I have carefully monitored the limited registration in the 38 registration centres in Jomoro constituency that began on 28th April and ended on 8th May, 2016.
I observed certain things that happened which gave me grave cause for concern. They are as follows:
I was not only concerned because I am a Parliamentary candidate, for the Jomoro constituency, but I am equally disturbed by the appalling standards in the practice of democracy in our country today. We need to insist on a level-playing field for all candidates and an atmosphere of fairness and even handedness, free from intimidation and coercion.
Day in day out, as we went about in the various communities we saw groups of people arriving in minibuses escorted by some political party functionaries or gurus. The local citizens always confirmed that the new arrivals were unknown in the area Sometimes, the same set of people in the buses were taken from one registration centre to another to register.
I witnessed on several occasions, that the only way the foreigners were prevented from registering in some communities was when the residents of the community in question supported the polling agents who objected firmly to these foreign applicants on the grounds that they were not known in, or from the electoral area. Literally, the only barrier to the registration of these suspected foreigners was the vigilance of the community, and the EC officers who also upheld the latter’s stance and carried out their duties as prescribed by law.
We also stopped to speak to some of these obvious visitors and many confirmed that they were not from Ghana. They explained that their sole interest was to acquire Ghanaian Voter’s ID to use to avoid paying bribes when crossing the borders and to have access to other opportunities within our borders.
At the end of every registration day we received the figures from our polling agents at the centres as well as from the EC. The figures from the communities of residence of the NDC and NPP Parliamentary candidates, namely Nawulley and Tikobo No.1 respectively, as well as the border town of Elubo, recorded the highest numbers of registrants. I saw how in these strongholds, it was the residents themselves who helped to silence the protests of polling agents or any other person who objected to the registration of foreigners.
I saw some brave EC officers doing a great job by probing fearlessly into the identity of applicants suspected of being ineligible to register. In one case, the EC officer was removed from his post and his service with the EC terminated because he was seen to be resisting orders to register foreigners.
I saw army and police vehicles and personnel deployed into those communities whose population had suddenly swelled, in order to quell any tension. When I saw soldiers jumping out of their vehicles, cocking their guns, presumably in readiness to fire, it took me back to a memory from 50 years ago. In one instance, as I got out of my car to speak to their leader, I looked around and saw some children staring at us and it reminded me of how it felt and sounded like, as a child, looking at the soldiers who escorted us out of Flagstaff House on the day of the illegal overthrow of Nkrumah’s government. We genuinely want peace and justice in our homeland. Our children should not be subject to such threatening images.
At the prompting of several of our polling agents, I saw the same set of guarantors guaranteeing for various applicants, answering questions on their behalf, and sometimes writing their particulars for them to give to the registration officers.
On the printouts our agents showed us at the end of each of day, I saw that in some instances the same address was given by over twenty applicants. These anomalies should be investigated without fail.
If all of the above could happen in front of us and in the full glare of the public, I cannot begin to imagine what could happen to the Voters’ Register in our absence and behind our backs?
I wish to reiterate our call for an urgent review of the Voters’ Register. The youth, women and men of Ghana must speak out against the immoral and illegal manipulation of the register by some political parties, with the connivance of some EC officials.
The 2016 general elections must be free and fair.