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Feature Article of Saturday, 24 November 2012

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Jesters, runners and a hot race with destiny

By George Sydney Abugri

Whenever I am compelled by this thing called political correctness to beat about the grasses and shrubs in order not to cause offense, my conscience suffers some disquiet so darned it, Jomo, I have no alternative than to respectfully place the eight candidates who each would be Ghana’s next president under three headings:

The incumbent, the incumbent’s nearest and most powerful contender and the candidates who unless they are inclined to play children’s games adults choose to play, are aware that they have no realistic expectation of becoming president number seven on December seven.

For all they have been worth in terms of possible influence on voter choices and likely impact on the elections, the so called presidential debates hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs have come and gone. The second televised debate on Wednesday night brought the candidates up close for public scrutiny for the last time.

The apparently most popular candidate in both debates, I dare say, was paradoxically the candidate I suspect, scored the least on the score sheets: To some people, People’s National Convention presidential candidate Mr. Hassan Ayariga is a very smart young man who to the puzzlement of many, materialized out of nowhere and managed to snatch the party’s presidential candidature from known and politically more experienced individuals.

Those least charitable to him think he is a political clown of sorts who could justifiably stake a claim to having given the televised debates some entertainment value.

Having complained to the IEA about an irritating cough the day before the debate, the PNC presidential candidate had an excellent excuse to rock Wednesday night’s televised debate every few minutes with exploding coughs many suspect, were feigned as part of a grand act best placed in the realm of the weird.

Yet others think that far from being a political jester, the man could be in cahoots with the NDC to try and pull off an electoral coup.

Candidate Ayariga’s throwing jibes at and digging into the ribs of NPP presidential candidate Nana Akufo-Addo during the debate was viewed by some as evidence of the suspected clandestine collaboration. It is all speculation of course, old chap. Mere speculation.

One opinion about Convention People’s Party candidate Dr. Michael Abu Sakara is that he sounds idealistic somewhat in his vision for national development and progress. Methinks he is the president Ghana will never get on account of the unlikelihood of the CPP coming to power any time pretty soon.

Anyhow, it is now less than a fortnight to December 7 and the front runners’ hearts must be racing like comets through space. We are bracing ourselves for the high voltage electricity that will inevitably charge the air the moment the first voter has cast a ballot and subdued excitement, tension and some apprehension take over.

In the meantime, apparently now well and truly fed up that every Jack in the street has made a pastime of dragging him to court morning noon and night as if for sheer sport, the Electoral Commissioner has turned the tables on his tormentors and is dragging Mr. Nobody to court.

His is one of the most bizarre cases in the history of elections in Africa: Believe it or not, Dr. Afari-Gyan’s own EC it was which registered toddlers to vote. Surely even a bat-blind registration official stoned to the bone can see that he is taking the photograph of a toddler crawling on all fours and not an adult.

Yet Dr. Afari-Gyan this week exhibited at a meeting with parliamentary candidates in the Volta Region like prized trophies the EC had won, Voter ID cards bearing the photographs of children who cannot be older than six.

Dr. Gyan apparently foresees the possibility of chaos and violence should officials and party representatives try to stop the toddlers from voting. What technical reasons would they advance for stopping little human creatures with valid voters’ cards from voting? That they don’t look like adults?

So Dr. Gyan is heading to court to ask a judge to declare the infants he registered as voters ineligible to vote! Wacky, Jomo. Incredibly wacky to the chore.

The incumbent and his neck-to-neck contender? We have no doubt that they have prepared adequately enough to each give the other a splendid sprint for his cedis, so that a straight and fair win spares us disputes or even a tension-driven second ballot with the potential to ruin Christmas.

First the incumbent: Sworn into office to replace his late predecessor only four months to the end of his party’s term, he has had to cram a year’s campaign into the last quarter of the election year.

It has meant driving his campaign with near super human physical and emotional endurance, a non-stop, rigorous, taxing and quite killing trek back and forth across the country’s entire land mass along all four compass points.

His has been probably, the most punishing presidential campaign ever in our electoral history. The human body can only take so much in extreme punishment and then something must give physiologically and it probably just as well, that the mantel to lead the NDC in four months to the next election did not fall on a much older candidate.

The incumbent’s potential Nemesis: Nana Akufo-Addo’s campaign which has taken him to many of the areas where his closest contender has gone vote-hunting with a singular hunger, has not lacked vigour of its own, although it has been comparatively more measured.

Thanks to the colossal and unrelenting media and propaganda over-hype and its own very contentious nature in the very first place however, Nana Akufo-Addo’s free senior high school education pledge has all but eaten up his other very important campaign messages.

Sober, calm, outgoing: That was Alhaji Aliu Mahama the former Vice-President of the mighty republic who walked off into the sunset at 66 this week.

The late former Vice-President was the Northern Regional Manager of the now defunct state builder, the State Construction Corporation when I was the Northern Regional Editor of the Graphic in 1982. The Regional Photo Editor Mr. Anthony Tawiah was a friend of Alui’s, so Tony and I made a past time of raiding Alui’s office at our fancy. He was the kind of official some journalists often refer to as a friend of the press.

The last time I met the late Vice-President was early in 2003 in his office at the presidency in the presence of his then Special Assistant, Mr. Andrews Awuni.

Appalled by the lawlessness and chaos in the capital, the late Vice-President embarked upon a project to use public education about civic responsibility, to try and rein in a city gone stark mad.

One of his campaign adverts on television had a street lunatic take to an apparently sane man who was pissing in the street, with hefty strokes of a stout cane. Those who may want to revive his campaign in his memory, could carry on the war from that perspective, yah? Website: www.sydneyabugri.com/web georgeabu@hotmail.com editing@sydneyabugri.com

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