Ghana Polls: Through The Mirror Of Nigeria’s 2015 Elections – JJ Omojuwa

Nigeria may be Africa’s Big Brother but it has not exactly been one to look up to as an example of best practices, whether with respect to managing an economy or governing a people. Ghana has at times been a better example of economic growth, especially when compared to Nigeria, and the country certainly has a deeper democratic process having had six consecutive presidential elections that have been mostly deemed “transparent.”

 Nigeria has repeatedly blown its chances at greatness over the years, the latest being an oil boom era that did not only leave the country as it met it-if not worse-but with fat domestic debts to boot. Those who refused to manage that boom got booted out of government last year via one of the country’s most transparent elections. That era has since transited into a slow growth period, then an economic recession that appears a much needed spanking for Nigeria to expand its economic base and indeed build an economy that actually creates jobs and lifts many out of poverty, as much as it earns the country foreign exchanges. Those who were voted in last year are not without doubt that if the recession continues to be the order of the day into the politicking of the 2019 elections, they will get kicked by the same voters that kicked their predecessors out.

You see, even Nigeria gets it right sometimes and when it does, it often makes itself a very useful example at least for the rest of Africa. The reason is simple enough; Nigeria is probably the hardest and toughest country to govern in Africa. By its sheer size, its diversity and its history, it is a miracle of gigantic proportions that it is even today a going concern and, while braving some of its age-old challenges, continues to provide good examples for the rest of Africa to follow. The one that matters of those examples to Ghana at this time is Nigeria’s exemplary show at its March 2015 elections.

It was billed as the elections that would finally break Nigeria into the fragments of its storming mass. There was even an unproved the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency’s prediction of a 2015 break-up of Nigeria. Even the usually bullish political class was palpably scared as it set up peace committees and alliances built solely with the purpose of making sure that irrespective of where the pendulum of election results swung in 2015, there would be peace. The idea was to have the peace process led by the main actors in the electoral process; in this case, the Independent National Electoral Commission and the main candidates of the All Progressives Congress’ Muhammadu Buhari and the People’s Democratic Party’s Goodluck Jonathan.

Things may not be as pronounced and dicey in Ghana this year as they were in Nigeria last year but there are obvious similarities; there is a cry for change that one cannot pretend to be oblivious to and there has been a ramping up of projects and programmes by the incumbent government.

Like former Nigerian President Jonathan in 2011, President John Mahama won the election under controversial circumstances in 2012 amidst anger from the opposition with claims there were enough technical glitches with the voter register that certainly affected the final results. This election was held against the backdrop of Ghana as Africa’s fastest growing economy. A change in the fortune of commodity prices globally and Ghana’s own making now make those days look like a score years ago.

Some Ghanaians are suspicious of new infrastructural projects surfacing just months before elections but it does appear that the current administration has indeed improved the country’s infrastructure – continued flooding in Accra will easily wash this assertion down as a limited picture but even floods in the developed cities of the world show perfection remain an elusive human endeavor. Has Mahama done enough to get a second mandate, a third consecutive mandate for his ruling National Democratic Congress? Ramblings on Ghanaian social media indicate he has not done enough. “John Dramani Mahama has failed as a president, it’s that simple,” is the succinct way @JayGraftGh put it on Twitter. @YOwusua on her part tweeted, “Honestly, lately, when I see/hear people support John Mahama and his failed NDC, I panic wondering… What have they been or fed with?” @ChapeeGear tweeted in reference to the charismatic former Ghanaian president Jerry Rawlings, “I’m yet to hear Rawlings asking Ghanaians to vote for John Mahama. That could mean one thing.”

Things are not all gloomy for the Ghanaian president. The opposition is far from united in the way that Nigeria’s main opposition parties united and even got boosted by a then imploding PDP that even lost heavyweight members to the newly formed opposition party APC, an alliance of main opposition parties that has since gone on to show major cracks in its own evolution. It is a battle of old foes in Ghana as the battling Nana Akufo-Addo returns again with the New Patriotic Party. Akufo-Addo will find inspiration in knowing that Nigeria’s President Buhari lost three consecutive presidential elections from 2003 to 2011 before clinching the seat in 2015. This is not to say Akufo-Addo who is running for the third time should prepare for yet another loss.

Other parties involved in the 2016 Ghana presidential elections are the Convention People’s party, the People’s National Convention and the Progressive People’s Party who appear to have come late to the party.

It is interesting to see some media platforms in Ghana take obviously partisan stands, but this is not unique to Ghana as even in the United States that prides itself for its democratic values, partisan media platforms rule the airwaves – not just Fox News. In the midst of all these, the overriding interest of Ghana and its people must be well and truly above other interests and this must be seen to be so. More than anything else, this was the central theme of interparty conversations in Nigeria pre-2015 and during the 2015 elections; that the interest and survival of Nigeria was beyond the interest of the two main candidates and both candidates were made to say something to that effect explicitly. Photos of both then President Jonathan and then APC candidate, Buhari, hugging each other were some of the most showed photos in the traditional media and the most shared online. It was a common partnership of national unity that had all the stakeholders commit to the safety and security of the country.

Nigeria did not do it alone; we had help from the International Community; the US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria twice with respect to the elections and all of these moves were very influential in getting then president Jonathan to make a call to then Candidate Buhari when it was apparent the latter had an unassailable lead, this before the INEC called the final result. Needless to say this helped to douse tension across the country and today, Jonathan continues to enjoy the rewards of that singular action.

The successful organisation of the election on November 7, 2016 will result in one winner: Ghana. Whoever wins the vote must commit to uniting the country and crossing partisan lines to set Ghana back on the path of admirable economic growth that lifts millions of Ghanaians out of poverty and provides jobs for its teeming youths whose unemployment rate has since doubled. As they say in Akan, Wammawoyonkoanntwaanko a, wonntwannuru, If you don’t let your friend cross and reach, you will also not cross and reach yours. A thriving Ghana is in the interest of everyone.

This article was originally published in The Punch newspaper of Wednesday 21st September 2016