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Abura Epistle: Charlotte Osei befuddles Ghanaians!

BY: Colin Essamuah
Mrs Charlotte Osei — She has been appointed by the United Nations to observe elections in Afghanistan
Mrs Charlotte Osei — She has been appointed by the United Nations to observe elections in Afghanistan

The announcement that the former chair of our Electoral Commission (EC) has been given a United Nations assignment in Afghanistan to, with other nationals, observe for the UN, the upcoming presidential elections in that country has caused a lot of waves among the chattering classes in Ghana.

The entire furore stems from the politics of the retirement of Dr Kwadwo Afari Gyan in 2014 and his replacement as chair of the EC by Mrs Charlotte Osei.

The politics of elections itself can be quite heated in our part of the world, but the fact of the continuation in office as President Jerry Rawlings in 1993, the rejection of the presidential election results by the then opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), the shoddy compilation of what happened in ‘The Stolen Verdict’ by the NPP, and the boycott of the following parliamentary elections by the opposition have all combined to give a very keen appreciation of the role of the EC, and the leading individuals who lead and manage the electoral process.

Elections politics

I am keenly aware that variants of this disquiet with our elections systems are common in America and Europe too.

Doubting and questioning the acceptability and integrity of polls is not a unique African failing but a global problem exacerbated by new technologies exploited now by interested political parties and ambitious criminals.

All this means is that a mandate to rule given by the ballot does not necessarily confer legitimacy these days.

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In terms of elections politics, we are squarely in the first world.

So the country was extremely interested in who would replace the retiring Dr Afari Gyan when he eventually retired as EC boss.

I remember clearly as if today, the clarion call by then opposition, NPP, civil societies, religious bodies et cetera that Dr Afari Gyan’s replacement must not be made by the President but the job given to an all-party contraption to give legitimacy to the appointment.

Of course the NPP did not follow its own advice when the government of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo removed Mrs Osei through an impeachment process whose validity still confuses me.

To tamper the unusual interest down, former President John Mahama just chose the well-qualified head of the National Commission on Civic Education to replace Dr Afari Gyan; an intelligent, articulate woman of pleasing countenance — the opposition was not amused in the least.

It is the ungrounded heat of opposition to her which drove her out of office which informs the befuddlement of today.

How can the UN virtually humiliate those in power now in Ghana by ennobling her with this latest Afghanistan appointment?

The UN would be fully aware of her track record and experiences in Ghana before this appointment was made.

What an embarrassment?

This is the crux of the matter.

In certain ways, the nature of the conflict of personality, ideology and other traits mimic the struggles between the two major groups in pre-independence Ghana.

To seek sympathy with either, one may seek understanding of the repetitions.

We did not have the electoral systems systematised as todays.

But the energy for the fierceness and the sparks of violence today, we do not have to look beyond 1992.

The ruling NPP believes the opposition NDC to be illegitimate coming out of a military regime.

The ruling NPP too, significantly, is the fruit of a military regime in 1966 as we had a prior one-party state then.

We simply have not decided to make 1992 the start of a new beginning but a continuation of old quarrels.

This is tragic and unfortunate as it is the younger, fresh generation of today who have to bear the effects of old quarrels they did not take part in.

In all this, it would be most instructive what former President Jerry Rawlings thinks who is old enough to have experienced nodes of this ultimately senseless quarrel.

US example

Who was that senator or congressman in America who saved their political system by refusing to vote to impeach President Andrew Johnson in the 1860s after the death of President Abraham Lincoln and end of the civil war?

It was his single vote needed to impeach and dent irretrievably a system of governance which had just ended a murderous civil war fought to test the idea of the supremacy of government of, by and for the people as Lincoln had so eloquently put it.

It is reported that he said simply that President Johnson had done nothing to him.

That singular act saved America from being described as a Banana Republic today.

I am also aware that feckless American politicians use this to misbehave recklessly knowing it will be difficult to change leaders by bureaucratic manoeuvres rather than the ballot.

I still refuse to comprehend why the impeachment panel of Mrs Osei went ahead to impeach her on matters adventitious to elections in this country.

I would be interested to know how they feel with this emphatic disavowal of their work by the UN. No other explanation is persuasive; the impeachment has proven unpersuasive to a legitimate international body.

Vengeful exercises

I have also read elsewhere the presidential congratulatory message from Mr Eugene Arhin, the presidential staffer responsible.

Of course the President bears direct responsibility for her impeachment in furtherance of pre-election vows by NPP members that she would be replaced on attainment of victory.

The one public officer who was pilloried, damned, cursed and condemned as the biggest obstacle to NPP victory was Mr Osei but since the emphatic victory of the NPP belied this, many had expected that her eventual impeachment would not be necessary.

But it was not to be. Now the UN, with this appointment, has laid bare the shabbiness of our politics.

National politics must be actuated by principles higher than this pointless vengeful exercise of impeaching and removing someone from office simply because he/she was appointed by the previous President or government. We have shamed ourselves terribly.

We have cursed ourselves by acting in contravention of decency and ultimately good governance like Pontius Pilate.

All for what?

Congratulations Mrs Charlotte Osei.

May the quality of your service in foreign lands shame us all in appreciating our own jewels in our own home, and may you be strengthened to lift high the flag of Ghana.

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