AFRICA IS A COUNTRY

Ghana in 2013: Five Lessons Learned
Billie Adwoa McTernan | December 27th, 2013

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It has been a year since Ghana held presidential and parliamentary elections — elections that saw John Dramani Mahama hold on to the presidency six months after he stepped into the position following the death of the then president John Atta Mills.

In 12 months, we’ve had an unnecessarily lengthy court case, corruption claims and the usual party backbiting. From the entertaining, mundane and sometimes depressing events and revelations, here are five of the most important lessons we learned from this year.

1. Ghanaians like catchphrases

There were many amusing moments during the eight-month-long election petition that saw the opposition, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), challenge the results of the 2012 election. It was during that time that inventive names like “Finger of God polling station” came to light, whilst the infamous “pink sheets” — the document on which votes were recorded at each polling station — were thrown into regular conversation to mean anything controversial. It is also the title of a recent song by Samini:

But the most mocked and most integrated catchphrase has to be: “You and I were not there” from NPP vice-presidential candidate Mahamudu Bawumia. When asked in court if biometric verification was properly carried out at the polling stations, Bawumia’s response was: “You and I were not there.” When questioned about whether over-voting took place, Bawumia met it with another: “You and I were not there.” His mantra continued for days (yes, days) and left viewers wondering: “Why are we even here?” His response was all well and good, but if you are ever in court and your evidence is shaky and fails you, you know what your rebuttal shouldn’t be.

A good catchphrase can also help you win an election. See: “E dey be k3k3.

2. Party politics is real

Reading some of the local newspapers or listening to debates and call-ins on the radio will teach you nothing about how Ghana is really faring as a country. If you disagree with any given point, rhetoric quickly centres around the party you support or are linked to as a means to explain away your opposing view. You are sure to hear something along the lines of “he is an agent of the NDC [or NPP].” Policy think tank IMANI has been routinely accused of being a “surrogate of the NPP.” And when it comes to discussing corruption, there is much finger-pointing without any sign of resolution.

3. Having the gift of the gab is better than the gift of effective governance

If you want to show the country you are a capable leader, avoid plummy accents, ties and three-piece suits. Be a man of the people. This is the image President Mahama has aimed for. But as he has jetted across the world preaching about how proud he is of Ghana’s stable democracy (see point 5), the country’s finances are going to the pits, infrastructure projects have been consistently stalled, whilst power and water supply have been erratic all year. But what does it matter — e dey be k3k3.

4. Ghanaian ministers are not particularly ambitious when it comes to making extra curricular monies

When the deputy minister of communications, Victoria Hammah, was sacked for claiming that she will leave politics after making $1 Million, many were offended that she would aim so low. Look at what the Nigerians are achieving.

5. Ghana will forever be a “beacon of democracy” in the eyes of the West

The decision by the NPP to challenge the results of the 2012 elections was heralded as a step to further solidify Ghana’s “progressive” democracy. International media barely covered the election, let alone the court case that followed, so cracks in the election that was deemed to be free and fair were overlooked. After the petition was dismissed, no serious commitment was made to implement electoral reforms so as to avoid a repeat of the widespread irregularities. And at the same time the justices of the Supreme Court will continue to be appointed by the incumbent president as will the commissioner of the Electoral Commission. Conflict of interests much?

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Billie Adwoa McTernan

Billie Adwoa McTernan is a freelance journalist living in Accra. She writes about political and cultural affairs across the continent with a particular focus on Ghana and West Africa.

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