Over the past few weeks or so, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has taken and implemented very critical, tough and delicate governance decisions; the latest being the dismissal of the three commissioners of the Electoral Commission (EC).
His recent directive to his appointees to temporarily halt all foreign travels, as well as for the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service to investigate alleged acts of influence peddling and of corruption, especially, regarding the Anas “Number 12” expose, and the establishment of the office of the Special Prosecutor to arrest corruption also comes to mind readily.
In all of these, the President, as constitutionally mandated, cannot be faulted for taking those critical decisions if they are in the national interest and which ultimately are intended to serve the national good for sustainable national progress.
Sacking of 3 EC bosses
Nevertheless, the decision to sack the three EC bosses - the Chairperson, Mrs Charlotte Osei, and her two deputies, Amadu Sulley and Georgina Opoku Amankwah, hopefully to bring some finality to a matter which had been lingering on the neck of the commission and election administration in the country over the past months, has generated mixed feelings and diverse reactions.
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Whilst many think that what has happened at the EC is the best thing to have happened to the election management body in view of the present sour relationship existing among the three commissioners, others contend that the dismissal move is tactically inferior and a blot on the country’s growing democracy. It has been argued that if the referees of the EC have been sacked, then the Fourth Republic (itself) is in trouble and the implications are dire for the country.
The EC is currently left with three commissioners - Ebenezer Aggrey Fynn, Hajia Sa-Adatu Maida and Rebecca Kabukie Adjalo — and four more are to be appointed to get the required number for the commission.
The decision to sack the three executive members of the EC has not been palatable to many, particularly from political parties and political actors. The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) which has condemned the decision has argued that Mrs Osei’s removal is to feed into a certain agenda by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government.
I have also read several contrasting legal opinions on the subject matter and it will be prudent if the diverse opinions are referred to the Supreme Court for clarity. The President acted upon the recommendations of a committee set up by Chief Justice Sophia Akuffo in accordance with Article 146 (9) of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana to remove the three commissioners from office based on “misbehaviour, misconduct and incompetence”. In the case of Mrs Osei, she was dismissed for infractions such as procurement breaches, while Amadu Sulley and Georgina Opoku Amankwa were found guilty of wrongful payment of official funds into private bank accounts among other offences.
Notwithstanding these developments at the EC, there is the urgent need to replace the dismissed officers to help steer electoral activities within the Fourth Republic. With the three commissioners out, considerable care and a bi-partisan approach will be needed in the selection and appointment of their replacement. The processes leading to the replacement of the removed officials must also be done quickly so as not to delay the processes leading to the implementation of the election calendar, particularly from now to the year 2020.
In the current dispensation, the country’s last two electoral commissioners, Dr Kwadwo Afari Gyan and Mrs Osei (herself), came under multiple attacks and criticisms, be it justly or unjustly. But against all odds, they prevailed and successfully supervised elections which saw the transfer of political power from one administration to another. This is the more reason why anybody appointed to lead the country’s EC cannot under-perform and must consistently work to raise high the flag of Ghana, and for that matter deepen the country’s democratic process and good governance.
Already, the election management body (EC) is saddled with upcoming electoral activities, including the referendum for the creation of new regions, the election of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives (MMDCEs) and the 2020 general election among others. The voter’s register also needs to be reviewed or updated to make it fit to be used for the country’s upcoming elections.
How the country is going to navigate through this delicate process of appointing three new commissioners to the broad satisfaction of political parties and political actors is an enterprise that cannot be underplayed. The whole idea is to put in place a credible, neutral, independent, free and fair-minded election-management body that will work to restore confidence in the leadership of the commission.
All political parties and other election stakeholders must also work together peacefully to manage any concerns raised in accordance with law and democratic practice.
I really hope and pray the removal of the three EC bosses will not have dire implications on the governance structure of the EC, especially as the commission prepares for upcoming electoral activities. For now, the three commissioners are out, but who comes in?