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"Concede, if you lose," said Chief Annan


E. Ablorh-Odjidja

December 12, 2016

First, I must concede my delight on noticing what I thought was a bite of humor in the above pronouncement, in spite of the seriousness of the admonition. 

The statement was reported to have been made by Mr. Kofi Annan, the former Secretary General of the UN,  by ClassFM of Ghana on December 09, 2016.


It had been almost two days after the December 07 elections and the results were yet to be stated or confirmed by the officials at the Electoral Commission.


Some speculated that invisible hands at the Electoral Commission were holding back the report.

It was at this moment that Chief Annan said, “Any presidential candidate who loses in the December 7 elections must accept defeat without delay in order to calm tensions.”


In a sense, he was also urging a quick issuance of the final report on the elections.

What we are not assuming here is what Chief Annan knew at the time before he made the declaration.

But we can't help reading into his statement the humor: It was  plainly unavoidable. 


In these days of fast computer technology and computations, you couldn't have avoided noticing the absurdity buried in the long delay - and the stalemate created by the silence of officials who were positioned to know better.

Chief Annan is known for his sense of humor. Also known is his ability to be diplomatic when it is called for. He knows the history of contested elections and their consequent affairs, often of unsavory natures in Africa.

The last troubled elections in Ghana was in 2012. The potential strife was defused by the courts.


Peace prevailed only as the result of court decision.  And the NDC, the current administration, was able to continue in power, even though evidences revealed by the opposition, of tampering and poll manipulations, were as obvious as festooned flags.

But the victory was accepted by all and in not too a congenial manner; more of a concession for peace rather than warfare in the streets.

This time around, there was to be something different. 


The same opposition party, the NPP, that had contested bitterly the 2012 results in court, had glady no reason for going back to the courts in 2016.


And the NDC, the losing party this time, had also no chance for protest. And none for appearance in front of the justices of the court either. 


The results were stark clear when they were finally declared.


Something revelatory had happened leading to the announcement of the result this time around:  A political discernment in the conduct of electoral affairs that so far had been elusive to countries in Africa .


 In effect, the continent had gained a new reality:  That it was possible to police an electoral system successfully.


And this reality was stunning in the ease of its discovery.  How this happened was revealed in an article published by Africa Report on December 12, 2016.  ( How Ghana’s opposition won the election's data duel).


The NPP, the opposition, had set up on its own a separate but complimentary system for collecting electoral data on the results in real time, as the numbers came out from constituencies and regions in the country.


Thus the numbers that went to the Electoral Commission's system, at a separate and different location, were replicated legally at the NPP hub.


This made the numbers obvious and impossible for the parties in opposition to attempt to fudge; thereby, a sort of a Mexican standoff was produced.

However, the advantage was on the side of the opposition alone and it was in their new data collection hub. 


Hitherto the NPP, or any other party, had no such means to counter votes counted within the state Electoral Commissioner's system.

The new situation made it easy for the NPP opposition to know with certainty that they had won, just about when some 93% of the total votes had been counted.


They were, therefore, to call the results early.  The Mexican standoff was on!


The NDC was caught off-guard. 


The Electoral Commission went frozen.  Even if they had any inclination to fudge the numbers, they couldn't do so now.  Their computer screens were telling them the same story the NPP had just announced; a new reality they probably hadn't anticipated at this stage.  


So what did Chief Annan also know at this point in time?  It would be interesting to speculate whether he knew of the Mexican standoff before he made his statement.


But witness what was happening.


The NDC, the ruling party, refuted immdiately the NPP claim of victory while the Electoral Commission dallied.  Even though the Commission was to call the results later, the earlier numbers provided by the NPP would not change.

Meanwhile, the public, as usual, was caught in tense partisan stances that could possibly have resulted in nasty consquences in the streets.

But at the NPP headquarters, party members were elated.  Their own strategem for data collection had worked.  Victory was a certainty as early as after the midnight on election day. 


 Presumably, the feelings were not the same at NDC headquarters and at the offices of the Electoral Commission.  They were caught in the Mexican standoff.


So what to do next?

The problem for the Commission was the change in approach.  The NPP attitude created a different scenario than what had obtained in previous elections where the Commission had total control of the process.


The Commission had for years maintained a monopoly and control of the numbers, like Rome on the Bible before Luther.  Now what to do with the facts on the ground since they were known; bid time to fudge the numbers or declare victory for the opposition party?

Presumably, it was at this stage when Chief Annan issued his statement.

“Concede if you lose.” he said, perhaps with humor, a quality which would not be strange to his nature.


The humor was not exactly stated because it was best served in silence, sort of a mind game, so to speak.

Also implied in this humor was a tinge of the sarcasm that you could presumably have heard in a heated chess game: a slap with a piece on the board and the cry "checkmate"!

Point for us ordinary folks being, official Ghana must have known at this point,  72 hrs after the ballots came in, that the  game was over.  Either that or somebody was not playing fair with the result or trying hard to make the whole country look stupid again!

Soon after, and thankfully so, the results were announced and gracefully accepted by all parties in the contest.

So Ghana was in the clear this time and her image enhanced by the conduct of the 2016 elections.


She has also provided a significant electoral supervision model, a machine for how to frame the election results of a Third World country so that they could be seen by all interested groups as honest and fair.

Perhaps, the model can be used to prevent corrupt elections elsewhere in Africa and ought to be replicated across the continent.


At the same time, some caution:  Don't celebrate yet.

 We have seen enough at this stage of our history to compel us to be wary of seemingly congenial political outcomes in Africa. We have seen changes that we thought could work.  But there was always a slip in the transition.


We saw the hopeful transition from President Kufuor to President Atta Mills and then to President John Mahama.  


But no need now to bother anyone with the regression that followed after President Kufuor left office in 2009.


Our history is replete with few advances and many set backs.  And our ability to conjure up defeat in our moments of victory has also become legendary.


But the real story can be told in how we celebrate our little and big victories in the coming years.  The trend would tell whether we had turned the corner for the homestretch -  to civilized and matured reception of election results..


We can only hope for the best now.

E. Ablorh-Odjidja,Publisher, Washington, DC, December 12, 2016.

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