Ghana’s IEA could use some improvement

By Kofi Ayim


President Mahama (NDC); Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo (NPP); Dr. Abu Sakara (CPP); and Mahama Ayariga (PNC)

Indubitably, Ghana’s Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) has taken a bold step in the right direction towards the democratic march of the country. It has been able to successfully organize Presidential and Vice Presidential debates on more than one occasion.

And we doff our hats off to them. It is obvious that the IEA borrowed the idea of political debates from the United States where it is a compelling requirement for political

leadership. But the IEA needs to make the exercise better appreciated by both participants

and the people. There are challenges that need to be addressed by the organizers and these are essentially issues of mode of communication and the comfort of participants.

The voting public in the United States is very matured and sophisticated as compared

to that of Ghana. American voters are vastly more educated than Ghanaians and can make informed political decisions than their Ghanaian counterparts. Secondly politics in

the United States is based more on issues than on ethnicity or race, even though the latter issues cannot be ruled out. Regarding the use of language, to a large extent, despite the presence of many immigrants who hardly speak any English several mechanisms exist to facilitate effective communication among that group. Being that in the United States the path to citizenship which leads to right to vote is also contingent on one’s ability to speak the English language the medium of communication at political debates unlike in Ghana is not an issue.

On the other hand, English may be the officialin Ghana, most folks do not speak or

understand it. And because political debates are held in the English language, a substantial percentage of its indigenes are left out of the process. Consequently political debates do have little or no effect (and by extension no input/feedback) on this chunk of

the electorate. The IEA debates are the only dynamic, structured forums that attract national and international attention. It is a forum that brings out the best, the worst and anything in between of potential leaders. If its purpose is for the candidates to sell and capture the Ghanaian electorate then it is woefully inadequate. Literate Ghanaians have other forms of media access (besides debates) to assess political candidates to make informed decisions. Consequently, it is those that cannot read or write who need to hear

(orally) from the candidates more than the disadvantaged group. It must be stressed again that the debates have the potential to further educate the unschooled segment of the population to be more politically sophisticated and much better informed politically.

The IEA must therefore explore a United Nations format where trained interpreters/translators are utilized. The IEA must identify major languages in Ghana and

execute dry-run simulcast in a pilot scheme in between election periods. It may be expensivebut executable.

Surely the IEA must be aware that there is still room for improvement, especially regarding timing and delivery procedure. In the U.S. presidential debates – with contestants on their feet – usually go for not more than ninety minutes. In other formats in the debates which are held for three times, candidates are made to sit.

The Tamale debate went on close to some four hours with contestants on their feet. It

is not clear whether the IEA had any medical/ health consultation, but standing up for

over three hours could be tortuous and hazardous.

Health experts are divided on this issue because of lack of credible knowledge

and/or research on the issue of standing upfor a period of time.

One school of thought posits that it is even better for the candidates to stand rather than

to sit for continuous blood circulation. They cite as an example the need for regular

stand ups during long non-stop flights. The other group contends that it is simply not

healthy for an untrained person to stand up for long hours. Lightheadedness or dizziness

could set in, and the potential of bladder fill-ups is all too imminent.

Constitutional experts point out that there is no clause in the Ghana Constitution that

prevents anyone with say diabetes, hypertension, or cancer to contest the presidency.

If the aim of subjecting contestants to stand for long hours is to proof or showcase their healthiness, then the act is discriminatory and unconstitutional.

The IEA should come up with better options. It is also humiliating and insulting not

only to the Ghanaian electorate, but also to candidates who may be height-challenged by no fault of theirs and may have to be aided to be seen. Certainly height or lack thereof does not diminish anyone’s ideas. U.S. President Woodrow Wilson was confined

to a wheel-bound, yet he directed his country’s affairs during the Second World War. The Akan people have that says to wit “it is the wise (person) that is sent on an errand not necessarily the long-legged.” It is hoped the IEA can shape and evolve the political landscape of Ghana through its laudable efforts to educate the Ghanaian electorate. The debates have the potential of not only transforming conversation, it can go a long way to change ethnic and religious biases, prejudices and attitudes. This hopefully would enhance our march forward toward an enlightened democratic community.



Posted by on Nov 23 2012. Filed under top stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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