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Opinions of Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Columnist: Abubakar, Shuk

NPP’s serial-callers and their online ‘all die be die’ Army

While the battles between the NPP and the NDC government are waged on the TV and FM programmes, a different battle is emerging online.

As the battle-ready NPP serial-callers and Computer hackers put their own spin on the battle to bring down the reigning AKATAMANSO umbrella, the NDC need to make a stand or face the prospect of being belly-up in 2012. These NPP activists are on a real warpath against the NDC government and for the NDC, the time to fight back is now!!!!

On Sunday 14th August, 2011, a report from The Herald newspaper, published on several Ghanaian online news sites purported to have uncovered a well orchestrated and malicious spin by the NPP. The Herald’s investigations claimed that, some politicians in the New Patriotic Party (NPP) since 2001 are using paid serial-callers masquerading as concern citizens to twist facts about the NPP and to paint deceitful pictures in the minds of the citizenry about the NDC. The serial-callers, according to The Herald “phone into newspaper review programmes of radio stations in the morning, to shape public opinion on issues, as they paint pleasant pictures about their party and its presidential candidate. Their identities, phone numbers and other details, were released to The Herald by sources at the NPP headquarters.”

In the midst of this ‘phone-in war’, a virtual political war is also shaping up: several online statements from unknown NPP supporters- often deceitful, shaky and unverifiable document the suffering of Ghanaians under the NDC regime, while online campaigns, hosted on Facebook and Twitter, aim to draw attention to political events on the ground. The narrative: Ghanaians are suffering and want to change from the NDC.

Recently, the most popular online buzz amongst NPP activists is about the ‘scandal’ of students ‘studying under tree’ - and the ‘caring’ NPP activists wants Ghanaians to notice. What these online deceivers and serial callers from the NPP are not telling us is that, if after eight years of the ‘so-called’ wonderful stewardship of the Ghanaian economy under ex-president Kufuor, we still have students studying under trees then, the blame lies not only with the current NDC Government in power for only the last two and half years, but rather, it is a sad indictment of the last eight wasted years under Kufuor and Akufo Addo.

I am not saying there is nothing wrong or appalling about students studying under trees in Ghana, as a right minded Ghanaian, I am quite rightly very concern about this story and I sincerely hope the Government is looking into solving these problems. However, what I am not buying is the hypocrisy, the shameful and the deceitful attempts by Akufo Addo and the NPP party to lay the blame on the NDC government. I am sure students from the schools in that report were studying under trees during the last eight years of the NPP government and those NPP activists did not make any fuss when their party was in power. At the same time, and often on virtual networks, activists in favour of the NPP and Akufo Addo, stake out online news sites in attempt to shift the narrative in their favour. And though there are individuals who post supportive sentiments about the NDC, the overwhelming majority of pro-NPP content online appears well-coordinated; the work of organized groups coming together to support the beleaguered Akufo Addo. The NPP electronic army President Atta Mills promised and delivered a more open Internet immediately after becoming our president. Under the NDC, President Mills sought a different strategy, attracting private investment into the delivery of telecommunication services and making information technology easily accessible to Ghanaians. However, Akufo Addo and his NPP activists have taken a different approach to the Internet altogether, first using serial-callers and social networking sites, then throwing support to pro-NPP hackers in the hopes of countering and discrediting the NDC regime.

As the Herald newspaper have documented and exposed some of these NPP Army of serial-callers, a cabal of fake and faceless social network activists and serial-callers using strange and funny pseudonym have overtaken several Facebook pages, and online news Media, such as the Ghanaweb.com, myjoyonline.com, modernghana.com and popular TV and FM talk shows such as those hosted by Kwame Sefa-Kayi and Adakabre Frimpong-Manso and flooding them with comments like "the NDC destroying our economy" and anti-ewe tribe junks like " EWEs are revolting against the NDC" Fighting Back In early August, the Facebook sites of the group ‘NDC for progress’ and ‘NDC for Victory’ was targeted with an elaborate and well orchestrated defacement for which NPP activists took credit: featuring pro-NPP comments, symbols of NPP, and short messages such as:

"To the Ghanaian people: The NDC will fall in 2012, and you are responsible for supporting a corrupt Government” Though the NPP seemed to reign in the online domain for month since the NDC presidential congress, now the political scales in Ghana seem to be tipping in favour of the NDC government.

Separate battles The online battle between the NDC social activists and the pro-NPP activists should not be seen as a reflection of events on the ground. The past few days have seen increasing pressure on the NPP to provide evidence about the existence of the mysterious journalists bribing tape - and rumours of high-level defections from NPP to the NDC persist, though remain unconfirmed.

The war of words (and defacements) online and on talk show programmes may not relate directly to the "war" on the ground, but it shouldn't be discounted, either: NPP activists campaigning online and through serial-callers know that their virtual defacements of NDC using online social networks and serial-calls to twist facts for their party won't be met with silence. The battle lines are drawn: it is the NDC versus "NPP’s online activists" in Ghana now.

Author: Shuk Abubakar (Student of Educational Planning)

Institute of Education, University of London

s.abubakar@ioe.ac.uk