I am not looking forward to anything extraordinary. I am not going to hear anything I’ve never heard before. But I just can’t wait for the presidential debate with the four most serious contenders answering questions, asking questions of each other (hopefully) and having their ideas challenged.
Democracy has never had it so good in Ghana! For the first time, even the incumbent party’s candidate is taking part in a presidential debate.
In 2000, when the first one was held, Atta Mills pompously decided that staying at home to watch the debate was more important than actually taking part in it. He lost the elections. We can blame his defeat on his refusal to participate in the debate – people were just fed up with his mentor and didn’t want the shelter of the ‘umbrella’ anymore. In 2004, Mills decided that he just couldn’t afford to stay away from the debate. He took part but his main opponent and incumbent president, John Kufuor, chose to do what Mills had done four years earlier. Interestingly, the guy who didn’t participate in the debate actually won the polls.
So debates don’t win elections for anyone. Not even in America, I think. Most people have made up their minds already and it will take something very, very remarkable on a gargantuan scale (think of a candidate losing his cool and running across the podium to slap an opponent) for this debate to swing the votes in any significant way. It could win some votes, though, for some of the candidates – but not enough to win the elections anyone.
So why am I looking forward to it? Well, it presents the candidates in a completely different light. This is just one of two occasions on which they will share the same stage. We will see how they respond to each and observe their comportment, their temperament and their ability to think on their feet. This is not a campaign rally, so they won’t make sugar-coated promises and get away without being asked how they intend to fulfil them.
I will be watching and listening to the debate with rapt attention. But at the same time, I’d be chatting in cyberspace with a few friends of mine – on how it progresses: who’s making sense? Who’s blowing ‘jazz’? Who’s evading questions? Who’s trying too hard to impress? The text of the chat will be posted on this site, unedited and uncensored!
Let me say a big “thank you” to Lamisi Dabire in Accra, Nehemiah Atigah in Lagos, Kwadwo Yeboah-Gyan in Memphis, Yawa Yayra Tay in Hanover, IA, Raymond Etornam Agbeame in Kumasi and Godwin Jason Agboka of Chicago for agreeing to take part in this. With the exception of Lamisi, these are people I ‘met’ in cyberspace on the social networking site, Facebook! I’ve never ‘physically’ met any of them.
If we don’t suffer a power outage, we are going to have a lot of fun! At the end of the day, democracy wins and when that happens we are all victors!