Hello, Madam EC, good day. Please I have a question for you and it’s quite straightforward;

“Why Did We Go Biometric And Centralized If Not To Make The Life Of The Ordinary Citizen Easier?”

By the way, please forgive my manners…I am AGOSTINO and a Ghanaian by birth though sometimes I cannot help but wonder if someone isn’t throwing dust into my eyes about the latter.

I realize Ghanaians have finally given you a bit of respite (as they always do) after a turbulent few months…in all fairness, I don’t think ‘someone’ was happy about all the publicity you were enjoying (or was it enduring?) and decided to be more outrageous to take away our attention. He did quite well in achieving his purpose but lest I digress, let’s prudently return to my question above.

Personally, madam, I have a lot of questions, as well as misgivings, about your commission and its operations (and decisions) for this particular election year but, to go into all that requires energy and devotion I currently do not possess. If you’re wondering though then I could give you one example: “why couldn’t your outfit wait till after the elections to change your logo to the current rainbow colours?”…from the little I know, I expect a fully comprehensive response which will have me consulting my dictionary at regular intervals. Hmm…I’m digressing again, aren’t I?

So back to my question, I perceive a little background story is necessary. I consider myself a semi-patriotic citizen in that I care about my country a lot but consistent disappointment by substantive governments has rendered me indifferent towards many ‘nationalistic’ activities…I mean why sweat when some ‘Ogboro’ in suit is gonna chop the money anyway and go unpunished…so yeah I am indifferent towards a lot of things which includes voting, celebrating national holidays et al. To be frank, the only reason why I joined a queue to register for a centralized biometric voter identification card (ID) back in 2012 was due to the words CENTRALIZED BIOMETRIC.

As a Ghanaian youth who’s only acceptable national ID was his passport (which was due to expire in a few years), a biometric voter ID provided a necessary and better escape compared to a Driver’s License or an NHIS card. So, of course, for once, I joined the bandwagon and registered for my voter ID like a ‘proper’ citizen. However, madam EC, it so happens that a couple of years later after an encounter with some patriotic Accra Circle night-vendors, I lost my wallet which housed almost every ID I owned. I was unbothered. Almost all were at their expiry dates anyway, of course, except the one which had to do with your commission…but even then, as I had silently vowed not to waste my thumb on a ballot paper ever again, I repeat, I wasn’t bothered.

For two whole years after the theft I was unbothered till this year. My reasons for this U-turn were;

1. My dear passport was finally expiring and with the current cost of obtaining one quickly (as well as the cost and tedious process of obtaining a Driver’s License or even an NHIS card) disheartening, getting my lost card back seemed more prudent.

2. Someone somewhere, though a politician, had gotten me fired up enough to cast my vote and cause some change.

I quickly went to the EC office in my district, therefore, to sort the issue out but, madam, here is where all the ‘wahala’ began…

First, a not-so-nice gentleman impo-politely asked me where I registered to vote and after I offered that knowledge, he then proceeded to give me this shocking statement, “young man, this is the regional office and you didn’t register here so you have to go back to the district where you registered to get your new card”, but that wasn’t all…he continued, “also, you actually first have to go to GCB to pay 5GHC into the EC’s account for a receipt which you’ll then submit for the issuance of the new card.”

I was flabbergasted!!

Indeed I was fortunate. I am in Takoradi and I registered in Tarkwa so aside the fare, I didn’t have a seemingly long journey ahead (or so I thought) but, I still couldn’t help but wonder, what if I was a resident of Tamale who only happened to register in Tarkwa because I was schooling there at the time and was made to understand that going BIOMETRIC meant my details and particulars could be accessed from the CENTRAL EC DATABASE anywhere in this country?

Madam EC, am I to understand that your outfit would have expected me to embark on a 14 hour journey to Tarkwa just to get a card and a 14 hour journey back to Tamale? For a 5GHC card which is supposed to be on a CENTRAL SYSTEM?

Hmm…

And yeah…why couldn’t the 5GHC be paid at your offices but one had to join the dreaded GCB queues just for such an exercise? Is it that you don’t trust your accountants or is that activity rather CENTRALIZED?

Hmm…

So I hear this news and though my heart breaks, there is hope. Nepotism helps me through the GCB process quickly and, days later, I sit in a bus to Tarkwa. I get to the EC office (which has a clothing line in front of it and looks more like an apartment) at exactly 1:30pm only to be told by a nice young man drying his clothes on the line that THEY HAD CLOSED for the day. Yet another shock but, in retrospect, I’m surprised at myself for being shocked for, after all, THIS IS GHANA.

Having no place of residence in Tarkwa, I had to return to Takoradi more than 25GHC short and hungry yet empty-handed. Armed with this new detail of their ridiculous closing time, I returned a few days later after re-acquiring some cash and this time much earlier.

Again, I get to this ‘office’ and this time the nice young guys in there tell me, “oh sorry, but our power is off and it’s not returning anytime soon for it is DUMSOR and we all understand what that means. Also, the system is being updated in TAKORADI so even if the power should return you would have to wait till that is done and, trust us, that wouldn’t be today.” At that moment, I didn’t honestly know whether to cry or laugh but my motivation to vote this year only intensified.

All I could think was so if TAKORADI had the database, why couldn’t they print my card there? Why did I have to make these fruitless journeys?? After telling them about the distance of my journey and my earlier trip and predicament, they empathized and one of them gave me his number to check in the next time to confirm so I do not waste further cash…Asem ooo!!! So, madam, once again, I returned to Takoradi more than 25GHC short, hungry yet empty-handed. Thank God for travelling mercies even!!!

After many days of spending money I didn’t have making countless calls and getting NOT READY responses, I finally got the green light to go for my card. In all fairness, the process was quite short and I was out of there in a matter of a few minutes. I even inquired about transferring my vote and, funny enough, for that, I had to go to Takoradi where they will access THAT SAME DATABASE and simply change my location. That weirdly also couldn’t be done in Tarkwa so in summary, SAME DATABASE, TWO REQUESTS = TWO TOWNS, DIFFERENT CONDITIONS…aren’t we tired already?

To hit the final nail in the coffin, madam, I made the return trip back home only to realize that my age on the card had miraculously been altered…it was different from what was on the database…how that is even possible? Only God knows…and, by then, the verification process was already over, not that it would have made a difference anyway because that information was correct.

So, madam, I repeat my principal question;

“Why Did We Go Biometric And Centralized If Not To Make The Life Of The Ordinary Citizen Easier?”

Would a resident of Tamale, in my shoes, be able to make such trips all just for a card to allow him to vote quietly and without event?

What do your outfit mean by CENTRALIZED if each activity has a different procedure and one has to travel from region to region just for simple changes?

How can a system supposedly UNTOUCHED alter details at will?

How does this system encourage voter confidence?

Why does one have to spend close to a 100GHC going through unnecessary stress and strain just for a card valued at 5GHC?
Madam EC, why do we have to suffer just so we can be patriotic? Please tell me why…for in the words of the famous Liwin, “I don’t think far, I don’t think madness!!!”

AGOSTINO.
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