I have spent a great deal of time to respond to the wobbly attempt by the NPP government and its paid assigns to question the commonsensical, pristine and nationalistic position of the NDC in opposition to the needless, unjustified and discretionary decision by the EC to compile a new voters register. 

My decision to engage in this truthful exercise is to set the records straight, in light of the concerted attempt by the Nana Addo led NPP through its National Chairman, Freddy Blay, the Majority leader in Parliament, Ministers and Parliamentarians on the NPP side, to hoodwink Ghanaians by suggesting that the NDC has been inconsistent in its opposition to the potentially nation wrecking foray the EC has deliberately embarked upon.

The deceitful and unpatriotic attempt by the NPP was on display on Saturday 6th June 2020 as enunciated by Freddy Blay on Adom FM’s weekend show hosted by Jerry Forson. The same position was canvassed in an earlier statement issued by the National Chairman of the NPP titled “IGNORE THE PROVOCATION AND EMPTY THREATS OF THE NDC”. 

On Thursday the 4th of June 2020, Pius Hadzide on Joynewstv’s news paper review programme recited same. On the 9th of the June 2020 at 1:00pm, and 1:30  pm respectively, the NPP in Parliament repeated same during the debate on the report of the Committee On Subsidiary Legislation on C.I 126: Public Elections (Registration of Voters Amendment Regulations, 2020, C.I 126) by Kyei Mensah Bonsu the Majority Leader and Hon. Patrick Boamah. 

The National Chairman of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Mr. Freddy Blay, who ostensibly set the tone, which has been ignorantly repeated by his party, sought to proclaim that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) is engaged in inconsistencies in its discussions on the position of the Electoral Commission (EC) to compile a new register in blatant disregard to stiff voices of dissent.

According to Blay and his cohorts, the NDC had shifted from the cost of procuring materials for the new register to the cost of lives of Ghanaians in the same effort.

I am glad to note that Mr. Blay associates the NDC with the people, with the ultimate aim of protecting the lives of Ghanaian voters across the length and breadth of the country. Indeed, his presentation in this regard, shows how sympathetic the NDC is to the lives of Ghanaians as against the NPP. The NDC believe that Ghanaians must first be alive before having the opportunity to vote.

No doubts, the Chairman of the NPP and his entire party, chose what they wished to listen to, the basis for the claims of the NDC being inconsistent.

Here are the facts. Prior to the recording of Covid-19 case(s) in Ghana, the National Democratic Congress including some 30 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), organized several fora to register their protests on the intentions by the EC to compile a new register.

The NDC raised issues bothering on cost, which the party regarded as needless as the existing register could perform the functions the EC is intending to use millions of Ghana Cedis to procure. In addition, the NDC took a critical interest in the position by the Electoral Commission in the wake of the Assembly and Unit Committee elections to the effect that, the existing register is credible, fit for purpose, to buttress its point further; that there was no need expending money to replace an already credible register.

It must be noted that the arguments of the NDC are and must mirror the shifting positions of the EC, which has been shamefully and gleefully supported by the NPP.

The EC, through its officials, met with political parties and assured them that what they intended to do, would not displace the existing voter ID cards issued by the Commission. The EC went further to assure that they had their timelines that would not allow them to wait on the completion of the Ghana Card registration being undertaken by the National Identification Authority (NIA) for use by illegible voters to obtain their voters ID cards.

Indeed, in some of their public engagements, officials of the EC stated that the new exercise would allow for the use of Driver’s License, Passport, Birth Certificate for those who wish to freshly enroll, while those with the existing Voters ID cards would only be taken through a process to add their facial recognition onto the new register.

It must be stated that these assurances by the EC, never received the endorsement of the NDC. At no point did the NDC relax on its stance that a change of the current register is needless and a wasteful expenditure. So one wonders where the NDC became inconsistent in its approach as claimed.

As is evident, the position of the NDC has expanded, and not shifted, because all the assurances the EC gave in procuring public support which, still remains very weak, were thrown away by the same body. The EC, in an interview with a reporter of Joy News, (through Mrs. Sylvia Annor) indicated that the Commission decided to change its mind on its previous assurances as they are so justified to do, and that those assurances were given at the discussion stage.

Some of the shifts in position by the Commission include:

1. A decision to embark on a completely new register without any reliance on the old data;

2. A decision not to admit as proof of identification onto a new register, existing Voter ID cards including those issues by the Electoral Commission last year in their limited registration ahead of the District Assembly and Unit Committee elections; and 

3. A decision to accept only Ghana Card and Passport as prove of eligibility and in the alternative, a guarantee of citizenship for one to gain entry into the new register.

Honestly, is Blay and his NPP suggesting that the National Democratic Congress, the largest opposition party, and the party waiting to form the next government, should not interrogate the shifting positions of the EC, which had gained the momentous and overt  support of the NPP?

The discussion was of interest to the NDC to drive its point that all support solicited was procured on the back of deceit as the EC has backtracked on all messages it used to obtain the now diminished support it has amidst the widespread resistance from a large section of Ghanaians.

Why would the Commission lie to Ghanaians after it stated that it would use the existing voter data, and make only modifications by adding facial recognition, only to turn around to discard it? Note that this backtracking occurred even as the EC had vehemently stated that the register they were so much in a hurry to run away from, is credible and wholesome.

Again, why would the EC refuse to admit holders of existing voter ID cards including those issued by this very Commission less than a year ago? The question that arose from the NDC is that if the register was so faulty, why spend the taxpayers’ money to enroll people on it only to want to throw it away?

In addition, why is the EC embracing the Ghana card and the Passport as the only source identity documents for one to be registered on a new register? The EC is on record to have vehemently opposed the use of the Ghana Card because according to them, the NIA had no timelines on their nationwide registration exercise a key reason for which the Commission cannot wait on them for the purpose of compiling a register for the 2020 elections. The question on the minds of Ghanaians is, at what point did the Commission convince itself that the Ghana card, which according to the NIA is in the hands of only 7 million people, which include minors, become a source document for the purpose of registering as a voter?

It must not be lost on us that the EC has projected to register some 17 million registrants. Out of this number, it must clearly be established that majority are yet to have access to their Ghana card, some of whom have registered almost a year ago. Further more, others have queued for days without the opportunity to get registered. Meanwhile, the entire NIA data has not been tested subsequent to allegations that its own officials were arrested registering foreigners into the Ghana card platform.

Before the EC laid its Constitutional Instrument (CI) in Parliament, it must be established that the NDC was not consulted. Indeed, from the Acting Head of Communication of the EC, political parties were informed after the CI was introduced in Parliament on its contents. That point has been settled. Indeed, we must also appreciate the fact that the NDC could not have taken a position on a matter that had not become a subject of consideration before the EC.

The New Patriotic Party has no problem with the exclusion of the birth certificate on the list of documents to establish one’s “Ghanaianness”. Indeed, per Article 42 of the Constitution 1992, the right to vote is guaranteed every Ghanaian of 18 years and above. Unfortunately, the very source document that can serve as a prove of age and nationality, which is the birth certificate has been excluded by the Electoral Commission. Yet it is the only document that will ensure that minors are not admitted onto its new register.

I am not sure Nana Addo, Mr. Blay and the NPP are suggesting that all these weighty issues ought to have been ignored by the NDC since they came to light. This, has not in anyway, changed the position of the NDC.

While the EC and the NPP remain busy pushing a needless new voters register, Ghana and the world at large, have been visited with a deadly virus that has claimed many lives. Indeed, as at the time of putting this response together, Ghana’s Covid-19 cases have passed 10,000. As we speak, the full dynamics of the virus has not been ascertained.

As a matter of interest, France had had to close schools after some days of lifting restrictions to enable students return to school. The closure came about because infections were detected among school children moments after they were returned to school. South Korea had to re-impose restrictions after recording decline in cases in 52 consecutive days. Upon recording a surge in numbers in a single day, the authorities of South Korea had to re-imposed restrictions to protect lives. As well, Germany, after relaxing its restrictions saw a church recording 112 cases of Covid-19 in just one church service.

One would have thought that since Covid-19 poses a different challenge to the Ghanaian people, political parties seeking to govern the people would make it their ultimate objective to protect the lives of the people parties seek to govern, before attention is paid to the power a party seeks. Unfortunately the NPP cherishes power over the people it is seeking the power to govern.

The NDC position is further strengthened because the party still holds the position that the existing register is fit for the 2020 elections. This position is not only held by the NDC. The National House of Chiefs, One Hundred Academics, over 50 CSOs including CDD and IMANI have added their voices to this position. The unanimous position is that the EC should hold on its intransigence to compile a new register in the midst of this pandemic and focus attention on how to maintain and use the existing register for the 2020 elections.

The NDC maintains that there is a certain inherent agenda to suppress votes for the 2020 elections. We make this emphatic statement based on very solid grounds, and here is why.

Why would the EC discard a voter ID card that is currently in the possession of many people and go for a Ghana card that is in the hands of a few? Then the EC decided as a “cure”, to introduce the process of guaranteeing (vouching for). This beats every logic. It is predictable that a registration process that has more people engaged in the exception rather than the norm, slows down the process and in the end, pushes out a lot of people from the process once they are frustrated.

It is on record that the highest regions with the less Ghana cards issued are the strongholds of the NDC. This automatically slows down the process in NDC strongholds and advantages the NPP which has more cards issued in their strongholds.

Why for example, would the EC insist on compiling a votes’ register at a time when it is certain that Ghanaians would place their lives above exercising their civic duties (which duties political parties ought to be appealing to)? No doubt, the NPP stands advantaged in motivating their supporters because they have the government machinery at their disposal to do so with the advantage of majority Ghana cards holders from their strongholds.

The resistance based on timing has been proven potent. Indeed, the EC hinted as far back in January 2020 of its intentions to start registration on 18th April 2020. According to them, starting the process in April would mean the final register being ready in November 2020. We have already gone past that date. The new projections of “by end of June” would have meant that we are two months and some days behind the 18th April date initially announced. Why must a Commission that had not undertaken any serious and competitive election successfully since its current leadership were appointed, risk the nation in this manner?

Mr. Freddy Blay and the NPP must be reminded that at no point had the NDC abandoned its position since the beginning of this debate for a new register. The NDC has remained resolute in advancing its arguments. On the contrary, the NPP has never been able to subject itself to any intellectual argument for their justification for a new register. Indeed, the furthest they went in their arguments are to allude to Article 46 which emphasizes the independence of the EC.

The NPP ought to be reminded again that prior to 2016, the Commission remained an independent institution which was long guaranteed in 1992 Constitution. Yet, it made every suggestion it thought was necessary to the Commission. In the same spirit, the NPP would do well to accord others the right so to do. The NDC does not intend to interfere with the independence of the Commission, but the NDC believes that common sense, applied with the law, makes a perfect blend. Our rights to ensure right cannot be suppressed.

About the author: Dr. Clement Apaak is Member of Parliament for Builsa South