An astonishing admission by a politician

BY: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

The usually inflexible attitude of the Minority towards proposals by the ruling New Patriotic Party, and currently over the Ghana Card exercise, could be equated to that famous fable, ‘The boy who cried wolf’.

However, statements recently attributed to the Minority Leader might make people revise that view. Unusually and commendably frank, the admission by Haruna Iddrisu, the Minority Leader and member for Tamale South, will be explained later.

A well-known fable by Aesop, the Greek storyteller of ancient times, tells about a prank by a boy who was tasked to watch over his village’s flock of sheep grazing in a field, to protect them from wolf attacks. One day, for fun, he started shouting that a wolf was attacking the herd.

When the villagers rushed there to drive away the supposed wolf, they found no wolf. The sheep were grazing placidly and the boy was laughing heartily at them because they had fallen for his hoax.

He played that same trick on the village a few more times. Each time the villagers would rush to save the flock from the imaginary wolf, but there would be no wolf. They would find only the boy there, enjoying the joke at their expense.

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So on the day when a wolf really came to attack the sheep, despite the rascal’s terrified shouts of “Wolf! Wolf!” nobody in the village paid any attention to him.

It seems to me that the opposition National Democratic Congress has been demonstrating ‘crying wolf’ tendencies. They raise an alarm about practically any programme announced by the ruling New Patriotic Party, with: ‘it won’t work’; or ‘it can’t be done’; or ‘it won’t succeed; or ‘it shouldn’t be done’ – even as the schemes are being implemented.

So how will any genuine concerns from them be credible?

The National Identification Authority (NIA) National Identity card, the Ghana Card, exercise eventually began on June 6. The Ghana Card will replace the various identity cards in circulation and become the only card to be used in transactions where identification is required, as provided by law, Graphic Online had reported on May 28.

Ghanaians in the diaspora too will be registered, the acting Executive Director of the NIA, Professor Ken Attafuah, told the Graphic.

An NIA statement recalled that in 2017, Parliament passed the National Identity Register (Amendment) Act, 2017 (Act 950), which was gazetted on December 6, 2017 after receiving Presidential assent on December 4, 2017.

By virtue of that amendment, the only identity documents … for the purpose of registering for and obtaining the Ghana Card were a birth certificate, a valid passport, a valid residence permit, a valid certificate of acquired citizenship and any other information as might be required by the NIA.

“Per Section 8(2) of Act 750, as amended, where an applicant is unable to submit any of the above-listed documents, the NIA shall require a relative of the applicant to identify the applicant under oath. Alternatively, where the applicant has no known relatives available, two persons determined by the NIA Board may identify the applicant under oath ….”

However, the Minority has been adamant that the Voter ID should be allowed as proof of citizenship and has boycotted the exercise to back their demand. They have also been threatening to take the matter to the Supreme Court.

Prof Attafuah, has expressed bewilderment at the stance of the Minority, the Ghanaian Times of June 15 reported: “The Parliament of Ghana has declared that the Voter ID is not one of the identity documents for getting the Ghana Card. I find it contradictory that the same members who agreed for this to be done are now opposing the Authority’s decision to follow the law,” he said.

Yet, interestingly, earlier this week, quoting a Myjoyonline news item, the Times reported what for me are extremely enlightening and astonishing statements by the Minority: “The Minority has stated that Parliament erred in approving an amendment to the National Identification Registration law last year …

“According to (the Minority), the amendment was approved last year under a Certificate of Urgency, limiting broader inputs and consultation by Members of Parliament ….

“Minority Leader, Haruna Iddrisu (argued) that the law must be reconsidered because many Ghanaians risk not being captured in the national registry if the current law is allowed. “Who said that Parliament in some instances cannot and may not get things wrong and err? Remember that this Bill was brought under a Certificate of Urgency and did not allow for diligence and proper scrutiny … (emphasis added).

“Parliament can review the law and we are urging the Executive to reconsider a review of the legislation. The Minority will seek redress at the Supreme Court if the Voters ID card is not approved as proof of citizenship” (the Times, June 18).

Of course the fears being expressed by the Minority are understandable, because there are even allegations that some foreigners hold Ghanaian passports. But I guess that when the draft law was being discussed the passport appeared to be the lesser of the two ‘evils’.

Is the Minority’s position out of genuine concern that not all Ghanaians will be able to get the Ghana Card, or, as is being speculated in some quarters, it is apprehension that the registration in some way gives an electoral advantage to the NPP?

If the Minority helped enact the law that rules out using the Voter ID for the Ghana Card, why did they not admit earlier that they made an error of judgment so that they could sit with the Majority and find a way out? Obviously, until the NIA law is changed, the Attafuah team has to work with the law as it is.

Anyway, politicians are generally not known for their candour, so Mr Iddrisu is to be congratulated for his staggering indication, albeit belated, that Parliament, including the Minority MPs, made a serious mistake.

Nevertheless, blaming their error on the Certificate of Urgency is a curious statement. Does it then mean that any law passed under a Certificate of Urgency is to be disregarded?

Furthermore, who is to blame if, in spite of what may be genuine obstacles that the Minority want to draw attention to, notably regarding the Ghana Card, their position is viewed with scepticism because they have ‘cried wolf!’ too often?

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