Initial reports of the start of the nationwide Voter Registration exercise earlier this week, on June 30, were on the whole reassuring, given its stormy background.
It was a generally good turnout, although some technical hitches were experienced. But at some centres some elated would-be voters testified that, as promised by the Electoral Commission, the process delivered their Voter ID in less than 10 minutes.
Yet, it is baffling that some people refused to fulfil their part of the arrangement, despite the COVID-19 protective measures put in place by the EC.
A Radio Ghana report during the 6 a.m. news bulletin that morning, noted that of the 25 early birds at one Phase 1 registration centres, none had a mask on; nor were they standing apart.
And clearly the fact that the registration is being carried out in phases had not been adequately publicized, or understood. Some people turned up at centres which are not part of Phase 1, and are scheduled to have their turn later.
However, the Commission moved swiftly to correct the flaws, their news releases announced.
Considering the backdrop of pessimism and outright hostility in some quarters against the registration, the commencement evidently went much better than some observers had expected.
Notably, the obstacles included, the sustained vehement opposition by the main Opposition party, the National Democratic Congress and others, who have argued, ostensibly, that there is no need for a new register requiring new stipulations, as in their view it is a waste of scarce resources.
Some opponents had even virtually sworn dramatically that the registration would take place over their dead body.
One allegedly even went as far as making the outlandish vow that he should be castrated if the registration happened!
As is well known, they took two cases to the Supreme Court, whose ruling on June 25, emphatically gave the EC the green light for the exercise, in accordance with the provisions of Constitutional Instrument 126.
Interestingly, some of its most vociferous critics, including former President John Mahama, presidential candidate of the NDC, are now advising their supporters to make sure they register.
The measure of the importance that President Nana Akufo-Addo attaches to the exercise can be gauged by the almost certainly unprecedented consecutive addresses to the nation to launch it. On Monday, June 29, both EC Chairperson Jean Mensa and President Nana Akufo-Addo, addressed the nation, although at different times.
I’m among those who still fail to understand the strident opposition to the new voters roll, aimed at getting rid of all the problems associated with the existing one, especially the documented infiltration by non-Ghanaians.
Why would anybody not want a clean electoral slate?
Memorably, in his robust June 29 address, the President stressed that Ghana’s elections should not have any ‘trespassers’: “The election on 7th December must be a Ghanaian election, not a West African election (emphasis added).”
Speaking earlier, Mrs Mensa’s address too was informative and comprehensive.
Of particular interest was the explanation about the requirement for guarantors by those who have neither a passport nor a Ghana Card. Detractors had given the impression that it is a Jean Mensa EC innovation, whereas the Commission has been using that system since 2014, long before she came into office.
She underscored that the Commission is determined “not to disenfranchise any eligible voter … (and) to ensure that no one is left behind.”
In recent days, the deployment of soldiers to the Volta Region has been cited by some critics as an attempt by the Government to intimidate the people there and prevent them from registering because that is the stronghold of the NDC.
The President said: “Let me state … that these deployments are not in any way intended to intimidate or prevent eligible Ghanaians from registering to vote in December. They are there for their express purpose, which is to guard our borders.”
On the issue of why the compilation of a new register was not postponed: He explained that “the Constitution of our Republic makes no provision for the extension of the mandate of the President …. On 7th January, 2021, when my mandate as the current President expires, a duly elected person must be ready to be sworn in as President of the Republic.
“There is no other way … we must vote on 7th December 2020. The same applies to Parliament.”
Furthermore, “Despite the COVID pandemic, elections are being properly conducted in many nations across the globe…. And both Mali and Malawi have preceded us in organising successful, national elections.
“Our country, Ghana, is regularly cited as the shining example of the place in Africa where the electoral process works, and where it is always being improved upon …. It is a record, virtually without parallel on the African continent, which we should all treasure,” he pointed out.
Another unforgettable statement related to the accusations that his New Patriotic Party is planning to rig the 2020 elections.
“The idea of being a President, who emerges from a rigged election, is abhorrent to every fibre of my being (emphasis added),” President Akufo-Addo stated.
Personally, I can’t wait for the registration train to reach my centre, for the opportunity to participate in this all-important step of getting a Voters Register that will stand the test of time.