Those who are lifting the world upward and onward are those who encourage more than criticise. Elizabeth Harrison.
Two times Nigerian head of State, Olusegun Obasanjo, was the one who led the ECOWAS delegation to monitor our general elections. At the end of their observation, the team issued a statement that was so important to them that they paid for it to be published in the Daily Graphic of Wednesday, December 12, 2012.
Among the suggestions made for implementation by the next government was the control of the media. The ECOWAS team, regarding the media, recommended that “the ECOWAS Mission urges the in-coming Parliament to expedite action on the adoption of a media regulatory framework capable of checking the excesses observed in the course of the electoral process.”
It is important to state that when it comes to a liberal media environment, ECOWAS does not provide any leadership. The delegation should, thus, have familiarised themselves with the legal framework before making the suggestion or recommendation. What ECOWAS could have charged government to do was to speed up the passage of the Freedom Information Law as well as the Broadcasting Law. These are two pieces of legislation that civil society organisations have fought for, but which our governments have resisted for nearly 20 years.
More important, there is the National Media Commission, which has the constitutional mandate to regulate the media environment. Did the ECOWAS team have any contact with the NMC before making the recommendation?
Again, if the ECOWAS team was not in haste to crucify the media, they would have realised that there was no monotony and that most of them depended on data from the Electoral Commission in their output. Beyond that Parliament, suo motto, would have it difficult to initiate any legislation if that does not come from the Executive.
Ghanaians have chosen the path of media pluralism, very convinced that even if some of them are dysfunctional, at the end of the day, the media through their diversity and plurality would help the average person make an informed decision. Indeed, even the state-owned media have opened up.
Beyond that, the 1992 Constitution specifically enjoins the media to hold the government accountable to the people and that can best be done, not under a regime of legislative controls, but one of media self-regulation. The media have collectively served Ghana better and we do not need authoritarian regulations to hold the media in check.
As we enter 2013, it must be the commitment of all, including the President, a trained journalist and public relations person, Parliament, media and civil society groups led by the Coalition for Freedom of Information law and the network for broadcasting law, to ensure that we have these two laws in place a year today, December 27, 2013.
Another suggestion that requires watchfulness is the one by the West African Nobles Forum that we must pass a law to ensure that the President is elected by winning majority votes in at least six regions. This kind of argument does not take into account the fact that Ghana is a unitary state, not a federal one, where the individual states have some sovereignty of their own. In our situation, the whole country constitutes an electoral area and no single vote must count more than another.
To state that somebody must win in six regions is to suggest that the votes do not count equal. The fact is, what is the fairness in that in a unitary state, where one region has a voter population greater than four others put together. The proposal may end up giving us a president with minority vote. We do not have electoral colleges therefore one vote in one region must not be made to count more than another vote in another region. If we are not careful, we will have to go below the region and stretch it to ethnic groups.
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with say the Greater Accra and Ashanti regions, only voting for the one who emerges President since the two have the largest voter populations. What is critical, is the possibility of over and under representation with the kind of arrangements in the parliamentary structure, where for instance in the Ashanti Region, Sekyere Afram Plains did not register more than 10,000 voters, but because it was made a district, it got a constituency. Thus, whereas the National Democratic Congress candidate at Oforikrom in Kumasi, who secured about 30,000 votes cannot sit in Parliament, his counterpart at Drobonso, who had a little over 6,000 is an MP-elect.
In the same way, Greater Accra, with the highest voter population has about 23 seats less than the Upper East, Upper West and Northern Regions. Similarly, Ashanti Region has more MPs than Greater Accra and about 14 less than the three northern regions whose total voter population is less.
We cannot have everything the way we want it but then, we must not dream ethnicity into the things we do. After all, democracy, after rules and regulations have been met, depends on numbers. In China or India, one ethnic group constitutes almost 95 per cent of the population but even there, no one talks about ethnicity.
We have to be watchful about recommendations that come up, not based on principles, but emotions and sentiments, otherwise, we would find out that rather than curing perceived lapses, we would end up diffusing problem; when our intention was to defuse them.
As we celebrate the X’mas and New Year festivities, let us be watchful and continually pray that in the matter of the electoral dispute raised by the New Patriotic Party, the living God will touch the hearts of all Ghanaians, such that whatever verdict will come from the Supreme Court will be accepted in utmost good faith to tell the world that we have accepted democracy and the rule of law as the only basis of governance in this country.
I wish readers Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Source: Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh/Daily Graphic
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