There’s just 25 days to go before Ghana holds its hotly anticipated presidential and legislative elections, the nation’s sixth round of multi-party elections. The political environment could not be more polarised. Billboards are adorned with party colours of the main contenders and television and radio programmes are not only dominated by political debates, but campaign adverts air every few minutes. Street corners, taxis, bus stations, food stalls, places of work and worship have all become platforms for debate, especially in the midst of the series of IEA presidential debates, aired live on all the major television and radio stations. As a mark of Ghana’s maturing democracy, the 8 year-old daughter of a taxi driver has become an iconic figure in the election period, being dubbed a “peace ambassador” for her probing questions at the recent IEA debate, forcing accountability on the polity.
The maturity with which Ghana’s democracy is often labelled, is being put to the test on a daily basis. Claims (unsubstantiated) by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) that the main opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP) has been importing machetes to destabilise the polls are unnerving. This is especially true when a few months ago the NPP MP Kennedy Agyapong made inflammatory statements calling for the Ashanti ethnic group to rise up against the Ewes (who hail from the Volta Region).
In recent days, the “Ahobreasehene” or “Humble King” title – bestowed on President John Dramani Mahama by some of his supporters – seems to be losing its edge. During a rally to the Northern Region (from where he hails), Mahama played the ethnic card by imploring the crowds not to lose this golden opportunity of having their “own as president”. Paradoxically, Mahama has also been calling for cohesiveness, saying that Ghanaians should ignore the beating of war drums and tribal politics.