Sane Eteshi – Matters Arising
It takes four years to run an election but the last week always seems to be the most exciting and the most important for campaigning. In the absence of many independent pundits and pollsters, but with the proliferation of predictors, especially priests, preachers, pastors and prophets, who claim that they have seen visions of the country’s future, it is difficult to determine who will win today’s election.
The two main parties seem to be evenly balanced in the numbers they generally attract as members who translate into voters. It is therefore left to the substantial number of floating voters who determine how an election is called.
To date, no one has been able to determine the reasons that motivate people to vote one way or the other, and so the major parties must campaign right through to the day before a national election.
There’s only one lady
The third political parties (those I refer to as the Peoples’ Parties) have seen the number of votes they attract shrink over the years, from 10%-plus at the advent of the Fourth Republic to an insignificant less than 2% in the 2016 general election. They have never been in power and, therefore, do not have the war chest necessary to mount a campaign.
It is another thing where the major parties get their lavish campaign funds from. I am sure that, somewhere along the line, there is a whiff of corruption surrounding the source of these funds. Corruption has become so endemic in our country, however, that it is unfair to accuse just one party of corruption, when the real culprit is the Ghanaian.
Given that the usual boisterous rallies of campaign season were tempered by the need for social distancing and observing all the COVID-19 protocols, the political parties had to devise other means and look elsewhere for a medium to get their campaign message across to the people.
Another departure from the norm this year was the absence of the televised political debate – because, I am told, the lady who used to organise this is now the Electoral Commissioner. So, the campaign went underground, or rather it went into cyberspace, using all forms of approaches in digital media.
The work of a journalist in the mainstream print media is now much easier because their owners will publish anything, the more salacious the better, with headlines screaming unsubstantiated scandals. Fortunately, the papers still publish in English – even if the rules of the language have been cast aside and reduced to what a friend refers to as “Ghanafuor English”. Anything goes. The headlines bear no relation to the copy, which must be read more than once before you get the meaning of what is being reported.
Radio has eclipsed print in the mainstream media and the stars are the many “serial callers” who have their phones and credit bought for them by political parties. Their main duty, it would seem, is to shout through the discussion programmes, repeating untruths and threatening to expose scandals.
These days, however the innovation, of “radio TV” is taking over the airwaves: the discussion programmes are also streamed on social media and television for maximum effect. Most of the pundits on these shows add nothing: absolutely no new information, recycling falsehoods and screaming in Twi.
I steer clear of these, because they do not add anything to national development, though the hosts may be well informed. The few journalists and party officials who show up on these programmes have just one thing on their agenda – to insult. It is not surprising that the English-speaking stations are more cultured and their debates and discussions more measured.
In athletics, those running the marathon often find their kick in the last 200 metres so that they can “finish hard” and win the race. In football, however, the final action devolves around the last ten minutes, when the manager makes desperate substitutions and brings in new blood to try to win the match. When that fails, the mantra turns into “ten minutes for wudɔwu”: if you miss the ball, you do not miss the man.
And so, in this election, the last ten days turned into a show of desperation by both parties. Tapes, dossiers and even Trojan horses – all were king. Fake news was the order of the day and the gullible spent so much bandwidth swallowing the trash.
Red rag or red meat?
With fake news the defining feature of the 2020 election, it seemed that there was a flurry of publications springing up, solely to run reports of dubious credibility, most of them so badly written that you wonder why the authors would not spend what they receive as payment on a worthwhile education.
WhatsApp and Facebook are the battlegrounds for distribution and dissemination of these fake news clips. The signs are evident when you see a written piece peppered with capital letters for emphasis.
Fake news never won an election. Even the most gullible will realise the many defects of clips and notes which are not attributed to anyone.
In such an atmosphere, the election will turn on those who focus on throwing red meat to their supporters and getting them out to vote. Those who rely on the floating voters may be missing a trick because we no longer know what to believe.
Asked which I prefer – the NPP or the NDC – my answer remains the CPP. May the best man win.
December 2020, England
Owula Ade Sawyerr is a writer, social activist and founder partner of Equinox Consulting, which works to develop inner-city and minority communities in Britain. He comments on economic, political and social affairs and is a past chairman of the UK branch of the Convention People’s Party.