By Mawutodzi Abissath
The wisdom of African ancestors is reflected in this Ghanaian proverb which says: “If you haven’t been to the war front, you’ll have the pleasure to chastise others for not fighting hard enough.”
Hypothetically, the year 2012 seems to be going down in political history as the most democratic year on the African Continent as far as elections go. For those who are spared the agony of this democratic “tug of war”, these elections will be a game to enjoy. Unfortunately, however, elections in Africa end up more in war than in peace. But should elections be life and death affairs?
Africa’s elections 2012
Just take a quick glance at the Africa’s election schedule for 2012 as published on the African Union (AU) website, last updated on 13th January, 2012.
“Senegal 26 February Presidential; Guinea-Bissau 18 March Presidential; The Gambia 29 March Parliamentary ; Mali 29 April Presidential (First Round); Mali 13 May Presidential (Second Round); Algeria May Parliamentary; Burkina Faso May Parliamentary; Lesotho May Parliamentary; Seychelles May Parliamentary; Senegal 17 June Parliamentary; Congo (Brazzaville) June Parliamentary; Egypt June Presidential; Mali 1 July Parliamentary (First Round); Mali 22 July Parliamentary (Second Round); Cameroon July Parliamentary.”
The rests are: “Angola September Presidential/Parliamentary; Togo October Parliamentary; Sierra Leone 17 November Presidential/Parliamentary; Ghana 7 December Presidential (First Round)/Parliamentary; Ghana 28 December Presidential (Second Round); Guinea Parliamentary; Libya Presidential /Parliamentary; Madagascar Presidential/Parliamentary; Mauritania Parliamentary; Tunisia Presidential; Zimbabwe Referendum/Presidential.” This writer deliberately quoted verbatim what is on AU’s website. And it is clearly stated there, “All dates are extremely tentative and are based on past poll scheduling patterns.”
Ghana’s election 2012
On Wednesday, 15th February, 2012, Africa’s Electoral Commissioner of the 21st century, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan of Ghana, set the tone for what is characterized as the Mother of all elections in the country since 1992. Ghana’s election 2012!
Hear him: “The biometric voter registration is a complete replacement of the voters register compiled from 2004 to 2010,” he started. He went on: “As a result, all previous registrations and existing voter ID cards will no longer be valid.” And so what? “All Ghanaian citizens who registered from 2004 to 2010 should therefore be registered anew to qualify to vote in public elections and referenda.” This is the crux of election 2012 in Ghana. The target audience of this piece is what is known as “common man.”
Fellow Ghanaians, sugarcane sellers, charcoal producers, illegal chainsaw operators, galamsay environmentalists, sweet-mothers of makola kingdom, truck pusher-instructors, palm wine tappers, agbeli kaklo manufacturers, tuozaafi gastronomy specialists, azonto acrobatic engineers, foot-soldiers, die hard politicians, book long academicians, latter-day media saints and brothers and sisters in grave digging industry, all protocol observed:
Please, listen with rapt attention to what the doyen and icon of modern Africa elections – Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan is saying ooo!!! The man is so simple and humble that when he talks - he does not repeat himself. So, pay attention to him now! Dr. Afari-Gyan is saying that, whether you have been voting since the day Adam and Eve were shown the red card by the Creator Himself to vacate the Eden Garden, or not; or whether you have just graduated from JSS at age 18, you will not vote in 2012 unless you go through a certain harmless initiation called BIOMETRIC VOTER REGISTRATION.
The implication is that all previous voter registration booklets and the existing voter ID cards in Ghana since Adam, Eve and the Serpent started pointing accusing finger at one another, will be null and void. It means that, henceforth, “No Biometric Registration, No Voting in Ghana.” The doctor of elections is saying that even if the Master Jesus the Christ himself comes down today, and does not present himself for biometric registration, he cannot and will not be allowed to vote in Ghana. Is that clear?
So, if you want to use your ‘kokroboti’ or your thumb finger as ‘AK47’ to show politicians where power lies, you must register as a Biometric Voter. Simple! Right now, all Ghanaians are starting from ground zero. Nobody is qualified to vote in December 2012 if the person does not register as biometric voter. This is the beginning of free and fair elections in Ghana. And Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan alone cannot guarantee this free and fair strategy except all Ghanaians.
So, what is this animal called BIOMETRIC? Well, I, too, didn’t know until Wednesday, 15th February 2012. The venue was the International Press Centre of Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) headquarters in Accra. It was there that under the auspices of Editors Forum Ghana (EFG) all the top notch journalists in Ghana went back to school to be taught by Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan. In fact, luminary editors like Madam Adjoa Yeboah- Afari, who is the President of EFG; Ambassador Karbral Blay- Amihere, Chairman, National Media Commission; Mr. Ransford Tetteh, President of GJA, Mr. Kwame Bright Blewu, General Secretary of GJA, just to mention a few, were all in that open-air classroom to learn at the feet of Dr. Afari-Gyan, what BIOMETRIC VOTER REGISTRATION is all about.
Dr. Afari-Gyan taught us that Biometric is not an animal at all. You remember a few years ago when the Ghana Education Service started the computerized selection of schools for Senior High students, and there was confusion galore, where some girls were posted to boys’ schools? At one of phone-in-calls, someone called on a radio station and asked why the Police would not go and arrest the computer who was posting girls to boys’ schools and vice versa? That caller thought computer was a human being sitting in some corner and causing unbearable pain to parents and their wards. Such a person, should not be ridiculed, but rather be assisted through public education. So, we should not wait until some of our electorate compatriots start taking a Biometric as an animal or a human being, before we sit up.
So, at the Editors Forum School, Dr. Afari-Gyan taught us that basically, a Biometric Voter Registration is simply a technology whereby computers, fingerprint scanners and digital cameras are used to capture the bio-data of applicants. In this context, applicants refer to prospective voters in Ghana. The doctor of elections told us that human beings’ fingerprints are unique to every individual. He explained that it is these unique features and other details that are stored in the computer from which the voters register is produced. That is why it is called Biometric Voter Registration. For example, even identical twins like the celebrated Tagoe Sisters may have fingerprints peculiar to each other.
Dr. Afari-Gyan told us that the actual biometric voter registration will start on 24th March and end on 2nd April this year. So, don’t let anybody deceive you to wait until next year. He told us that some evil-mined people have already started their diabolical activities by deceiving people, especially our brothers and sisters in the rural areas that if they go through the biometric registration, they would get cancer or HIV/AIDS. Please, this is a BIG lie. It is not true at all. If you listen to such people, you will not have the power to vote. And if you don’t vote, you will not be able to decide who should be your President or Parliamentarian in 2013. Remember your vote is your power!
Dr. Afari-Gyan explained that biometric registration will be carried out in four phases in all 10 regions of the country. That each phase will take only ten days including Saturdays and Sundays. So, Phase one is from 24th March to 2nd April. Phase two is from 4th April to 13th April. Phase three is from 15th April to 24th April and the last phase is from 26th April to 5th May, 2012.
Be it known that Ghana’s Electoral Commission has trained officers who will bring the biometric registration machines (kit) to a registration centre which is the same as the polling station near you. So, please, don’t rush to a polling station that is far away from you to register. This is important because, with the biometric registration, you can register only once and you can vote only once. If you register in your village and come to Accra or Kumasi to register again, the machine will detect you and reject your second registration. In fact, with the biometric registration, you cannot register on behalf of your grandmother, or grandfather, or your twin brother or sister. Everybody must be physically present to scan their fingerprints and take their digital photographs personally.
Now, when you get to the registration centre, the electoral officials will take you through four stages for the registration process. This is very simple, so, you don’t need to panic. There may be four tables. At table one, the officer will ask of your name, date of birth, age, sex, that is whether you are a man or woman, ( but if you are both man and woman, they will not ask you that question so, you must make your choice). Then they will ask your residential address or your house number, your parents’ names; even if your parents have left this earth and enjoying themselves in heaven, you must give their names; then your home town and finally the district in which your home town is located.
At the second table, all your ten fingers will be taken. The machine will not burn you so don’t fear. It will only scan the fingers like a photocopy machine. First, you put your four fingers of the right hand, followed by the four fingers of the left hand and the two “kokroboti” or thumbprints. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the ten fingers. You will be allowed to use those fingers that are available for the registration. Even if you don’t have any fingers at all, Dr. Afari-Gyan says you will not be disenfranchised, but there is a special way to make it possible for you to register and vote.
Then at the table three, your photograph will be taken with digital camera on the spot. It is this photograph that will be printed on your voter ID card and voters register. This is how you get a photo ID card to be inspected on the day of voting in December this year.
Now, at the table four, if your registration is completed without any problem whatever, you will only have to wait for a while and your voter ID card will be issued to you. This is how you become a Biometric Registered Voter. Before then, make sure you are a citizen of Ghana; you are 18 years and above; you have a sound mind in a sound body; you are a resident in an electoral area; you have not registered anywhere else; and above all you are the person you claim to be. No impersonation.
With this, man, you are qualified to take part in Ghana’s Mother of all elections in Africa 2012. And it will be a gargantuan election in the true sense of the word.
The Writer is Deputy Director IT at the Information Services Department in Accra
Friday, February 17, 2012
Friday, February 10, 2012
The theme for the occasion was “Sharing lessons for national development”.
In an address, the Deputy Minister for Communications, Mr Ernest Attuquaye Armah, said the Communications Ministry recognised the development and exploitation of Information & Telecommunication Technologies (ICT’s) that can facilitate sustainable livelihoods in deprived communities.
Mr Armah noted that the launch of the knowledge product will go a long way to open up the enormous opportunities in the three northern regions and other communities that have been identified under the programme.
The Deputy Minister acknowledged the need to integrate the new emerging economic order where information and knowledge are fundamental to achieving competitiveness, investments of human capacity and improved governance― leading to wealth-creation and national prosperity through the appropriate use of information and communication technologies.
In a brief statement delivered on behalf of the Chief Director of the Ministry of Information, Mr Mawutodzi Abissath, Deputy Director, ISD, in charge of ICT, said ICT has succeeded in transforming the entire globe into a miniature community and government welcomes any effort geared towards empowering the people, especially the poor in the rural communities, with any information that will help reduce poverty.
Mr Abisath said certain key issues that are at the heart of poverty problems in the communities have been identified, some of which, he said, include the lack of a system that channels relevant information on resources available to support community developments, to communities that require and can use such information.
Another key issue, he said, is the difficulty in finding relevant online content for rural Ghanaians. “Although there is a great deal of information from development partners, civil society organisations, extension services providers, most of this is not available online or electronically”, he stressed.
Mr Abissath disclosed that the Ghana Development Information Portal (GDIP) branded www.tsoboi.com have been designed as a one-stop shop for accessing and sharing locally-relevant development information content.
He said the GDIP is linked to the Government of Ghana Portal www.ghana.gv.gh which is being managed by the ISD, the contents of which, he said is expected to feed into Community Information Centres (CICs) established by the Ministry of Communications across the length and breadth of the country.
The SRLP, implemented in Ghana by Africa 2ooo Network-Ghana, was established by the UNDP in partnership with the Government of Ghana as a potentially-effective approach to tackle poverty by increasing productive capacity.
Source: ISD (Tally Asiedu)