Issue Based Voting, Chokor Trotro style
On Wednesday, November 20th we saw the final Ghanaian presidential debate. In the opening address from an esteemed member of the IEA we learned that this represented Ghana’s move toward an issue based election. And then… Ayariga, the ex- PNC flagbearer, opened his mouth. That was the beginning of the end of issue-based dialogue… at least from all the parties except CPP. If not for Abu- Sakara who was the only one who a) answered the questions and b) erm— answered the questions, the whole event would have been lost to the drama of it all. This is my rendition of what happened that fortnight…
<insert well thought out question compiled, undoubtedly, from those given by the overwhelmingly literate population— oh wait… no, from maybe a select few people who knew about sending in questions—oh wait, no, from the IEA>
<reads something he paid someone to write for him, makes a joke about Akufo- Addo fathering him, uses big words to mask the fact that he doesn’t know what he is saying, and then flails his arms yelling ‘ONE TOUCH’>
<goes on and on about what NDC has already done in this arena, makes slight mention of the success and overlooks the shortcomings (except for maternal mortality), commits to making it rain with more government money in the area, says nothing about where said money will come from, then furrows eyebrows>
<in his best British accent: says something generic about the issue, points out that NDC sucks, says something else generic but pseudo-relational (you know—to appeal to us common folk), points out that NDC sucks, promises free schools, points out that NDC sucks so bad we should just let him in so he can give us free education. Free EDUCATION!>
<Looks squarely at the audience, sits up and says ‘I am the way, the truth and the light..”—oh wait, no wait, wrong Savior. He points out the issues inherent in the question, gives us a visionary answer, points out that BOTH NDC and NPP have failed, and then adds some special sauce to make it go down easy. Then Diddy bops because his swag is on a hundred, thousand, trillion. Then says Nkrumah. Then drops the mic.) Like so…
Ok so maybe Abu- Sakara didn’t dance across the stage. But he probably should have. Because then people might have noticed that he was the only one with any modicum of true political vision. How else do you explain him enduring the entire debate humbly, all the while knowing that his competitors are—for wont of better vocabulary– wack. I am not affiliating myself with any party, because parties in this country have somehow converged into one hodge-podge of campaign promises. All I am saying is, there was a clear winner that night… unfortunately, no one else seemed to notice (see: ALL newspaper headlines the following day).
I had a conversation amongst other well- educated, well- informed peers who stated that Ayariga made the whole debate worthwhile. They noted that without his comedic antics, people would have nothing to say the day afterward. Was no one watching what I was watching?!
This to me has three very serious implications (assuming the above sentiment hold true for the overwhelming population):
- Subpar Candidate Line- Up: The candidates sucked. Which would mean that this entire election is a competition of fools (save Abu- Sakara, of course). Which would lead me to go into a Solomon-esque fit of rage yelling ‘Meaningless! Meaningless! This is all meaningless.’ I, however, do not actually believe the candidates are as incompetent and mediocre as we have been fooled into believing. Because they are not being pushed to give us their best, I believe they are okay with giving us what they have given so far.. After all, you get what you ask for and it seems we are not asking for much.
- Unmoved Undereducated Electorate: According to UNESCO’s most recent Global Monitoring Report, Ghana’s total secondary enrollment rate at the end of the 2011 school year was 58%. If the educated didn’t take it seriously… what did the other FORTY TWO percent of the un/ undereducated population even take away from the entire debate? Since the mass concentration of illiterate and undereducated voters are in rural areas that are largely considered ‘swing regions’ what was the impact of the debate at all? Are they issue based voters or just voters with big issues, still largely under-addressed by the candidates?
- The Debate Poorly Organized: The issues were lost in the drama… therefore… what was the point? Was it a function of the debate format? There were, after all, fifty-leven trillion questions… Was it that the moderators didn’t do a good enough job of policing candidates into being honest and taking matters seriously? Could the IEA have done a better job of a) translating the debate into local languages on various channels to ensure te masses were engaged b) encouraging candidates to use English appropriate to the electorates level and c) holding candidates accountable for being specific in their responses.
Again, as Piot notes… this is an example of governments and Ghana’s current democratic state, ‘…presenting an image or simulacrum of itself.’ We thought we were meant to see a truly useful debate but… Ayariga stole the show and in the days that have followed, most people are not talking about the issues discussed. They are talking about the antics: the Ayariga cough and the Akufo- Addo jitterbug. So maybe next time, instead of a debate, they should put all of the candidates in a trotro with Funny Face as he moderates a conversation on important issues like healthcare and azonto dance moves. I am sure we would gain as much from that as we did from the actual debate. If we were trying to be visionary… or truly taking the opportunity this country has as a governance leader in Africa, our debates might actually look closer to this:
Maybe I am being too harsh on us though.
Or maybe I just have too high of hopes.
The election is next Friday and maybe it shall be well.
I mean it is only a nations survival that hangs in the balance here, its not like we are talking about the social and economic development of a low middle-income nation who has an opportunity with an expiring commodity boom, recent oil revenues and increased FDI attention to really make change…
There’s always 2016…