For the defenders of the Electoral Commissioner Madam Charlotte Osei, please give us a break because it’s not even that serious, as Americans would say. It has been said that “where ignorance is a bliss, it’s foolish to be [the wisest]” among the pack. More important, it is worth reminding ourselves or telling those who may not know that the most effective way to put an irreparable dent into an armor of ignorance is through rigorous education. Really ignorance is a terrible disease!
Hence, it is not surprising that a host of Ghanaians home and in diaspora, especially the entrenched cheerleaders of the Electoral Commissioner Ms. Charlotte Osei, have been excitingly embarking on a victory lap in response to the news that the EC is the recipient of “International Women of Courage Award.” First of all, to be fair to Madam Osei, she needs to be congratulated for receiving the US Department of State’s “Woman of Courage Award.” Indeed an award for anyone, irrespective of its purpose or global prestige, is a representation of some form of an achievement.
However, the cold truth must be told so all those people blindly singing “hosanna songs” for Madam Charlotte Osei may be advised that the “Women of Courage Award” has nothing or very little to do with the EC’s managerial competence. The downright ineptitude that has manifested itself, among others, into widespread reported cases of corrupt practices at the Electoral Commission office speaks a great deal to inefficiency. Ms. Osei may be aware of this cold fact but it seems like most of her uninformed fans have mistaken the award for recognition of her competence at the nation’s elections bureau.
The International Women of Courage Award traces its genesis from 2007 when then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice establishes it as an annual event which coincided with the International Women Day. The award “recognizes women around the globe [probably except US] who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk” (www.state.gov/s/gwi/iwoc/2017).
In line with the preceding, it can be noticed that Madam Charlotte Osei might have been selected for the US Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award by virtue of her high-profile position as Ghana’s first female Electoral Commissioner—a development that aligns with the concepts of “gender equality, and women’s empowerment.” Let’s bear in mind the citations that accompany the EC’s award never says anything about her job performance so far nor her moral compunction.
In other words, the Women of Courage Award is mostly awarded to women who have been playing pioneering role or are strong advocates of human rights, prisoners of conscience, gender equity, women empowerment, and other societal issues concerning women, especially those living in non-Western countries.
No wonder if one takes a close look at the past and present recipients of the award, they’re made up of women from countries such as Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Nigeria, Mali, Niger, Guinea, Sudan, DRC, Iran, Cuba, and many other so-called Third World nations struggling with democratic rule. As far as the award goes, it is also important to realize that every American embassy around the globe has an option/right to choose one woman per year in the country of its operation for the Woman of Courage Award.
On that basis, this present writer can bet his last dollar by firmly stating that Ghana’s Electoral Commission chairperson is given the award based on the recommendation of the US Embassy in Accra. It is highly unlikely those in the corridors of power in Washington DC have any prior knowledge of Ghana’s EC without the input of the US Embassy here in Ghana. This is because how many average Americans here know anything or even the location of Ghana let alone the country’s EC, Ms. Charlotte Osei?
In March this year the US First Lady Melania Trump awarded the Women of Courage Award to over 11 “courageous” women among them was one of the youngest activists and prisoners of conscience Rebecca Kabugho of Democratic Republic of Congo. Does anyone sincerely believe Mrs. Trump knows anything about Ms. Kabugho and her country of DRC prior to giving out the award? Certainly, it is the US embassy in that nation’s capital which selects the potential recipients for the award, because each embassy is more familiar with the prevailing events in that host country.
The point is even if Ms. Charlotte Osei is awarded the most prestigious Nobel Prize, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is an acknowledgement of her job performance or how best she is managing the state resources at her disposal as Electoral Commissioner. From several news media accounts, including those from her own deputies, we now know more than ever before that Ms. Osei has presided over corruption and mismanagement at the Electoral Commission office. Also, she appears to have limited understanding of what constitutes “independence” of a state organization like Electoral Commission which explains her hesitation or unwillingness to cooperate fully with parliament, as the need arises.
So for all the gullible backers of the Electoral Commissioner, don’t get too carried away by the award for your idol. Just keep in mind the US State Department’s International Women of Courage Award is not specifically created for women in high position of state responsibilities or for their ethical lapses. The fact is, Jennifer Louise Williams of Zimbabwe in 2007 and Henriette Ekwe Ebango from Cameroon in 2011, were all given the ”Women of Courage Award” based on their sociopolitical activism as opposed to holding any public position.
This is not to downplay the significance of the “Women of Courage Award” per se. But for those Ghanaians who are making a big deal out of Madam Charlotte Osei’s choice for the award, it is not a vindication of her managerial skills or moral uprightness. It also shows a complete misunderstanding and ignorance of US interstate relations in the context of “democratic peace theory.”
This writer ascribes to the non-conspiracy school of thought. By the same token, he shares the view that if the former ruling NDC government under Mr. John Mahama had won reelection, probably it is unlikely the current EC Ms. Charlotte Osei would be given the US State Department’s International Women of Courage Award.
At any rate, regardless of the award, Ghanaian taxpayers deserve to know how the EC and her deputies are spending the people’s hard-earned money at the EC office. The award to her doesn’t change anything.
Author: Bernard Asubonteng is US-based social critic; send your comments to him: firstname.lastname@example.org