Many have been written and said about the validity or otherwise of the opposition party NPP’s assertion that our current voters register is an ECOWAS one. The Electoral Commission have opened the door to all parties to submit proposals and views on how best to resolve this issue. The deadline for this was on 22nd September, 2015 – if I remember correctly. Consequently I am not going to rehash any of the points that were raised in the fierce debates that emerged in the immediate aftermaths of the NPP’s press conference outlining the number of people being on both the Ghanaian and Togolese national voters register.
Throughout the hullabaloo of the discussions and heated exchanges concerning this issue, there was a simple observation I made: no individual, organisations or political party made proposals as to how to address the issue of a bloated electoral register in the long term. I am not discounting that proposals were made but my emphasis is on proposals for the long term. As far as I am aware (from reading online newspaper articles, watching news on TV and listening to the radio), this long term perspective was sorely missing from the discourse. Unfortunately the discourse was framed in such a short-sighted manner that the issue simply became:
Do we have a bloated (ECOWAS) voters register in Ghana?
a) Yes and so let us either make a new voters register or clean up the current bloated register
b) No, the current voters register is fine since there will always be one group or the other who will raise questions about the voters register even if we do a new one.
Both option a) and b) have some truth and contain some level of sound logic. However, I personally would have liked the debates to go beyond the question of how to get a quick and simple fix to our ECOWAS register before the next general elections of 2016. What we need in Ghana is a sound national registration/identification number that is as fail-proof as possible and this is the essence of my post. I want to think aloud as to how we could attain a system that will cut out under-age voter registration and reduces the chance of a repeat ECOWAS register in Ghana. In my mind such a system will even have to go a step further to prevent ghost names on Controller and Accountant General’s salary payment list and also help in government revenue mobilisation by reducing the possibility of tax evasion and avoidance.
I want to propose a system that will in the next 10-20 years ensure that we have a robust national identification system that reduces the chance of under-age voter registration and multiple registrations in the voters register. Not only will such a national identification system reduce voter registration fraud but it will also deal with pensions and any other state related programme like social welfare payments etc. Now, wait for it…..I am proposing that we adopt the Social Security and National Insurance (SSNIT) number system to be the foundation on which to build a national identification system. A SSNIT number has it all and if the database is secured and we get everyone enrolled on it there is less chance of anyone messing it up.
In the second part of this post I will detail why I think the SSNIT number is the best building block for a national identification system and how we can enrol every Ghanaian onto that system in the next 10-20 years. For now….write out your SSNIT number if you have one and see how it has all your essential details…..date of birth and sex.