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Elections 2016: The sad state of our media & why Mahama, Akufo-Addo must face tough questions

NDC_NPP

On November 7, we will be choosinga President who will be in charge of our country for the next four years.The choice we will make on that day will greatly influence our future as a country and as a people. So the November 7 election is about Ghana’s future. Yes, that is what it is. It is not about NDC and NPP.

Sadly, the elections have been reduced to a mere contest between the NPP and NDC. Officials and supporters of the two parties are having a field day. They are trading insults, personality attacks and accusations as if those were what will define the future of our nation.

It may be right to say that what is happening now is not new. Yes, it has always been the case in all our previous elections. That is true. But what is also true is that the consequences of these past actions have not been positive for us as a nation.  So the November elections should not be elections as usual. It should be different.

The real issues that should determine the choices of the people on November 7 are not being dealt with. What we are witnessing is an opposition that is good at finding faults with actions of the sitting government without proposing solutions.

We also have a government that is seeking re-election by just touting the number of infrastructure projects they have used our money to construct. In 2008, President Mahama referred to the kind of politics his NDC is engaged in now, as politics of mediocrity. I will come back to this later.

The choices we make in the upcoming elections should be based on the realities, soundness and concreteness of the visions and policies espoused by contesting parties and candidates. The policies and promises of parties and candidates must be fully and properly interrogated.

The Agenda-Setting Pattern in the Media

Media

One institution that should have the power to influence the focus of the elections and the choices people will make is the media. Sadly, a large section of the media appears to have handed over their power and influence to NPP and NDC politicians.

Arguably,the media in Ghana now do not determine what politicians and Ghanaians think and talk about. Instead, NPP and NDC politicians determine what the media focus on and talk about. Under the circumstance, who do we say has the agenda-setting power, the media or the politicians?

At the moment, the pattern is that NPP and NDC politicians make claims, allegations, accusations and big promises. Those are then reproduced with sensational headlines on online news websites. Same are also given garnished, comic and dramatic twists in news bulletins on radio (especially local language radio stations) without mush interrogation.

The next day, the newspapers will publish under screaming headlines, the same claims, allegations and promises made by politicians the previous day. Those same stories in the newspapers then become the subjects for discussions on radio morning shows.

The radio shows simply call on the phone, those who made the claims and allegations. They are asked to repeat or clarify what they had claimed or said. Then a respondent from the other party against whom the allegations, claims and accusations were made,is raised on another telephone line. The respondent then is asked to counter the claims and allegations.

Finally, the same NPP and NDC people are assembled as studio panellists to discuss the same allegations and claims published in the press. Then another cycle begins for the next day. Invariably, what many media outlets are doing is serving as megaphones for politicians.

Indeed, we are witnessing the death of the agenda-setting power of the media in Ghana. This must change. Our media and journalists should begin to set the agenda rather than allowing the agenda to be set for them by NPP and NDC politicians.

We fight for media freedom not for the beauty of the term. It is because a free media can probe power-bearers and to seek genuine answers on behalf of the people. Our media must not fail to play their critical role in our governance.

The media can assert their agenda-setting power to make this year’s elections different.This will require a more assertive, interrogative and adventurous media and journalists. It will also mean journalists have to research, investigate and probe issues. It will mean journalists have to confront politicians on critical issues affecting our development.

The role of the media in the next elections is so crucial because President John Mahama has a lot of justification to do on why he and his NDC party should be retained. Similarly, Nana Akufo-Addo has a lot of justification to do on why he and his NPP deserve the people’s power.  Both candidates must be subjected to rigorous political questioning by the media.

Let’s consider a few of the issues on which President Mahama and Nana Akufo-Addo must be subjected to questioning to justify why they deserve our votes and power.

President Mahama and his NDC.

JM_campaignPresident Mahama took over an economy that was stronger and better than what we have now. The economy under President Mahama has been in shambles. The IMF has had to come to our rescue with their usual tough conditionalities. Under President Mahama, the Cedi has depreciated massively. Inflation has been rising and cost of living unbearable.

President Mahama and his NDC government have literally mortgaged the future of our children and next generations to monumental national debts than any government has done in our history.
Despite the challenges with the economy, the president finds it prudent for huge amounts of money to be spent branding public buses and embossing his photos and other past presidents on them for the sake of election propaganda.

Under President Mahama and his NDC, millions of our money meant for the development of the savannah or northern zone of our countryhave been messed up. I mean the SADA money. Meanwhile the North-South development gap persists.

Under President Mahama and his NDC government, youth unemployment has increased phenomenally. Yet under him and the NDC, millions of money meant for youth employment and empowerment have been squandered. I mean the GYEEDA money.

Under President Mahama and his NDC government, our rivers continue to be massively polluted. Illegal mining remains unchecked. The list can continue. Yes, under President Mahama and his NDC government, many schools and hospitals have been built. Roads have been constructed and other infrastructural facilities have been developed.

This is good and worth praising. But the elections and our choices should not be based on these. No!
Why? Because I fully agree with President Mahama’s view that to focus an election on how many schools, hospitals, roads and others a government has built, is a recipe for mediocrity.I also agree fully with the President’s reason for saying so. As he asserts, every government builds schools, hospitals, roads so what matters is how much money was available to a government.

So, on the basis of the forgoing and other factors why must we be voting for President Mahama and the NDC again? They need to convince us.

But saying all these does not constitute enough grounds to conclude that President Mahama and his NDC should be voted out. We should be convinced that there is a better alternative to President Mahama and his NDC. The most probable person and party to replace President Mahama and the NDC is Nana Akufo-Addo and his NPP. So let’s consider them too.

Nana Akufo-Addo and NPP.

Nana AddoNana Akufo-Addo took over a party that was united and stronger than what he has led since 2008. Under Nana Akufo-Addo, the NPP has become leaky, weak and extremely divided now.

Five months into an election, the elected Chairman and Second Vice Chairman of the party remain suspended. Both are fighting the party in the court rooms. The elected general secretary of the party also remains suspended. And so I ask, if Nana Akufo-Addo cannot manage the NPP as its leader, can he manage Ghana?

Issues leading to the suspension of the elected party Chairman included his decision to heed a police request for a statement on matters of corruption in the party. We are told the chairman should not have given the police a statement. And that matters of corruption in the party ought to have been treated as an internal party matter.

Really? Is that how Nana Akufo-Addo and the NPP will deal with corruption should they get power? Dealing with corruption should not involve the police?

Under Nana Akofo-Addo, the NPP continues to disparage and discredit state institutions such as the police and the Electoral Commission as if when they win power they will not work with or need those institutions.

Five months into an election, the NPP under Nana Akufo-Addo is yet to let Ghanaians know what they are offering. No manifesto yet. They say they fear the NDC will copy their manifesto so they are waiting. Do they take Ghanaians serious at all?

Five months into an election, all we hear from the NPP are accusations and the faults of the Mahama administration. Yet, we are not told what the alternatives from the NPP will be. All we are being told is to “arise for change” without being told what type of change.

Change by itself is not necessarily always good. There could be negative change sometimes. So unless we are told what type of change is coming, why should anyone be convinced that the change will not be one that will rather worsen the status quo?

Unless people know about the type of change and are convinced about it, perhaps only the already converted souls of the party may arise for just any change. Floating voters may think it may bebetter for them to remain standstill instead of rising. After all, as they say, the devil you know may be better than the angel you don’t know.

So why does Nana Akufo-Addo and the NPP deserve our vote? They need to convince us.
So yes, our media have a great work to do and they must not fail the people. The media should take back their agenda-setting power from the NDC and NPP. The media must interrogate the politicians on the real issues that will shape our future and determine the opportunities for future generations.

The Media have power, let’s see the power at play!!!

By Sulemana Braimah – The writer is the Executive Director of the Media Foundation For West Africa, an influential media development and freedom of expression advocacy organisation in West Africa.

Email:  [email protected]

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