Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ground Floor: Ghana’s myth-breaking Election 2008

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi

Welcome to Ground Floor a new column on ghanabusinesnews.com. This column will discuss every topic under the sun, from the sacred to the most mundane. On the floor, the engagement would be in a no-holds-barred fashion and no subject will be treated with fear or favour.

We are taking off with a look at the recently held Election 2008 in Ghana. The election was the most historic in the country for many reasons, and it was no wonder that it broke some myths.

Ghanaians are very religious. And to quote one of Africa’s famous theologians, the Prof John Mbiti, they are “notoriously religious.” As religious people they believe in myths together with the rest of Africa and even the entire world. Because, in the sense that the elections broke some myths, the entire world was with Ghanaians.

Myth number one: The media is so powerful and can be used to do everything.

Myth number two: The National Democratic Congress (NDC) would never come back to power.

Myth number three: It is not possible for an incumbent party in Africa that has won the first round of an election to lose in a second round.

Myth number one: The media can be used to achieve anything including winning an election.

And that myth is based on a simple myth in Ghana that apart from the fact that the media is powerful, the average Ghanaian, indeed, including even the educated believe everything that comes out of the media, and as a result the Ghanaian politician built an unmatched faith in the power of the media as an influential tool. That notion was unfortunately derived from the knowledge of the Ghanaians’ gullibility – and the average Ghanaian has been gullible for a very, very long time.

Indeed, that the average Ghanaian is docile and to a large extent malleable particularly by powerful people, the Ghanaian is more likely to believe everything “a big man or woman” says in the media. And so, hapless politicians who see themselves as “big men and women” went into overdrive and decided to use or more so as I heard one politician tell someone who works on a radio station, “manipulate” the media to mislead the Ghanaian public.

Some of these politicians, went ahead to set up newspapers, radio and even TV stations with the sole aim of staying in power. And then they began to churn out lies in all ways possible using an acquiescing media much of which they had in their palms anyway. They maligned in some instances the very people they were trying to convince. The intelligence of the average Ghanaian was incessantly abused through unfettered lies, some of which were very outrageous.

Having the unfortunate and unpleasant duty of listening to these demagogues every day, all I often hear is reasoning turned upside down and good old logic yanked off the table and thrown down the Korle Lagoon

They went on and on into the election year. Steeped so deep in their own arrogance and misguided belief that falsehood sells in Ghana, one of the lies they have told so many times that I have lost count of was that the National Health Insurance Scheme was being accessed for free, but that couldn’t be true because Ghanaians pay premium. They lied about their opponents and even about one another when it suited them. And while they were at it, the greedy ones among them waddled in corruption and downright thievery.

Living with the self assured notion that the media would do everything for them the New Patriotic Party (NPP) spent all the time they had talking and talking on one radio station or the other. They seized every chance to show their faces on TV screens, even if it was for the purpose of telling another lie or painting their opponents black.

Their campaign plan hung on the media and come Election Day, they were so sure that it was a done deal. But not so - Ghanaians have become wiser. They proved them wrong and broke the myth that everything one says in the media is gospel truth – they were kicked out of power long before they knew and they are still struggling to come to terms with that reality. And to assuage their pains and shame, they have started attacking and blaming one another for losing the elections.

Myth Number two: The NDC would never some to power.

As a matter of fact, The NDC itself knew it was all over for it. The party has had such a hard time in opposition that it never believed in its own ability to come back to power, but the election must be contested any way, and so it did.

With its limited resources and battered image, the party struggled through the campaign, and to show its desperation it had to plagiarise the campaign slogan of the Convention People’s Party (CPP) and went about blatantly claiming it was its own slogan.

Not too sure of winning power, the party bid its time wearily and then as not to be expected it won power. And because the party was not too sure of winning power, it is yet to realize it is the party in power. It appears to be dazed by the reality of being elected back into power after winning with a very slim majority.

Overwhelmed by the reality, the party is already making mistakes in its very infant days in power. Some operatives of the party, refusing to acknowledge the fact that they won power because Ghanaians are law abiding and peaceful, have resorted to arbitrariness and the morbid display of naked power and lawlessness.

I understand some of the party’s operatives have started harassing some Civil Servants over their legitimate jobs. We shall be watching from the Ground Floor.

Myth number three: No incumbent party in Africa would ever hand over power to the opposition after taking the lead in a first round of voting.

Even the international community doubted Ghana’s ability to go through the second round of nail-biting elections. The second round was as tension packed as could be imagined. And then enter – Tain, the decider.

Not many expected a peaceful transition. Investors were reported to have held back their investment. Some businessmen left the country in anticipation of trouble.

I had the privilege of being invited to the New Year party of the World Bank Country Director, Ishac Diwan, at his residence. And during a conversation with a British citizen who works with the Bank, she told me in clear terms that “You Ghanaians did so well. My people would not have accepted this result, winning an election with just 40,000 votes.” She was emphatic that even in Great Britain if the results of Ghana’s elections were had there would be trouble.

I was astounded, but that was the fact. The whole world was expecting Ghana to go the way of Zimbabwe, Kenya and the rest of Africa where elections have become the reason to burn down countries.

Scanning through the media and press in Africa, I read very interesting comments about the elections in Ghana. The Ugandans are making fun of Ghana, saying it is a joke for an incumbent party in Africa to claim the opposition had rigged an election that it organized and supervised, when the NPP suggested that the NDC had rigged the elections.

The Nigerians are at it each other’s throats – some are using Ghana as an example of the best thing to have happened to democracy in Africa and calling on their greedy politicians to learn from Ghana. But there are others, who do not think that Ghana is a good example at all, claiming the elections was not devoid of irregularities.

Whatever anyone thinks, the myth has been broken, Ghana is still in one piece after a cliffhanger run-off elections.

For me the long suffering people of Ghana are the winners. They proved their sophistication and taught the politicians a life’s lesson. They have spoken, they have broken all the myths in the last elections – they decide who should rule them, they cannot put up with power drunk leeches who claim they are offering leadership.

And the NDC would not be treated differently, if they continue in their oblivion; there would always be another election year!

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