Friday, August 30, 2013

Of Election Petitions, Ghana, Africa and democracy: #TheVerdict

I woke up yesterday,  Thursday the 29th of August 2013, very expectant. The 9-judge Supreme Court of Ghana was going to give the verdict of the case that opposed the New Patriotic Party of Ghana and the National Democratic Convention of Ghana.  NPP had petitioned the court, alleging the following:

1. Overvoting
2. Voting without biometric verification
3. Absence of signature
4. Duplicate pink sheets
5. Duplicate Polling Stations
6. Unknown polling stations

For 8 months, the legal battle had gone on and August 29th was the "today na today" day for the whole of Ghana. On Social Media, #ElectionPetition, which has been the tag all along, was joined by #TheVerdict.

Facebook, but mostly, Twitter, went crazy. The tweets were arriving in droves. For my part, I was tracking them like my life depended on them.  I followed the stories.  Here they are:

The Ghana-man story:
As for Ghana-man, paaaa, he took the matter "personally". There were calls for peace. Everyone reminded everyone of the importance of Ghana. Nobody wanted anybody to be a refugee. And Yes, Ghanaians foresaw that #TheVerdict may be followed by confusion, disturbance and even war. But s/he did not want to be the one to start it. So stay off the street, stay at home. Almost everyone did. Result? An un-announced holiday. No, it was "better than that", you could go from Spintex to Kaneshie in a matter of minutes!!  Even Accra Mall, of all places, was deserted. The term was "Judgement Day" for many.

The Police story:
Eh! Ghana Police! They brought out all the arsenal (add United, City, Chelsea, Liverpool and all the Premier League teams if you want to). No, Seriously, I did not know that Ghana Police was capable of such mobilization. Every city had police presence. Accra had police on land, on water, and even in the sky above our heads.  Chale!! Guys were ready oo!!!  Did they also go underground? Just asking..

The Ghana Media Story:
This might perhaps be the best story. GTV  and GBC, the official national broadcasting services were ordered by law to give live coverage. Every media house that had a transmitter put it to work.  I think the Gold Medal goes to the JOY group. They were all over and all online. Ghanaians were given the opportunity to air their views. Anybody who had anything to say had a place to say it. Simply phenomenal!

The Social Media Story:
Oh là là, Ghana Tweeps nailed it. They took pictures, they reported. They tweeted, retweeted, shared, and kept the hype. While we waited for the judges to give #TheVerdict, we even got to the point of asking people to share what they were doing while waiting.. It will be interesting to see a MashUp of the tweets on both tags: #ElectionPetition and #TheVerdict.

The Nana Akufo-Addo Story:
I bet Nana did not sleep the night before!  The team was up very early in the morning. They had prayers and even a group photo. My take is that Nana raised the whole thing one notch higher.  He arrived in court himself.

The John Dramani Mahama Story:
I dont think he worked the whole day. Maybe that should be taken away from his salary on  pro-rata. But hey, how many Ghanaians did anything else but watch TV, wait  for #TheVerdict, hear it, then discuss it? He dressed up in white, himself and the Vice-President. And waited, and waited, and waited, and waited... for the judges and their decision ... just like any other Ghana-man.

The Atuguba Story:
Your Honour, you made us wait oo! Our hearts nearly disappeared from our chests. Eight  months, over 24 million persons, investments put on hold, police mobilisation, almost 2 million dollars in live coverage, even a quasi national 'Atuguba' holiday.. Anyway, he arrived, finally, with the 8 others. To give a verdict that lasted for about 1/3rd of a minute:

“The first respondent was validly elected and the suit is dismissed”

Asa! Chikena! C'est fini!  That is #THEVERDICT.  Only then did we exhale.. and actually noticed that we were literally holding our breaths!! I tweet:
Okay, so now what? What is New Patriotic Party saying?.  It did not take long:
And Nana Akufo-Addo himself?  It also followed suit:
And all eyes turn to President Mahama's Twitter account.  He, too, does not waste time:
And now, I can finally get up and go have breakfast! Yes, breakfast at lunch time.

The STORY of the stories :
That was the story. But what IS the THE STORY.  The STORY of the stories?  That is the most important aspect of this post. What I have taken with me. It is a simple and straight one. Ghana's democracy has indeed matured. You may not have noticed it but:
  1. The Ghana-man story is the story of citizens who have realised that their country is all they have and it is their duty to keep it safe and peaceful. It is the story of citizens' Ubuntu. I am because we are. God Bless Ghanaians.
  2. The Police Story is the story of a force that is living by its creed, is ready to do its work and is up and alert. God Bless Ghana Police.
  3. The Ghana Media story is the story of inclusion, of freedom of information, of the right to expression, of citizen mobilisation,  of the freedom of speech. Ghana Media will  live long.
  4. The Social Media story is the story of  what the Internet can do as a development tool. Its power to crowdsource information. The mobile, immediate, global, multi-lingual, cross-cultural and unifying power of the web; simply priceless. We have become "Homo Numéris"
  5. The Nana Akufo-Addo  story is the story of an opposition that has decided to be democratic. To pursue differences at the appropriate places, in the manner set out by law, using legal and legitimate means. Nana, Ghana owes you.
  6. The John Dramani Mahama story is the story of a sitting president goes ordinary. Wake and go to work. For the 29th of August 2013, wake up, dress up, pretend you were ready to work, watch TV, spend time talking to friends and family on phone, but most importantly wait. Wait, wait, wait and wait... for the Supreme Court to decide, just like every other Ghana-man. JDM, Ghana will remember your calm, your self control and your humility
  7. The Atuguba (or Supreme Court) story is the story of a judiciary system that has come of age. A supreme court that reads the law, interprets it, and makes decisions based on the reading and interpretation of that law, without fear or favour. Your Honours, we waited for long, we lost some business during the wait, but it is well. You have spoken, and we shall go with you. Lead on!
Viva Ghana!