Lack of scholarship or fashionable ignorance; The politics of the Voters Register

BY: Colin Essamuah
Mrs Charlotte Osei - Electoral Commissioner

‘’We are a society governed by laws and not by protests. The proper procedure to address this issue is to file a suit and place the evidence before a court or for parliament to independently investigate this matter and promulgate the necessary legislation which would empower the EC to compile a new register or purge the existing one of dubious entries. Public institutions cannot act on the say-so of protest groups. The issue is why hasn’t the NPP pursued this matter in this manner? Is it because they want to use this as a battle cry to cause pandemonium when they lose the elections?’’ —Kenneth Koranteng on my Facebook wall, October 21, 2015.

I was led inexorably to today’s topic by the ongoing debate or shouting match on our voters register. My diligent readers will recall this would be my third column devoted to this very live issue, probably proof positive of its relevance or irrelevance. Yes, we all sometimes raise certain issues to levels which, on closer investigation and analyses, reveal them as mere smokescreens for other well-hidden matters.

And indeed, what caught my eye, and my astonishment, was the statement by Professor Mike Oquaye, a former Deputy Speaker of Parliament, lawyer, university lecturer and Baptist preacher, that the audit of our current register should be a matter for Interpol to deal with.

With this statement, I knew there was more to this raging debate than your normal politics, and that it probably has to do not only with differing appreciation of issues, but the knowledge base from which some of us apprehended such issues. Interpol? Arrest Ghanaians or others living abroad for having their names on the Ghana register?

IEA debate

I was amused too, to no end by the so-called exposure of the governing NDC that they had agreed to take part in the debate organised by the Institute of Economic Affairs on the concerns of the political parties. How is this decision to withdraw from a symposium or debate an exposure or proof, indeed, of anything? The highest deliberative body in this republic is our Parliament, and members are free to withdraw and boycott proceedings and deliberations at any time, and no one sees this as exposing them, even if they had agreed beforehand. Is this mealy-mouthed reaction to the position of the NDC a reasonable response?

The IEA supports and promotes free-market economics and multiparty democracy, which means at once that it is opposed ab initio to the social democratic ideology of the NDC, and its undemocratic, military origins. That is the truth, and no amount of obfuscation can hide this gulf of difference between the IEA and the NDC. It would have served the integrity of their contribution to national debate better, if it had simply sought to extract pledges of acceptance from the parties for both the eventual decision of the EC, and of course, election results. Any other position, like what happened earlier this week, is blatant interference in the work of the EC. No ifs or buts. If this had been a court case, contempt proceedings would have been a proper sanction for such uninvited forays.

Unexamined opinions

I note, however, with undisguised glee, that some of the matters I raised in my earlier columns on the register, were also raised by Dr Ransford Gyampoh, who presented the contrary view for a new register. But of course, Dr Gyampoh comes to the debate from the academic standpoint, and is therefore worth listening to. Readers will hopefully remember that I have earlier, some months past, taken on Dr Gyampoh on the nebulous, inchoate idea of winner-takes-all syndrome in our politics, and so there is no love lost being retrieved in this current matter. I think that was also an IEA-inspired nostrum, which I condemned for seeking to change the legal and constitutional nature of our government in the face of facts to the contrary.

Some of our academics of a certain stripe only remind me of the pithy description by former President Limann that ’’they are idle academics’’ who have nothing to do, filling our ears with unexamined opinions parading as facts. Surprise, surprise, President Limann’s remark came in the wake of the attacks on the EC during a bye-election in Cape Coast caused by the sudden resignation of the MP, Dr Bassa-Quansah of the Action Congress Party of Colonel Bernasko in 1980, in our Third Republic.

So far, the advocates for a new register are yet to produce the Togo and other foreign registers from which they claimed ours was infected with, neither have they been able to answer the simple query of whether similar faces in undisclosed registers also have their 10 digits in the register biometrically, as it is principally those digitised fingerprints of all 10 fingers of a voter that authenticates identity plus the face, and therefore eligibility to vote?

But perhaps the height of intellectual absurdity is the ridiculous accusation that if you accuse an advocate of the new register of doing ethnic politics writ large, then you the accuser must be a tribal entrepreneur! How is this Orwellian somersault possible? That one becomes a terrorist by simply saying someone else is? It is the lowest point in the intellectual garb in which this whole advocacy is worn, accompanied by physical and verbal violence, and promising us all with mayhem if it is denied, which marks the profound anti-intellectualism and lack of scholarship accompanying this contrived cacophony.

Is it not also surprising that some of us hail the people doing this in spite of the cost to our purse? This is what is meant by irresponsible citizenship. In any case, what does an overbloated register mean? Can we accept an ‘underbloated’ register? Even the going terms are bizarre in meaning and effect.
The Kenneth Koranteng quoted at the beginning of this column was my mate for the whole seven years in secondary school, but he went to Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology ( KNUST), and is now resident in London.
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