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What campaigning for Election 2016 reveals (Part I)

Sat, 24 Sep 2016 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Friday, Sept. 23, 2016

Folks, the race for the Flagstaff House is on. Victory at Election 2016 is certain for the camp of the Presidential candidate that manages its electioneering campaign stunts to win voter support; on the other hand, defeat awaits those who fail to connect with the voters. Need I say more? Probably yes because if you are selling, you must advertise effectively. What we have seen so far suggests a lot that we want to unpack.

We do so in the broad framework of the strategies that the parties are known to have used over the years, including door-to-door campaigns; sporting events such as “Keep Fit” walks; open forums; local public rallies; and many others. Those events give some “life” to the campaigns and help energize the electorate for the polls. The instances of isolated violence that occur during the campaigns in some parts of the country can be understood as problems characteristic of a society in transition. But they are serious enough to be dealt with, especially at this time that our democracy should have grown enough to turn the citizens away from such crudities but isn’t so in reality.

Although many political fronts are participating in Election 2016, we will not waste our time on all of them, especially those considered as either highly insignificant and negligible or as mere appendages or surrogates of the mainstream parties. I have in mind here the parties that have no solid standing throughout the country but whose founders and leaders are stubbornly using them to serve their parochial interests just to be seen as politicians or in readiness to be used as pawns by others.

These are mushroom parties to be watched just because they come across as bargaining chips and not as serious parties to threaten the dominance of the NDC and the NPP as Ghana’s main contenders for the electoral prize. Such parties as Dr. Nduom’s Progressive People’s Party (PPP), Dr. Edward Mahama’s People’s National Convention (PNC), Mahama Ayariga’s All People’s Party (APC), Dr. Henry Lartey’s Great Consolidated People’s Party (GCPP), and Ivor Greenstreet’s Convention People’s Party (CPP) come to mind here. They have no following to bother about.

Others such as Odike’s UPP are noticeable only for comic relief. Imagine him telling us that he is confident of a landslide victory. Puke!! Someone may talk about Madam Akua Donkor too; but she has already buried herself in the Mahama camp and can be dismissed for whatever she is, having already been with Dr. Nduom, though.

We begin with the NDC to say that the party’s leaders and organizers at the various levels have really risen up to sell President Mahama to the electorate on the basis of his accomplishments. No need to talk too much here but to point out how the NDC has strategically established its campaign structures, which is doing the work to my satisfaction. Spreading from the National Campaign Team to the Regional Campaign Teams and the Constituency Campaign Teams, the armada is on the ground. President Mahama is in the thick of affairs and everything is well coordinated.

The campaign messages are clear and the platform is set for more. This approach is an improvement on previous ones. Talk about the catchy slogans (“JM Toaso” and “I Chose JM”) and the various self-motivated cells (“Doves for Mahama”, “Mahama Ladies”, etc.) that are doing the yeoman’s job and you should know the seriousness with which the NDC is approaching Election 2016 while their counterparts remain fixated on outrageous and backward campaign strategies that have doomed them all these years.

As usual, the NPP took the lead in the campaign season for Election 2016, especially when Akufo-Addo announced his campaign team, headed by the former National Chair of the party (Peter MacManu). What has happened ever since the formation of that team is a sorry story to tell. The team hasn’t done as much as its predecessors had done at Elections 2008 and 2012, even if their activities couldn’t place Akufo-Addo in power. In those times, Akufo-Addo had begun his campaigns two clear years before the polls; but all his bombastic public posturing for the highest office of Ghana ended up in smoke.

What exactly Peter MacManu and his team are doing is neither here nor there. Whether they have chosen to operate on the quiet is even questionable. There is a high probability that “things are knocking things” therein, especially as power play takes centre stage and head-butting for control of the party’s finances predominates.

We have noticed that the NPP’s campaign rests mostly on Akufo-Addo, which explains why he is the only one moving around to sell himself. His nationwide tour that was ridiculed by his opponents as a “Rice and Beans” tour set the tone, but all seemed erratic then and is now being replayed. Unlike what happened in previous seasons, the burden now lies on Akufo-Addo to sell himself. And he is expending energy doing so, even at the risk of his health. Clearly, there is something terribly wrong along the line. Why so?

The NPP’s campaign lacks vim and zest. All that is happening is not based on any strategic plan. For Election 2012, the party did well by putting in place structures to pool everything together and campaign in a co-ordinated manner throughout the country. We recall how Akufo-Addo had responsibility for Southern Ghana and Dr. Bawumia for Northern Ghana, which made it possible for them to campaign vigorously on known terrain. Even though there was some criss-crossing by both, there seemed to be some form of orderliness in their campaign efforts. Not so this time.

A sharp contrast between how the NPP is conducting its campaigns now and what it had done previously raises serious questions that the party’s bigwigs must address. Otherwise, the sporadic nature of the campaigning will further erode confidence in voters.

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.