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Opinions of Saturday, 13 October 2012

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Rawlings, madam and the missing ballot box

By George Sydney Abugri

In exactly fifty-five days, Jomo, the New Patriotic Party’s presidential candidate Nana Akufo-Addo and President John Mahama will have the wide-open electoral field all to themselves, to race and race fiercely ahead of the rest of the pack to their hearts’ content, until Electoral Commissioner Dr. Afari-Gyan flags them to a dead halt for the ballot count and final tally.

Which of the two will it be when Dr. Gyan is done? Darned if I have anything resembling a clue, Jomo. What is giving me insomnia though, is that everyone has ignored my proposal that we subject all presidential candidates to the psychological orientation necessary to prepare them to be able to accept defeat {which will be the lot of each of them except one}, without trying to pull down the heavens on our heads:

I have not-so-pleasant news for those labouring hard like farm bulls to maximize voter participation in Election 2012, Jomo: Some folks have vowed not to vote and I felt the same way after a visit to my physician the other day:

I had kept an appointment with the man and his stethoscopes and told him to check me out carefully from toe to skull: Body mass index, protesting muscles, creaking joints, blood pressure, cholesterol level, heart beat, brain beat, lung beat-the whole anatomical works.

My problem? After binging nonstop on an appalling diet of fried potato chips, jumbo sausages, fried eggs and heavily-salted bacon for an academic year in Abrokyere years ago, I returned to Ghana to find that I had piled heavy layers of bad cholesterol on the inner walls of my blood vessels.

As for the salted pulse of my BP, it threatened to break the blood pressure measuring equipment to pieces anytime the doctor tried taking a reading.

The doctor was curious. What messy junk had I been gorging myself with while I was away? I told him, whereupon he condemned me to a daily cocktail of medications and told me to pop them religiously.

Now Jomo, if there is one thing I hate more than noise, dust and reckless drivers of motor cars, it is the popping of pills but darned if I have a choice.

I meet the good man periodically for a review and he scores me marks for diligence or the lack of it in the consumption of the pharmaceutical cocktails and replenishes the pack, as happened the other day.

At the hospital pharmacy, they went click, click, click on the computer, calculating the cost of the medicines prescribed and came up with a sum that would have made someone without a National Health Insurance Scheme card tumble over flat on his face in shock, but I had my NHIS card, see?

I brandished the almighty card with triumphant confidence, expecting them to reach up the shelves and stuff all the medicines into a plastic bag for me without a fuss.

Sorry, old chap, but most of the drugs prescribed are not on the NHI list. You will have to pay hard cash. That is what the chaps at the pharmacy told me. I coaxed every cedi out of my wallet, paid for the medicines and left grumbling under my breath and threatening reprisals against the system on Election Day.

When a factory owner in Tema declared the other day that he would not vote because the massive electrical power cuts across the country had all but ruined his business, he was told by another gentleman that it was impossible for anyone not to vote:

The first gentleman had said, “…Don’t mind them. I won’t vote.”

“That is impossible.”

“What is impossible?”

“…Not voting.”

“What do you mean?”

“By not voting, you have actually voted against the candidate you would have voted for had you exercised your civic right and gone to vote.”

Do you see what I see, Jomo? To be seen refusing to vote may make you look and feel like a bad citizen, yet you have the right to withhold your vote as a form of civil protest against a failed policy, unfulfilled campaign promise or specific civic grievance, don’t you think?

So? So the Electoral Commissioner needs to redesign the ballot papers for the Presidential and Parliamentary elections all over again. The new ballot paper I propose will have at the bottom of the names and pictures of the contesting candidates, the option “None of these candidates”, with a box for ticking. That is the missing box on Dr. Gyan’s ballot paper.

That way, I would have been seen to have exercised my civic duty, even though I actually refused to vote in protest against the system.

I was telling you about how we are waiting for the final 55 days to roll by, wasn’t I? J.J. and his missus are having a swell time and enjoying themselves immensely at the apparent expense of the leadership of the party he founded and led to electoral victory twice on the trot.

He hates their guts and they hate his guts in equal measure. The reason has not been displayed like graffiti on a wall at Kwame Nkrumah Circle for all to see. Maybe he has evidence of corruption in the NDC administration as he claims.

Maybe, it is an angst-driven response to the alleged sidelining of the former first couple ever since the party came to power in 2009. Maybe it is a combination of the two and possibly much more.

Some had thought that with President John Mahama now in the seat after the recent departure of the late President Mills, J.J. would sheathe his flaming swords in their scabbards but the NDC is apparently not into any such good luck yet:

The headlines predict that Rawlings is still so pissed off silly with the party leadership that he will not be attending a scheduled party event. They are dead wrong. J.J shows up at the event!

The psychological goal behind his unrelenting stream of vitriolic tirades against unnamed individuals in government even after he accepts invitations to party events, have appeared to me to be three-pronged:

One: To project his continuing relevance in the scheme of things political. Two: To keep those he has been shadow-punching in the party leadership sitting and squirming on pins, nails and thorns as they anticipate another round of acerbic criticism when he makes his speech as founder at such events.

Three: To keep the NDC leadership wondering all the time: Hey, is Jerry Rawlings going with us or is he going to bale out?

With President Mahama now leading the NDC to a critical national election, some had thought the question had been answered. Enter former first lady Nana Konadu who it has been speculated, is to run for president as a candidate of the National Democratic Party which broke away from the party her husband founded.

J.J says he will support her bid if she runs. Good Lord! What the heck is going on? Where does JJ really stand? With his missus or his party?

The question suggests that Mrs. Rawlings will indeed run for president on an NDP ticket but then, she has not confirmed that to date!

Never mind, Jomo. Time never slows down to keep pace with anyone’s momentum and all the chips will fall in place when JJ and Madam show up at the NDP’s national delegates conference in Kumasi to morrow! .