In Ghana Politics, Women Are Very Lean
(Nigerian in Accra) -- As it is in Africa and most Third World countries, women are yet to find their bearing in the decision making process of Ghana.
Women constitute more than 50 per cent of the 21.5 million population of the country but their share of political and public office appointments is a miserly eight per cent. And this is in spite of years of continuous public education by a host of non- governmental organizations and women groups. Measures such as affirmative action and nomination of women into public offices taken in recent times have only made minimal impact in redressing the trend.
Already, an appeal has been sent to President John Agyekun Kufuor to increase the slot for women in his new cabinet when he gets on with his second term next week.
Currently, there are only 19 women in Ghana's 200-member parliament and of the 230 members of parliament-elect, there are only 23 women, representing 10 per cent in the national legislature.
Making the appeal in Accra, for better deal for women Mrs. Nana Oye Lithur, Co-ordinator of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) said the situation where there is no woman among 10 Regional Ministers, and no woman head of the Armed Forces was deplorable.
In Ghana, there are two women among 10 Justices of the Supreme Court, one-deputy Regional Minister, two women head of Police Service, seven women among 110 District Chief Executives and four out of 45 ambassadors.
The only area women have met the 30 per cent Affirmative Action benchmark is at the District Assembly level where their participation has improved from five to 35.5 per cent.
Although women would want to be in the mainstream of political activities, most of them recoil into their shells on considering their educational background. To win the support of the electorate, they are required to outshine the men in constructive arguments, debates and presentation of ideas.
Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan the chairman of the Electoral Commission (EC) gave a graphic illustration of the deplorable state of women during a seminar on women empowerment in Accra recently.
According to him, the only woman in the Volta Region that volunteered to be recruited at the selection of returning officers for the December 7 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections was not nominated because she lacked the required competence.
Aside being a mother and a housewife, Afari- Gyan disclosed that the woman had no other qualification to back her application.
For the few women that have the necessary paper qualifications, they lack the financial muscles to prosecute money-guzzling endeavours like contesting an election. Often times they have to depend on men to finance their electoral campaigns and this comes with a series of problems and the attendant negative publicity.
For example, most of the women members of parliament elected at the December 7, polls go with the title "Ms".
Asked if they were not married, Mrs. Nancy Addei, a Hotelier told The Guardian, that some of them could not stay with their husbands "because of their lifestyle".
But women groups insist that men usually find it difficult to cope with the rising profiles of the female politicians.
Women approached the 2004 election with the hope of picking 50 seats in the parliament. They succeeded in winning 23 seats.
The under representation of women in public office has been attributed to socio-economic and political factors.
According to Lithur, the participation of women in both local and national elections depend on the political climate, which has to be favorable to all for women to fare better in any election.
Aside political climate, she listed some other hurdles before women as low educational level, low income and inadequate professional experience. Stakeholders say that in the various regimes of the country, adequate efforts were not made to encourage women to participate in national governance as they were consigned to the unenviable role of on-lookers who cheer and support the men to climb the political ladder.
The activist also cited negative gender ideology as a major hurdle for women in the political arena. In spite of constant education on the need for women to be elected, most of the electorate prefer to vote for their male counterparts who do not have the needed competence than women who have all the requirements, she said.
Lithur also decried age long traditional practices, customs and social attitudes, which she considered as "negative" and unfavourable to women political emancipation.
"As part of our customs and traditions, people have been brought up to believe that the place of a woman, no matter how much education she has, is in the kitchen, and that women are the weaker sex. This notion is embedded in people so much that they do not see the reason they should be ruled or led by a woman." Between 1996 and 2004, women participation in elections had traversed a topsy-turvy curve. In the 1996 parliamentary elections, 59 women stood and 19 got elected. At the District Assembly level, 547 female candidates contested the polls in 1998 and 196 were successful. The number of those handed the mandate rose to 341 in 2002 in a district contest that featured 965 women.
In 2000, the number of MP female candidates increased to 101 but only 19 were elected, constituting eight per cent of the 200-member parliament. In 2004, the number of women that contested remained 101 including 14 sitting MPs, out of which nine belonged to the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and five to the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Across the 10 Regions of the country, the Western Region fielded 13 candidates, Central 12; Greater Accra 16; Volta 12; and Eastern eight. Ashanti Region had 16; Brong Ahafo six; Northern Seven; Upper East Six; and Upper West four.
The ruling NPP had 27 women candidates; the CPP 18, NDC 17; and PNC 13. The EGLE fielded nine women; DPP five; GCPP two, and CPP one. Eight women contested as independent candidates.
After the polls, the ruling NPP got 19 of her candidates elected while the NDC has four.
The polls over, women groups say the time to start for another round of elections is now with District Assembly election due in 2006.
The Women MP-elect
Ms. Akosua Osei Opare, NPP, Agawaso West Wuogon, Greater Accra.
Mrs. Shirley A. Botchway, NPP, Weija Constituency, Greater Accra.
Dr. Gladys Ashitey, NPP, Ledzokuku Constituency, Greater Accra.
Ms. Elizabeth T. Sackey, NPP, Okaikwei North Constituency, Greater Accra
Theresa Ameley Tagoe, NPP, Ablekume South, Greater Accra.
Hajia Alima Mahama, NPP, Nalerigu/Gambaga Constituency Northern Region.
Mrs. Rita Tani Iddi, NPP, Gushiegu Constituency, Northern Region.
Hajia M. Salifu Boforo, NDC, Saveluga Constituency, Northern Region.
Ms. Angelina B. Amussah, NPP, Shama Constituency, Western Region.
Ms. Gladys Asmah, NPP, Takorah Constituency, Western Region.
Ms. Gifty Eugenia Kusi, NPP, Tarkwa-Nsuam Constituency, Western Region.
Ms. Juliana Mensah, NDC, Ho East Constituency, Volta Region.
Ms. Cecilia Abena Dapaah, NPP, Offinso North Constituency, Ashanti Region.
Ms. Elizabeth Agyeman, NPP, Oforikrom Constituency, Ashanti Region.
Ms. Gifty Obene Konedu, NPP, Akin South, Ashanti Region.
Ms. Grace Coleman, NPP, Effiduasi/Asokore Constituency, Ashanti.
Ms. Josephine Hilda Addoh, NPP, Kwadaso Constituency, Ashanti.
Ms. Ama Nyamekye, NPP, Brong Ahafo Region.
Madam Esther Obeng Dapaah, NPP, New Abirem Constituency, Eastern Region.
Ms. Christine Churcher, NPP, Cape Coast, Central Region.
Elizabeth Amoah Tetteh, NDC, Twifo/Ati/Morkwaa, Central Region.
Agnes Chigabatia, NPP, Builsa North, Upper East.
Alice Boon Teni, NDC, Jirapa Constituency, Upper West Region.
Savouring The Allures Of Accra
THE time was 10.30pm on Sunday December 5, two days to the December 7, 2004 presidential and parliamentary elections. Directly opposite the Holy Spirit Cathedral, Adabraka, Accra, a Police Land Rover jeep screeched to a halt. The occupants were obeying the red light signal of the traffic lights, though the roads were lonely. And shortly after, the vehicle was on its way when the green lights came on.
The scenario is one of the numerous features of Accra, West Africa's emerging tourist destination.
From the modest architectural masterpiece and inviting environment presented by the Kotoka International Airport down to the arteries of paved, smooth and neat roads, the peace and serenity of Accra metropolis are other features that a first time visitor from Nigeria cannot ignore.
The roads are not littered with heaps of garbage and at night, the beauty becomes more visible with constant power supply that has been the lot of Accra residents in the past three years. Although only a handful of the roads are lit there are traffic lights at most intersections.
At every turn, efforts are made by the citizens to enhance traffic flow. And this is without the assistance of the police and traffic wardens. The system is so orderly that the services of traffic police are not required. Police checkpoints are rarely seen except at the borders. It was difficult to sight soldiers, Naval or Air officers bearing arms and threatening the citizens. To boost the beauty of the city and save lives, the government outlawed commercial motorbikes in the metropolis. Bikes are for private use only.
Unlike Lagos, there are few skyscrapers in Accra. However, the buildings have low fences, which reveal the beauty of the houses. Although Accra has a number of bad spots like the Mokola Market axis in Tudu close to the Accra Polytechnic, where cases of rape and robbery are rampant, security does not constitute a threat in the city. One can move without fear of being molested at anytime in the night.
Coupled with constant water supply and located on Longitude zero degree, same as that of London and Greenwich, Accra, which boasts of some historical tourist sites is fast becoming 'a home away from home' for a host of foreigners including Nigerians.
Indeed, many Nigerians have different but interesting reasons to visit Accra. At the Millennium GuestHouse Adabraka, there were five other Nigerians - two ladies and three men. One of the men was on his way to Singapore to buy goods and the other was travelling to Liberia to join his family. The third, who simply gave his name as Tayo, came to write the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam.
Asked why he did not take the exam in Nigeria, Tayo said he was in a hurry and the earliest date he could take the test in the country since he did not apply on time is January 2005, and that would affect his travel plans.
The two ladies have more interesting reasons for being in Ghana. Mrs. Ihuoma Maxwell came to buy the popular kente cloth to be used as Aso-ebi (uniform) by her family members for the burial of one of her relatives.
And Mrs. A Ogidi came for a Canadian Immigrant visa interview. She wants to join her husband and children in Canada.
She said she would have loved to take the interview in Nigeria but lamented that the opportunity does not exist. "What they give in Nigeria is visiting visa. If you want immigrant visa you have to come to Ghana. They (Canadian government) took the thing to Ghana during the Abacha regime," she said.
With reasons as these among others, it is not surprising that tourists troop to the country to savour the beauty and splendour of the former Gold Coast, and the economy of Ghana is receiving a boost from it.
Records from the Ghana Tourism Association (GTA) show that from 85,000 persons in 1995 the number of tourists rose to 304,860 in 1997 and 325,438 in 1998. In 2003, the number of tourist arrivals leaped to 760,543 and the figure was expected to hit the one million mark in 2004, in view of the December polls.
Reports said Nigeria accounts for the majority of the arrivals with its share of 20 per cent. Unconfirmed reports put the number of Nigerians in the 21.5 million populous country at about four million.
The sites of interest include the Castles along the Accra beach with the 500-year-old Elmina Castle being the most prominent. There are also the Independence Square where the late Dr Kwame Nkrumah made the independence speech in 1957, the National Theatre, Du Bois memorial Centre, Kwame Nkrumah Memorial Park and Mausoleum and a series of hotels and night clubs, including boomerang and Yegola owned by soccer hero, Anthony Yeboah.
Travails of border crossers on the West Coast AT a speed of 100 kilometres per hour, Lagos is about five hours away from Accra, the capital of Ghana.
But practically, the journey could take a whole day depending on who is travelling, reasons for travelling, willingness to grease the palms of hordes of immigration, customs, police and other officials and touts who line the Border outposts looking for 'preys.' I had a nasty taste of what cross-border traders and travelers go through daily on the six borders between Accra and Lagos along the Atlantic coast on Sunday December 12. A journey I commenced at 7.30 a.m could not terminate until 7.30 p.m.
I was on my way from Accra, where I went to cover the Ghana 2004 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections. I elected to go by road to re-acclimatize myself with the rugged life I lived in Nigeria. The eight days I stayed in Accra had lowered my ruggedness and I did not want to come back to find myself being obtuse or incongruent to events around me. Besides, I did not have money for a 45-minute uneventful flight to Lagos.
At 63 Cedis to one naira, my N100,000 made me an instant multi-millionaire. Like one adjusted one's time by one hour on arriving Ghana (Nigeria on longitude 15 is ahead of Ghana by one hour), I quickly adjusted my lifestyle from that of a thousandnaire to a millionaire. You need a cab for a distance of about 20 kilometres, you are asked to pay 100, 000 Cedis. A good meal goes for about 40, 000 Cedis. Accommodation in a decent hotel is between 250,000 to one million Cedis per night. One hundred units of the Ghana Telecommunication (GT) phone card costs 30, 000 Cedis. You also need 12,000 Cedis to browse the Internet for one hour, etc.
But for the high figures quoted above, life was easy. The roads are well paved, drained and clean with traffic lights on every intersection, which are obeyed by all including the police even late in the night. Power supply is constant. I did not experience any power outage throughout my stay. Residents could not recall the last time power went off. So also are the taps, which are running always.
Elections over, one had to return home. The elections were peaceful, free and fair. One was regaled with the phenomena of "skirt and blouse voting," "Electoral World Bank or shopping centre" and the respect accorded the voters card as a document second only to the Ghanaian International Passport. According to cab driver, no one doubts the nationality of inter-region travelers that show the voters' card to security agents. The card is like an identity card and has the holder's photograph, age, sex, constituency etc. It is more difficult for a foreigner to obtain the Ghanaian voters' card than the international passport he said.
The journey by road is partly to acquaint myself with happenings on the Togo and Ghana stretch of the Atlantic Coast. My Thesis: "The Development of Recreation and Tourism In Badagry Local Government Area of Lagos State" for the award of B.Sc degree in Geography (University of Nigeria, Nsukka) covered parts of the Nigeria-Benin Republic Coastline up to Seme Border.
So, I paid the 455,400 Cedis demanded by the ABC Executive Express Bus Company with glee. Ordinarily, the journey ought to be five hours one but crossing the six border outposts even with complete documents was a hurdle that took another five hours.
The Aflao border, the first in the series from the Ghana end did not take much time to cross. But the remaining five borders were. At the Hilla-Condji border (between Togo and Benin), all the passengers in the bus had to disembark and walk through while the driver and guide sorted things out with the immigration officers. Passengers that did not have the Yellow Paper (International Certificate of Vaccination) were asked to part with N200 as a tip at every border post.
Other travelers traveling in small cars who were not ready to part with some money were screened 'thoroughly' by the law enforcement agents on each border outpost. Personal belongings could be seized on the grounds that they are for commercial purposes and duties have to be paid.
According to regular 'migrants', some drivers conveying contraband goods may abandon their vehicles at the borders for days.
The need for the West African Currency (Eco-currency) to come on stream is felt at the borders. Black marketers make brisk business exchanging the dominant currencies-pounds, dollars, Naira, CFA and Cedis. If one was not vigilant, one could be short-changed. A lady was under-paid N5,000 when she exchanged her Cedis for Naira.
Aside the currency exchangers, there are other highway hawkers dealing in clothes, shoes, fruits and household items. To make a good purchase, one has to be smart in conversion of the currencies into one another. The traders exploit travellers' ignorance of this. An article worth 10,000 Cedis (about N130) could be sold for N500 to such a traveler.
On the whole the Togo and Benin stretch of the Atlantic coast present better scenery. While Benin Republic has the highway divided into sections for vehicles, motorcyclists and pedestrians, Togo has a number industries-cement, petroleum refinery, etc along the sea shore.
For a sub-region working towards regional integration the countries of West Africa aggregating on the banner of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) still have much work to do to ease inter-country trips for their citizenry.
INEC, Media, Nigerians
All Have A Lot to Learn From Ghana
The Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Dr Abel Ibude Guobadia monitored the Ghana elections. He told CLIFFORD NDUJIHE in Accra that Nigerians have a lot to learn from the conduct of the polls. He said with adequate funding the INEC would implement some of the lessons he learnt such as embossing of photographs on the voters card and register in the 2007 general election.
How did you see the voting arrangements? If somebody gets hold of the wrong card and appears at the polling station, and his photograph does not match what is on the register, of course, he is on his way to jail. I must confess they are quite far ahead of us in that aspect On press freedom in Ghana I think the press is free. I think most people will concede that Nigerian press too is as free as any press you can find in the world but I think you will notice one difference. Here I was listening to a pressman earlier this morning (a day after the polls), somebody had complained that he lost presumably because there were shortage of ballot papers in his constituency. The question that the pressman asked was: 'have you reported this matter?' So it was not for the press to go and propagate his idea of what constituted a poor election in his area. I think it is something our press people should learn from.
What lessons have you drawn from your observation of the Ghana polls? From what I saw, they have settled down. I think the generality of Ghanaians have accepted the electoral process as a very valid way of changing their leadership. You can see that everybody believes in that. The young, the old had queued up as early as 2am to commence voting at 7a.m - five hours ahead of time! I will think that the Nigerian politicians have quite a lot to learn from that. Politicians here are very moderate in their pronouncements. Somebody said that whichever way the result went he would accept even before the election. I think it is good. It is something our politicians have to learn. Here you do not see people being suspicious of the electoral commission. Some stations reported shortage of materials or late arrivals; nobody imputed motives as to suggest that the electoral commission connived to do so. It was probably blamed on delayed transportation. These are things we ought to learn.
Are you going to implement some of the lessons you learnt when you get back home? Standard practice is what electoral commissions everywhere want to see done. The acceptance by the people of these procedures is crucial to the entire process. There is a high degree of acceptance here. But I think our people are too slow in accepting some of these things.
Are you going to emboss photographs on the voters' cards? A lot of factors come into play. The funding policy - how timely is the funding? In 2000, Ghana already had photo voters' card; there was no photo then on the register. I think between then and now, they were able to perfect the addition of the photographs to the register. Even members of Ghana Electoral Commission did tell me that late release of funding was also a factor in their own but they managed to succeed. So if we are given the wherewithals early enough, it is not impossible this time around.
Did you notice any flaw or irregularity in the election? I personally did not witness any. But somebody said there was shortage of election materials somewhere. These are allegations. There were reported incidents of people pushing or slapping each other; that cannot be unexpected in an exercise of this magnitude.
What message do you have for Nigerians as regards this election? I think we should have faith in the electoral process. Let's practice it and come through with it. Ghana has been steadfast now - in 1996, 2000, and 2004, every stage is an improvement of the earlier stage. I think most Ghanaians are very happy with themselves and I congratulate them too.
Some Melodrama of Ghana 2004 Polls Elections are not without expectations, shocks, surprises or upsets. The Ghana 2004 presidential and parliamentary elections had a dose of them. While in victory candidates considered as minnows rose and shone like stars, some otherwise "political Samsons and Goliaths" crashed to the consternation of observers. And in spite of huge funds spent on voter education, some voters displayed ignorance of the rules.
Rejected Ballots Of the 10,354,970 registered voters, 8,646,707 persons came out to vote and 183,997 of them could not do it correctly. Two cases in the northern part of the country elicited bouts of laughter from foreign journalists covering the election.
A woman was reported to have voted for all the parliamentary candidates in her constituency. Asked why she did so, she responded: "They are all my children. We all stay in this place. I do not want to discriminate against anyone of them." In another constituency, an elderly man when given the ballot paper to cast his vote in the presidential election was said to have torn out President Kufuor's picture and tucked it in a corner of his breast pocket. His reason: "Kufuor is my choice; he is the one I want." Kufuor's men that lost out President Kufuor would serve his second term without some of his henchmen who got battered in the polls. One of the main casualties is the Minister of Works and Housing, Alhaji Mustapha Ali Idris, who had won the Gulkpegu-Sabongida seat, made up of parts of Central Region and the whole of Tamale South Constituency in 1996 and 2000.
He was expected to win the Tamale South seat, (Northern Region) where he contested after Tamale was divided into three constituencies but he lost woefully to the National Youth Organiser of the NDC, Haruna Idrissu by a margin of over 25,00 votes. He scored 11,917 votes to Idrissu's 38, 296.
Madam Hawa Yakubu; incumbent MP on the platform of the NPP was shown the way out in her Bawku Central Constituency (Upper East Region by her NDC rival. Currently a member of the ECOWAS Parliament in Abuja Nigeria, Yakubu was an independent MP for the area in 1992. She lost out in 1996 and rallied back to her seat in 2000 on the card of the NPP.
Other casualties include Prof. Christopher Ameyaw Akumfi, Minister Of Railways, Ports and Harbours and Prince Oduro Mensah. They both lost the Techiman North and South seats (Brong Ahafo Region) to the NDC. Rashid Bawa (Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports), Miss Elizabeth Ohene (Minister Of State For Tertiary Education), Nana Owusu Yeboah - Regional Minister and Kofi Dzamesi - Deputy Regional Minister all lost out contrary to their Olympian heights rating.
In the eastern region, big names like Gustav Narh Dometey - Deputy Regional Minister, Christian Tetteh and Difie Dedo Agyarko also failed to win for the NPP.
However, it was not all hisses and sad tales for the President's men. Some of them recorded remarkable victories with the most striking being that of the Papa Kwesi Nduom, the Minister for Energy. The ruling NPP did not field a candidate for the MP race in Komda - Edina -Eguafo - Abrem (KEEA) Constituency (Western Region) where Nduom who stood on the platform of the Convention Peoples Party (CPP) contested. It threw its weight behind Nduom and he won. The NPP Sector Minister, Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu also retained his Asante Akim North seat in the Ashanti Region Kufuor dusts NDC in Mills' backyard The NDC presidential candidate, Prof. John Evans Atta Mills is a Fante by tribe and was born in Cape Coast in the Central Region. As was witnessed in the Ashanti region, Kufuor's homestead which the NPP has made an electoral "shopping centre" or "world bank," Mills was expected to win in the Central Region or at least in Cape Coast, his constituency.
This was not to be as the NPP coasted home victoriously in both the presidential and parliamentary polls in all but one of the constituencies.
In Cape Coast specifically, Kufuor got 39,803 voted to Mills' 29,224 votes. The NPP parliamentary candidate Ms Christine Churcher with 36,264 votes also beat all opponents including NDC's Mr Ebo Barton-Oduro who scored 31,538 votes. The opposition party's sole seat in the Central Region came from Mfantsiman East Constituency. George Kuntu-Blankson scrapped to victory with 8,385 votes.
Mills also won in the constituency with 9,762 votes to Kufuor's 5,853.
As results of the election in the region tumbled in, a female NDC supporter at Tamale Regional House of Chiefs where the results were collated reportedly cried out: "Oh these Fantes, how can you treat your own blood like this? Skirt and Blouse Voting This is an electoral phenomenon in Ghana where voters in a locality would vote for a party in the presidential election and voted against it in the parliamentary or vice visa.
Skirt and blouse was deployed by some voters in some constituencies in the elections in what local observers described as a reflection of the growing maturity of the Ghanaian voter and his understanding of the nuances of democracy.
The term shirt and blouse, reports said, had its origin in Oguaa, Cape Coast following inter-party squabbles in the NPP. It was said to have started when a section of the party's supporters who were opposed to incumbent MP, Ms Christine Churcher decided to throw their support to her challenger, Mr Buckman in the primary.
When it became obvious that she was going to win with the party machinery, some of the NPP faithful in the constituency declared that they would vote for Kufuor in the presidential and vote against her at the parliamentary polls.
The aggrieved NPP supporters obviously carried out their threat in the election but it could not stop Churcher from retaining her seat in the parliament. She polled 36,264 votes while President Kufuor was handed 39,803 votes in the area.
The NDC won the Jomoro Constituency seat in Western Region while the NPP won the presidential election.
Other constituencies where the phenomenon was witnessed include Zebilla, Nalerigu, Builsa North, Wulensi, Salaga and Bunkpurugu Yunyoo where an independent candidate won the parliamentary election while the NDC won the presidential.