The world over, democracy has attracted the attention of many, if not all. While some are of the view (a view I would concur to any day), that democracy cannot be the ultimate form of government for a people, it stands without debate that among the various forms of governments, democracy is that which has provided opportunity for the participation of many. Never before, in the practice of governance, has citizens within any particular geographical area, been given maximum participation in decision making than in democracy as a form of government.
This has given rise to world leaders to impress on all nations to adopt democracy as their forms of government. Until we arrive at a better option that gives participation in decision making more than what we experience in democracy; that punishes wrongdoing, punishes corruption than we see under democracy, that which provides peace and security to more than we see today, we can best participate in what is available.
It is this that had given rise to institutions of state to be established, rooted mainly on constitutions that allow states, the powers they require to function fully, in the advancement of the freedoms, liberties, peace, and security for all. This is aimed at allowing citizens freely acquire and own the basic necessities of life, and to move about their everyday work without fear of the unknown.
In this space, Ghana, a nation that had come many times under military interventions, had adopted the practice of democracy and had provided a stable environment for governments and citizens to live in harmony and to fend for themselves. The country, Ghana, since independence, had established institutions of state with the aim of ensuring that law and order prevail.
In the wake of the many interferences that the country Ghana had suffered, the 1992 Constitution was promulgated and adopted by the people of Ghana. This Constitution, had spelt out the powers accorded the president and all state actors including the Electoral Commission.
Like any other election commissions across the world, the Electoral Commission of Ghana, is to ensure that everything leading to, during and after elections, are undertaken in a manner that reposes confidence in the people of the country. Fortunately, the 1992 Constitution had spelt out clearly, the duties and mandates of the Electoral Commission of the Republic of Ghana.
Since 1992, the Electoral Commission had had commissioners appointed by presidents as stipulated under the constitution. Per the provisions, a Deputy Commissioner, or a Commissioner who retires, must be replaced by the president, following all constitutional provisions in order to ensure that the vacancies are filled.
It was in this spirit that when the longest serving Electoral Commission Chairman, Dr. Kwadwo Afari Gyan retired, the then President, John Dramani Mahama, had to appoint Mrs. Charlotte Osei to take over from him.
Since her appointment, Ghanaians were inundated with comments and actions from a section of the Ghanaian public with the sole aim of casting doubt on her integrity, capabilities and competence in dealing with her constitutionally mandated duties. Indeed, the appointing authority of the then President, John Dramani Mahama was called to question by a citizen who proceeded to court to ascertain the validity of her appointment.
Some from the New Patriotic Party (NPP), have warned her security of tenure. They threatened that she would lose her job. Indeed, some who made those claims, were of the view that she was appointed to do the bidding of the then president who was standing elections and seeking reelection. In the end, the results so declared, had stated otherwise. The Commissioner, Mrs. Charlotte Osei, in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic, declared Mr. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo president of the Republic of Ghana, as the duly elected president on the 9th of December, 2016 following the elections of 7th December, 2016.
Soon after the New Patriotic Party assumed power, the people of Ghana woke up to a certain petition purportedly composed, for the removal of the Electoral Commissioner on grounds of incompetence, misbehaviour and some improprieties in relations to procurement (a non-core function of the Commission).
It later emerged that the petition was in error. The said petition had no signatures, no names of the said petitioners, and without date. It came as a surprise that one would be required to defend allegations in a ‘petition’ which was not properly constituted and qualified to be referred as such.
Subsequently, the said statement was said to have been rectified and forwarded to the Chief Justice of the Republic, Madam Sophia Akufo, who subsequently constituted an ad-hoc committee (a quasi-judicial body) to look into the issue so referred.
The outcome of the committee, and the subsequent action of the president, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to remove the three Commissioners including the Chairperson of the Commission, from office, had attracted many reactions from the people of Ghana. In the government’s defense, and for that matter the president’s, we are told that the president simply acted as a conveyor belt, who simply passed the petition to the appropriate quarters, and had simply acted based on the recommendations which he had nothing to do with.
This call several issues to question. First of all, what was the interest of the President in the ‘petition’ when it was first submitted and could not have been referred as such? A petition does not qualify to be called a petition when it is without names of those petitioning for an action, no signatures of the said individuals, and without date for one to verify when the petition was composed.
This immediately should have informed President Akufo-Addo to dismiss the document so brought before him, so referred to as petition. It clearly marks a sign of severe interest in the matter, when the presidency actually waited for the said petitioners to come to the Office of the President to make all necessary corrections for the document to be fit for action, to enable it to be forwarded.
The career, integrity, and image of individuals are involved when issues of this nature comes up. For this reason, people in power, must be seen to be independent on issues that would require their independent involvement in decisions that would affect others who draw their powers just as they do.
Serving at a lower level, even as a Speaker of my former University’s Students Representative Council, I have had to take a decision when a document was forwarded to my table in the name of a motion. For the records, our Standing Orders, stipulates what qualifies to be a motion. For the purpose of emphasis, the provision reads “All motions shall contain an underlined title, situation, date, time, signature and name of the mover. Absence of any of these is grounds to quash the motion”. I was handed over a statement with an underlined title (motion), with grounds stated, but with no time stated, no date stated, and in the place of name, a list of names with signatures appended by some Congress men and women who shared in the ‘motion’.
As a speaker, and as a father of the house, I thought it appropriate to give a little guide. But, following events at Congress, I had to pause and quash the motion. It was on the ground that it had no time, no date, and instead of name, names and signatures were filled on the document as though it was a petition. Subsequently, I have heard of claims that I was to be impeached on the basis that I quashed a ‘motion’ in Congress. The matter ended there, as I assumed that the individuals making the arguments for my impeachment, would have subsequently, read the Standing Orders of Congress, and would have been informed that the motion they thought they had forwarded, was not properly composed.
With this experience from a lower level, I hold the strongest view that the President, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo should have dismissed the ‘petition’ so brought when it did not qualify to pass as one. Waiting and calling on the representative lawyer to correct the defects at the Office of the President, puts him in a position of high interest in the petition and the process to get Mrs. Charlotte Osei out of office.
It had also emerged that one of the petitioners had died years before the petition. It could be that the so called petition was composed before the individual unfortunately passed on. However, how did he testify to the content of the petition which actually got the committee concluding that Mrs. Charlotte Osei and her two other deputies were guilty of the allegations made in the petition?
Eventually, the unfortunate had happened. Mrs. Charlotte Osei, the woman who declared His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo president of the Republic, has been found incompetent, and as a person who had breached procurement provisions, and had misbehaved herself in office. These are very interesting observations.
In an article authored by a Professor of Law, Dr. Valarie Sawyerr, a former Deputy Chief of Staff under the title THE CRY OF THE OPPRESSOR, she asked a very important question. Having outlined the constitutionally mandated duties of the Electoral Commission, she asked “On which of these was the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Charlotte Osei, found wanting for incompetence, misbehavior or inability to perform the function of her office arising from infirmity of body or mind, in accordance with article 146(1) of the 1992 Constitution?”
Her perspective got me thinking. If a person could be punished for violating duties that are not her core duties, then we must examine the entire issues and see the implications. Now that the committee had established that she had breached some procurement laws, that suffices to say that she is guilty of a criminal offense. From what I gathered, it appears this is the ultimate reason for her removal, as it would be completely interesting to know how one’s competence is measured by another especially when nothing of the nature can be pinned to her core duties spelt out in the constitution.
That established, it presents that as government stated that the Committee Report is being referred to the Attorney General’s Department for a decision on a determination on whether or not to prosecute Mrs. Charlotte Osei and her two other deputies, what would a decision not to prosecute mean on the action of the president subsequent to the committee recommendations? What would a decision to prosecute which does not get conviction from the courts, mean on same? I am open to legal advice on these very interesting perspectives.
What does this mean for the future of Ghana’s democracy? Now, the president, His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has a duty to appoint an Electoral Commissioner and two other deputies. This makes his appointment onto the Commission, three (3). In an audio recording that emerged subsequent to the committee’s report which was acted upon, one of the commissioners, who was heard saying that she had a year to retire, but would ensure Mrs. Charlotte Osei is removed before she goes, stated that the NPP had four commissioners as against 3 for the National Democratic Congress (NDC). What does the appointment of 3 additional commissioners onto the Electoral Commission, speak for the future of the NPP and the NDC?
What would the results of 2020 elections in the favour of the NPP under the leadership of the new Electoral Commissioner and the additional 2, mean for the country? Would other political parties that would express reservations on the individuals to be appointed, be justified to reject the results? What would be the implications of such on our democracy?
I am of the view that the president ought to have been guided by the implications of his actions even before beginning the process. It would be completely difficult for anyone to advance any contrary arguments, because, if for nothing at all, the former Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Mrs. Charlotte Osei, whom many feared was brought to advance the interest of the NDC, had declared the NDC as losers. That alone establishes her credibility. Even if the NDC had genuinely won the 2016 elections, the outcome would not easily have been accepted, without allegations of favouring the appointing authority. It is in this spirit that I ask, what shall become of a victory of the NPP under an Electoral Commissioner appointed by President Akufo-Addo of the NPP?
The only way that Commissioner and his or her deputies, could establish some credibility, would be to declare the NDC winners of its first elections. This presents a typical problem. This then means that even when the NDC loses the elections so genuinely, in order to present a credible institution, the party NDC must be declared winners.
This had to be the instant quagmire that the president ought to have envisaged. It was completely needless to put himself, his government, and his party into such a dilemma.
The future of Ghana’s democracy shall receive very keen interest in the coming days. This singular act of President Akufo-Addo, notwithstanding claims of no options, had eroded the gains we have made so far. We appear to be back to ground zero, with a huge responsibility to reestablish an enviable record we have achieved in the eyes of our compatriots on the African continent and the world over.
This conduct of the president, threatens the security of tenure of individuals engaged under provisions of the constitution. For the avoidance of doubt, this leaves room for any future government to remove anyone appointed by a previous government into such offices. All a government would require is a petition, real or fake, and the processes towards removing such an individual, set in motion for a favourable outcome to the claims so stated.
It must be on record that when a nation goes into elections, it elect leaders who are to protect the sanctity of the nation and to protect institutions of state. That process does not come short of reasonableness. A president is required to measure and act in the best interest of the nation. Many have presented that a similar case in the past, bothering on a petition to remove the then Chief Justice Mrs. Georgina Wood from office, but the late President, Professor John Evans Atta Mills, in his wisdom, refused to serve as the almighty “conveyor belt” to pass such a petition for action because he anticipated the consequences.
It is sometimes better to allow society to establish its own opinions than to rush to create such opinions for them. Today, I am sure that Ghana, under the leadership of His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo, would be rated low as a nation that does not fully recognize the responsibilities and endurance that democracy places on its leaders.
While at that we must be careful the examples we set as they become precedence for future actions. If we act wrongly today, we have cleared the way for generations to reference. This, must be the ultimate resolve for us as a nation. Our presidents, must act in our interest and be guided as such as against their individual interests.