By Kwasi Frimpong (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The registration for a new voters register begins today. This follows the green light given to the country’s election management body by the apex court. The Supreme Court, last Thursday ruled on a case brought before it by the opposition National Democratic Congress and one Mark Takyi-Banson, seeking to challenge the powers of the Electoral Commission (EC) to compile a new voters’ register and, most importantly, challenging the documents for proof of identification for the upcoming exercise.
The Court, in a unanimous ruling, ordered the EC to go ahead with its plans to compile a new register, complying with Articles 42 and 45 of the Constitution and the Public Elections (Registration of Voters) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020 C.I. 126.
The court’s decision brought finality to the debate on the compilation of a new voters register.
The opposition party, which used several means to try to stop the EC from compiling a new voters’ register finally saw the reality dawning on them. After an initial drama from the General Secretary, Johnson Asiedu Nketia, which excited supporters of the party and got them jubilating, an event which was short-lived though, the party reluctantly accepted the verdict from the court. Former President John Dramani Mahama, leader of the party, expressing his disappointment in the ruling, nonetheless, urged supporters of the party and the Ghanaian populace to go out and register.
The NDC’s acceptance and the former President’s call on members of the party to go out and register remove every impediment on the way for the exercise to begin.
As expected, allegations of voter suppression have begun flying around. This is not surprising since all Ghanaians saw this coming. The opposition NDC, in their infamous Elvis Afriyie Ankrah tape, were bent on fighting the compilation of the new voters’ register, based on suspicion of voter suppression in their strongholds.
Mr Ankrah, in the tape which he has since admitted its content, cited similar instances of alleged voter suppression in the 2019 Nigeria elections, which elected President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term as basis for his suspicion.
All the demonstrations, press conferences and the court processes were hinged on such suspicion. Having failed in all the attempts to prevent the registration, the party has to now press the button to release the last weapons left, by presenting the suspicions as real.
It is therefore not surprising that allegations of voter suppression in the Volta Region have started flying around in tonnes.
More of such allegations and even wilder ones are expected to be thrown around throughout the 38 days period of the exercise. From the National level, as has started, to the regional level, where regional officers will allege voter suppression in constituencies perceived to be their strongholds; to constituency level where Constituency officers will talk about electoral areas.
From there, it would descend to the electoral area level where branch and ward executives will talk about suppression in their stronghold polling stations, allegations are expected to be flying around all over the place.
This is why the media, most importantly, and the security agencies must exercise extra circumspection in how they treat every information thrown at them.
In this day and age where information is the easiest and cheapest commodity to come by, the cost of how such cheap information is used is unquantifiable.
In an era of ‘infodemic’, social media cannot be controlled, at least, not in our part of the world. And so information that will be thrown around on social media cannot be checked. However, the traditional media still have the mandate to play its gatekeeping role. The media need to live up to its mantra of ‘Check, crosscheck and check again’ before using their platforms to ‘validate’ available information. Every election, regardless of wherever it is being held, is characterised by some level of tension. The quest for power is always laced with tension and apprehension.
How information is treated is, therefore, what will blow the tension into violence or otherwise. That is why we are taught at the Communication School to always be careful of what we put out even if it is confirmed to be the truth. We are told to ask ourselves basic questions like “how is this information true? How is it relevant to my profession? How relevant is it to the public? How relevant is it to the stability or otherwise of the country? How does it inform and promote nation building? Can it be discarded without causing harm? Must it be published at all cost? What do I lose when I don’t publish this? What do I gain when I publish this?” among others before going to public with the information we have.
While I do not seek to proffer authority on security matters, I implore our various security agencies to also act professionally in these times. It cannot be right that the whole country will be thrown into abyss of mayhem, because of the impotence, lack of candour and ill judgement on the part of our men and women in uniform.
The Electoral Commission (EC) says it has put in place enough preventive measures to protect registrants. Like the president keep admonishing us, “our safety is in our own hands”.
EC officials and registrants alike must ensure absolute protection of themselves and their colleagues. Let us all observe, to the letter, the various safety protocols outlined by the World Health Organisation and the Ghana Health Service.
The EC has outlined, in phases, how it will be going about the exercise. All political parties must therefore get involved in educating their supporters to remain calm and not rush to cluster at polling stations since the exercise will definitely get to their area in due course.
Aside from the Covid-19, some hooligans and riffraff will seek opportunity to cause mayhem. Let us protect ourselves by staying out of all forms of trouble and provocation.
Registering to vote should not be an invitation to suffer jeopardy. And remember, no matter what you may need the voters ID card for, election or otherwise, it is not worth a drop of your or another person’s blood.
We shall Register, but in peace.