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Feature Article of Thursday, 13 December 2012

Columnist: Sodzi-Tettey, Sodzi

Election Fever & Political Miseducation!

The morning after! That would be December 8.

The air would be awash with excitement as early results trickle in. Some giants in parliament would still be standing. Other giants in parliament would already have been swept away by the electoral hurricane. New giants in parliament would be born and all over the country, tears of joy and of sorrow will flow in equal measure. Some may appear on national television, red eyed, and baying for the blood of their opponents and of electoral officials. As the day wears on, a trend in respect of the Presidential results would slowly but steadily begin to emerge, and those who like America’s Mitt Romney, have not prepared a concession speech in anticipation of elusive victory, would begin to sweat in strange places.

To concede with dignity or to play the stubborn cat?

The above will be borne on the wings of a vibrant press that has assumed organic dimensions in response to a rapidly changing electoral terrain. Technology is the buzz word now and in a massive almost military operation, journalists from print, electronic and now cyber will track every incident with beady eagle eyes in a massive 24 hour operation. Incidents would be reported in real time through the night: flawless processes, macho men-induced electoral-box snatching episodes, sporadic disputes, shortage of materials, would all be captured. The phenomenon of the Ghanaian macho man’s role in electoral shenanigans may diminish somewhat in 2012 if recent ‘confessions and recantations’ in the press are anything to go by. It would appear that no one is prepared to die needlessly for another to come and enjoy!

In 2008, I recall television footage of a man physically prying both eyes open in defiance of sleep after a 24 hour call duty at the polling station ostensibly to prevent a 2004 phenomenon when on his return to the polling station, his previously winning candidate had lost with misery! This is the exciting stuff of which Ghanaian elections are made and the reason why many would not miss it for anything. In 2000, I almost did with an impending travel but for the magical word ‘Proxy’.

These days, some press houses utilize digitalized graphics with touch screen technology which bring field happenings to life. As results trickle in from the army of journalists deployed, the analysis continues fast, furious and unabated. Vigilance becomes the watchword as the watchmen watch the watchmen. At crunch time in 2008, anytime particular websites suspiciously changed electoral results, it would promptly be reported on radio till in one case, the website finally halted proceedings. Eyes were watching and there was nowhere to hide!
This was certainly a far cry from 1992 when my mother and I lived out our own election night fever of that first election. For reasons not immediately obvious to me now, we set up our own election centre, thinking we could conduct our own compilation and analysis for the entire nation! On paper! We secured reams of paper and as the results came through, started a data entry process! Of course we got nowhere as sheer fatigue took over. We laughed. We cried. But we enjoyed every bit of the process. There was this particular panel on Ghana Television that left an indelible impression on me with their pervading decorum and sheer depth of their rich and intellectually stimulating analysis. It was a discussion, the like of which I have not seen in a very long time and had Dr. Yaw Graham, Dr. Tony Aidoo and if I am not mistaken, Prof. Mike Ocquaye in attendance. The richness of their conversation was not the stuff of which the insults and shouting match to which we are subjected these days by some pretenders was made. Two days ago, I heard an analyst on Oxy FM threatening to slap and burn with petrol and a match anyone he estimated to be offending the electoral laws!

In 1996, Apostle Kwadwo Safo mounted an electronic screen at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle to beam election results while the electoral commission opted for a huge ‘blackboard’ on the High Street in Accra. With the latter, results were painstakingly entered by a chalk-bearing man borne on a steady ladder. Curious sons and daughters of men watched with rapt attention!
How our electoral processes have grown!
From elections in 1992 with defunct (bloated was the word!) electoral registers to new registers, from non-photo voter identity cards through photo- identity cards for selected parts of the country to photo-id cards for everyone, Ghana has used the opportunity of every election experience to continuously improve our system till today, we have gone fully electronic with biometric voting holding the trump card. Hopefully, we have seen the death of voter turnouts in excess of 100%!
I actually feel very proud and thankful to be Ghanaian. Indeed it was this thankfulness that led me to perhaps, over enthusiastically, embark on a civic education exercise involving six year old Aseye and four year old Che.
“So, people, do you know Ghana is going to have elections this year?”
“What is that?” Che asked.
“We are going to choose someone to be President. There are many people at this point who want to be President.”
“Papa, if they choose you as the President, who will be our father?” asked Aseye.
“Aseye, I am not one of those trying to be President, so I will continue to remain your father.”
At this point, Nana Akufo-Addo’s billboard came into full view. Ghana is not poor and that it is only bad leadership that has made Ghana appear poor, he said. Pointing to this billboard, I explain to my audience that “Akufo-Addo is one of the leading candidates to be President …”
In due course, another billboard shows up and pointing to it, I ask, “Who is that?”
“John Dramani Mahama” says Aseye.
“Yes, that is President Mahama”
“But Papa, President Mahama is dead”
“No he’s not. It is President Mills who is dead.”
“President Mahama is dead. He was sick. They took him to the hospital and he died. Nanaa told me” intoned Aseye at her critical best.
“That can’t be correct. So who is the President of Ghana now?”
“John Dramani Mahama!” they both chorused.
“I hope you both recognize that there is a difference between President Mills and President Mahama. It is President Mills who died. John Dramani Mahama became the new President.” When I do not get any robust response, I am quite happy to assume that I have successfully cleared the cobwebs in their heads. I suspend the lesson till the eve of the election when I pick them from school and notice some unusual excitement.
On further inquiry, Aseye screams, “Tomorrow, we are not going to school” to which Che responds, “I know! Papa and Mummy are going to vote!”
“So will small small people vote?”
“No. you have to be 18 years old.” At this point Che adds, “Papa is 16” to which his sister retorts, “No Che. 18 is more than 16!”
After a brief pause, they waste no further time as they aim for the jugular.
“So, Papa, will it be NDC or NPP?” Even these nyakapups (apologies to Kyekyekule) have it narrowed down to a two horse race. NDC or NPP? That is the million dollar question to be answered in the glorious morning after!
Sodzi Sodzi-Tettey
www.sodzisodzi.com
sodzi_tettey@hotmail.com
7th December, 2012

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