columnBy Ebo Quansah
Accra — At long last, the battle is ended, and our transitional Head of State, John Dramani Mahama, has officially been proclaimed President of the Republic of Ghana. According to an official announcement by Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Chairman on the Electoral Commission, the President-elect polled 5,574,761 of the popular vote, representing 50.7 percent of the valid votes cast.
His closest rival, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party, was credited with 5,248,898 votes, which translates into 47.74 percent. All the smaller parties combined managed a paltry 1.56 percent of the popular vote.
On the basis of passing the 50 percent threshold on the official score-card of the Electoral Commission, caretaker President John Dramani Mahama was declared President-elect. He will be officially sworn in at the Independence Square in Accra, on Monday, January 7, 2013.
Yesterday, the President was at the Obra Spot, near the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra, to officially accept his victory. Though he sounded reconciliatory, his speech may not cut much ice with followers of the largest opposition party, which is alleging massive rigging. At the time of going to press, officials of the New Patriotic Party were scheduled to meet today, to decide on the party's next line of action. I can state on authority that the NPP will head for the courts to seek redress.
In the opinion of the party leadership, there was large scale rigging, in which President John Dramani Mahama was alleged to have been credited with figures he did not earn. On the other hand, votes won by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo were allegedly reduced drastically.
On Sunday, the NPP issued an official statement alleging wide-spread fraud in the compilation of the election results.
"Substantial discrepancies have been discovered from results from collation centres when compared with officially tally figures from the EC. Considering the closeness of the polls, this error is very significant, and goes to the heart of the credibility of the results. Indeed, we have enough concrete evidence to show that the 2012 presidential election was won by our candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo," the statement alleged.
Yesterday, as thousands of National Democratic Congress supporters welcomed President Mahama's victory speech by singing and dancing into the night, thousands of NPP supporters turned the front entrance of Nana Akufo-Addo's Nima residence into Ghana's version of Tahir Square in Cairo. They were demanding the immediate declaration of their candidate as President-elect of the Republic of Ghana.
A driver, who threatened to drive through the crowd, had his vehicle seriously damaged. Eyes are red. I do not think the best the Electoral Commission could do was to wave the NPP protest aside and direct officials of the party to court..
What happened in the Dome-Kwabenya and Ablekuma West constituencies, especially, clearly indicate that a lot might have gone wrong with the collation of results. In both constituencies, the NPP candidates were initially short-changed. Ms. Adwoa Safo and Ursula Owusu were declared losers when, in fact, both had won handsomely.
The normally quiet and affable Adwoa Safo suddenly grew wild. She insisted on re-checking the Red Sheet containing polling booth results. It turned out that nearly 10,000 votes she received had vanished.
I thought I heard an official of the Greater Accra Regional branch of the NDC claim on television that the counting machine had made a mistake. At the collation centre in the Ablekuma West Constituency, NPP candidate Ms. Ursula Owusu was also initially given a raw deal. She stood her ground and insisted that not only had she won, Ms. Owusu had done so handsomely. When the collation was re-done, she was the clear winner.
I find it amazing that votes could be lost and gained at the collation centres when the polling booths had registered their numbers. I get the impression that there is some form of collusion somewhere. What is interesting is that the game of votes gained and lost appears to be a systematic plan of top officials of political parties who have found it convenient to manipulate the vote to suit their own agendas.
In 2008, Sheikh I. C. Quaye and veteran Prof. Mike Oquaye, NPP parliamentary candidates in the Ayawaso Central and Dome-Kwabenya constituencies respectively, were declared losers after the figures had allegedly been collated. The two NPP big shots would not give in, insisting on recounting of the ballots. When the exercise was done, both had won handsomely.
These examples give serious cause to worry. We may be one of the most celebrated emerging democracies in contemporary Africa, in terms of our ability to hold elections without violence. But that does not give unscrupulous people the right to rig elections by bribing electoral officers.
The concern being raised by the opposition NPP goes to the heart of the governing process. When the wrong people find themselves in power as a result of the manipulation of the people's vote, the problem of Alfred Agbesi Woyome and his GHÂÂ¢51 million dole-out becomes a major fall-out.
Yesterday, I heard the President making a pledge to curb corruption, and extending a hand to the different shades of political opinions in this country.
One of the wishes of the majority of Ghanaians he could deal with immediately is to ensure the return of the Woyome gargantuan fraud money. Some of us would like a complete change of direction. I have my doubt, though. So long as some characters remain in leadership positions in the party, curbing corruption would be a tall order.
Still on election. I have a number of other concerns. Certain unscrupulous party top shots have over the years been greasing the palms of electoral officers sympathetic to their cause to fiddle with figures from the polling booths at the collation centres. It is definitely not a new phenomenon. But the situation appears to be far from abating.
Apart from the naked fraud at collation centres, there is a problem or two with the understanding the electorate. I have heard top officials of the state proclaiming this country as a matured democracy. But I can state without any inhibition that a number of our electorates do not know what they vote for.
In more cases than one, people vote without regards to the quality of candidates on offer. My beloved Ekumfi Constituency has just sent a person to Parliament who might not be of any use in any of the official functions of Parliament House.
Abeeku Crentsil, who won on the ticket of the National Democratic Congress, cannot even boast of the old Middle School Leaving Examination. On the campaign trail, anytime the MP-elect tried to speak English, people ran for cover. What is frustrating is that he competed against a candidate who is an accountant and has a master's degree.
Apart from voting because of the party, many electorates are influenced by small largesse to sell their birth-right. We may be a vibrant emerging democracy. The stark truth is that our votes do not appear to reflect on our wishes. We have a long way to go before most Ghanaians would truly appreciate why we vote.