One Tooooouch!

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In less than 24 hours Ghanaians across the nation will line up at local polling stations in this Egyptian slave heat in order to vote for leadership. In my conversation and even in my writings, I often switch between ‘we’ and ‘they’ when discussing my experiences in Ghana because the truth of the matter is, I am both spectator and partaker. I am invested in the Ghanaian legacy, and at once, in awe of the elements that truly distinguish the political climate here, from that of the US.

The election season here is far more… HYPE– to say the least.

Remember in college when at the end of  a party, the AKA’s would start chanting and then the Delta’s would come in with a chant right back and then the Bruhz would start hopping and then the Alphas get to tuttin’ and then people are standing around confused and wondering to themselves: Can we join in—- Should we just stand here and watch— Is this our cue to leave— Can we laugh at them….is this even fair that they can roll up in here pushing people and taking the stage and making noise and stoppin’ me from being great?!

Its this big flamboyant mess of noise and culture and happiness and rivalry and history and fun.

That’s what the NPP rally felt like yesterday.

That’s what it felt like at Tema Station as people returned from the NDC rally in Teshie.

Thats what it felt like riding away from the rally as people put up their one’s and their three’s and yelled ‘e de beeeee’…

It’s probably the hype that was felt in the US around the 60s when blacks were finally able to vote and did so in hoards…

Heated discussions about issues…

Fierce allegiances along party lines…

Gallant singing and dancing about the moment…

You realize that the right to vote, is far different from the opportunity to vote.

The simple difference between rights and opportunities is the sheer optimism of the latter and the festive nature of ‘election’ season turns this optimism into a very tangible thing. Optimism… and hope… and all things warm and fuzzy suddenly become very sensory. It is as if you could put it in a satchet and sell it on 37…. ‘Yessss Pure… 3y3 Puuuure Optimism’…

And this optimism is a reflection of a people who take their rights and responsibilities as citizens very seriously. At least as far as the act of voting is concerned (For a discussion on the other tenants of democratic responsibility and an informed electorate, see my first post…ha!).

The voting rate in Ghana has increased from the abysmal twenty- something percent in 1992 (when the first ‘true democratic’ election was held) to just shy of 70% in the last election…

SEVENTY PERCENT!!!!!!!

I can not think of one single thing in America that would attract 70% of the population… except maybe the first episode of the first season of American Idol. The fact that the number just fluctuates at those high levels is commendable and is a reflection of the buzz of election season.

As you may or may not know, I do very serious qualitative research and analysis in the form of taxi and tro- tro focus groups in order to get a pulse of the happenings outside of the ivory tower that is East Legon. In my very important and highly technical sample data collected, I find it interesting how big of a following NDC has on the ground. All of my actual friends seem to be NPP but anytime I stop anyone in my focus group sessions (yes… cab drivers and trotro riders… don’t judge!), it seems they just want to give Mahama a chance to try and do something different. It is like people just want to believe that if he is given an opportunity, he might just change things around. This just speaks to the accessibility of the NDC party and the reach and sway they have with the the normal, day-to-day man. Oppositely, when I speak to my NPP loving, intellectual peers… they tell me that Akufo- Addo is the only one in the running with any real vision. Having read both the NDC and NPP manifestos..I can agree with the latter but completely see and understand the sentiments of the former.  Everyone I have asked regarding the CPP’s and PPP’s of the world  concede that they are too small and unimportant to quote waste a vote on unquote… Which is probably consistent with some fancy economic phenomena (or maybe its a cognitive bias..?) where each person who supports a party in thought but decides against acting on it in practice helps to substantiate the self- fulfilling prophecy of that party losing the election grossly. And then the cycle continues because next election people just point out how badly they lost in the last election and continue to effectively ignore them in the election season. *shrugs shoulders*. But no matter the party, as one of the tellers mentioned to me at the bank today, this election is a very BIG election.

This is the most educated the population has ever been.

This the most contentious an election has ever been.

This is the most economically high stakes an election has been…

This is an election of very high precedent.

So… the race is on between NPP and NDC. I have gotten sachet water… buttons… flags… t-shirts… CD’s… and a whole host of free things tossed at me in anticipation of the seventh. It’s like the Mardi Gras of election season and I don’t even have to lift my shirt for free goods!  Bigger than the opportunity to score some nice tunes and sexy sleepwear oversized T-shirts…I am excited about what this level of hype could mean for us once our leadership gets their act together. Because one day, our Mardi-Gras-like festivities will be a testament to a tangible optimism that has finally come into fruition. One day, a majority of people who vote will be well educated, healthy and able to make sound decisions that go beyond catchy phrases and fun songs. One day, each election season will be an opportunity to hold our leadership accountable and to ensure that they are moving us on the right track… And in those days, we will truly have something worthwhile to celebrate.

As Kanye so eloquently stated…I wish I could give you this feeling… but since I can’t, I will leave you with this song. After all, tomorrow… one touch will likely be one more step in a new direction as Ghana navigates its way to truly becoming a beacon for democracy in West Africa.

Just… (one) touch!

Happy Voting!!

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