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06.01.2009 Feature Article

Where else can this happen, if not Ghana?

Where else can this happen, if not Ghana?
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The Ghanaian President-elect, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills and his main opponent Nana A. D. Akufo-Addo had given each other a breathtaking run for his money in the just ended photo-finish presidential elections. The results couldn't have been closer! Nana Akufo-Addo, the candidate for the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) lost to the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) party candidate by a slim margin of 0.32% of the valid votes cast.

This is by no means a most painful loss in any political contest and it is even more so when the loss is suffered by a ruling party's candidate in Africa. The pain of an injury-time loss in a world cup final will not come anywhere close. It therefore takes extra-ordinary courage and the deepest respect for democratic norms for the vanquished in such a circumstance to concede defeat and congratulate the winner. I invite all well meaning Ghanaians to join me salute Nana Akufo-Addo for his noble gesture of accepting the results declared by the Electoral Commissioner. For me, this action of political valour constitutes a validation of the national award he received earlier in the year.

As a keen observer of the Ghanaian political scene, I am however not unaware of the fact that Nana Addo did not accept the results without a fight. In the course of the elections, the political parties of both candidates had made wild allegations of irregularities against each other. Whilst Prof. Mills' NDC accused the ruling NPP of vote rigging in the latter's stronghold of Ashanti Region, Nana Addo's NPP also launched an accusation against the NDC for a similar offence in its stronghold of the Volta Region. Ghana is divided into ten political regions but these cross accusations unwittingly reduced the presidential run-off into a tale of two regions.

It will be insightful to mention that Baroness Amos, the leader of the Commonwealth Observer group had condemned these accusations and counter accusations in a BBC interview as irresponsible behaviour on the part of the parties since the accusations appeared more spurious than factual. In addition, all the other local and international observer groups that covered the run-off elections have been unanimous and emphatic in their verdict that although there were some irregularities, they were so immaterial that they would not in any way undermine the credibility of the final results.

In spite of all these, the ruling NPP did not only use their side of the accusations as a basis for filing an ex-parte application for an injunction to restrain the electoral commissioner from declaring the final results, but they also caused a high court to sit on a statutory public holiday (January 1, 2009) to hear the said application. Time was not on their side and they needed to act with speed. This was at a time when it became obvious that the results were not going in their favour. The judge declined to grant the injunction on the grounds that the matter was too nationally sensitive to be considered under an ex-parte application.

Ghana would have by now been in a constitutional crisis if the judge had granted the ruling NPP's application. It would have created a situation where the constitutional term of the sitting president will expire on January 7 without a president-elect to take over from him. This judge will go down in history as the man who had averted this constitutional crisis that have the potential of derailing Ghana's democracy or at least denting it. I can say without any fear of contradiction that this judgement is the best example I have seen of the independence of the judiciary in the last eight years of NPP rule! Hello Mr. Judge, I congratulate you for the high degree of political savvy and patriotism you had brought to bear on this matter and hereby recommend you as a deserving candidate for the next round of national awards.

The judge's pronouncement on the matter did not in any way break the NPP's resolve to use judicial intervention to stall the transitional process. They successfully filed a new writ on that same public holiday but their officers and bailiffs tried without success to locate the electoral commissioner to serve him notice of the writ. By the time they found him, the section of the electoral process they sought to stall was in too an advanced stage to do anything about.

The sitting president Mr. J. A. Kufuor had in the meantime added his voice to calls of the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) and several religious leaders on both contestants to allow the EC to complete its work and also for them to accept the final results that would be declared. The founding Chairman of the NPP, Mr. da Rocha also made a public appeal to his party not to frustrate the EC'S work. Many other moderates in the party were also getting concerned that the party was stretching its protests too far as they believe such actions were injurious to the party's democratic credentials.

These appeals and expressions of misgivings, especially those of the president eventually led NPP to withdraw the pending suit prior to the declaration of the final results by the Electoral Commissioner.

I have heard people describe the NPP and Nana Akufo-Addo as bad losers. Although they might prima facie appear so, I don't see them so at all. Anybody in their shoes will not give up without a legitimate fight. Don't forget the flak the NPP government had taken from the NDC in respect of the Jubilee House and the two presidential jets. Come to think of it. You need to be super human to easily reconcile yourself with the prospect of having to hand over the keys to the same NDC. I don't even want to talk about the oil. I am therefore appealing to the NDC to remain gracious in victory and continue with the reconciliatory tone set by the president elect.

The man who stood out tallest in this whole electoral saga was Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, the electoral commissioner. No stretch of imagination can possibly accommodate the extent of pressure that he had to contend with in a circumstance where a ruling party in Africa was losing an election by a margin less than a hair's breadth. Ghana has no doubt come far in its democratic development but this is still Africa. The opposition was very sceptical of his impartiality in the run up to the elections but he proved how totally wrong they were.

You remember how he vanished into thin air when the ruling party big wigs turned themselves into bailiffs looking for him to serve notice of their writ?

I strongly believe Dr. Afari-Gyan deserves more than a national medal as he prepares for his retirement after announcing the results of this cliff hanger of an election. I hereby invite interested Ghanaians, especially those in the media, to join me to set up a fund in his honour into which all well meaning countrymen and women will be invited to contribute the equivalent of at least $1.00 to honour this man to make his retirement life a bit more comfortable.

We cannot forget how his announcement of an interim result on Tuesday December 30 magically dispelled the tension that engulfed the country and brought life back to normal the following day. This man deserved to be honoured by all of us. Let's raise a million dollars for him.

Long Live Ghana!

Author: Mathew Dorfe, Banker

Mathew Dorfe
Mathew Dorfe, © 2009

The author has 1 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: MathewDorfe

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