It was predicted that the elections were going to be “close”. But not this close. Since I am such a ‘small boy’, I stand to be corrected but I think this has been the most competitive political race in Ghana’s history.
For now, we know for sure that last Sunday’s elections only succeeded in separating the ‘men’ from the ‘boys’ – especially in the presidential poll. The parliamentary poll – on the other hand – delivered ‘shock and awe’ in torrents. Whoever thought that Freddy Blay would lose his Ellembelle seat? But he did after sending mixed messages to his people about where his allegiance lay. It’s odd enough to see an elephant dancing like a ‘kangaroo’. But most people can live with that because both animals have four limbs. However, it’s very strange (almost incredible) to see a ‘cockerel’ – with two limbs – also trying to dance like a kangaroo. That’s what confused the people of Ellembelle and I believe that’s why they decided to vote Blay out, abruptly ending his parliamentary career. They were simply telling him that if he is a ‘cockerel’ he should stay as such but if he wants to be an elephant, he should go right ahead and stop being here and there at the same time. You get my drift?
Did anyone give Samia a dog’s chance in Jomoro? Very few people did. But Nkrumah’s little girl – whose speech I find it difficult to decipher – gave the experienced Lee Ocran a sound political trashing he would love to forget in a hurry.
And Asamoah Boateng’s defeat in Mfantseman West appears to be the most welcome electoral news in Ghana today. Almost everyone is gloating at Asamoah Boateng’s loss.
“Serves him right,” I heard a man say on radio. “Next time he will learn to talk to people.”
As he licks his wounds Asamoah Boateng is also trying his best to do the impossible: snatching victory from the jaws of defeat. He claims the polls were rigged (ouch!) and he’s therefore going to court to demand a recount. He lost by almost four thousand votes and unless the heavenly hosts rain some electoral manna on him, Asa B can decide to count and recount the ballots for the rest of his life – nothing will change.
Other NPP bigwigs barely scraped through. Some of them only managed very narrow, controversial wins after performing some of the electoral feats that give Zimbabwe such a bad name. Take I.C. Quaye for example. He needed five recounts to be able to win back his Ayawaso Central seat. Five recounts! That’s absurd and I don’t understand why the electoral officers allowed it to happen.
Looking at the election results overall, I can only draw one conclusion: the NPP lost the polls but the NDC didn’t win either. The NPP can put whatever spin they want on the results and mount as many challenges as they wish in court, but the fact will still remain: they lost! They ceded their overwhelming parliamentary majority and their presidential candidate barely managed to beat his oft-maligned and, some may say, ailing rival.
And all this happened at a time when the ruling party believes that it gave Ghanaians the best government this country has ever had. The NPP also failed to secure a clear mandate at a time the NDC ran its campaign on the thinnest shoe-string budget ever. They tried to organise a fundraising dinner dance, selling tickets for about GHC 1000 but very few bothered to buy the tickets forcing them to cancel the event.
A similar event organised by the NPP was sold out and some people had to beg to be allowed to make a donation. So the NPP came into this battle with its biggest war chest ever. If after all of this the ruling party’s candidate barely manages to scrape through with a tiny lead over his impoverished rival, then, surely there is something wrong somewhere.
What is wrong is that the NPP ‘lost’ this election because they have lost touch with the people. They have forgotten about why they were given a mandate to govern eight years ago. That mandate was for them to deliver a promised ‘positive change’.
Over the years, the NPP has only succeeded in proving to us that there is very little to choose between them and the other politicians in the NDC. They value is (almost) the same. This ‘electoral draw’ from Sunday’s polls, which almost tilts into a victory for the NDC is an unequivocal expression of the people’s frustration at the failure of the NPP to deliver on its promises.
If a ruling party fails to secure an outright victory in an election after touting all it claims to have achieved and promising to deliver even more, there is cause for pause. The NPP thinks (like the NDC did in 2000) that what the people consider to be their reality is an illusion. When people say they don’t have money and the president responds by saying that there is enough money in the system and that only lazy people will complain about poverty, it’s a clear sign that the governing class and the governed are living in two different worlds. That’s why the NPP lost.
So why is the NPP’s loss not a victory for the NDC?
Well, the answer is simple. We cannot trust them either. We remember their years in office and how they ruled this country like a fiefdom of the Rawlingses and we are not so sure whether we want to go back to them. Talk of polarisation and this country has never been as polarised as it is now. In 2000 we were certain that we wanted change. In 2008, we are very not sure.
From the votes on Sunday, it is clear that Ghanaians are tempted to vote for change. But what change? It’s a scary prospect that we are presented with. Are we going to vote for change to bring back to power the party we voted for change to kick out of office? It’s a tough call. We are caught between a rock and a hard place. But we have two weeks to make up our minds.
The good thing is that we have ‘gifted’ ourselves with a parliament which cannot become a ‘rubber stamp’. So it doesn’t really matter who wins the run-off on December 28. The most important thing is that whether it is Akufo-Addo or Mills, we expect our elected representatives to make sure our next president and his men (and women, of course) will be kept in check and helped to stay in touch with the realities that buffet us day in and day out.
Whenever our MPs are tempted to think that this is too much to ask, we will find very innovative ways to remind them about what happened to the likes of Asamoah Boateng and Freddy Blay.