Several friends have opined that the way to get Ghana out of its hopelessly partisan lock jam is for an independent candidate to run and win the presidential elections.
I have listened and laughed. ‘He who calls the eye of a crab “a piece of stick,” is but a child.’ Here are my 12 reasons for laughing:
- Nomination process
This requires that a candidate procures the signatures of two validly registered voters per constituency. 275 X 2 = 550.
That’s a major waterloo. If you don’t have a strong ground game in every constituency, ‘election-preneurs’ will take your money and get you some signatures of people you haven’t met from constituencies you haven’t visited yet, and then lace the list with fake signatures when they can’t find people to sign.
Note that the Electoral Commission vets each signature and then disqualifies candidates if anything untoward has happened.
In one matter that I was ‘infamously’ involved with, a candidate was disqualified because one of the nominators had registered twice! And by the time you are disqualified, the nomination period is over.
- Campaign and rallies
People just don’t show up at rallies anymore. You have to send a team days ahead to prepare the ground, canvas support, and whip out the attendance.
The days when people showed up simply because of music and noise are way gone. I am told of a rally at a park. Stage and PA system set up. Campaign music blaring.
By the time the candidate arrived, the only audience was a few sheep and goats eating the last patches of grass on the field.
- Election day
The solid ground game is more important on election day. There are roughly 35,000 polling stations.
Two reps per polling station, making it roughly 70,000 loyal, devoted and dependable reps/agent, trained in how to fill and sign the ‘pink sheets’ and raise objections where necessary.
And since no one is going to sit under the sun for 24 hours because of you, you have to pay and feed (breakfast, lunch and dinner) 70,000 people around the country.
If you provide a measly GH₵20 per head, that is GH₵1.5M for that alone!
4. Planted polling agents
If you do not find the loyal and devoted reps, the existing ‘big’ parties will plant agents for you, and then you will figuratively be ‘sleeping in your room with your feet [exposed] outside.’
A friend run for MP once. Late candidate, didn’t know the ground well. Almost all his agents were plants from his opponent.
They literally disappeared from the face of the earth on election night.
He did not get a single ‘pink sheet’ back, and had to rely on the announced ‘official’ results. He lost by a country mile and more.
- Election day ground game
The election day ground game is not limited to the polling station agents. You may need people knocking on doors to get your voters to go out to vote.
Several voters will require money to vote. I know candidates both in Ghana and elsewhere, who have databases of all voters in their constituencies, with phone numbers (momo registered) and how their perceived votes will go.
On election day they know who to send money to, so they go out to vote. They are the ones that tend to win.
In Philadelphia it is called ‘street money,’ ‘walking-around money,’ or more accurately, ‘get-out-the-vote money.’
In some places in Ghana that I am familiar with, it’s called ‘transport money.’ You have to send momo on election day or forget it. In fact, you can still send the money, and have to forget it too.
- Managing the results
When the count is done, your agents need to send you the results from the polling stations and then follow the officials to the constituency centre for collation. How will they send you the results?
For each polling station you may need to provide a smart phone with credit and data, and with a scanning app (Forget about getting the phones back.)
The agents will be required to send the results also to your reps at the constituency collation centre. Those constituency reps must be prepared to literally spend the night as the physical results come in. They will need the results from the polling stations to be able to compare with what comes in.
They snooze, you lose. They blink, you sink. A minute lost, an election gone.
- Collation at constituency centre
From the constituency centre the collated results go to the regional capital. Your 16 super agents there should be ready with the results that have been fed from the polling stations, through the constituencies, to the region, so that they can check with what arrives.
- Same victory chance
In effect, independent candidates and, indeed, candidates of the ‘small’ parties, have the same victory chance as the survival chance of an ice cube in hell.
Add to this the fact that the voting populace generally ridicules them, gives them 1% or so of the vote, and then laughs at them and calls them ‘insignificant.’
Let’s assume that the impossible happens and an independent candidate wins
- You cannot perform
That is when you will discover that our constitutional architecture is designed (wittingly or by default) to ensure that you cannot perform.
FACT: You cannot rule Ghana effectively without controlling majority of our Parliament.
Did you say ‘alliances’? Get real: they have to be traded, bought and paid for. A President without a majority in Parliament will be reduced to one who must ‘negotiate’ each bill and resolution, which will make all such issues truly ‘contractual’ and ‘transactional.’
Wink, wink, you catch my drift, hopefully. The ultimate loser would be Ghana.
- Run with full slew of MPs
So, an independent President might have to run with a full slew of MPs to stand the chance of governing.
Why won’t that candidate simply form a party, instead? Then we are back to the partisan issues that some complain about.
- Dynamics in Parliament
The ‘legendary’ will hit the fan when the independent President is required to appoint at least half of the ministers from a Parliament controlled by opponents, likely to be the two big parties whose sorry behinds and ashy derrières are still sore and raw from the kicking they received at the election.
Potential for constitutional crises: (i) the MPs could refuse to serve as ministers; (ii) MPs appointed may resign en-masse on one day to render the government unconstitutional; (iii) the independent President would be a sitting duck because supposedly confidential or privileged cabinet discussions would leak out and reach party headquarters and opposition press houses in real time, et several ceteras.
- Seeking constitutional interpretation
Then we are then likely to spend all our time before ‘The Bewigged’ in the Supreme Court seeking constitutional interpretation, and pushing the court into a ‘modern purposive interpretation’ of the phrase ‘the majority of Ministers of State shall be appointed from among members of Parliament.’
So, for those who think that the solution to Ghana’s problems is the perceived independent president, I am not holding my breath on that, since death from asphyxia is said to be very painful.
More importantly, your independent president is not in the game; in fact (s)he is not even at home watching the game on TV.
Written by Ace Anan Ankomah, Private Legal Practitioner