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Why the scaremongering and countdown frenzy?

BY: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari
A lot of media houses are in the election countdown frenzy
A lot of media houses are in the election countdown frenzy

I have been wondering, is there anyone in Ghana, or any Ghanaian living abroad, who doesn’t know that there will be a general election in this country in December?

It seems to me that if there are any people who, strangely, somehow appear to be in the dark about it, then it’s probably because they refuse to know; they don’t want to know!

And those who do know, surely don’t need any constant reminders to know that the election is to choose a President and members of Parliament

So, who are served by the numerous ‘countdown’ notices and announcements which seem to have flooded the media? Why does the media appear to be in a countdown frenzy?

No wonder people are expressing apprehension that there is rising tension ahead of the general election, when it should be just a normal civic duty, or activity, especially because it’s been on the national calendar for the past four years – and longer.

Election fever, the build-up of interest and excitement before an election, is normal, but why should it degenerate into doom warnings?

When Parliament reconvened earlier this week, it was instructive to get confirmation that even high ranking politicians are worried about aspects of the election fever, the fear and panic flames being fanned by some people. Majority Leader and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs,

Hon Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu reportedly expressed disquiet in the House about the alarmist tendencies of some of his fellow politicians regarding the elections.

The Daily Graphic of October 7 quoted Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, as asking political leaders to refrain from “unnecessary scaremongering” about the Electoral Commission plunging the country into anarchy with the conduct of this year’s general election.

Addressing the opening of the third meeting of the fourth session of the seventh Parliament on Tuesday, October 6, Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said: “It will be most unpatriotic to resort to scaremongering as some people are trying to do.”

He pointed out that the country has had many elections “and sometimes we push ourselves to the brink but Ghana has survived. We must count on the goodwill and good conscience of all of us to do what is right but not to be unnecessarily engaged in scaremongering as if the heavens are going to cave in on us.”

However, to be fair, I think that it’s not only politicians who are to blame for raising the political temperature.

In my opinion, the media, too, share the responsibility.

The countdowns too could stoke fear in some quarters, so they could add to the tension build-up.

Although I belong to the media family, I can’t gloss over the fact that some of us should share in the blame; perhaps even more so because we are the people, and the vehicle, through which the messages of the doom-mongers are circulated.

Furthermore, I have to confess that I, too, was once part of the countdown brigade when I was an Editor of the Ghanaian Times. Some back copies of the paper confirmed that in 2008, we were carrying countdowns, such as “Election 2008, 40 days more”.

Of course, no media house wants to be beaten by others, hence the countdown bandwagon effect.

However, with hindsight, I realise that the countdown was not really necessary.

Indeed, in the present situation of the flood of election-related activities being reported constantly in both traditional media and online, there is little chance of anybody forgetting the December 7 national assignment.

Yet, it’s as if despite all the efforts of the political parties and candidates, not to mention the Electoral Commission’s dedicated implementation of its 2020 elections calendar, those of us in the media still think the country needs countdowns.

Interestingly, although their news reports and headlines are rarely the same, where the countdown is concerned, they are all on the same page, all quoting the exact number of days left to the ‘D-Day’.

But maybe it’s not surprising, as there are apparently thousands of countdown websites, some ready to give guidance, free of charge, on how to calculate a countdown.

But apart from the countdowns, some media outlets also resort to quite alarming messaging.

The following front page item of The National Enquirer newspaper on Tuesday, October 6 posed this question: “Can our Security Agencies Be Neutral And Prevent The Looming Bloodshed In December Elections?” (Emphasis supplied.)

Why would a newspaper, or anybody, appear to relish the thought of a general election resulting in bloodshed?

I just can’t understand it!

Perhaps a contributory factor to the scaremongering is that there doesn’t seem to be a specific regulation on our national electoral calendar for a period when political party campaigning is allowed, or forbidden.

I believe that this is regulated in some countries.

I understand that what we have in Ghana is a requirement that campaigning should stop 24 hours before voting.

But shouldn’t the country be thinking of revising this stipulation to be consonant with the Ghana electoral situation?

I think that in future, Ghana’s electoral laws should have a clear start and stop dates for the electoral campaign period.

As things are, the country seems to be in a perpetual campaign mode. Surely, this puts too much stress on all of us – political parties, aspirants, would-be voters and the rest of the public.

We need some changes, particularly regarding political campaigning!

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