I was commissioned to write this piece for a Pan African magazine after the elections.
And although it’s been several months after the results were declared I’m sure some of the points are still valid.
Below is what I wrote;
The elections are over, results have been declared and we have a new president, all without major incident; in fact many have called this one of the smoothest elections in many years.
Some people are obviously disappointed and others elated depending on who they voted for, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that once again Ghana has set an example for other developing countries to emulate.
This Elections has probably been the most intense in modern history, with the opposition having been out of office for almost a decade and desperate to return to power, and the ruling party also banking on retaining it; the stakes were high.
The Ghanaian electorate was torn between voting for , CHANGE which the opposition believed the country desperately needed and TOASO meaning “to continue” which the ruling party also believed it needed to complete work they’d already started.
With a majority of Ghanaian voters now more discerning , politicians were forced to employ all manner of methods to get the voters to either , CHANGE or TOASO; and some of these methods added to the political divide and already tense atmosphere.
Eventually the majority of Ghanaians voted for CHANGE, and President Mahama sadly become the first one term president in our democratic history; something very few people including the opposition anticipated.
The one thing that stood out in this Elections was the how much social media influenced the results.
Until most recently the only way politicians could reach and appeal to voters were through rallies, television adverts and newspapers.
However, in this age of social media and with younger people less than inclined to sit through long interviews or read a newspaper, social media became the easiest way politicians could reach their target audience with their messages fast and in some cases directly.
And because of this politicians were able to reach hundreds and thousands of voters.
The ruling party took advantage of this went as far as hand picking people who were especially disgruntled with the government and set up meeting with the president to have their concerns addressed.
In the case of the opposition, their entire campaign strategy seemed to be to dominate social media and win the hearts of the people through it.
Nearly everyday came with a new hashtag, story, photo challenge with the most significant of them being the #kalypochallenge ;what started of as a mockery of the opposition candidate by ruling party, became the one of the opposition’s most popular campaign.
They turned it into their favour, and within hours everyone had joined in the fun and even those who weren’t aligned with the opposition couldn’t help themselves, Kalypo was now the drink for the “cool”.
The good news was that, this kept voters engaged and through this they become more politically aware.
The disadvantages however were the false stories and misinformation circulated by politicians to score points, it become all too easy for people to mislead the general public through social media.
Social media also made it easier for the electorate to identify their candidates; it’s was easy to go to a politicians page, ask questions and if you were lucky, get answers even if it wasn’t directly from them.
The bad news, however, what started of as an easy way to have political discussions ended in a lot of social media battles, some of which escalated to verbal and personal attacks, threats and in some cases tribal politics.
Because there are no code of ethics on social media, no rules governing the language people could use, people can almost always say anything they want and get away with it.
The most that would happen would be a block or an account deactivation.
This free for all platform only made things worse some how in the amount of hate people speewed and got away with.
Even I received my fair share of online harassment for sharing my views, as a result some people inadvertently decided to vote for a party ONLY to get back at others instead of what they believed in.
For some people it ceased to be about the country and what it needed, and become a battle of who could win.
But as unfortunate as some of these incidents were, especially the blatant abuse of social media, it was still refreshing to see a lot more young people interested in the electoral process and their gradual understanding of the power they had as voters.
For years leaders had been able to get away almost anything because they depended heavily on the gullibility of the voter and how uninterested many of them were in government and the elections.
They also depended on their strong holds (regions that voted for them regardless), die hard supporters, generic election promises and usual “gifts” to win.
But this time, thanks to the power of social media, they were forced to answer real questions and people had easy access to receipts to challenge them when their answers were inaccurate or unsatisfactory.
For the first time politicians were having to work extra hard to gain our trust and win our votes.
And this probably contributed to the outcome of the shocking results and the beginning of what could be the dawn of a new era in Ghana politics.
The new president has his work cut out for him, however, because he won on the back of a lot of promises and with the help of social media.
Expectation will be high and the pressure to deliver even higher.
He will be monitored closely and the same thing that won him such a landslide victory, could be what makes his term in office very difficult.
It will be interesting to watch how the next few years pan out, but one thing’s for sure, the Ghanaian electorate has become extremely unpredictable and we can only wait to see where this leads.
Photo Credit : Emmanuel Bobbie of BobPixels, Citi FM, Social Media