Elections 2016: The foreplay
by Kwabena Opong
n general elections is heating up and the political rhetoric is increasingly becoming vitriolic. In most African countries, the name of the game is called “open sesame” in times like these. Ruling parties seek to find avenues to discredit their major opponents, while the latter scrutinizes any misstep by the government in order to nail it. The NDC government has descended heavily on the opposition NPP for its part in hiring foreigners to train some youths to provide protection for its flag bearer Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo. This incident has triggered already held suspicions and put some key security institutions and the Electoral Commission into questioned repute.
On Monday March 21, three men, Chris Hazis, 54, also known as Major Ahmed Shaik (rtd), WO/Denver Dwayhe Naidu (rtd), 39, and Captain Mlungiseleli Jokani (rtd), 45, were picked up at the El Capitano Hotel at Agona Duakwa in the Central region. According to Deputy Minister of Information Felix Ofosu Kwakye, the three had in their possession military accoutrements and some documents relating to the transmission of electoral results. Acting General Secretary John Boadu of the NPP, on the other hand states that none of the training equipment and accoutrements was live. Mostly they were plastic copies.
They were reported to be training some young people in the opposition NPP in various security drills, including unarmed combat, weapon handling, VIP protection techniques, and rapid response maneuvers.
According to the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) the three were picked up on a tip-off by a whistleblower. Since then stories about the trio have come variably from the NPP, the BNI and the government increasingly dispatching the story into cynicism and even disbelief. It seems the NDC is calculatingly trying to influence the national mood with the story, but knowing Ghana and its media it became one of the few stories that could die a natural death because of the dearth of political value. So far none of the experts has established that any laws were broken. Dr. Anning of the Kofi Annan Peacekeeping Training Center has stated that even if there are any laws they are hazy and not clear. Former Attorney General and Minister of Justice in the Kufuor administration Ayikoi Otoo has also commented that he sees no law broken either. There are, of course some even in the NPP who opine differently but the general observation is that the affair does not merit the response it has garnered.
The timing was obviously intentional and purposeful: to pre-empt the growing popularity of the NPP’s leader, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo. It was also meant to pre-empt the growing impact of the IMF on the nation’s flagging economy as well as the hardship going round in the country. And so for a little over a week, the SA3 – the name given by the press – issue assumed prominence in the national media. The individuals were believed to have been invited into Ghana by Capt. Edmund Koda (Rtd.) security coordinator of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, flag bearer of the NPP.
It must be mentioned that instead of fear and apprehension, the events surrounding the arrest and detention, trial and eventual deportation aroused bemusement. Within a week the trio, Captains Koda and Acquah were arrested and processed for court; Capts. Koda and Acquah were released; the trio were tried, freed on bail but rearrested; Capt. Koda was rearrested only to be released a couple of days later following threats by the NPP to descend on the BNI and the Flagstaff House; finally on March 28 the SA3 were deported.
It is also in the course of the aforementioned that the offices of Dankwa Institute, a pro-NPP think tank was invaded by persons unknown but were seen to be wearing uniforms of the nation’s military and police. The government and the security agencies denied that they were involved but the Executive Director of Dankwa Institute, Nana Attobrah Quacoe was arrested as it later emerged that he sponsored the trip of one of the ex-policemen from South Africa. Recent information indicates that Nana Attobrah in a submission at court said that DI invited one of the ex-policemen to deliver a lecture in security.
The narrative that emerged on the issue of the SA3 was so variegated
that in the process the Minister of the Interior Prosper Bani, in an attempt to defend the government put out a statement that has become another debacle for the Electoral Commission. The documentation supposedly found on one of the three included a list of names of the Superlock Technology Limited (STL), the technology consultants at the EC that transmitted election results from the collation center to the main board. It would be recalled that then Electoral Commissioner Kwadwo Afari Gyan denied in 2008 that STL was involved in transmitting electoral results. According to the Minister of the Interior, however, STL’s business at EC was to transmit election results. As we write the NPP and some opposition parties plan to go to court for clarification of the role of STL at the Electoral Commission.
The NPP argues that a full disclosure is more pertinent, especially when the Interior minister’s statement comes in the same month the EC advertised an open tender requesting for Expression of Interest (EOI) for the procurement of an ‘ICT-Based Election Results Management Systems’ (ERMS) in the upcoming 2016 November general elections.
“The information we collected from several sources is that STL’s contractual scope covers the cleaning, assembling of the voter registration kits, the maintenance of the hardware and software of the EC Data Centre, and the provision of communication lines for the EC. What does this all mean? The EC owes it to the general public to explain whether the above defines the entire scope of its current contract with STL and if so, what that entails, and if not what else has STL been contracted to do?” the party demanded.
The Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) has also added its voice to calls for the Electoral Commission to come clean on its involvement with STL to help enhance the credibility of the commission ahead of the upcoming elections.
All these events are precursors to the November elections. Other than power no other motive comes to mind. The NDC has done worse in the past. What used to be known as shit bombing was one of the commonest. An opposition press house or offices would be sprayed with fecal matter in the night. In these days of social media other methods of denigration of political enemies have become available. So too have several photos of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo been doctored to embarrass him.
As in the past, political enemies could be at the butt of cruel and sick jokes from some media houses. The NPP has decided not to honor any invitation to programs by Adakabre Frempong Manso of NeatFM and Kwame Nkrumah Tikeseε of OkayFM, two radio stations belonging to the Despite Group of companies. These two are alleged to be doing the dirty work of the ruling party. Their broadcasts seem to inure to the benefit only of the ruling party while the opposition NPP is constantly victimized. This is a déjà vu all over again from the days of CPP administration. Nana Addo’s running mate Alhaji Mahammodu Bawumia was refused entry to the University of Mines and Technology (UMAT) to speak to the students. He received similar treatment at several institutions in the Volta Region.
In times like these, security institutions as well as individuals holding positions in such places act ultra vires. A man was ordered to be arrested by Baba Kamara, National Security Coordinator, for taking pictures of vehicles at the offices of the National Center for Civic Education (NCCE) that were being branded with NDC colors. It turned out that the wrong person was arrested. They act with impunity, sometimes breaking the law and infringing on the constitutional rights of citizens. Clearly justice is being denied a section of the population of the country on political grounds and it does not bode well for the nation.
It must be noted that countries like Rwanda, Liberia and Sierra Leone did not just blow up. Similar events as have been enumerated above led to the civil wars that engulfed them for several years. The mood in Ghana is tense as in every election year. And the electoral commissioner is not making it any easier with her intransigence and lack of direction in her planning for November 7. Her constant change of positions on issues and refusal to cooperate with the NPP and other bodies continues to heighten tension in the country.
Power is an aphrodisiac and can be misapplied and wrongly used. Within it power has seeds that can sprout events that destroy nations, kill and maim. With the incidence of global terrorism already at our doorsteps in Burkina Faso and the Ivory Coast as well as the presence of the Guantanamo duo in Ghana, all it needs is the flint that can strike the fire. The talk that Ghana is a peace loving country is neither here nor there if justice does not prevail. Justice is the foreplay to the peace act.
The writer is the editor in chief of Amandla, and a Director of the
Center for Media & Peace Initiative, ( CMPI) a New York based non-profit entity.