Essential Ingredients for the Ghanaian Campaign Trail
Ghanaians have two favourite pastimes; football and politics. Just as one former Black star coach lamented that Ghana is a nation of over 20 million coaches, one can safely say Ghana is also a nation of over 20 million political commentators. This phenomenon could not have been more aptly described in an email forward circulating back in the late 1990s entitled ‘How To Tell One African From Another’ which stated that “…Ghanaians think they invented politics”.
After all, when people in other parts of the world are tuned into morning radio shows filled with tantalizing celebrity gossip or embarrassing prank calls, in Ghana we are attentively listening to newspaper reviews and political panel discussions. In fact, heated political debates can take place anywhere; in trotros, bank queues, hair salons or public toilets…or even about public toilets!
On December 7th 2012, Ghanaians will go to the polls for the 6th time since what is known in our history as “the return to democratic rule” in 1992. Election years in Ghana set politics into fever pitch mode. Common election year features include mammoth-sized political rallies, creative TV ads, catchy songs by well-paid musicians, powerful slogans and of course fiery political rhetoric
As an ardent follower of Ghanaian politics and having observed three past election years, I’ve come to realise that there are key essential items that the aspiring politician needs while out on the campaign trail.
For this scenario let us say the aspiring politician is running for seat in the esteemed Ghanaian House of parliament. I present a few of the essential items:
- The book “2012 Edition of Maps of Road Networks of the Republic of Ghana complete with road commissioning dates” One can be forgiven to think that maps are essential for the aspiring politician to be able to navigate through the twists and turns of their constituency but alas this is not the case. Firstly, in Ghana we never use maps to get directions to any place. Secondly, In our part of the world a road is not just an open way for vehicles, persons and animals but are the pathways on which our nation’s future are built. When in government, it is always essential to highlight and herald all the roads that you are constructing and ensure that road construction projects open with much-publicized sod-cutting ceremonies. When in opposition, it is key to emphasize that roads cannot be eaten. However, it is also equally important to still take credit for roads that your government may have started when in power. A book of road networks will help the aspiring politician point out which roads were built under the auspices of their party.
- The textbook “Contemporary History of Ghana 1945 – present”. One fact one should know about Ghanaian politics is that it revolves around political antecedents and traditions that date back to pre-independence times. This makes it almost impossible for a new political philosophy to emerge onto the Ghanaian political terrain but makes it completely possible for a politician to accuse their opponent of throwing bombs in the 1960s years before they were born. It also makes it plausible for the aspiring politicians to be accused of supporting a coup d’état when they were 3 years old.
- Holy Books: In Ghana, the appearance of piety always resonates with the electorate. Being perceived as “God-fearing” is sometimes even more important than actually being morally-upright. An ability to quote from The Bible is always a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.
- Macho-men: Before images of the 70s/80s band The Village People come to mind, to be clear, macho-men in Ghana are the steroid-fuelled well-muscled enforcers whose services are in high demand particularly during election times. These services range from private security to just plain good ‘ol trouble-making. On the campaign trail macho-men in sunglasses are a key accessory for the aspiring politician. In addition, it is always wise to keep a stock of akpeteshie (local gin) at hand since macho-men are known to have a particular penchant for this beverage.
- Entourage: The campaign trail is not unlike a musician’s tour. Therefore, the aspiring politician needs a large entourage of praise-singers and hanger-ons. The politician however must ensure they have enough funds to cover T & T or run the risk of their posse immediately thinning out.
- An Opening act: A vital member of any politician’s entourage is an opening act who is also a crowd warmer. This has to be some one gifted in the type of political rhetoric that gets crowds excited and worked up. So even if the aspiring candidate is as exciting as a lump of charcoal, if the opening act is powerful, the crowd would not be able to see the difference
- Four-wheel Drive Vehicle: A powerful vehicle is essential for not only being able to navigate through the rough roads of any constituency but also to load up with an entourage, macho-men and other hanger-ons all of whom will literally be hanging onto the vehicle.
- T-shirts: Lets face it, everyone likes a new fresh superior cotton t-shirt. For the aspiring politician, it is essential that you get t-shirts with your face and party colours. However, it is important to note that the number of your t-shirts you see being worn does NOT translate into votes because after all, everyone likes a new fresh superior cotton t-shirt regardless of what it says on the front or back.
- Andrews Liver salts: After mounting the campaign platform, it is important to move from house to house to meet ‘the people on the ground’. While on a house to house tour, the aspiring politician may be offered all sorts of lovely delicacies to feast on and it is important to indulge in these dishes to demonstrate that you are down to earth and very much akin to this ‘ordinary Ghanaian’ you hear so much about. However, be sure to have some powerful medication at hand in case the dishes have some unexpected consequences later.
- High quality toilet paper: One of the unexpected consequences of consuming lovely delicacies is the infamous on the road diarrhoeal attack. Anyone who has been on the road in Ghana knows that there is an acute lack of toilets and even if you do happen to find a toilet, there is nothing worse than a diarrhoeal attack without toilet paper.
- A radio: While on the road it is essential to have access to a radio to tune into the plethora of morning political discussion shows being carried by major radio stations and their affiliates across the country. It is also essential because as a politician, it is likely someone may be tarnishing your name in your absence. The good politician will call into a show for a swift and immediate rebuttal.
- Photographer: It is essential for the aspiring politician to have a photographer on hand to capture the large crowds attending one’s rally to document for a newspaper or perhaps a brochure. Please note that the key phrase is “large crowds”. If no one shows up and the rally is a complete flop, the photographer can be dispatched to the nearest drinking spot.
- Mobile Phone: The aspiring politician should be sure to hand out a mobile number to potential voters with assurances that they can be reached at all times of the day. However, at the end of the election and you have won power, this number should be treated like burner phone from the movies and disposed immediately.
These are just a few of the items required for the campaign trail. Please note that
1. a concrete plan for office or
2. a point by point vision for the future
are listed under the section on “Non-essential items for the campaign trail”
Hopefully Election 2012 will be peaceful and Ghana will continue to be a true Beacon of African Democracy.