Politics is one of those things which many Ghanaians leave their brains behind when discussing. You can be an innocent, neutral and nonpartisan civil society organization trying to improve Ghana’s democracy. Nobody cares. You’ll be accused and insulted. If you’re not lucky, the insults will be quite regular.
NGOs nonetheless are a bit lucky because really, the hottest seat in Ghana’s politics is the one that belongs to the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission.
Rabid partisanship in Ghana’s politics has ensured that many of the most competent people for this role who would do a good job at it have found all manner of excuses to stay away from this post. Not everyone can calmly carry out their duties in the face of distracting insults and allegations.
Take Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan for example. He held the post of EC Chair for about 20 years, conducting several successful elections in Ghana during his tenure. He was even consulted for elections by other African countries.
Still, Dr Afari-Gyan was the object of many accusations, which reached a crest during the Supreme Court dispute of the 2012 elections in Ghana.
In the wake of that, nearing his retirement when Ghana was looking for Afari-Gyan’s successor, Professor Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi of the University of Ghana, the founder of Afrobarometer and founder of the Centre for Democratic Governance (CDD Ghana) was suggested by some. He declined, saying that he was too busy.
Too busy. What an excuse from a decorated political scientist with a very formidable CV! As an academic, Prof Gyimah-Boadi has authored dozens and dozens of books, book chapters, peer-reviewed journal articles and papers, and supervised several studies across Africa. In truth, he is a busy man: a lecturer at Legon, Executive Director of Afrobarometer which operates in several African countries, and until January 2018, the Executive Director of CDD Ghana.
But you’ll agree that there aren’t many better ways to serve your country than taking up the job of Electoral Commissioner – especially when you’re more than qualified for it – and improving the Commission and Ghana’s democracy with your vast store of knowledge. But this is the cost of our deep political partisanship.
By the way, Prof Gyimah-Boadi was recently awarded the Distinguished African Award for his immense contributions to generating knowledge for Africa’s development, by the African Studies Association, a network of about 2,000 individuals and organizations around the world.
On to another: Dr Emmanuel Akwetey, the Executive Director of the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG). Formerly a lecturer at the University of Stockholm. Dr Akwetey has played quite a key role in the development of Ghana’s democracy. That’s a good way to serve your country for someone who could have chosen to remain in Sweden.
Again, taking up the post of EC Chair in Ghana should not be a step backward for such a person but when his name was mentioned to replace Dr. Afari-Gyan, he told those mentioning his name to stop. You can guess why.
Perhaps these two great political scientists, along with others in their league who would make a fine Electoral Commissioner, are right to run away from the role. We have Charlotte Osei to show for how much hatred you can get as the EC Chair even when you have done nothing wrong.
Let’s carry on with our heated emotional winner-takes-all politics and you can bet that in 2057 when Ghana is 100 years old, nothing would have improved: very qualified people would rather prefer to be lecturers and elections in Ghana would still be a do or die affair for some and a tense moment for all.