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Opinions of Saturday, 5 May 2012

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

FM radio and Jumping Jack’s machine

By George Sydney Abugri

Here is the final check list of the key components of my perfect plan for a peaceful and stress-free election, Jomo. It is really a short and not too demanding one at that, if you ask me: The Electoral Commission keeps to the very barest minimum, any cases of late delivery, non-delivery or delivery of defective equipment to polling stations.

Election officers, the police and other security personnel and mandated party representatives apart, no one has any business hanging around polling stations on Election Day. The moment the ballot paper sails down to the bottom of the ballot box, the voter quickly vanishes from the polling station in peace and in one piece.

Muscle-flexing macho men don’t exist or if they do, they have been disbanded by the national security establishment and no arguments, please…

Riot police armed to the gums and molars will bear down upon with maximum ferocity and promptly demobilize any unauthorized individuals moving around polling stations trying to start a third World War.

All political parties, but the NDC and the NPP in particular, each holds a pre-election Peace Day for party supporters where the horrors of war and the need for good conduct will be explained to them. They will be told not to steal ballot boxes or try snatching them and running off into the woods.

Vigilance remains the slogan for the power-thirsty. Any complaints or protests by party representatives and other authorized individuals and groups are filed through the processes prescribed by law for the resolution of election disputes.

The police perform their duties with such professionalism and impartiality that all across the political divide are left in no doubt about their political neutrality.

Transparency is made the watch word in the entire election process. Dot the “eyes” and cross the “tees”, Jomo, and we shall be on our way to pulling off an election that will leave the curious Americans gaping at us in disbelief…

Hey, we forgot about radio! Its instantaneous and massive reach across vast audiences puts radio streets ahead of print and television when it comes to information dissemination, news updates, emergency alerts and public warnings.

Sadly, from triggering off wars and armed conflicts to starting scares and hoaxes which have led to mass panic and deaths, the awesome reach and impact of radio and its potential use for destructive ends has also been demonstrated again and again.

Some radio stations have come under considerable criticism for providing bitterly opposing political rivals with platforms to do fierce verbal battle and promulgate the kind of messages with the potential to incite people to anger and violence.

While we are about the subject of radio as one of the potential threats to peace, let me let you into the nature of a few other antelope bones I have to pick with radio:

Sometimes you tune into a radio station and there is some great bam-bam music playing but you cannot hear a darned word of the song because the chap hosting the program insists on bellowing incoherently away like a choking toad on the lyrics as the music plays.

You whisper fiercely to yourself: Hey, shu-r-r-rup and play the darned music, buddy, but the DJ apparently convinced that his singing abilities apart, he has a skull crammed tight with much greater wisdom than old Solomon ever had, refuses to keep the lips over his gums for even half a second.

He keeps interrupting the music, talking loudly, needlessly and ceaselessly, promulgating all manner of weird personal philosophies of his own contrived conception, which many listeners are often not interested in.

Don’t go yet, Jomo. I have one or two more bones to pick with radio. This is the radio bashing season remember?

Let a radio station grow in popularity and cultivate a wide audience and the next thing you know, every single programme is preceded, followed or intermittently interrupted by a long list of dull, sometimes very dishonest announcements advertising all manner of goods and services.

You tune into a radio station and it is running a ten-kilometer long list of so-called adverts. In disappointment you tune into another and it becomes apparent that with this one, you will be condemned to hours of listening to the praises of everything from used computers to herbal concoctions of indeterminate origin and unverified efficacy.

How anyone could believe that radio listeners will keep the dial on one radio station listening to unending catalogues of these “advertisements” is the puzzle. You wonder why they do not spread them out across programme segments.

Its shortcomings notwithstanding, what would life be like without radio, Jomo? Besides, amid the war chanting all around, shrill and muffled pleas for peace have come so strongly from civil society groups and the clergy, that radio might now relent in the use of the medium for the promotion of hostility among political rivals as we approach December.

We might add that total fairness in news reporting and political commentary in the state-owned media will also contribute to a fair and peaceful election.

Would you employ and pay a bloke to spend his time criticizing you or casting your bitter rival in a positive light, Jomo? That makes fair and balanced election news coverage and commentary an uphill challenge for the state-owned media but fairness is not only possible but necessary.

In his May Day address this week President Mills warned for the umpteenth time, that the government would deal decisively with any attempts to cause electoral violence and chaos.

For all it is worth in terms of relevance, I might further add that the president also said with the migration of public service employees to the curiously-named Single Spine Salary Structure, his governent’s public wage bill had more than doubled. Meaning? Meaning his administration had “put more money in worker’s pockets” or so the president said.

I wish I could lie about my observation in this regard. I don’t know how to put it appropriately, Jomo, but many workers who turned up for the May Day parade looked…well, not exactly famished or scruffy but as if they could each do with a big meal and a few cedis in their pockets to cheer them up!

…And now, Jomo, I am off to promulgate my election peace initiatives with animation to all and sundry. For obvious reasons, I have code-named it Jumping Jack’s peace machine. Website: www.sydneyabugri.com Email: georgeabu@hotmail.com