Opinions Wed, 30 Nov 2016

Here we go!! Election 2016 is here!

By Papa Appiah

Well, well, well, what a campaign. On the 7th of December Ghanaians go to the polls to elect a president. It has been a long slug - an exciting, but often touchy and downright violent campaign of the two main political parties, NDC and NPP, to win power in Ghana.

It all began with the decision of President Mahama to engage in a nationwide "Accounting to The People Tour"; a clever ploy to use state resources to gain a head start in the race. The opposition cried themselves hoarse. But what could anyone do? A man says he had been given a responsibility to use state resources wisely and it was time he went round to visit all projects he had started or completed and account to his people. Who were we to insist otherwise?

And so the opposition looked on helplessly as Mahama campaigned, albeit without party colors to avoid criticism, in every nook and cranny of the country, pointing to the sky at every opportunity to signify his reliance on God to decide who would be king. And it was an impressive "campaign".

Projects had sprung up in every corner of the country. Schools were commissioned, cocoa roads were opened, interchanges were inspected. The ultramodern Dodowa hospital was inaugurated, and the opposition fumed. "What does accounting to the people mean? Why don't you tell them the cost of the projects?"

As if that mattered to the chief in the village who sat behind a brand new computer in a newly opened school with President Mahama, beaming with smiles. And there was a book as well, the Green Book, detailing everything the NDC had done, and some more, that was distributed to everyone along the way.

But the NDC enthusiasm and optimism was temporarily shattered by a rather powerful and eloquent presentation in Accra by Dr Bawumia on "The State of the Ghanaian Economy, Foundation of Concrete or Stone". I was impressed, not so much by the message as by the style of presentation. The man had successfully metamorphosed from a rather shy bespectacled economist and banker to a very effective politician with an ability to rouse a crowd.

Friends with more knowledge than me tell me one can use statistics to prove anything and Bawumia, indeed, is an expert in using figures to expertly paint a rather gloomy picture of the country he hopes to lead someday. I still believe that lecture came a tad too soon. It would have made a bigger impact now.

Bawumia had expected an intellectual battle of wits, especially against Mr Amissah-Arthur, the NDC Vice President, himself an economist and former banker. Bawumia even taunted him with some 170 questions he wanted answers to. NDC did not fall for the bait.

Rather, they picked on an earlier press conference when Bawumia had alleged there were some 70,000 Togolese voters on our electoral list; an allegation that had subsequently been found to be unproven, in a brave attempt to dampen the impact of the lecture. They called the poor man a liar so often, they probably began to believe that themselves.

Energized by the lecture, the NPP campaign got underway, complete with the twirling of the fingers to represent change. But even the best writers of comedy could not have foreseen what was to follow. The NPP announced, that they were not going to release their manifesto, even though it was ready, for fear the NDC might nick their great ideas.

In the end, it was the enigmatic Hassan Ayariga who rather accused the NPP of stealing his ideas. If this was all childish stuff, then the presidents decision to call Akuffo Addo a dictator who had disintegrated his party, and defendanhing this utterance by claiming he had been called a thief first, had sunk our electioneering to a new low.

Then there was the issue of the Montie three, a triad of NDC sympathisers, a journalist and two communicators, were given what many believe was a draconian sentence by the courts for apparently threatening the Chief Justice with among others, rape on radio. A petition was launched to secure a presidential pardon.

It was a test of our constitution and the resolve of the president. On the advice of the Council of Elders, the president, in spite of vociferous pleas to the contrary, proceeded to release the culprits. This was seen by many outside, and even within the NDC as an unwise move. Posterity is yet to pass its judgement on this. But at least, everything was done within the guidelines stipulated in the constitution.

The fingers continued to twirl, the sky-pointing continued, and the language descended more into the gutter. Mr Nii Lantey Vanderpuye claimed on a campaign platform, that Mr Mahama was bound to win the election because he was tall, handsome and did not wear spectacles.

I felt like going on a demonstration against this statement myself. You see, I do wear spectacles, and took personal offense at this statement. But a few days after, the association of "dwarfs" including Araba Smart, decided to go on a demo to protest against discrimination against short people. It was a sight to behold.

The electoral commission did its best to add to the drama. From an unwarranted change of logo because they "loved it and liked it" to inconsistencies in following their own regulations, subjected them to intense, often unfair criticisms.

Some decided to hit below the belt, with Kennedy Agyapong claiming, that Madam Charlotte Osei had been given the job for sexual favors. Remarkably, there was no response from the commissioner though I have a nagging feeling we have not heard the last of this and once the election is over, Mr Agyapong may be hit with a lawsuit.

But nobody could have foreseen what was coming. We all woke up one morning to the news that all but three of the political parties and one independent candidate had been dropped. The likes Paa Kwesi Nduom, Dr Edward Mahama and Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings had been booted out. We all thought the lady was either very brave and following the constitution to the letter, or frankly, very naive.

The courts proved the latter and the Electoral Commission was forced to eat humble pie and accept the aforementioned individuals back unto the ballot paper, a rather unnecessary waste of everybody's time. But the publicity gained by Mr Nduom in particular, and the manner he conducted himself, must have won him a few new friends.

The fingers twirled, the sky-pointing continued and much to the chagrin of the opposition, Mr Mahama continued to go round the country commissioning one new project after another. How could anyone in their right mind condemn the Kwame Nkrumah interchange, or the Kasoa interchange or the Accra Digital Centre or the 800 mile underground broadband cables laid all the way to the north along the Eastern corridor? And the NPP never really helped themselves.

You see, there is a basic principle of politics that the NPP under Akuffo Addo never seem to be able to grasp- the idea that there is a rather large section of people who will vote for a candidate only because they like them, whatever their economic conditions would be. To remove the charismatic Paul Afoko, and replace him with the camera -shy Freddie Blay, even ignoring the tribal connotations, was never a wise move.

Even Kwabena Agyapong who could often be annoying, always had a little twinkle in his eyes, and was careful about his choice of words. What NPP got after these men were sacked was the terribly annoying, arrogant and shrill voice of Mr John Boadu. I actually do put off my radio sometimes when he is on. I cannot tolerate a presumption of entitlement. Whatever made the NPP believe, that being angry all the time endears one to the public?

There is nobody more annoying to the opposition than Asiedu-Nketsiah. And yet, people listen to him because he has mastered the art of combining humor and self-deprecation to win friends even as he makes the most outrageous statements. I must say, that Sir John, when he is not in one of those violent moods, has similar attributes to Asiedu-Nketsiah.

And so the fingers continue to twirl, and the sky-pointing continued, and the pollsters began to have a field day. I am sceptical of anybody who sits in Europe or America and employs people in Ghana to do polling. Even polls done in America and Britain in recent times have all been wrong. But that is what the NPP choose to believe, as per Nana Akomea, their usually calm and controlled communication director.

But the person I feel most sorry for, is Dr Isaac Owusu-Mensah who has come under a barrage of criticisms after suggesting from his polls, that Akuffo Addo would win 49.9% of votes and Mahama, 39.9%. NPP may yet win the election. In fact, they have never had a better chance than this year, considering all the NDC scandals.

But quite frankly, only a fool, or someone who has no knowledge whatsoever of the electoral dynamics in Ghana would believe these figures. I wonder how involved he was himself in gathering the data. In an interview, he said he sent out research assistant.

I would trust poorly-paid research assistants with anything except electoral polling in a deeply politically polarized Ghana. No wonder a few days after, his department issued a statement to the effect, that while they did sanction his project, the polls were not necessarily the work of the Political Science department as a whole. There you go.

I don't trust Mr Ephson either. But the announcement of his results claiming Mahama would win by 52%, seemed to have shaken the NPP for some as yet unknown reason. Even Mr Cool, Nana Akomea, lost it on Asempa radio that day and had to be walked out. And talking of Asempa, the radio stations are also having a field day.

I do not get the opportunity to listen all the time, but I always wake up at 6 am to Kwame Nkrumah Teekese and his team on Okay fm. Aren't they fantastic? Whenever I get the opportunity in the afternoon, I tune in to Kaba on Asempa fm. I don't know about other stations, but these two are doing a great job, and Ghana has to be proud of them.

Not so much our pastors though. Our pastors have succeeded in turning prophesy into a con art rather than an exercise in spirituality. The greatest exponent of this trick is Owusu Bempah. Just go on air, say your favorite is going to win, but with a caveat - unless the other party rigs the elections. He cannot lose. If his party wins, he is a hero, if they don't, the election was rigged. They should tell it to the marines for all I care.

And so the fingers continue to twirl and the sky-pointing continues as we head for D-day. A very close contest is expected. What are Ghanaians going to base their votes on? Is it the Economy, NHIS, money in the pocket, infrastructure, charisma, height of presidential candidate or tribe? Who knows? Whatever Ghana chooses, I hope we will all be at home the next day sharing a calabash of palm wine, rather than with our luggage making a run for it in the forest. I wish Ghana a happy Election Day!
Columnist: Appiah, Papa
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