- Then perhaps the ‘pii porr, pii porr’ and the flashing blue lights of last week may make some sense, however much you may want to hold your nose in disgust.
Last week, the presidential commissioning of 307 ambulances at the Black Star Square, in all its pomp and circumstances, was the climax of a long, drawn out process with quite a number of twists and turns and one false start.
While government supporters went giddy with excitement over the delivery of the vehicles, there were quite a number of people, predictably including the opposition, who snorted at the spectacle of the inauguration and attendant ceremonies.
They felt that the government delivering ambulances was no big deal and that it should simply have been distributed quietly and urgently as it is done in serious countries.
They raved and ranted that this was cringe worthy and embarrassing and that the President’s time should be put to better use.
Their social media posts dripped with bile as they mocked.
Government supporters sprang into action, pointing to presidential commissioning of vehicles for security and emergency staff as standard fare in this Republic.
They even dug up from the archives, photographs and stories of past presidential inauguration of boreholes.
They argued vociferously that the ambulance delivery was a major step in healthcare, and that even biblically, no one lights a lamp and puts it under a bushel, but rather where everyone would see it.
The government supporters enjoyed taunting the opposition elements, accusing them of being jealous of the fact that this was a feather in the presidential cap and that people were lapping it up.
Different political cultures
Of course, in other countries, delivery of ambulances and vehicles for security services hardly make the news.
It is so standard that nobody notices it. It is, after all, a duty of government, goes the argument.
But Ghana is not Europe or America, as I found out almost to my cost when I relocated home after almost two decades abroad.
The political culture here is very different, which means our political communication must necessarily fit that culture.
That is what Kwame Nkrumah employed with dazzling efficiency with his Convention People’s Party (CPP), which spoke the language of the ‘Verandah Boys’ and worked the masses into a frenzy, while the genteel United Gold Coast Conventions (UGCC) used British methods for political communication, donning suits and speaking big English, ultimately paying a huge political price. We must be careful about forcing round arguments into square holes.
Big deal of ‘ordinary’ things
In a country where sick people are carted to hospital in the back of taxis and mechanised tricycles, an ambulance is clearly a big deal to many people and you ignore this simple fact to your own peril.
Same goes for roads and pipe-borne water.
That translates into political capital and subsequently into votes, which is a big issue for any serious politician.
Therefore, especially as incumbent, a chance to hammer ‘achievements’ home, with visuals and noise, is an attractive one.
In this country, time without number, voters have threatened to withhold their vote unless their road or water supply is fixed.
Clearly, ‘dumsor’ under the National Democratic Congress (NDC) helped cement their fate at the polls in 2016.
While a political party can lose votes for neglecting to provide amenities, however, basic inversely when it does provide them, it earns bragging rights to seek an electoral harvest.
Both political parties, while in government, have rushed to refurbish roads in constituencies as bye-elections loomed.
It is for a reason.
After the ambulance commissioning, there was a video clip circulating on social media of people in an Accra constituency dancing excitedly around their ambulance to loud music when it turned up. Of course, the posh constituents of Trassaco Valley would do no such thing.
But to snort at those dancing around the ambulance is to disregard their political significance, especially since they are in the majority in the country.
Colourful, visual society
I have always argued that our society is vibrant, colourful, communal and very visual.
When politicians engage in the simple administrative process of filing their presidential or parliamentary forms with the Electoral Commission (EC), it is a whole carnival, with brass band, family, friends and supporters in tow.
When politicians attend parliamentary vetting, quite a number so do with their friends, village chiefs and their retinue of elders in their colourful cloth, ostensibly to support their son or daughter who has made them proud.
You cannot change our political culture overnight, so you must communicate within its framework.
Think about it.
Then perhaps the ‘pii porr, pii porr’ and the flashing blue lights of last week may make some sense, however much you may want to hold your nose in disgust.