Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.
Dear Mrs. Charlotte Ama Osei,
I am Derick Oppong-Agyare, a citizen of Ghana. I have, like you, also suffered the throes of a job loss and share in your pain. I also sympathise with the army of well-wishers' who have called to commiserate with you in the wake of the President's decision to implement the recommendations of the Committee in accordance with the Constitution. I wish I could rest my pen on this issue but I hold that in the supreme interest of Ghana's quest for an enduring democracy, whereby those entrusted with public office should discharge their obligations with diligence and circumspection, and those who overstep should be dealt with within the remit of the Constitution, emotions should not withhold me from discharging a civic responsibility. It is in this light that I wish to respectfully draw your attention to a couple of disturbing claims in your terse press statement of 29th June 2018.
3.0Excerpts from your press statement
I react to two excerpts from the said press statement:
3.1 "I prefer to leave the standard and quality of those elections for Ghanaians, history and posterity to judge.
3.2 "I still hold the view and belief that our country deserves an Electoral Commission that is truly independent, unbiased, free, fair and firm, and can fight-off all attempts to politically capture, manipulate, influence and control it. This was always my cardinal objective and my approach to my work.
4.0My assessment of the standard and quality of the 2016 elections
With due deference Madam, you did not cause the success of the December 2016 elections. The vigilance of the good people of Ghana, a landmark Supreme Court (SC) ruling on 26th October 2016 and the deployment of technology by the leadership of the main opposition party were materially responsible for the success of the 2016 elections. I contend that your approach to work did not engender the tenets of good governance you espoused in your press statement. On the contrary, the mode of your appointment, your management style and your slouch under the carapace of independence of your office, nearly marred the success of the 2016 elections. Why keep the nation on tenterhooks when it was palpably evident, even to the casual observer, that the outcome of the election was not ambiguous? Your intransigence could have thrown this beautiful country into disarray.
5.0 Mode of appointment and management style
Davos, Switzerland, January 2014.
Then as Chairperson of the National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), you accompanied President John Dramani Mahama to the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2014. When did the Constitution endow NCCE with the powers to plan Ghana's finance and economy for which your office and/or person was needed in Davos? Eighteen months after Davos, the President did whatever had to be done to re-assign you from the NCCE to the Electoral Commission (EC) in June 2015, damning a flurry of public furore. Why the re-assignation? What informed his choice? What did he expect from you for enduring so much criticism to re-assign you?
When you landed in the EC, there were senior public officers and an experienced lawyer on the Commission. You were either too ignorant of the subculture of the EC or too driven by your mien and so sodden by your perception of the president's backing that you rode roughshod over the entire Commission. You failed to procure the buy-in of your colleague Commissioners and subordinates for your vision. You changed the logo of the Commission without generating consensus from the rest of the Commissioners. This created disaffection and apathy. You sidelined the procurement unit. This vaporised all internal controls pertaining to procurement. You picked a row with your Deputy Commissioners and treated all of them as if they were on your payroll. With the stroke of a pen, you could request for any amount from Government to renovate your office. And your wish would be granted. You treated the Public Procurement Act, Act 663 with so much impunity that the Committee investigating allegations against you concluded that:
"The conduct of the Chairperson in the award of contracts without observing the Public Procurement Act appears to be a pattern and this can best be described as a misbehaviour."
On hindsight, can you insist that an institution so (mis)managed can, in and of itself, pull off a successful election? It is offensive to the minds of well-meaning and discernible Ghanaians to aver same.
6.0Independence of the EC
The framers of the Constitution endowed the EC in Article 46 with powers of independence to ward off influence and undue interference from government and other political entities in discharging its functions. A review of the management crisis under your watch, reveals that not only was this provision abused, it also enveloped you with an aura of invincibility. This was one of the bulwarks that turned you into the Shelkerk of the EC.
Two of the ingredients for a successful election are a credible voters' register and the quality of regulations guiding the conduct of the elections. I comment on these in turn:
6.1The 2016 bloated voters' register
The NPP persistently advocated a new voters' register. The EC disagreed. When the party adduced rock-solid evidence from Togo that the register was bloated, dormant political parties resurrected overnight in October 2015 to participate in the EC Stakeholders' Forum convened at Alisa Hotel in Accra to support the position of the EC. The majority voted in favour of the EC's position. Did all these operationally moribund parties -- later to be disqualified -- resurrect in the natural course of events? I doubted it and still do. Your use of a bloated register could not be a benchmark for successful elections.
6.2Enactment of C.I. 94
The EC under your watch drafted the Public Elections Regulations 2016, C.I. 94 to provide operational guidelines for the conduct of the 2016 elections. The instrument had major flaws, which, if they had not been remedied, could have anointed Candidate John Mahama as President. These included, but not limited to:
Only Parliamentary collation sheets were to be given to the parties or candidates;
No Presidential collation sheets were to be given to the parties or candidates;
No Returning Officer was mandated to sign Presidential and Parliamentary collation sheets; and
No provision was made for agents or candidates to sign Presidential and Parliamentary collation sheets.
This was your handiwork, Madam. This was the grand design. What was the EC's intent in furnishing only Parliamentary collation sheets to all parties? Why did the EC decide not to give both Presidential and Parliamentary collation sheets to all parties? Why did the EC direct that no Returning Officer or agent or candidate should sign and/or countersign the collation sheets? What was the intent? These were not "drafting slips". Was this not an orchestrated ploy to manipulate and influence the outcome of the election?
Parliament failed to identify the material flaws and approved C.I. 94. To his eternal credit, Kwesi Nyame-Tease Eshun then contested C. I. 94 and the Supreme Court (SC), on 26th October 2016, directed the EC to supply all political parties and candidates with constituency collation sheets for both Presidential and Parliamentary elections. And, further directed that all parties should sign all polling and collation sheets. This was it. What the EC originally stipulated was therefore not an exercise of fairness as your press statement sought to portray. The SC rather saved the elections and instilled fairness and credibility into the impending elections. This is the story behind the success you ascribed to yourself.
By a stroke of genius, the main opposition party then designed an application which captured and collated data from all polling stations and computed the results of the elections in record time. For the first time since 1952, the opposition party had irrefutable evidence of all voting data seven hours after end of polls. This checkmated any planned or real manipulation and the EC had no option than to declare results based on the actual data from the collation sheets. This was not your creation. Technology external to the EC operations ensured this feat and the international community awarded you for the toil of others.
When an Electoral Commission uses a bloated register - or is unable to satisfactorily clean the existing voters' register - and attempts, to enact a constitutional instrument which would have anointed the incumbent, the same Electoral Commission cannot hold itself out as "truly independent, unbiased, free, fair and firm, and can fight-off all attempts to politically capture, manipulate, influence and control". I put it to you, without equivocation, that the standard and quality of the 2016 elections were not your doing as you alleged in your press statement. It was the doing of an awakened and politically-conscious citizenry as well as a well-oiled election machinery deployed by the main opposition party.
7.0Fallout of your Mahama-induced management style
Ghanaians may slip but they love their country. Your managerial infractions were too gargantuan that a good course for the future could not be charted under your leadership. Many were those who had been gladdened that a lady holding such an office will inspire the country and encourage as many younger ladies to aspire to higher office. You messed up everything, Mrs. Osei. Some patriotic EC workers then documented a litany of procurement flaws and petitioned the President. Justice has finally been dispensed as by law established.
8.0Report of the Committee
The Committee recommended that you and your two Deputies should be removed from office. This has been done. The Committee also recommended that you and your two Deputies should be prosecuted in accordance with Act 663. This will be done. Some Ghanaians are accusing the President for complying with the Constitution by upholding the recommendations of the Committee. To all these do I implore to consider and imbibe the admonition of Chief Justice David Maraga of Kenya: "The greatness of any nation lies in its fidelity to the Constitution and adherence to the rule of law and above all, respect to God."
9.0Advice from the Bible
I do not hold myself out as an angel or saint. I do grievously err on more than a few occasions. In my sombre moments, I acknowledge my failings, learn my lessons and move on. Do not be shocked by the recommendations of the Committee. Tell your army of supporters and well-wishers not to be shocked as well. It is natural that friends and well-wishers will call to comfort you – even criminals enjoy such patronage when any mishap befalls them. Let not your rightful dismissal from office evoke any airs of martyrdom and stoke fears that Ghana will soon slip into an apocalypse. It will not happen. Make no attempt to gain currency from the demise of the former Vice President. That is too pedestrian. Accept your failings, Mrs. Osei.
King Darius was once tricked into signing an edict that landed the Prophet Daniel in the den of lions. He did not plead ignorance or trickery - the Persian law, once in force, could not be altered and had to be enforced. So, must it be with Ghana's. And so, must our individual and collective disposition to Constitutional issues be. Challenges there are in Ghana's Constitution but until it is amended, the stipulations therein must be complied with. When a trained lawyer flouts procurement laws and defends that she did not know of the existence of the very laws governing procurement within the Commission she chairs, one wonders how competent and experienced she was for that high office.
10.0A desire for a Ghana better managed
It is my prayer, going forward, that your successor will discharge his or her mandate with due regard to best practice and the overarching interests of Ghana. I desire that public agencies will be evaluated regularly and recommendations duly acted on as has admirably happened in this instance. I pray that mandate letters with benchmarks will be drafted for heads of institutions. May the good Lord endow the President, in consultation with the Council of State, with the wisdom to populate the Electoral Commission with more experienced and mature professionals who will discharge their mandate more creditably.
Thank you for your indulgence Mrs. Osei and join all reasonable Ghanaians in standing with the Constitution, 1992. God bless our homeland.
5th July 2018