Despite fears of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, Ghanaians in the thousands, yesterday stormed out of their homes and joined long queues at various polling centres across the country as the Electoral Commission (EC) begins registration of eligible voters for the December 7, 2020 general elections.
The enthusiasm and anger with which many came out to participate in the exercise, breached the laid down coronavirus protocols at the registration centres, particularly refusing to wear facemasks and ensure social distancing, suggest that this year's elections,, will be keenly fought; either many want Akufo-Addo government maintained or want a change of government.
There were also various incidences at some centers, as well as constituencies.
For instance, the Gbegbeyise Junior High Schools (JHS) at the Ablekuma West Municipality in Accra as hundreds of people without face mask, queued in close proximity to each other. At Have in the Volta Region, reports were that registration equipment delayed in many parts of the town, thus delaying the exercise.
In the Bortianor Ngleshie Amanfrom Constituency, Sylvester Tetteh, the New Patriotic Party's (NPP) parliamentary candidate was taken on by the opposition National Democratic Congress' (NDC) parliamentary candidate for the same Constituency, Alexander Ackuoko, for using his private car to convey registration materials to registration centres.
At Ayawaso North Constituency, there were reports of the registration exercises happening in the NPP offices where forms were being filled by people before they are sent to the various centers to tape their pictures and have their biometric features taken.
They had, days before the opening of the registration been seen in the NPP offices filling forms they had claimed were Tax Identification Numbers (TIN) , but it has turned out to be EC registration documents.
The story was not different at the Ayawaso Central Constituency. Sheik I.C Quaye, former Greater Accra Minister and ex-NPP Member of Parliament (MP) for the area, was reported to be bussing people who had massed up in his house to the various registration centers. It was not clear, if they also had their registration forms already filled ahead of the exercise.
In the Ketu South Municipality, EC officials at the Akuse Park electoral registration center, struggled to control the scores of residents who have stormed the center for registration. The residents jostled over positions in the queue.
In the Asutifi South Constituency, the NDC MP, Collins Dauda, was reportedly attacked yesterday morning, whilst monitoring processes at some registration centers at Acherensua, a town in the Asutifi South Constituency in the Ahafo Region.
Alhaji Dauda, was at the Methodist Primary School registration center at Acherensua, when he was confronted, unprovoked, by a man who took out a bottle of pepper spray and spurted directly into his eyes.
But for the intervention of police personnel, who were present at the time of the incident, and rushed him to a health facility he said, things could have been bad.
Other media reports were that more than half of the applicants are without facemasks and not adhering to social distancing just outside the cordoned area. "Anything that happens outside its [EC] circle is none of their business, noting protocols are enforced, only when one is allowed into the cordoned area.
Students of the Gbegbeyise JHS, were said to be at risk contracting the deadly coronavirus, as they have had to battle with the crowd to gain entry to the school compound. Although the EC, had assured no polling center will share space with students that is not the case at Gbegbeyise JHS.
From the Odododiodio Constituency also in Accra, a stronghold of the NDC, reports were that registration started late in all 15 polling centres in the area."Voters are agitated as registration officials say they are yet to be communicated to on what is causing the delay."
But the situation is, however, different at the Effia and Kwesimentsim constituencies in the Western Region controlled by the NPP, the exercise commenced smoothly at the various registration centers with reports that"there are enough PPES and health protocols to ensure there is no possible infection. Nurses from the Kwesimentsim government hospital are also at the centers to ensure that applicants comply with all health protocols."
At most of the centers, there are markings on the ground to ensure that the two- meter distance rule is strictly obeyed, indicating that "There are also caution tapes separating the applicants from the main point of registration".
A resident of Effia, Salifu Adiza, who just acquired her card told 3news.com that she is happy that she will be able to vote in the upcoming general elections."I spent less than 6 minutes here. I did not encounter any problem and the officers are also friendly" she said.
In the Ketu South Municipality, although, the Ketu South Constituency has a total of 254 polling stations, only few undertook the exercise on Day 1 and phase 1 of the exercise. As results, residents out of anxiety massed up at nearby centres to register.
There was a Veronica bucket and health officials deployed at the Akusa Park, to screen the applicants, but adherence to the social distancing protocol is poor as the electoral officials struggle to control the enthusiastic crowd.
There is no security presence at the Akusa Park registration centre, the situation was same at the Global Church and the Old Timber, except for the Old Timber market registration center where there was one police officer.
Ketu South, has become topical in the build of the registration exercise after reports military deployment to the area. The area is seen as the stronghold of the opposition NDC.
There were also issues about the new outlook and quality of the voters' ID which the EC budgeted some GHÃÂ¢390. 265, 486 for. Many seem not to be satisfied with the new ID with most people describing the card as "substandard".A picture of the new card has been making rounds on social media, some new features can be identified on the "plastic laminated card".
Some citizens who seemed not impressed with the entire outlook of the voters ID card criticized the EC adding that they expected more from them considering the massive opposition that surrounded the new compilation.
"I think it should have been done like the Ghana card, this one if it falls into water it will spoil," a concern citizen wrote on his Facebook page.Another wrote, "they couldn't trim the edges well, why?" on the back of that another social media user replied that "they used blade to trim it".
"The design is not nice. We need to change the design; it should be PVC card not the old paper laminated way." But some persons have also jumped in defence of the EC. One comment read, "It's all about the QR code, once it's scanned you can be identified. It is not about the lamination".
"The difference is not in the card", another wrote.The exercise is expected to last from June 30 to August 6, 2020.
In the Bortianor Ngleshie Amanfrom constituency, Mr Ackuoko raised a protest against the transportation of EC materials in the NPP candidates private car because the EC had indicated that it was well prepared for the exercise.
"While I was going round, I saw an NPP-branded Pickup rat one of the centres and they said they carried the EC's logistics to the centre but I said: 'No. It cannot be done'. This is the work of the EC, the EC has said they are fully prepared for the exercise and, so, NPP's car cannot be the one to be bringing logistics and materials to the centres. This is not right," he told The Don.
But the NPP candidate said he sees nothing wrong with his private car being used to convey registration materials of the EC to registration centres, as part of the voter ID card registration exercise.
Sylvester Tetteh, told Kwabena Prah Jnr (The Don) on the Ghana Yensom show on Accra 100.5FM yesterday that all the political parties are expected to help the EC carry out the exercise hence, he cannot be faulted for making his car available to the EC to convey its materials.
Mr Tetteh, who is also the CEO of the National Youth Authority (NYA), insisted "I am not even aware that my car is being used because I had just woken up from bed. I went round all the centres in the Constituency and, so, I slept very late last night. But I see nothing wrong if my car is being used. As political parties, we can help the EC to carry out its work."