Tain, the final theatre for the Presidency

Thu, 1 Jan 2009 Source: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong

Tain is small unknown district created in June 2004 in Ghana’s Brong Ahafo region. Tain will determine who the President of Ghana is on January 2, 2009. In the broader democratic power game, Tain is a big deal despite its small size and humble self. In Tain, democracy can be weird and it has a strange way of throwing light on Tain as presidential theatre. On January 2, 2009, Tain can send some Ghanaians either crying or laughing. Tain got both the power and the democratic game.

In Tain, Ghana’s democracy is being tested, in the broader consensual and participation sense. That’s what Ghana is learning as the December 28 presidential run-off failed to legally produce a clear winner. Ghana’s Electoral Commission (EC), increasingly deepening its potency in the face of democratic challenges, says John Atta-Mills, of the opposition National Democratic Party (NDC), got 50.13% of the total valid votes cast while Nana Akufo-Addo, of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), gathered 49.87%. No problem, Tain will declare the winner on January 2, 2009.

The first presidential brawl on December 7 saw Akufo-Addo winning by 49.13% and Atta-Mills by 47.92%. With none of them gaining the constitutionally mandated 50% plus one, a second round was mandated and though Atta-Mills came out with 50.13% against Akufo-Addo’s 49.87%, Tain has cropped out as a the key determiner because political violence had marred voting and voting didn’t take place on December 28. Coalition of Domestic Election Observers, demonstrating its clout, said before anybody is declared a President, Tain should vote “to ensure that all Ghanaians are able to exercise their right to vote.”

Tain may be small but it has a big a democratic voice as either Accra or Kumasi or Tamale.

But for Tain’s violence, Atta-Mills, who has contested for the presidency three times, would have been elected President on December 28 – in fact some media houses such as JoyFM and PeaceFM had declared Atta-Mills President-elect with joyous demonstrations in some parts of Ghana. But the EC said not too fast Atta-Mills, JoyFM and PeaceFM. Tain neutralized that and sent the EC, NPP, NDC, and the mass media scurrying back to the drawing table for electoral chess game and hard thinking against the backdrop of Ghanaians clamouring for who is their new President.

Tain becoming the final arbiter of the long-running bloody Atta-Mills and Akufo-Addo presidential combat is complicated. In the 2000 and 2008 general elections Tain has been playing hardball politics with both the NPP and the NDC. In the 2000 presidential election, candidates John Kufour (NPP) polled 16,308 and Atta-Mills (NDC) gained 14,792 respectively of Tain’s 53,890 registered voters. In the first round of the December 7, 2008 presidential elections Tain swung its voting pattern, voting this time for the NDC: Atta Mills polled 16,211 votes and Akufo-Addo (NPP) gathered 14,935 votes. Ghanaian political pundits call Tain a swing voter but Tain, a political dribbler, keeps matters to itself, opening itself as a microcosm of the emerging Ghanaian democracy.

Despite being a sleepy farming community, it appears fate was preparing Tain to teach the rest of Ghana one or two democratic lessons, as the country enlarges its democratic space to its 17th year. On December 12 the office of the Electoral Commission in Tain was set ablaze by strange political arsonists. But the suspicion had been that rival NPP and NDC activists, who have weak understanding of democracy, were responsible. Following the December 7 general elections, the NPP suspected fraud and contested the result of which the NDC won.

That Tain will play a problematic, if not mathematically complex, democratic function on January 2 is no wonder – a pointer to Ghanaian democrats to work harder to consolidate their toddler democracy. The difference between Atta-Mills and Akufo-Addo in the December 28 run-off was 23,055 votes. With voter population of 53,890, roughly only about 31,156 people of Tain voted on December 7. In the first round of the December 7 presidential election, Akufo-Addo gathered 14,935 votes while Atta-Mills gained 16,211 votes (the difference between the two candidates was merely 1,276). That means only 31,156 people out of Tain’s 53,890 registered voters voted or about 61%.

For Akufo-Addo to win the presidency on January 2 he has to poll 45,799 (out of 53,890 voters) of the Tain votes. That may be a Herculean task but not insurmountable politically – the trick would be to roll out sophisticated voting machine across the small Tain and tied it to Tain’s history, economy and culture. Democratically, you don’t fool around with Tain – it is a big time democratic player now despite being heavily rural. For Atta-Mills to rule Ghana, he has to poll 30,835 Tain votes out of Tain’s 53,088 registered voters (that adds to his 23,055 lead votes Ghana-wide). Atta-Mills will not give in either, armed with some 23,055 vote’s lead that gives him some psychological breath, and the fact that this is his third time of contesting for the presidency.

The pressure, in Tain deciding who rules Ghana on January 2, 2009 is much more on Akufo-Addo than on Atta-Mills. Whether Tain is the microcosm of who is going to be who on January 2, 2009 will depend on the unpredictable Tain. But as the late Nigerian political scientist, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, argues, “Politics is an act of the possible.” Tain is characteristically a political swinger, and that means, Akufo-Addo can easily cause surprises – and so can Atta-Mills.

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi