EC Boss, Charlotte Osei
EC Boss, Charlotte Osei

I sometimes see neutrality as a meretricious subterfuge being brandished as a stance unassociated with the biases of either side of view or divide – almost far from being real.

EC Boss, Charlotte OseiI still, nonetheless, must be persuaded by the conviction that people who, by their own volition, have been captured into the family web of neutrality ought to be reminded to comply with the ideals and standards of being neutral.

For me, abstaining from commenting on, vouching for or doing any such thing that would have otherwise painted an objective picture of a given situation cannot be said to be a neutral act. Rather, neutrality largely concerns the extent to which people carefully and critically acquaint themselves with the facts of all sides and reaching a reasonable, logical and unbiased conclusion on what is appropriate or inappropriate. A neutral person or entity may have to be careful not to be directly specific on who or which is right or wrong. The unblemished facts often speak out the mind of a neutral arbiter.

Neutral persons or entities necessarily ought to first give out a rendition on the standards and then allow credible factual narratives determine what is appropriate or otherwise. In this piece, attention would be drawn to entities or people who by their objectives, stature, stance, definitions, prescriptions, frameworks, constitutions or actions do portray themselves to the general public as neutral with independent and unbiased views on other people or entities who act in the interest of the general public.

In the eyes of the general public, for instance, unrented, un-idiotic and non-ideological Media stations, Pastors, Churches, Christian Associations, Imams, Mosques, Muslim Associations, and Civil Society Organizations including Think Tanks and their leaders are deemed neutral. Also, the Electoral Commission of Ghana (EC) and the Courts are particularly seen and must be seen as unbiased arbiters – they are crucial democratic pillars and peace bastions of any nation.

Labeling of EC

It therefore gets pathetically dangerous when some political interest groups and their surrogates in the otherwise neutral entities, have labeled or tried hard to label EC as a biased arbiter without any shred of credible basis to do so. In the history of electoral governance and management in Ghana, it is almost addictive of political parties and their surrogates in the media and civil society to praise EC when results of elections are declared in their favor. In the same vein, the losing Parties have always found a way of chastising and denting the image and integrity of EC. Both National Democratic Congress (NDC) and New Patriotic Party (NPP) have been in this kind of game unashamedly.

Election petition and electoral register

This came to a head in 2012 general elections, when after all parties fairly and transparently participated in the elections upon which the losing NPP nearly held the whole country to a ransom for about a year. This they apparently did by trying to hide under legalese and technicalities not only to reverse the universal mandate of the people but to dent the image of EC while projecting their image to their unsuspecting supporters.

The live proceedings of the case in court evinced that in spite of few lapses, the results as declared at 26000 + polling stations, in the full glare of all political reps, media, political observers and members of the public with additional strong room crosschecking by Party reps, had not been in any way tampered with by Dr Afari Gyan and EC – therefore should remain as such – the verdict concluded. This, indeed, should have been the credit to EC that another neutral body, the Supreme Court, affirmed a neutral job done by the EC. The least neutrally expected rendition was to say EC image was battered by the court proceedings and verdict thereof.

Neutral people’s stance on register

Ironically, the media that particularly got the results before Dr Afari Gyan got his in the ‘strong room’ of EC, intentionally and consistently allowed NPP and its surrogates to vociferously trumpet the erroneous understanding that the integrity of EC has been dented and almost thrown to the dogs. This is farther from the truth. The project of making the EC look bad because one candidate fairly lost, even when his lyrical MPs who were supervised by the same system, continued unabated; That the register with which they claimed to have won 2012 elections was now under serious vibrating attack from NPP and its surrogates.

A clear demand was therefore made on the EC to get Ghana a new register as they labeled the current register as ‘incurably flawed and not credible’. Minors and foreigners on the electoral register and, more seriously, stapled pictures compromising the whole biometric register were key amongst the reasons adduced.

Being an independent neutral body, EC instructively brought all stakeholders to a dialoguing conference where eminent panel of experts carefully listened to and questioned presenters on their position on the register.

Clearly, the recurrent theme in the presentations was that despite some few challenges with the current register, a new register could not mitigate the situation. Rather, until what motivate the lapses on the register is dealt with, the traditional methods of cleaning up the register during exhibitions and so on could be the only plausible, cost effective, reasonable and legal option immediately available given the limited time to the 2016 general elections.

The eminent panel then submitted their report to EC in December 2015 or so. EC saw wisdom and persuasion in the position of the report and decided to adopt the report which said that the current register should be maintained – new register was unnecessary. EC also responded to each of the allegations which NPP used to advocate for a new register.

The allegations were either dismissed or deemed unmeritorious. The net effect was that NPP did not have a very strong convincing case that could merit neither a new register nor the negative tagging given to EC.
In all these, any neutral person or entity would have been very careful enough not to chastise EC for not yielding to the demands of NPP. At least, such a neutral person or persons should have been aware that NDC was cautiously against NPP’s position and waiting to see whether or not EC would go by the recommendations of the non-partisan eminent Ghanaians who constituted the panel.

It would have been further noticed that any other position aside what EC took would have presented an unworthy precedence which could have been a recipe for disaster. For all you may know, if treated unjustly, NDC could equally be capable of unleashing the terror feared of NPP by the neutral people that are seen chastising EC for no just cause. In any sphere of arbitration, decisions reached by the arbitrators ought to be respected by all who care and have integrity.

Final remarks

That said, what then would have been the basis for some supposed neutral people to pontificate to EC to have yielded to the demands of NPP or NDC – even if such demands were unmeritorious? What would have been the basis for saying, for example, that ‘EC should not take Ghanaians for granted’? Which Ghanaian has EC taken for granted and where? A stance that obviously inhibits glister of neutrality of EC is a defeatist posture and an impossible neutral demand on EC.

The supposed unrented media should at least do Ghanaians a great favor to be very informed and critical on the so-called neutral people and insidious support they give to either NDC or NPP. This would expose any party planning mayhem to be quickly identified and dealt with by the largely peaceful Ghanaians.

Everybody or at least most Ghanaians by now know that despite its inadequacies, EC in Ghana cannot or hardly can rig elections for any political party, with the current biometric electoral register and electoral system. It is only political parties especially NDC and NPP who, without vigilance from other political actors, may succeed in rigging elections in their strongholds where they may be able to hijack or coerce electoral officers to do the unthinkable. Let’s keep a Godlier eye on NDC and NPP so they do not slip by.

The hysterical hypocrisy permeating the overtures of political corridors in the election year 2016 is dangerous – indeed very dangerous. Although it is difficult to stand the test of neutrality, neutral people in Ghana, must at least strive hard to merit being called neutral when it comes to electoral governance and management. People of integrity and of courage must not sit by aloof and let things get out of hands before they act.
Have a splendid time!

Source: Adam Abukari
International Legal Specialist
[email protected]

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