Gyampo Writes: “On EC’s attempt to make Ghana Card the only source for Voter Registration”

Some Thoughts on the Electoral Commission’s Attempt at Introducing a New Constitutional Instrument (CI) to make Ghana Card the only Source Document for Voter Registration

1. The idea of dealing with our challenge of multiplicity of identification cards and documents, by creating a Ghana Card or National Identification Card, is most laudable and it must be supported by all. Thankfully there appears to be some elite cross-party consensus on this matter. We tend to carry too many identity cards, including Hospital ID Card, SSNIT Card, Staff ID Cards, Passports, Voters ID Cards, Drivers License, and National Health Insurance Cards. These tend to create needless identity crisis for all of us as a people and as individuals, and make the calls for synchronization of all our identities into one card, the Ghana Card, a wise one.

2. If there is truly the need to synchronize all identities into one card, then the Electoral Commission’s decision to ensure the use of only the Ghana Card as source document for voter registration is, also great as as it facilitates the need for all of us to help in making the call for a synchronized identity a reality.

3. The great ideas behind the use of the Ghana Card as source document for registration of voters notwithstanding, there are imponderable challenges. Given the challenges, I dare say that, this is not the time to introduce such an idea. The timing is wrong and my father, before he passed, told me that, a bad thing is a good thing done at the wrong time.

4. Why is the timing wrong? The Electoral Commission has been unable to build consensus on this matter, which is a key issue that would contribute to determining the electoral fortunes of political parties in the 2024 General Elections. Without consensus around the EC’s decision, there would be chaos and implosion. Dr Afari-Gyan was wise and cautious in building consensus among the key political actors on major decisions that could have plunged the country into chaos if they had not been handled well. In 2006 for instance, President Kufuor introduced the Representation of the Peoples’ Amendment Law. The bill was fought by Civil Society and many Pro-Democracy Forces through demonstrations, petitions etc. But the NPP majority passed bill and the President accented to it the same day to become law. But Dr Afari-Gyan took a very wise, patriotic stance, never to implement the law, so long as there remained lack of consensus among the key political actors. His fear was that, without consensus, the implementation of ROPAL could lead to serious political conflict. This is why the ROPAL has since not been implemented in spite of Kufuor’s signing it into law with alacrity. I respectfully urge the current EC bosses to copy from best practices as the Bible tells us in 3rd John 11a.

5. Besides, both the NIA and EC suffers from serious trust deficits from the main opposition party, and until these two agencies of state work consciously to deal with this challenge, even the most pious of their intentions may be seen as gifts from the Greeks and be taken with great trepidation. Under the current arrangement, someone with a Ghana Card can guarantee for one to be given a Ghana Card. But someone with a Ghana Card cannot guarantee for one to register as voter. Secondly, to avoid bureaucratic bottlenecks, one must pay 250 cedis to be able to procure a Ghana Card, a move that undermines the concept of Universal Adult Suffrage. Also, there are allegations that the distribution of equipment for the production of the Ghana Cards is skewed to favor the strongholds of the ruling party and to the disadvantage of the opposition. Again, as of 2020, there were about 17 million people captured by the NIA. Out of this number, a huge percentage are minors and foreigners. Also, out of this number, about 3.5 million people have still not been given their Ghana Cards because the NIA has no means to pay about 126 million to procure these cards for its owners. Moreover, the EC must be able to update its register every year but since 2021, this has not been done. Furthermore, the idea of burdening poor people in the hinterlands to look for non-existent resources to travel to only the district capital offices of the EC to register as voters, would be demoralizing, disenfranchising and democratically callous.

6. Given these challenges, including the NIA’s own reported lack of adequate resources to function well in printing the cards of over 3.5 million people who are already registered, and in producing more Ghana Cards, one has no choice than to question why the EC will not first work to deal with the issues that also raises serious trust deficits, but would want to pretend all is well, and insist on making the Ghana Card (whose continuous production is not guaranteed because of lack of resources) the only source document for voter registration. Why can’t the EC allow both the use of the Ghana Card and other source documents for registration for the next two or three more elections till we are certain that a certain critical mass of the voting populace across all regions and districts, have been able to secure their Ghana Cards?

7. Yesterday, 23rd February, 2023, I am reliably informed that in the sitting of Parliament’s Committee of the Whole, when the gallery had been cleared and when there was no media coverage, a more deadly fight than the one that ensued in the selection of the Speaker, took place in Parliament when the above issues were discussed. Members of Parliament have decided to be tight lipped about it and given the lack of media coverage of the near brawl, many Ghanaians have been kept in the dark. If Honorable Members can freely fight on matters like this, then the least said about footsoldiers outside parliament, the better.

8. But as Ghanaians, we must cherish our peace and defend our democratic gains.
We must not allow the E.C or any Institution of State to plunge Ghana into chaos. We must not allow the indiscretion of any state institution to create a praetorian situation that may entice other people who have no business in government to think about striking to destabilize our peace and to relapse our democratic gains. If simple steps towards consensus building on a major Constitutional Instrument that would impact hugely on the electoral fortunes of political parties cannot be undertaken, then I dare say, the EC is most unqualified to introduce the current CI as its implementation may likely plunge Ghana into conflict.

9. But, should the EC and the NIA decide to do the needful by initiating sincere and genuine steps towards consensus building on the matters discussed above, the opposition must also not be overly intransigent. It is only the state that provides us with the opportunity to dialogue to resolve issues, according to Aristotle. So let the state institutions dialogue with the key stakeholders and let the key stakeholders not be overly intransigent. Let us do these for the sake of guarding our peace and preventing democratic relapse.

Yaw Gyampo
A31 Prabiw
P.A.V. Ansah Street
Suro Nipa House

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