Saturday, December 13, 2008

Letter to Jomo: Back to Bantama

Have you travelled in rural Nigeria by any chance? Adedeji swigs palm wine, smacks his lips, surveys the remaining foamy contents of the calabash approvingly and waxes grandly philosophical. "Ibi di wind fit show fowl im nyass", he declares. (He pronounces fowl, "far-well.")

He is dead right, Jomo, it is only nature which reveals what nature herself conceals. Sometimes she needs time as a facilitating dimension. So Ghanaians will have to wait for an answer to the question: Why did God refuse our prayer to spare us a run-off in last Sunday's election?

It is not a subject of discourse for quantum physicists and astral mathematicians, but one for simple men of faith. Maybe God is doing us a favour by stopping us in our tracks with "hey, hey, my people, take it easy. Don't leap before you look!"

That gives voters a couple of weeks again to reflect carefully on the decision they are about to take, before they sign off their destiny as a people.

For willing and discerning students of life and politics, but especially the spin masters, propagandists, commentators and election pollsters who held sway in the campaign, the results of the 2008 e1ections and the pending run-off have taught one lesson:

Behind the anonymity and silence of the masses, there constantly lurks a powerful force capable of standing popular assumptions upside down, moderating the expectations of the over-presumptuous and humbling the all-knowing super wise.

Media propaganda and over-hype energized the public all right, resulting in a massive voter turnout, but hey, what purpose did all that serve when in the end many did not know how to vote, resulting in more than 205,000 rejected ballots, enough votes to have swung the ballot one or the other way and made a re-run unnecessary?

That is what you get from political activists and media which in an election year, are more consumed with swamping voters with overly opinionated commentary and propaganda, than with informing them about issues such as the correct way of voting.

Here is what happened: The very first results on Monday had Mills in the lead by more than 50 per cent and Akufo-Addo closely behind with less than 49 per cent of the certified results. Then the percentages swung in favour of Akufo-Addo.

As the day wore on, votes from the so-called respective strongholds of the NDC and the NPP kept swinging the prospects of victory in favour of Mills and Akufo-Addo back and forth like a yo-yo gone berserk. Then Akufo-Addo maintained his lead.

Thereafter, scanty communication from the EC left the nation in tension and suspense-packed silence all day on Monday and Tuesday. Like Alsatians straining furiously on leashes, party supporters were rearing to go and celebrate. You have heard what has been said about human nature:

A chap called Stubblefield says: "People will always resist a void and refuse emptiness" and that "human nature drives people to impose form, structure, patterns and the symbolic where there is emptiness."

So the parties found something to fill the long hours of shattering silence. Each side began claiming victory, with the NDC insisting that something untoward was happening. Those were scary moments.

With little coming by way of an idea regarding the likely winner and the last results coming in slowly, I went to Ghanaweb's chat forum to find out what conversation Ghanaians at home and in the Diaspora were having about what was going on.

To my chagrin, there was the usual rowdy crowd at their worst, engaged in a brisk trade in insults and curses with some mischievous fellows posting outrageous results cooked in their skulls.

I eventually sought refuge in a "twittering" service set up by the African Elections Project to develop the capacity of the media in Africa to cover elections and enable people across borders to share information during elections.

The idea of "election twittering" was conceived after the election chaos in Kenya and Zimbabwe. When I got to this twittering site, people were exchanging information on the election by the minute.

Out there in cyberspace, people were cheering us on with such messages as "Big up, Ghana. Lovely people." Some people who were about to come to Ghana were fearful of their safety and sought information.

Someone who may have been an oil engineer sent a twitter: "I am heading to Ghana on board an oil rig to ride it to Brazil. I sincerely hope that the political climate there remains calm. I have never been there before and don't know what to expect."

He was promptly assured by someone that all he would probably need to worry about was his wallet. "You will need to keep your wallet close to you and your credit cards even closer", he was told.

By Tuesday evening, many people were asking one question: How can a political party win parliamentary elections in six out of 10 regions and still yield a lead in the poll to its closest rival? Asked two serious mathematicians and a happy statistician.

My heroes in the first run of the 2008 Election, are the millions of our compatriots who turned out to vote. Ever hopeful of a better life but nonetheless never unmindful of our continent's recent political experience, many of them, must have known that they probably had little to gain and so much to lose if they were betrayed.

Yet they still massed up outside polling stations, more than eight million of them, to sign off their lives yet again, to new, unpredictable political leaders.

Many started queuing up by midnight on the eve of polling day and stayed in the queues in the scorching sun for hours on polling day to vote.

Do you reckon our politicians, when they look at voters in queues, see what Jesus saw in the multitudes which followed him? People heavily weighed down by their worries and cares and looking like sheep without a shepherd!

Are you not curious to know if presidential and parliamentary candidates are always so moved by the sight of long queues of loyal, longsuffering voters, that their consciences are doubly pricked to the point that they really determine to do everything possible to make life bearable and decent for the people if elected?

Nana Akufo-Addo could maintain his lead and widen the percentage margin between him and Mills in the run-off.

On the other hand, for a party which expended colossal resources on one of the most powerful campaign blitzes since independence, the lead was not significant. Akufo-Addo obtained 49.13 and Mills 47.92 percent of the votes! With a fairly level field for a run-off, Mills might just carry December 28; but then again, who Knows, except the Old Man up on the last floor?

Credit: George Syndey Abugri [Email: Website:

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