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Opinions of Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Columnist: Akuaku, Bennett

How NPP Contracted ‘Information Obesity’

I vividly remember that hot afternoon of June, 2010, when I walked into my doctor’s consulting room at the Holy Trinity Hospital at the North Industrial Area in Accra, to review my blood pressure and cholesterol-related condition. Little did I know I was on my way to getting a lead of my life.

The doctor (name withheld), after realizing from my clinic folder that I was a deputy editor with Western Publications, Publishers of Daily Guide, engaged me in what later turned out to be one of the most thought-provoking encounters I ever had in my entire career.

“Oh, so you guys led to the downfall of the Kufuor administration, huh? Thanks for bringing my party (NDC) to power through your actions and inactions”, he teased.

I at first did not get the import of what he was driving home until he went further: “Let me tell you this; if the Ghanaian media had painted the real picture to former President John Agyekum Kufuor by bluntly publishing some of the misdeeds of his ministers, the way you guys are now scrutinizing the Atta Mills administration, maybe he would have corrected some of the mistakes in his government, and probably not lost the 2008 general elections”.

I insisted that we did what we had to do, but the doctor pointed out that the chunk of the information we published were ‘soft punches’, much of which did not come in the right dosage to prompt the president to ‘rethink’ over some of the decisions he took in the election year.

“I am not saying you guys did not do your work. All I am saying is that there was an overload of praises that eventually gave his administration a false sense of security”, he concluded.

I walked out of the consulting room as if hit with a sledge-hammer. But today, nearly two years after that encounter, I have come to believe what the doctor diagnosed as being paramount to the change of government in December, 2008---Information Overload.

Several months of research made me come to the realization that both the Kufuor regime and the 2008 Nana Akufo-Addo Campaign turned themselves into some ‘gluttons’ of a sort, consuming information ceaselessly spewed from all directions, for as long as they were in their favour. These were in the form of some voodoo polls, security analyses, newspaper publications, text and instant messages, e-mails, RSS feeds, downloads, videos, status updates, and even ‘prophesies’.

Apart from the array of newspapers, TV and radio stations (both private and state) all singing praises of the government of the day, there were other ‘unconventional informants’ and serial callers all pretending to be credible. While there was national security coming up with several polls and other obviously concocted documents all claiming the NPP was going to get another nod at the elections, we also had the Danquah-Busia Institute arrogating to itself the ego of being the most credible political think tank within the party at the time.

Even Ben Ephson’s allegation that some people from the Nana Addo campaign team contacted him for a ‘favourable poll’, and Gabby Okyere-Darko’s response to that claim gives one some impression that those in charge of the campaign in 2008 were simply too eager to consume just anything, for as long as it indicated that they (NPP) were going to win the elections.

It is also a fact that some of the ‘junk food’ also came from dozens of pastors, soothsayers and Imams, all claiming they had had one form of vision or the other, that all was going well for the NPP.

As for chiefs and opinion leaders, the least said about them the better. Their behavior in the selection of a running mate for Nana Addo for this year’s election is a case in point.

Indeed soo much was the flood of information that by the time the elections were due, the NPP and Nana Addo’s campaign team had consumed such head-loads of junk information it did not know which of them to disbelieve or accept. In fact by November, 2010, the ruling party was battling itself with a storm of distractions from all over, to the extent that long after the elections, the so-called experts were still struggling with themselves over the issue of ‘why we lost’.

While I don’t have any nutritional data for information consumption, it is glaring from what transpired before and after the elections that a ‘diet’ of some sort would have saved the situation. We need to understand that like food, information obesity has not only got to do with how much you consume, but also what you consume.

In conclusion, let me stress that the essence of this write-up is not to claim that the consumption of expert analysis and opinion is a bad idea. All I wish to note is that the floodgate and consumption ought to be limited such that those in charge of the 2012 campaign, would be able to maintain a clear mind and the ability to form their own opinions.

And one sure way of dealing with this overconsumption is being selective with not only the veracity of the information, but also their sources. ‘Trust, but verify’.

By Bennett Akuaku (Negative Realities)