GHANA GOES TO THE POLLS: ELECTION DAY IN GHANA

                             

On the eve of election in Ghana, the whole hullabaloo of political cacophony abruptly comes to a standstill basically because there is a ban on political campaigning 24 hours to the actual D-Day of the presidential and parliamentary elections.

I happen to be in Tamale in the Northern region of Ghana and as I head out to the basketball court for recreation, I happen to pass through the Tamale main market and I see this dude going around with a folded sample of the ballot with the candidates of the two leading political parties, John Dramani Mahama and Nana Akufo Addo of the NDC and NPP respectively. The latter is on the back of the folded paper with his face scratched out whilst the guy goes to each stall at the market telling the market women ‘JM is the man and he is number 1’. I found this pretty interesting because this is what has characterized both party’s campaign throughout the campaign trail – the culture of undermining the other candidate.  I am also reminded of the doctoring of tapes (the Otabil saga is still fresh in my mind) and the heated political debates on radio and Tv stations in Accra.

In the background, there is music playing to the effect that Professor Atta Mills (RIP) is no more but he has endorsed John Mahama as his successor in the Better Ghana Agenda program of the NDC.

Against the perceptions of youth violence down south in Accra, the youth of Tamale are rather calm and not forcing anybody to vote for any particular party. I enjoy a good game of basketball and we all wish each other a happy day on the day of voting. Sports really has a way of bonding people together.

It is not very surprising that on the eve of electoral voting the whole of Ghana is relatively quiet. A close friend of mine in the USA keeps talking to me on social media to ask me why the whole of the country is very quiet, even on social media, prior to the voting in the morning. She points out that in the United States, the noise grows louder as the day approaches and is loudest and deafening as the electoral results are announced especially as the rest of the world is watching closely on the various news channels all around the world.

However news keeps trickling in of voters already starting to queue in line at the break of dawn for an event that will happen hours later. People want to vote early and go home and some people reportedly sleep near the polling stations so they get to be one of the early voters to exercise their franchise and go back home.

In the morning the news stations report live from the various polling stations all over the country and information about the polls are relayed to viewers all over the country and also internationally. Ghana has been a beacon of peace not only in the sub region but in Africa as a whole. Kwame Nkrumah was right in saying Ghana was the Black Star of Africa and Ghanaians are doing pretty well to maintain the status quo.

The ability of the press to report the electoral process is very impressive and shows how far press freedom has come from the days of the revolution era in the 80s to present day.  The new millennium has been good for press freedom all over the world and Ghana is no exception. The Press has now come to be known as the fourth realm of the estate. The Electoral Commission did not include the press in the special voting process for this electoral process and this almost caused a stir but the storm was weathered pretty well. The press has been pretty impressive in this election.

This is the first time Ghana is resorting to biometric machines during an electoral process and this election not only acts as a trial run but a pioneering process for the biometric voting process. However, the biometric process is leaving more questions than answers. As has always been the case, I have wondered whether we have to copy the West piecemeal when it comes to democracy when we do not really have the systems in place to back it up like they do.

Firstly, are the biometric machines supposed to verify who the voter is or it is the main requisite for voting so that even though a voter has his identity card and his name shows up in the register, when the machine cannot pick up his fingerprint it means such a person cannot vote?  Are the machines to help us vote or are we depending on the machines? Interesting indeed since what is predominantly happening in parts of the country is that the machines are not identifying the voter’s fingerprints.

But rather interestingly to me, it is the ruling and incumbent party, the NDC who have vehemently held a press conference to lodge a complaint with the Electoral Commission to state their displeasure with the failure of the machines. The party lodged the complaint on the basis that this mostly happened in their strong holds. I really don’t know what to think about this but not to sound too partisan in my remarks the question that comes to mind is who is the government in power that provided these machines for the Electoral Commission and honestly I shudder to think of what would have happened if the NPP was in power and something like that had happened. The Conspiracy Theory mindedness of these politicians just blows my mind.

Another issue that is raised in this biometric electoral process is the issue of the visually challenged (blind) who were handed a ballot paper that had no braille markings and still expected to vote.  In some polling stations, some people protested that the people accompanying such people to the voting booth were influencing them to vote for the party they sympathized with. Very interesting indeed!

On a lighter note, how about the older persons whose fingerprint the biometric machines could not read. Is it because their fingerprints were too wrinkled or their age was not recognized by the machines. Well, that is food for thought if even biometric machines are discriminating against the aged.

My final observation is how many cards the average Ghanaian has to show who he or she is. There is a worker or student ID card, the National ID card, the voters ID card, the National Health Insurance ID card and finally a Driver’s License. Since we are copying piecemeal from the western world, why is it not just possible to put all a person’s data on a single card but then the average Ghanaian has to carry all these cards for various purposes? Sometimes I wonder what pertains in the other African countries especially since I believe that Ghana is way ahead of them when it comes to developmental issues. It is my hope that whatever governments we put in place will streamline all these things in policy making.

The electoral process is trickling to an end with people still waiting to vote in some areas because of technical glitches. The Electoral Commission has announced that those who cannot vote today will have to vote tomorrow. This is the first time the voting process has extended to the next day but there is a first time for everything like they say.

But what lessons do we learn from this Election 2012? We are all privy to the electoral process thanks to the press and also thanks to social media with individuals reporting and describing their experiences. It is very obvious that at the next electoral process there will be a new Electoral Commissioner because the current one has announced his retirement after this election. Who will be the new commissioner and what will he also bring to the table? Will he deal with the problems that this commissioner has experienced in his term of office and modify the institution? As the saying goes, only time will tell.

Meanwhile the elections reports and results keep trickling in from constituencies all over the country carried to the electorate by the press. The people of Ghana and the outside world await with bated breath the winner of the Election 2012, Ghana Decides 2012 as this election has come to be termed.

One thing that stands out is the peaceful nature that Ghanaians have conducted this poll. Ghana has maintained the status quo as the democratic beacon of Africa and as such the Black Star of Africa.

Kudos to Ghanaians in this process and I have never been so proud to be called a Ghanaian. May the best candidate win and let’s hope they stick to their promises of a better Ghana and make Ghana the ultimate winner of this poll.

I Love My Ghana!

Long Live Peace in Ghana!

Long Live Ghana!

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