If there is any politician whose communication skill is almost perfect and can enter any household regardless of one’s perception of his politics, that is John Dramani Mahama (JDM). Love or loathe him, when he starts speaking you would be caught listening. It seems to be a natural gift which he has astutely refined to become an integral part of his political brand. He has thrived on it for decades.
Supposedly, this year was to be a ‘political clasico’ between the two biggest political parties in Ghana – the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC), because of election 2020. However, the coronavirus pandemic has cast doubts on the possibility of having the general election. An attempt to organize it whiles the coronavirus is still around will likely defeat the purpose of social distancing. Already experts have projected that the covid-19 may linger for long. I hope not!
Many have resorted to doing important things online and the presidential candidate for the biggest opposition party NDC, has not been left out. With covid-19 around, he has been channeling every information to the public through social media with last Wednesday’s edition being very interesting. It was a live interaction with the public on Facebook. The former president answered various questions posted by viewers after he had addressed them.
Of course, during the session, he did not shy away from taking a swipe at President Akufo-Addo’s covid-19 response, at some point describing the president’s decision to build 88 district hospitals as a kneejerk reactive response. Well, Akufo-Addo’s new 88 hospitals to be built in just a year may seem absurd, but it is obvious that both camps have subtly politicized anything related to the novel coronavirus. Can it be avoided? Your guess is as good as mine.
Following through the comment section, one thing caught my attention. Praise singers of Mr. Mahama found their voices on the platform, promising to vote for the NDC on December 7. Many who were impressed with Mr. Mahama’s delivery sounded like victory for their party was assured. The non-supporters, however, thought it was an utter waste of time and their data.
As a neutral, I found the NDC flagbearer’s use of social media to interact with Ghanaians mightily impressive. It was well planned and coordinated. Besides, a communicator like himself would ensure that the right thing is done. That’s his field!
Parts of the content of his address though sounded like a campaign in subtlety – telling the public what he would do when given the nod once again. He seems to have taken a cue from President Akufo-Addo’s previous addresses which were beautifully interwoven with promises that sought to convince the voting public to keep the New Patriotic Party in power.
But is it a done deal for Mahama and the National Democratic Congress? No! I personally have a strong conviction that the role of social media in elections in Ghana is overemphasized. Besides, we cannot deceive ourselves that social media engagements alone can determine the outcome of election 2020. Anyone with that mindset has already lost the election now even before December 7.
With majority of social media users being millennials, it is easy to believe that majority of the former president’s praise singers were millennials. But, it is widely accepted that young people hardly vote and most Ghanaians who vote are not on social media.
It would be a big surprise to me to realize that a political colossus like JDM will fall for social media remarks. With his experience as a politician who rose through the ranks at every level and his recent ignominious defeat in 2016, one can only hope that social media responses (good or bad) would not be used as the main determining factor to forecast election 2020 results.
The continuous politicization of response to covid-19 by both camps is rather unfortunate. It adds up to the polarization of our dear nation’s image, resulting in people needlessly engaging in unfruitful arguments. Honestly, that is not what we need although the reality is what we are facing.
Coronavirus could have united us regardless of political affiliations, but we have declined to heed to that. With the former president left with no option than social media to compete with the current president for our attention even with uncertainty looming large on election 2020, I can only wish, that both camps would avoid the political colourization of response to covid-19 and lead in a difficult time like this without subtly asking for vote!
The fate of John Mahama lies in God’s hands, however when we vote it will surely reflect. Left to me alone, if I were to vote, I will vote for Ghana.