Earlier this year, the Electoral Commission of the Republic of Ghana announced its intention to compile a new voter’s register ahead of the 2020 parliamentary and presidential elections.
This decision has been greeted with a lot of opposition from the major opposition political parties in the country, the NDC, PNC among others and many other civil society groups in the country.
However, in spite of all the criticism, the electoral commission has not relented on it’s decision to compile a new voter’s register. The commission last month laid a constitutional instrument in Parliament in which it is indicated that one needs the following documents to get onto the new voter’s register to be compiled; Ghana Card, a Ghanaian passport and those who do not have either of the national identification documents can, however, go ahead to register, on condition that they can be backed by two persons who have already registered. This has sparked many debates as to what documents makes a person a citizens of Ghana and why the commission decided to exclude birth certificate in the eligible documents.
Contributing to this debate, a former flagbearer aspirant of the NDC lawyer Elikplim Agbemava has written a piece titled ” The Question of Who A Ghanaian is Remains Unanswered”
BELOW IS THE ARTICLE FROM THE RENOWNED LAWYER ELIKPLIM LORLORMAVOR AGBEMAVA
THE QUESTION OF WHO A GHANAIAN IS REMAINS UNANSWERED
The current “new voter register” debate is just a symptom of a bigger problem over which our policy makers have buried their heads in the sand.
Before I go on to state the problem, I want to ask again, why is the Electoral Commission demanding old registered and authenticated voters be disqualified as voters and a new card issued b ased on a different criteria?
Examining the attempt to compile a new voters register, it is clear that all Ghanaians will lose their status as VOTERS when the current identification cards are cancelled.
We vote because we are Ghanaians. It means that if we have ever voted, we are Ghanaians and must always remain so. Can the EC by the cancellation of my current status as a voter with 5 general elections voting experience spanning over 20 years suddenly declare me an alien and incompetent to vote in Ghanaian election?
This brings us to the fundamental issue I referred to earlier on. It is the question of who is a Ghanaian ? The answer lies in Article 6 of the Constitution and the Citizenship Act not the Representation of the People’s Act or Article 42 of the Constitution.
Even then, I have always opined that our citizenship standards and laws are antiquated and far removed from reality. It is illogical. With globalization and immigration it is unfortunate that our citizenship laws does not accommodate residency as a criteria for citizenship. So we have people like the Fulani and Hausa spending 50 years living in Ghana but cannot legitimately call themselves Ghanaians even though Ghana is all they have known all their lives.
So instead of the policy makers sanitizing and answering the question of who is a Ghanaian by the review and amendment of our citizenship laws, they have in typical lazy fashion, buried their heads in the sand. They pretend there is no problem.
It is difficult to understand but the perennial request for new voters register and the compilation of same is criminal. It is a deliberate and reckless move to continuously cause financial loss to the State because it will never resolve the question of who can vote and who cannot vote in Ghana. The answer is never the re registration of voters because the Electoral Commission, as the Supreme Court have held time and again, cannot at one general election admit a voter and reject same voter in another election.
It is not the function of the Electoral Commission to determine who is a Ghanaian and who is not. That is why it is not necessary to re register old voters by compiling a new voters register with the Ghana card. The Ghana card in itself is a belated and wrong way to determine citizenship. People have been Ghanaian since independence. They cannot be rendered stateless by the introduction of a Ghana card. We must sit up.