The hours between 7am and 5pm will be routine on December 7. Some will wake up at 2am hoping to be one of the first to cast their votes. Others, not necessarily the aspirants may not even sleep at all nights before December 7. I don’t blame them. They would be just days ahead of knowing what has become of, to some, an unreasonable investment. For most of us though, we will go queue, listen to the gossip of other voters, verify our names, pick our ballot papers and then go vote. Our job will be done as we recline in a sofa watching TV, ‘zapping’ across various radio stations, refreshing pages of websites, checking BBM, whasapp ,and Facebook updates. That is where the drama starts.
I reckon that by 9pm of December 9th, we would know who our President will be. Or maybe we would have confirmed that Nana Addo and John Mahama will have to gird their loins for another battle ahead of December 28. I don’t like second rounds. Firstly it ‘spoils’ our Christmas. Secondly, it means the state of Ghana gets poorer because we need to marshal our scarce resources to do another round of elections. Thirdly, the incumbent gets to use more unbudgeted funds that could have helped provide Kwesi Pratt with the water that have never run through his taps, for his re-election bid. Fourthly, it has been the case in the past that quite a number of frivolous agreements are signed in “what if we don’t make it” mood, alongside some pretty eye popping withdrawals from state funds. So you see, I don’t like second rounds. Sometimes I wished we were practicing a typical “first past the post” system. It makes life pretty easy.
Since 2000, and with an ascendency synonymous with the jetting off of a space exploration mission, the media have been in the tick of events on Election Day. This year we have had serious attempts at owning the “official election 2012” branding space. My friends from CITI FM say they are “your election centre”. My other friends at Joy FM use the tagline “Ghana’s election headquarters”. Peace FM takes it all to a whole new level when they say they are the “Election Command Centre”. These three stations will no doubt lead the radio action with great support from their online portals which have proven to be very popular among Ghanaians both home and abroad. Let’s pray that our Argentine friends do not hijack our internet space before or during this period. Ghanaweb too will be up there.
Now let’s do some drama
I foresee parliamentary aspirants sweating and cursing on the night of December 7 when the results in their constituencies have trickled in. Mobile phones will be busy and though telcos may not make a windfall, but they will rake in a lot of revenue with phone calls going back and forth. I foresee candidates yelling on phones.
“Yaw, are you sure these are the results? But your boys said they were sure we were going to win the L.A. School Polling Station?”
“Honourable, we are sure ooo! Bet we don’t know how the results e do like that”
“So that man has won 8 out of 12 polling stations how can I win this election?”
“Honourable, the rest of the four we will win”
“Just like you said we were going to win all 12 eh? You boys are hopeless. You just chop all my money”.
On another line however, another honourable gets called with good news.
“Honourable, now you have become a proper Honourable. We win 8 polling stations. Even if that man wins the remaining four mpo we will be in Accra parliament. Hehehehehheheheheh”
As a student volunteer at the University of Ghana, I took part in the ‘special voting’ in 2004 and so had the chance to cover the elections within the Ayawaso West Wuogun and the Madina and Adenta areas quite extensively. Most likely we would know a chunk of who our MPs would be by 11:59pm of December 7. I recall lying in bed back in 2000 as MPs lost seats and others gained. I love the thrill of following results and listening to disillusioned wanna-be MPs who think there is one polling station close to his mother’s house which will do the trick.
The Ketu South vs Bantama Phenomenon
These two represent perhaps the most extreme of results we should expect. We all know that the Volta and Ashanti Regions will continue in their non-enviable positions as world banks of the two big parties. A worried NPP man and the son had this dialogue;
Son: Paapa they say NDC had 85,000 votes in Ketu there ooo!
Dad: Don’t worry son. I heard it too. Bantama hasn’t come yet. Bantama will neutralize
Ketu North, South, East, West, Central, Sideways, In-ways and all of them one time!
Son: Paa what about Avenor Ave, and Biakoye, and Anlo….
Dad: For every Anlo we have a Manhyia; for every Biakoye we have Kwadaso; for every Avenor we have Tanoso, for everyone, we have someone, Son.
I really wished our people in these two regions will grow out of their staunch partisanship and vote on issues for once. As it stands it is guaranteed that almost all NDC MP aspirants in the Volta Region will make it to Parliament and most of the NPP MP aspirants in the Ashanti Region will make it to the House. That is really not cool. But hey, across the world parties have strongholds so I guess we should also accept ours like that. Or?
I expect a bit of tension, silence and anxiety as votes get tallied. Knowing Ghanaians, the lot of us will remain indoors as though we are expecting some hoodlums to start breaking doors and destroying property. Actually none of this will happen if political leaders “mind their language”. Some of our people have shown that they love talking anyhow. Some dude thinks of how much he has invested and how close he has come to winning a seat, and then right there he starts speaking from his stomach and granting needless interviews on radio stations.
On December 8 cars will drive at top speed blaring their horns to celebrate a parliamentary seat won; in other homes, the wife stands a cold war if she does not edit what she wants to say upstairs before opening her mouth. Such is life!
Radio stations are a more worrying agent for me than any other media. Radio is transient. It is immediate. It is easily assessable by most of the population. They have the largest bunch of people who call themselves journalists but have very little or no training whatsoever. Again, because of their huge numbers, they all do all they can to be market leaders. This quest for dominance has left most of the stations leaving their ethics behind as the pursue news with the potential of causing trouble.
Anchor: We are getting some confusing news from Tain. You will recall that Tain was the last constituency to vote in the 2008 run-off and they are in the news again. Our reporter Kofi Mensah is on the line. Kofi, where in Tain are you and what is the confusion there?
Reporter: Thank you very much. The matter has been resolved. It was a small matter but it is ok now.
Much as we all appreciate the fact that the media are our eyes and ears on the ground in far and near electoral areas and polling stations, we will hope that they exercise a bit of circumspection before putting reporters on air and granting interviews to ‘die-hards’ who will want to stoke fires where there are none, and start infernos for the fun of it.
I have been in radio before and I do appreciate the challenge of getting the news first and ensuring it is the right news to be broadcast in due time. But my friends with the mic and their myriad of reporters across the country should think a little bit more about the importance people attach to what they hear from them and be circumspect with what they report. The twi speaking stations are the worse culprits. I hope we help calm tensions but not to raise them.
December 9 and ‘calling it for’
Last time out we had the EC announce the final results on December 10. I suspect same will happen today too even though there have been considerable improvements in communications which should make the collation of results faster than before. However, I suspect major radio stations such as CITI FM, Joy FM, Peace FM, Adom FM and a few others may want to call the elections for whomever their collations settle on, on December 9. This will mean further heightening of the tension, and a few heart palpitations for our two leading aspirants.
Yes we all know that the main man in December is a certain grey-haired man bearing my surname. Afari-Gyan’s presence at another crowded conference hall with tens of reporters bearing mics, different types of cameras and from home and abroad is undoubtedly one of the key events many a reporter and indeed the whole country and the world look forward to. He often has this cool demeanour especially when he knows that all eyes and ears are on him. Yes, his results are the legitimate ones that get recorded for constitutional and legal reasons. However the results collated by the media and their projections have often been pretty accurate and not surprisingly, most of us will be tempted to follow those ones first as we vote for Afari-Gyan.
When all is said and done, December 7th to 10th will offer us a lot of anxious moments, dramatic sound bites, wailing from losers, cheers from victors, and a united and Ayarigated state called Ghana. Let’s keep it safe, peaceful. We have proven to the world that we understand democracy and can make it work. Let the world look at us again and use us as an example of democracy that works.
God bless Ghana!