If Billboards Could Win Polls…- By Kwame Gyan

As a communications person I must say I have been impressed with the speed, diversity of channels, and the timing of the myriad of mass communication apparel that the NDC has unleashed on us since the endorsement of John Mahama at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi. Aside the heavy visibility on our streets, the communication credentials of the President is also evident in newspaper, television and radio advertisements. There is also the obviously planned news presence of the President.

Let’s slow it down one minute.

Across major roads in the capital (I can’t tell for the rest of the country but my inclination is that the story is no different), there are flags and billboards with the President and the colours of the NDC all over the place.  In the immediate aftermath of his endorsement, there were paid-for advertorials in virtually every newspaper in the country. It is obvious the intensity of the media and public visibility will continue as we inch towards December 7.

Thanks to the ‘Thank You’ tours and indeed by virtue of him being President, his every move is constantly reported in the news media, especially by the good old Daily Graphic and the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation stations. Incumbency has its own way of making political life easier especially in election years.

But we have been here before, have we not? In 2000 Mills was contesting as a sitting Vice President. Just like JM today, he had unlimited access to media, especially the state-owned ones which as we know have nation-wide reach and in the case of the Daily Graphic, is the biggest selling newspaper.  Mills was even luckier; he had the full backing of a very popular Jerry John at the time. Mills lost the elections of 2000, both rounds, to a certain John Kufuor.

In 2008 Nana Addo was running for President on the heels of successful stints as Minister of Justice and Foreign Minister. Here too, the systems of the state were in his favor; huge billboards, several appearances on TV, the works. Nana Addo won the first round. But of course as an incumbent political party in Africa, you don’t stand a chance if you fail to win out rightly. Mills of course won the second round with the slimmest margin in Ghanaian electoral history.

2012 is just another cycle where an incumbent has more money than he needs. As has been the case in the fourth republic, we will have the debate on financing political parties and the party in power will be the least heard until the tables turn. As always, we lack the will to tackle key issues dispassionately and apolitically (another topic for another day; let’s get back on track).

These days with the advent and growth of social media and the various value added services provided by telcos and a little gadget called the mobile phone, we see an increase in the plethora of outlets for reaching out the voters. In a previous piece I have talked extensively about social media. What is clear is that we will continue to see an obvious imbalance in visibility. Parties like the PNC and CPP are perhaps the worst hit since they seem more broke than the NPP and the PPP.

Some niggling observations though; as an observer from a distance, does it not seem flagrant the flooding of billboards, and ads from all fronts ahead of the polls? Surely one of the reasons for Nana’s failure in 2008 was the perceived misuse of state funds for party activities (another topic for another day).

If billboards could win polls, Nana Addo would have been contesting for a second term in 2012.

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