Democracy has never been defined anywhere to preclude justice, freedom and equality on account of economic and social discriminations among men. When the head of an organization like the Electoral Commission (EC) speaks and acts ex cathedra, you must know the downtrodden are in for trouble, for here it is no longer about the EC which is governed by law, but about the ego of the head.
Is this the Ghanaian example of “Institutions must be made to work and be seen to be stronger than any individual?” Let us make a conscious effort to ensure that certain sensitive portfolios are occupied by people with proven track records of working to advance society in particular areas so that posting them at the top signals increased responsibility, authority, power and resources to execute programmes, to whom much is given… Example, an Oye Lithur at the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.
Anyone may be well qualified with ‘well cooked’ educational background. Beyond that, what has she been doing? What transformation did she bring to her former office? Did she initiate any futuristic thing but failed? Or she has been one of those Ghanaian bosses who at best brings nothing new and at worst runs down the organization they were supposed to grow. What this caliber of managers know how to do best is to act and speak to the effect: “Do you not know that I am the boss here?” Manager with negative or zero improvement who gets promoted, what does that portend for the country? Can any such a manager with whatever motivations transform the EC overnight with the attitude of ‘It is all about I, me, mine and none else matters?’ So, is the EC positioning itself to better serve a section or the generality of the citizenry? If anyone argues that the turbulence being brought about by the EC was not at the instance of the new head many will not trust.
Was it like this during Dr. Afari Gyan’s tenure? Are those not the same lieutenants at the commission who were with the venerated Dr. Afari Gyan? People communicate: the woman is fine, beautiful and suave as if good looks and only good looks are all it takes to be fair, helpful and constructive. This mother has not been long on her new job but her work has been so underwhelming as not to deserve the benefit of the doubt.
The not-so-endowed in Ghana are systematically being denied full participation in the democratic process but not on a fair ground. Let us practice the complete suite of democracy and not choose and pick aspects that resonate with only the rich. A democracy that works to sideline the majority is no more a pure one but an oligarchy or a dictatorship of a sort, which if we do not take care may mean something else in the course of time – something we may not be proud of.
Vigilance is the price of progress. Let us not hide under pretence or hypocrisy and allow a snake to sneak into our common living room.
Some unpalatable signs of a not too bright future:
1. No need for the truth so long as it does not yield benefit to my party immediately
2. No money no voice, in money we trust anything else must give way
3. We want all you can do for us now! We do not care about tomorrow; let the future care about its own troubles
4. No need for transparent fundraising by political parties so an average Ghanaian thinks electioneering time is time to exact from the system, but never to contribute resources to it
5. Outright lies are not prohibited; just out-promise opponents and it’s well with you
6. No need of much thinking or initiative, mediocrity may well be the best
An average Ghanaian thinks that all those who put themselves up for election are close to being thieves, and have gathered enough money to be used in baiting them for votes so everyone strives to come out with all that must be provided through them for a successful campaign. As soon as a potential candidate comes out not with money but with ideas and hopes of how things should proceed for the benefit of all, most people become angry and feel that the candidate is not serious? Money to expend now, and ideas for a better tomorrow which is vitally important? You bring yourself forth only because you want a better life and prestige, no way. Only the rich have the exclusive right to dare because if they steal from the national coffers we may not find out because they are already rich and that is okay by us. Good logic? True that all the best ideas are in the minds of the rich, all the not-too-rich must be silenced? Let us reduce the emoluments attached to these high offices and observe who comes forward in the name of altruism, love of country, sacrifice and service to nation.
A lot of initiatives against poverty have been propounded, some being executed and many more being prepared but most of them are phoney benefiting the rich more than the poor all to maintain a form of hegemony over the poor.
Filing fees of late have become a tool the rich, in an unholy alliance with institutions, are using to deny the average citizen the will and freedom to stand for election. Political parties charge exorbitant filing fees for primaries in order to keep most people out of the race as possible (excuse: to raise funds and maintain party unity); party first, the needs of the ordinary person not important! There was once a time in Ghana when ordinary men could stand for election after parties have priced them out of the market. It is no longer so, no longer at ease! It is very sad that institutions like IDEG, CDD, Ghana Institute for Public Policy Options (GIPPO) and others find it expedient to adopt the proverbial armchair managers’ approach to the issue of overcharging of candidates by the EC to the effect that “Any candidate worth his salt, who feels fit to represent a whole constituency should easily raise ten thousand Ghana cedis because the amount is rather small.”Since you know very much about the microeconomics of Ghana and everyone is equal, why LEAP, SADA, Zongo Fund et cetera? How is the unemployment situation in Ghana now? Why gang up to maintain the status quo, and kill little initiatives? You may be able to sit in Accra, call a few friends on phone telling them ‘I wanna chop president’ and instantly receive billions of cedis in contributions, but I urge you, come to the countryside, do your own survey to find a most popular candidate and ask those who are well to do among the lot to contribute say fifty Ghana cedis to help the preferred candidate and see how they will look at you like a big fool who does not know that it is time to cash in on the establishment. They will think you are turning the whole thing upside down and they will not be outsmarted by you. Why do you have to speak for the rich but never for the voiceless? Is it that you are appreciated more, and so gain materially speaking for one side at the altar of balance? How can we succeed at convincing electorate to contribute towards campaigns when they are actively being oriented to demand money from candidates?
Let us relook at the EC’s power, privilege and right of discretion vis-à-vis filing fee. When the EC increased the parliamentary aspirants’ filing fees from one thousand Ghana cedis to ten thousand Ghana cedis, they indicated that it was subject to review (which meant downward), but when it became obvious that the two dominant parties have lost their moral grounds to be able to complain about the hikes, though it is widely believed that one of the two parties fixed the amount as announced by the EC, it quickly became law since no one was considered serious who dared to plead for reduction.
The matter was consummated when certain institutions came out to pile on the EC’s position against the ordinary Ghanaian. Is it in good taste that an organization like the EC can say ‘we may review’ but fail at that and not care enough to publicly tell all why they would no longer review the said amount? Should we just trust them and give them too much scope to operate? Won’t some unseen forces use the EC against the ordinary Ghanaian? Can not the CI be amended to include say; EC cannot increase the filing amount of the previous election beyond fifty per cent?
We can work to ensure that the amount to charge for the filing of nominations in every election year is properly determined and declared at least a full clear year before the filing of nominations. So no forces can fix the amount to charge because they know who wants to stand and how to ensure they cannot stand. It will also afford prospective candidates room for preparation. These should never be left to the whims and caprices of a group whose motives are questionable. Many people made up their minds to stand for election and expended resources only to be told at the eleventh hour that others, using the EC, would not have them stand. Should the voters not be the only group who can determine who represents them? Filing fee increase of a thousand per cent? For what? Why, is the curse on a woman? Everyone knows that the filing fee does not go into the EC’s account for them to use to run the organization. So has some body tasked the EC to raise money for them to be used in this election? Has the EC suddenly become the only source of taxation to finance government expenditure?
Author: Samuel Nkiikinah