The Speaker of the 8th Parliament, Rt. Hon. Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has urged the Electoral Commission ( EC) of Ghana to conduct the 2024 elections with integrity, transparency, and trust. He made this clarion call at the 8th Harmattan School, of the University for Development Studies, Tamale on Wednesday 7th February,2024.
Speaking as the Guest of Honor on the theme: Accountable governance, violent extremism and the 2024 elections, the Speaker urged the EC to prioritize the will and safety of the voter, and the stability of the country. According to him “The Commissioners of the EC and their entire Staff, whether permanent or temporary, must spare a thought for the sanctity of the electoral process, safety of the voter, the protection and security of political parties, and the stability of the country. Political parties should also play to the rules and regulations governing the voting process instead of taking rigid positions on issues. We have a nation to build in peace and we must all be committed to that”.
Touching on the theme, he indicated that, our present circumstance, particularly, the happenings in our sub-region, make the theme very apt. He stated that, the past three years have witnessed a series of military coup d’états in sub-Saharan African as well as pockets of extremism in the sub-region and this demand sober reflection to understand the causes and undercurrents that have given rise to these situations. According him, the challenges that result in military interventions which ultimately, curtail democratic processes can only be resolved when leadership is accountable to the people.
The Rt Hon Speaker stated that, the journey to accountable governance requires transparency in government’s decision-making processes, and access to information about government activities and policies. Quoting the American Actor Mike Erwin, to emphasis his point, he said “Exhibiting accountability over time is a gateway to trust. When we see someone acting with accountability, we gain the evidence we need to trust them.”
He further added that, accountability mechanisms that hold public officials responsible for their actions, the existence of strong legislative and independent oversight bodies, as well as a judicial system that is free from political interference are critical in demonstrating transparency and trust. Citizens must be encouraged and assisted to participate in governance through various forms of engagement to ensure that government policies are responsive to the needs of the people.
The Speaker indicated that, in today’s global geo-politics, violent extremism is becoming a great source of worry because of its linkage with terrorism and the significant threat it presents to global security. The reversals of democratic governance that have been witnessed in West Africa have come with some forms of extremism. “What it tells us is that if we do not remain steadfast on our democratic journey, we will soon get derailed by political extremists, who invariably have linkages with different shades of terrorist groups. The destabilization of our sub-region that will ensue will have very dire consequences for us all” he added.
Mitigating violent extremism
To control violent extremism, he stated that, education is a potent tool that helps build resilience and mitigates this phenomenon. It strengthens commitment to non-violence and peace by addressing hateful and violent narratives. Citizens engagement and participation in the issues that affect them also lowers violent extremism.
Besides, violent extremism can be linked to poverty, marginalization, and excessive politicization of national issues. Managing these through economic development, social inclusion, and political participation is in itself an exercise in managing violent extremism. It will also help to promote inter party dialogue, mutual understanding and tolerance among the different political groups.
The role of the media
The Rt Hon. Speaker admonished the media to demonstrate a high sense of responsibility, given the essential role they play in shaping public opinion about the fairness or otherwise of an electoral process. According to him” They must also be fair and equitable in news coverage for all political parties, and strive to uphold accuracy, objectivity and impartiality. Also, the media must avoid premature declaration of election results ahead of the official declaration by the EC as this can create tension and undermine trust in the electoral process”.
To the Political parties and their communicators, Mr. Speaker advised them to jettison indecent and abusive language on air, whilst leadership of the political parties advocate for tolerance and respect during the election period. The EC should work to attain transparency in its processes, and integrity in voter registration to build public trust. Civil society organizations (CSOs) should focus on preventing electoral violence and ensuring a free and fair processes.
He called on the nation to open our doors to the international community to support and monitor the 2024 elections as that enhances accountability and stability.
He again appealed to Ghanaians to be accommodating, considerate and loyal to the state instead of being excessively reactive in every little situation that arises. “Let us all rise up to the occasion and ensure a free, fair and transparent 2024 elections”.
The Rt Hon Speaker launched a $100,000 UDS Research Fund which is to provide financial resources in the form of grants to qualified people (faculty, staff, students, etc.) for purposes of conducting relevant (i.e., applied, problem solving and interdisciplinary) research for the socioeconomic development of northern Ghana and beyond. He made a personal donation of GHC 50,000.00. to as a seed money to the fund.