I’ve read opinions of people questioning why the NDC deployed Regional Executives to monitor the EC’s pilot exercise at it’s Regional Offices across the country when the Party has openly kicked against the compilation of new register for the 2020 election. Of particular interest was reactions to the demo voters ID card of the Regional Vice Chairman of Volta Region, George Loh. Mr Loh came under undeserved attacks, even from our own members, probably because he was the only Regional Executive of the Party whose card was made public, and also, with due respect to him, he did not offer convincing explanation to the issue when he was interviewed on Citi FM’s Eyewitness news.
One of the commentaries that pushed me to offer this explanation, unsolicited though, was that which was offered by Umaru Sanda Amadu, one of the journalists in Ghana I admire and have so much respect for. After interviewing Mr Loh, he went ahead to ‘offer’ an opinion on his Facebook wall. In that piece, Mr Sanda questioned why Mr Loh was at the registration centre to partake in the exercise when his “Party boys and girls” defied the rain and followed PNC National Chairman, Bernard Mornah to the CID Headquarters over comments he was alleged to have made in furtherance of moves to resit the EC from compiling the proposed new register. Mr Sanda, like many others, did not understand why the NDC is in court to fight against the compilation of the new register but Mr Loh was at the centre to partake in the very exercise the Party is spiritedly resisting.
Let me put on record that Mr Loh was not the only Regional Executive who was at the EC’s regional office to monitor the pilot exercise. In Greater Accra for instance, my good self as Regional deputy Youth Organizer together with the Regional Secretary, Hon Theophilus Tetteh Chaie; Regional Organizer, Anthony Nukpenu; Regional Director of Elections, Lawyer Aristo Aryee and two others were at the Sapeiman office of the EC to monitor the exercise. For purposes of emphasis, the Party did not deploy us to monitor the exercise because it had changed its position on the proposed new register. The Party is taking active part in the exercise for two principal reasons:
LIMITED REGISTRATION EXERCISE
From the very day the NDC opposed the compilation of the new register, the Party made it clear that it was not against limited registration exercise ahead of the 2020 elections. Indeed, the Party’s argument for limited registration exercise has been poignantly canvassed by a number of it’s big shots. It has become the norm that ahead of every public election, the EC must conduct limited registration exercise to give opportunity to those who have turned 18 years and those who for some reason could not register in previous registrations for to get onto the register.
This year, it is estimated that the EC may register about 2 million people if it conducts limited registration exercise. So for a Party like the NDC which is a major stakeholder in the 2020 election and poised for victory in 2020, we needed to be convinced that, even if the EC had supposedly procured new machines for it’s operations, there is a robust system to register the about 2 million unregistered people during the limited registration exercise.
It was for this reason that the Party wrote to the EC, through it’s General Secretary, for it’s training manual. Point is, when the EC eventually reverts to it’s senses and decide to conduct limited registration exercise, the supposed new machines and systems will be used based on the new training manuals. So if the NDC does not partake in the pilot exercise to acquaint itself with the supposed new system, how would the Party monitor or make any meaningful inputs during the limited registration exercise? This is to say that seeing Regional Executives at the EC’S offices across the country is not contrary to the Party’s position on the new register.
The NDC, like other Political Parties and CSOs opposed to the compilation of the new register, has severally point out difficulties the EC is most likely to encounter in the unlikely event it maintain it’s stanch on new register. One of them is the time factor. Before the pilot exercise, the EC’s Dr Serebour Quaicoe explained that due to the new system the EC had adopted, it would take a maximum of 8 minutes for a potential voter to be registered and get his/her card. This point was disproved during the pilot exercise. At Sapeiman yesterday, I took keen interest in the time it took the first person to get his card. Even when the first person used his NIA card, it took him exactly 24 minutes to get his voters’ ID card. This was contrary to the EC’s 8 minutes edict. If we were not at the centre we could not have gathered this information.
Beyond the first person, the third person to register had none of the required documents so those who had registered had to guarantee for him. The process was cumbersome and winding. It took this person exactly 53 minutes to get his card. The EC itself had made us aware that each polling station has a threshold of 850 voters per polling station. So if it will take 53 minutes to register someone without Ghana Card and Passport, and the EC says it will use 6 days for the exercise, isn’t it a confirmation of the NDC’s position that the exercise, if allowed, will disenfranchise millions of people, particularly those without Ghana Card and Passport?
Before the pilot exercise, the NDC had raised issues about the spread of the virus through the exercise. The EC rebuffed this by saying it would adhere strictly to the WHO protocols. During the pilot exercise yesterday, there was nothing like, for instance, social distancing at Sapeiman. There was Veronica bucket there alright but nobody payed attention to it’s use. There was even disagreement between the EC officials over whether sanitizer should be used to disinfect the verification machine. While some of them insisted that the sanitizer should be used on the machine after every registration, others said the alcohol will spoil the machine. This is very revealing.
It would be recalled that the EC said the reason why there is the need for a new voters register is to add facial recognition features to the existing process. This actually turned out to be naked lies. There was nothing like facial recognition about what the EC intends to do. When we questioned the registration officer, he said the facial recognition features would only come in handy during voting. When Dr Serebour later joined us and we put the same question to him, he also gave a different explanation which was an onslaught on reasoning. At the end, we all realized that there was nothing like facial recognition.
The EC had argued that it’s machines were obsolete and that they had procured new machines for it’s planned exercise. And this was what necessitated the pilot exercise. Unfortunately for the EC, we were able to detect that the EC did not procure new machines but was using the existing machines it claimed were obsolete. When we questioned the EC Region Director of Elections, he explained that he was not a technical person. When we insisted that we needed the technical person to explain things to us, the technical person never showed up. On that issue, the EC lied.
There were a number of faulty processes we detected that confirmed issues raised by those opposed to the new register. And if after this pilot exercise, the EC does not change its position on the new register, then what we have in this country is not an EC but something else. Even the NPP big shots deployed to Sapeiman were disappointed. The NPP MP for Ablekuma Central, Ebenezer Nii Narh Nartey; Director of Elections, Evans Nimako; Regional Organizer, Regional Research Director and others left the station disappointed because they could not get their cards due to the EC’s faulty and shambolic process. The point here is, and I repeat, if the NDC had not deployed people to monitor the exercise, all these shortfalls would not have been confirmed by the EC’s own processes.
Let it be known that the cards the EC issued yesterday and will issue today cannot be used for voting. The cards are ‘demo’ cards to test it’s system. All those who registered would have to register again during the limited registration exercise if they are not already registered voters. The reason being that the law on which these new cards will be issued, CI 126, has not yet matured into law. So when you see a demo card of George Loh and you conclude he has been issued with the new voters’ ID card, that is false.
Amorse Blessing Amos
Deputy Greater Accra Regional Youth Organizer
National Democratic Congress