It has been four years already when H.E. John Dramani Mahama won the last election and got promoted from ‘caretaker president’ to his elective presidency. As is usually the mandate, the Electoral Commission is busy carrying out preparatory steps towards December 7 for another election. With a new Commissioner in charge, the EC has had to make some administrative changes to ensure a successful election. It is no small feat a job, for the EC to organize a poll across 28,992 polling stations with 15,683,435 registered voters over a geographically diverse landmass, but they have been successful in the past, there is therefore no reason to doubt their competence in this.
On the one hand is His Excellency John Dramani Mahama, the incumbent President of the Republic of Ghana who is fervently seeking his re-election to serve a second term. His entire campaign is heavily focused on highlighting the achievements of his administration over the past four years and also to promote his plans for the next four years. According to the NDC campaign team, the first term has been used to build critical infrastructural needs, stabilize a pendulous Cedi and to put all the economic indicators in a good shape to start the journey of putting monies in people’s pockets. John Mahama is therefore asking the electorates in the spirit of nationalism to vote for his second term to complete the work he had long started.
On the other hand, is a split opposition, NPP, PPP, CPP, PNC, etc. who have incessantly seized the attention of the electorates and bombarded them with counter-proposals and accusations. The chief of them is the New Patriotic Party whose leader and flagbearer is the 72-year-old Nana Addo-Danquah Akuffo Addo who is making his third appearance on the ballot to once again attempt to be president. The NPP no doubt is a very resourceful opposition party which came close to winning the last general election, subsequently they dragged the EC to court on account of their suspicion of the latter to have rigged the election for the NDC. After months of serious litigation, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the ruling National Democratic Congress and the EC.
Another person who presents an interesting variable in the opposition front is Dr. Papa Kwesi Nduom of the Progressive People’s Party. Though Nduom performed abysmally in the last election, he has re-engineered his campaign this time around and it would be a mistake to discount him. His technology-driven campaign uses Social Media and other Internet tools to target the youth. In as much as he has done all this, Nduom and his PPP, like other smaller opposition parties, do not have the gravitas to win the election. Their participation I believe serves to enrich the democratic mix of the elections. These smaller opposition parties will most definitely make ‘useless’ some opposition votes which could have propelled the NPP to cross the victory line. Therefore, the more forceful they are the less votes the NPP will garner.
The NDC ruled from 1992 and lost power to NPP in 2000 which also lost power back to the NDC in 2008. The nation somehow developed a certain tacit understanding where one party rules for 8 years and the next comes in. So, it is 2016 and the NPP feels it is their turn. I would like to correct this misconception. The octo-annual change-over that has been happening in the past has not been so because of the political party but rather the candidate who is the incumbent. Since our constitution delimits the number of terms a person can run for the presidency to two, when the incumbent has reached his limit, the new candidate presented by the incumbent party often needs time to endear himself to the populace; as opposed to an opposition candidate who had been around begging for power for a long time. Historically, Vice Presidents in this case, do not fare well in their first appearance – somehow, they are viewed as birds of the same feathers (with the past president) until they are able to make a name for themselves. So, the octo-annual change-over effect is not placed on the party but rather the candidate and if that’s the case, John Mahama will not receive the short end of the stick in this regard.
Another dimension of this election is the issue of age and its related health setbacks. Photographs are awash social media platforms wherein Akuffo Addo is seen sleeping in the middle of an active event. Some analysts have also pointed out that NPP’s campaign does not cover some interior communities because Nana lacks the physical exuberance required of such trips. The AfricaWatch Magazine did a whole issue on Nana’s health status, saying he suffers cancer. His absence from a presidential debate last week organized by the NCCE and state broadcaster GBC has also been linked to his failing health. The narrative on Nana’s health has been vigorously oiled by the NDC propaganda machinery, which has also magnified the picture to paint Nana as an invalid, unfit for the presidency.
I have always held that, re-election is much easier than being elected for the first time. And this is against the backdrop of the influence of incumbency, especially the resources it provides. Campaigning in Ghana is a matter of physical presence in as much communities as possible; the media is essential but the people require the presence of their leaders which serves as a sign of respect and recognition. A party that is not able to exert physical contact with the people may not be in the business of winning elections and doing this require massive resources which the ruling party, having access to state logistics, may be able to filch a few of them to such partisan use.
The NDC was birthed from the idea of redeeming the poor from the clutches of the oligarchs and even though in actuality this may not be the case now, the perception is quite rife. This explains why the NDC is more popular in poor communities and much of the interior parts of the country. Voter-apathy is more common with the well-to-do and busy city dwellers as opposed to the poor and village dwellers who have all the time to queue for hours on end to cast their votes. This is why NDC continues to consolidate their support base in this regard.
Lastly, the NPP, with a few days to December 7, is still divided. The internal bad blood suggests that NPP is not campaigning at full strength and therefore may not be able to meet the campaign requirements to win the elections. It also suggests that there’s some possible sabotage to undercut Akuffo-Addo’s efforts to win the election.
May Ghana be the Victor, God bless Ghana.
Written by: Sonny Yenibey Namouz