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Elizabeth Ohene writes: My election

Voter Biometric Verification File photo: A voter being verified.

Thu, 15 Dec 2016 Source: Elizabeth Ohene

I have toyed with transferring my vote to Ayawaso West Wugon which is the constituency in which I live in Accra. But somehow I haven’t summoned the courage to transfer my vote from Abutia which as the whole world knows, is my home town.

I am not certain about how many nights I spend at Abutia in a year but I am resolute I must vote there just as my remains would be sent there eventually when my end comes.

You need to be something of a masochist to vote at Abutia when you are an NPP woman like I. I have been doing this since the year 2000 when I first registered to vote in this Fourth Republic.

My hometown is in one of those solidly reliable NDC constituencies. It is not exactly Ketu South but Ho West is not far from that status in its loyalty to the NDC. The story of my doomed race for the Ho West parliamentary seat in 2004 is well known and does not bear repeating.

There are polling stations in my constituency where the NPP regularly gets zero votes. In other words, the five NPP polling station executive members do not vote for the party nor do the two accredited NPP polling agents.

Winning hearts

My brothers Emmanuel and Sammy have been trying to win the hearts and minds of the Ho West voters since 1992. I joined them in the effort in 2000. We are usually received with civility and even what sounds like enthusiasm until a few days to the elections when the atmosphere changes to hostility.

Those who are polite tell us we are in the wrong party and we should join the NDC but the majority of people simply listen quietly, give us a pitying look and move on.

We try to direct special attention to Abutia our famous hometown. Outside politics, it is probably fair to say we are seen and treated as leading lights of the town and that comes with all the responsibilities that come with that title.

We are expected to play leading roles in development issues in the town and we do; our opinions are sought and we are consulted on various subjects and we are accorded a lot of respect usually.

Once we get into the political arena and we wear our NPP hats, we are traitors and we become fair game for abuse and on occasion, even physical attacks. But we persist in the fond hope that those who think we are worth consulting on health, education, school fees, job and other matters would one day accept our political affiliation as well.

Thus far, our efforts have not yielded much dividend. This year, it was widely reported during the campaign that a wind of change was blowing through the Volta Region and the NPP might do much better. The regional NPP announced a 30-3 target; which means we were aiming at 30 per cent of the votes and three seats in a region where the NPP had never got 15 per cent of the votes and did not have any of the 26 seats in Parliament.

Business as usual

This year, I made very few appearances at Abutia during the campaign but the NPP now had an impressive team of young and enthusiastic activists and they assured me the party message was now being accepted. The few times I made any public pronouncements at Abutia, I said the NPP was going to win the election in the country and I entreated them to contribute to the NPP victory.

My polling station at Abutia is right outside the back gate of our home in a most picturesque setting under the acacia trees. I stood by the gate as I usually do and by 10 a.m., I knew there were not many among the stream of people who had been queuing to vote who were voting for the NPP.

The same people who would usually cross over from the other side of the road to greet me or remind me of their names, these same people on this day would studiously avoid looking at me and if I greeted them, they would cast a furtive look at me, nod and quickly look away.

When it came to counting the votes, it was clear the much vaunted wind of change had not reached Abutia nor indeed, had it reached much of Ho West.

In 2012, the NPP got 60 votes at our polling station and this year, the NPP got 63 votes to the NDC’s 349 votes. In the two polling stations sited a few metres away, we did not fare much better: at the “A” station, the NPP got 41 to the NDC’s 305 and at the “B” station, the NPP got 39 to the NDC’s 245. It was the same pattern around the whole constituency and we got 10.26 per cent of the presidential votes and 10.65 per cent of the parliamentary votes.

In other words, it was very much business as usual. However, I had much to cheer about the NPP performance; our two agents, Mavis and Johnnie, were young, literate, numerate, alert and assertive. They exuded confidence. You couldn’t say the same about the NDC agents. 

By 10.30 p.m., the pink sheets from the 24 polling stations in the Abutia Zone of the constituency had been gathered and when we got to the collation centre at the district capital of Dzolokpuita, it appeared to me all the efforts and money and months of training were paying dividends.

It was a joy to watch every part of the system that had been set up perform creditably. When Peter Mac Manu made his now famous projection of an NPP win, it was a happy and wide awake bunch of NPP people who watched him at our collation centre. When the NDC made their “retaliation” conference an hour or so later, their body language spoke volumes.

I left the collation centre at 5 a.m., and by then I knew we had won a decisive and clear victory. I had by then gone for two nights without any sleep but the sweetness of the victory kept me wide awake.

I note that the NPP’s IT preparedness is being praised and credited for helping us do our collation quickly and efficiently. I now discover that Mr Kofi Adams, the NDC Campaign coordinator, is blaming a breakdown in their IT system for their losing the election.

An IT system cannot add or deduct from votes obtained at the polling station and recorded on pink sheets. I don’t, therefore, understand how an IT system can help win or lose an election, unless we are talking of fiddling.

But right now I am so luxuriating in our sweet victory, I don’t even care that once again, Abutia voted overwhelmingly for the NDC and once again, rejected me.

Columnist: Elizabeth Ohene
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