us rise above ourselves in our duty to mother Ghana bearing in mind that in 50 years from now most of us will be gone to our maker. Those who will still be walking the soils of Ghana if they still can comprehend will live to regret many things they have done and influenced based only on their selfish and partisan interests. Those politicians, who did well for the common good, will be smiling then even in their graves and will be fondly remembered by a grateful posterity.

For God and country Festus K. Lartey-Adjei Labour consultant Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Festus K. Lartey-Adjei
Festus K. Lartey-Adjei, © 2006

The author has 10 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: FestusKLarteyAdjei

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