Every Ghanaian is entitled to freedom of association, according to the 1992 constitution of Ghana, and that is why citizens are free to join any of the numerous political parties in the country.
However, the freedom to belong to whatever political party that appeals to you, obviously, does not mean citizens must become so absurdly loyal that they always support just any view of their political parties irrespective of how radical they are and clearly not in the interest of the nation.
The same constitution that granted citizens the freedom of association equally enjoins them to put the national interest at heart and prioritise it over partisan political interest.
Ghana is getting polarised along political lines and leaders of political parties are seen as ‘gods’ whose views must not be challenged.
This unfortunate trend is the bane of Ghana’s development, because everybody is looking at what will make their political party win elections and get entrenched in power.
The latest case in point which is a big test of patriotism is the ongoing debate about the exclusion of voters’ identification card from the Ghana card registration process.
While the government in power argues that the sanctity of the process may be compromised if the voters’ ID card is included, saying non Ghanaians may exploit the system to get registered, the main opposition National democratic congress belies otherwise.
They are of the view that, majority of Ghanaians do not have the Ghana passport and birth certificates which the National Identification Authority (NIA) says are the only authentic proof of nationality to make one eligible to register for the Ghana card.
The New Patriotic Party government and the NIA’s response is that, those who do not have the two requisite cards could be vouched for by relatives who may have had the opportunity to register already, by way of authenticating their nationality.
However, the NDC does not believe that is sufficient to mitigate their fear that the process may denationalise many citizens.
Obviously, the two major political parties who have been running the affairs of this country since 1992 do not trust each other, probably because they know each other and what they have done in the past and what they are still capable of doing.
What is key to note is that, one of the two major parties must be fighting for the national interest, while the other is doing same for partisan parochial interests.
It then behooves the ordinary citizen to discern between the two arguments and make a patriotic choice as to which of the parties is making a valid argument and for that matter needs the support of every meaningful Ghanaian.
At the end of the day, the state funded Ghana card registration process must be worth the value of taxpayers’ money being invested in it.
Interestingly, when former president Rawlings got registered for the Ghana card, the media was replete with headlines suggesting that he betrayed the party he founded by not boycotting the process in solidarity with the NDC’s stance.
Fearing backlash from his party, he is reported to have said subsequently that his registration did not mean that he supported the process, saying the concerns of those who are critical about the exclusion of the voters’ ID card should be considered.
Is that not hypocritical and probably selfish? If Mr. Rawlings thought the way the government and the NIA are going is appropriate and serves the national interest for which reason he did not join the protest against the process, but conveniently registered for it, why not confidently stand by his stance even if it defies the stance of his party?
Again, if indeed, former president Rawlings thought that the NDC is fighting for a good cause that is aimed at protecting the interest of majority of Ghanaians who they claim are at the risk of being denationalised, why did he not boycott the registration to support the fight for the national interest?
Would it then not be selfish of the former president to have his Ghana card, while many other Ghanaians are denied nationality as the NDC is claiming?
Excessive partisanship or fear of criticism must not make people of Rawlings’ caliber who are considered by many as an authority sit on the fence, while the national interest suffers.
Now, when it came to the turn of Rawlings’ successor, former president Kuffour, he was bold enough to state his position clearly without any fear of betraying his party which is the incumbent government.
When asked whether he thought the voters’ ID card should be made one of the means of proof in the Ghana card registration process, Mr. Kuffour is quoted as having emphatically said:
“The document that will help the citizen identify....as a citizen with the sovereign authority in him or her [is the voters' ID card]; so if the voters ID is not incorporated in [the Ghana Card registration] then when it comes to citizens going to make a government then where would [they] be?"
“How would you say you also have the ‘kokromoti power’ (right to vote) [which] will make and unmake a government? So the voters’ ID has to be part of it.”
Right after Mr. Kuffour expressed his view, the NIA issued a statement to reemphasise its position that, it is only following what is prescribed by the law regulating its functions.
It is however, very disappointing when former president Kuffour later made a sharp U-turn from his earlier unambiguous stance that the voters’ ID should be included in the process.
Apparently, some party executives must have rebuked the former president and pressurised him to vary his earlier position.
Mr. Kuffour issued a statement which says: “The former president wishes to make it known that all that he called for was for all Ghanaians to take part in the exercise, and that if any group feels that the processes are defective, they should take part and protest from within in due course.
“Former President Kufuor would want to make it abundantly clear that he does not in any way call for the substitution of a voters’ ID card for either a Ghanaian passport or a birth certificate in establishing Ghanaian identity in order to register for an NIA Ghana card.
“He does not under any circumstances impugn the authority of the NIA to determine the basis of one’s proving one’s citizenship to register for the Ghana Card, as he is satisfied that the NIA is doing so in accordance with the enabling legislation passed by the sovereign parliament of Ghana.”
What is baffling about the former president’s so-called clarification is whether at the time he advocated for the inclusion of the voters’ ID card he was oblivious of the fact that the NIA is conducting the Ghana card registration process “in accordance with the enabling legislation passed by the sovereign parliament of Ghana”.
If he was convinced that the opposition NDC is justified in its protest against the exclusion of the voters’ ID card why did he have to change his stance for partisan political interest?
Do we have to always sacrifice the national interest on the altar of partisan political interests?
When it comes to issues that have to do with the welfare of Ghanaians and the progress of the nation, there must be a bipartisan analysis of the issues to adopt a common path regardless of which political party is in power.
Thankfully, some concerned citizens have resorted to the Supreme Court to challenge the process. All fingers are crossed in anticipation of what the highest court of the land will decide for Ghana.