It started like a simmering fire. We could not put it out. Now the fire has engulfed our touted independent and respected institution, the Electoral Commission (EC) of Ghana. The damage has exposed the institution badly and thus threatening the once strong reputation it held. So, who will be the Fire Service here?
We have woken up this week with one huge troubling news item, may be gargantuan is the best word to describe it. The news has cast our Electoral Commission (EC) in an embarrassing light. The media once again, has succeeded in setting the agenda, taking our minds off from army worms that are destroying hundreds of acres of farms.
Our minds have momentarily been shifted from the galamsey menace that does not seem to be going away any time soon. Earlier this week, it was reported that a caved in abandoned galamsey pit in the Ashanti Region had claimed four lives.
The rains are in and floods are causing havoc in the Northern regional capital. As at the time of going to press, four lives have been lost, properties destroyed and people displaced. It is a quieter news. Rather, the hot news wherever one turns to is about the EC and how its three top officials are throwing mudsling at each other. They are fighting not behind closed doors but in the public space. Why would anyone in such a respected position decide to come out to wash his or her dirty linen in public?
All is not well
By now, every citizen and of course the world know that all is not well and has not indeed been well at the EC. The melee that has erupted at the EC between its Chairman and her two deputies can be described as a playground fight between some pupils with punches, showmanship and cat-calls thrown at each other.
But no, though they may have a semblance of kids’ attack in the playground, it is adults occupying high-profile positions in a sensitive national institution at the forefront of our democracy who are throwing words at each other. They do not seem to have stopped to think through the repercussions of their actions on the institution they are supposed to be leading for and on behalf of the nation. Now there is too much in the public space and opinions are being formed by the day. In Public Relations practice, the EC is in a crises period. We need to call in the fire brigade.
Throughout the week, the EC’s waters have been muddied the more by the officials at the centre of the confusion. The accusations and counter accusations make anyone who cares about image and reputation management wonder as to what those at the centre of it all think they are doing. They are in fact not only subjecting their own personal reputation as distinguished professionals to the test but they are seriously bringing down the well-built and well-preserved image of our EC.
It would take a long while and no amount of crises management would restore the good image of the institution so badly dented by what is going on. The sad fact is that Ghana’s general election conducted in the past has become a benchmark for election administration for other African countries. Ghana’s EC has become a standard for others to follow. So why would anyone want to tarnish that credential for us?
At the centre of what is going on currently are issues of corruption, incompetence, abuse of power, irresponsibility, mismanagement, arrogance, insubordination, and all the intolerable descriptions not expected of public office holders. These are sad days for our respected institution.
Now, one is beginning to wonder what must be going through the minds of the foreign and local observer missions who spoke highly on preparations for and after the 2016 elections in particular, based on some of the accusations one is gathering.
As beautiful and enjoyable as Ghana is, such unfortunate incidents involving institutions that we need to build on in order to enrich our democracy indeed make one weep for the nation. Why would anyone want to take a whole nation on such a suicidal ride? What about the hard-won reputation and respect that the nation has built around the EC? Why should it take a few people to destroy such hard won reputation for public institutions of good repute?
And one wonders whether after all that has been put out there in the public domain, the Minority group in the nation’s Parliament are still bent on their assertion to resist any attempts by the government to send the Chairman of the EC home? Are they still sensing a political hand in what is going on at the EC? By now, it must be clear to all that there are real issues at the EC and at the very top management level, there is a real clash that would stand in the way of effective management.
The sad case at this stage in our development is that we are looking at everything with political lenses. Can beautiful Ghana move on with the kinds of posturing that we tend to adopt sometimes concerning issues that hinge on the development and image of the country? What is going on at the EC is regrettable, issues have gone viral and we need to salvage the institution at all cost by allowing the three top management officials to give way for work to go on.
In any corporate institution, as corporate Ghana is, the image tarnishing of the institution by any manager, especially when it assumes the proportion this EC issue has taken and it begins to give the institution bad press, separation is what is considered as the route to go. Preserving a corporate reputation and in this case, saving what is left, is paramount in any crises management.
Those involved in the EC fighting must remember Ghana has a bigger name to protect than the three of them put together. Ghana should not continue to suffer credibility and image loss. It would be too costly if we do not bring things to an end sooner and that means all three of them stop talking, step aside and give way for investigations to be conducted so we can begin the process of cleansing our EC.
…with Vicky Wireko-Andoh (email@example.com)