Sanitation in Ghana’s political discourse: A social media survey

Traders Sanitation File photo

Thu, 23 Jan 2020 Source: Isaac Ato Mensah

New research shows that the Akufo-Addo and John Mahama campaign teams shared NO SANITATION POSTS ON their OFFICIAL SOCIAL MEDIA platforms for eight out of 12 months.

“For a nation with sanitation as its number one existential challenge (Mensah; 2019, February 22),” the study rings several alarm bells.

In 2019, “Sanitation issues were only posted in January (NPP, 0; NDC, 4); February (NPP, 16; NDC, 9); April (NPP, 4; NDC, 0) and December (NPP, 4; NDC, 0).

Given the fact that in February, the president of Ghana in presenting the state of the nation’s address, made sanitation one of his key themes, it should stand to reason that sanitation was a burning matter at the time of the state of the nation’s address,” but afterwards not much emphasis was placed on it, the research stated.

The research findings are scheduled to be submitted to BlueCrest College, Accra on Thursday towards the award of a bachelor’s degree.

It is part of a long essay written by Osagie David Egbeyon, a Nigerian undergraduate student; he was supervised by Isaac Ato Mensah, a lecturer.

The paper is titled, “A content analysis of the 2019 social media campaign of political parties”.

The annual figure for sanitation posts was 41(5.1%) out of 747 total posts.

The NDC posted 17 (5.6%) sanitation related issues out of their 304 posts that they shared while the NPP, shared 24(5.5%) sanitation posts out of their 443 posts.

There is no real or statistical difference between the percentages posted by the two parties.

The content analysis methodology focused on “the official Facebook and Twitter” pages of the two likely presidential candidates of NPP and NDC because Facebook is a well recognized social media platform among Ghanaians.

There are several documented media studies that show social media has an influence in recent elections around the world.

It is therefore appropriate to expect that leading and serious Ghanaian politicians ahead of the December 2020 general election will focus on critical national issues in their social media posts.

The research argued that the early nationalists – Nnamdi Azikiwe, JB Danquah and Kwame Nkrumah all used well composed written communication to prosecute their agenda.

Therefore the relegation, paucity and infrequency of important issues on the social media handles of the leading candidates indicates a likely inability to clearly articulate issues through writing or text which is the focus of Facebook and Twitter communication.

The current 88.2% illiterate population according to Ghana Statistical Service was no different in the late colonial period and the early years of independence.

Most of the population still rely mainly on radio and TV (Afrobarometer Survey, 2017).

Hence politicians can still set the right agenda just like the independence leaders did with their electorate which also had a comparable literacy level.

The economy was the most important subject posted by both parties; at 215 (28.8%) out of 747; next was security at 105 (22.1%); third was sport at 103 (13.8%).

The other issues that followed were religion at 99 (13.3%) and health at 90 (12%).

Sanitation was sixth at 5.5%.

Education which is supposed to be the major campaign issue in the previous and next election came in last with 34 (4.6%).

“Since Ghana lies in a Yellow Fever, Malaria and Cholera endemic zone, and all three diseases are preventable with improved sanitation (Mensah; 2019, May 8),” the emphasis placed on sanitation in the political discourse on social media is inadequate, surprising and problematic.

Furthermore, several commentators have described sanitation as Ghana’s foremost existential problem.

The recent recurrence of polio in the country – another devastating disease that surges in poor sanitary conditions, is yet another reason for serious attention to be paid to the issue by the leading politicians.

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Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah