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Monday, December 10, 2012

My coverage of Ghana’s Election 2012

As a journalist specializing in business and economic reporting, mainstream hardcore politicking has not been of much interest; mainly because the seemingly blind partisanship often derails the common national drive for socio-economic good.

Yet the son of man cannot divorce the politics of government policies from the quest for economic emancipation and advancement; and most importantly, business cannot thrive in an atmosphere devoid of peace, which as a quadrennial ritual, replaces the national anthem in the run-up to the polls.

So, it becomes a matter of compulsion for me to have interest in politics, especially in an election year.

I therefore had my heart and head set on the goal of playing my part to promote Ghana’s democratic credential in the heat up to the December 2012 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections. Above all, the agenda is to enjoy life with my family and friends!

A high sense of responsibility must be upheld in reporting Ghana’s elections, as the country today commands global respect as a beacon of hope in Africa politics. The obligation to instill free, fair and transparent polls rest squarely on the shoulders of all other interest groups – including the Electoral Commission, political parties and candidates, electorates, security agencies, civil society and others.

Luckily for me, I had the experience of the 2004 and 2008 elections as a guide as I lend a hand for the team in Ashanti region to deliver to patrons – discerning consumers of information from the stables of the Multimedia Group’s Election Headquarters.

Indeed uneasy it is to lead in the media business – the stakes are always high and surely there certainly cannot be any room for complacency.
The newsroom as usual is my playfield but during this period I’m mostly passive in the action – mainly engaged in editorials and information dissemination through the reports of my astute colleagues.

The activation of campaigning brought in its wake challenges in news gate-keeping as the various political parties and ambitious candidates jostled for airspace and headlines.

The unpleasant thing about this my journalism job is to play neutral – what we call objectivity – even when deep within, your conscience and common sense communicate to you that a politician is toying with the heart or vote of an electorate.

But surely, a reporter can only report what is seen or heard and strive to protect the public good.

For me, the public good in electioneering is to put the electorate first! They’ll queue in person, with stones, in sickness, in disability and in old age, just to cast their vote; either to make a change or maintain a good.

In my humble opinion, these democratic people seeking to exhibit their power through the ballot should never be counted as numbers but as human beings exercising their franchise.

Hence, no politician should be given room to take the electorate for granted. And this was my orientation as part of a team deployed to cover the elections in all constituencies.

Covering the polls

On Election Day December 7, I was positioned in the Offinso South Constituency to monitor the electoral proceedings, whilst liaising with other first-time election monitors to get the best out of their reports.

In my familiar terrain, I did not experience much of a challenge in combing the territory to have a feel of the exercise – I recorded relatively high voter turn-out, enthusiasm to participate in the process and tolerable comportment.

Going by the heightened tension in Kumasi few days to the polls, I was excited at the maturity in engagements at the polling stations and I was confident of a peaceful exercise.

I recorded few glitches in the application of biometric verification system in the voting process; obviously experimenting with such a technology would not have been without hiccups.

My observation generally gave an assurance of a smooth process, but least did I expect that I’ll be spending my night at the collation centre – an experience that prompted me to pray against a run-off in the race to the presidency.

I had not factored in the fact that polling stations in the hinterlands may be handicapped in transporting the ballot boxes to the collation centre on time… and so the vigil ensued till the battle ended midday following day.

My profession delights in new, unusual and exciting things and on this basis, I can confidently say there was no news in Offinso South Constituency – the final results was the obvious expected; cannot be counted among the shocking incidents that had been recorded elsewhere. Simple a boring exercise!

The intrigues

My long night at the collation centre was not without its own intrigues.

People stayed glued to their radio sets to keep abreast with happenings across the country – and the political color of some so-called observers of the polls got betrayed through their unconscious emotional attachment to the radio broadcast.

The social media platforms were most interesting, especially as the uncertified figures were churned out by folks on facebook. At this moment I cherished the beauty of having friends from various political divides because it was the only means to strike the balance and understand the dynamics of the figures.

It was also interesting to see how technology aided the vote collation.

The Electoral Commission may have gone electronic in registering and verifying voters but not in vote count.

In a constituency of some 117 polling stations, the returning officer would have extended our day a little longer by computing results with a table calculator. But thanks to the intervention of a representative of one of the political parties who saved us the ordeal by putting his MS-Excel to good use and offering accurate statistics and computation of the constituency results.

I returned to Kumasi exhausted but there would be no rest for me, especially with the general keen interest in who wins the Presidential polls.

Matters got worse after my Election Headquarters, based on collated results, projected a likely win for one of the presidential candidates.

Some called me to verify the collated figures, others to raise doubts about mathematics and many others to rain insults on my profession and media organization – all taken in good stride, acknowledging very well the hazard of practicing journalism in a highly polarized environment!

I heaved a huge sigh of relief when the Electoral Commissioner finally declared the results; not because of who had won or lost, but for the vindication of the team at the Election Headquarters for projecting right.

The human and material resource invested in electioneering and the risk of professionalism would not go down the drain and that was the Joy of my Luv for the Multimedia Group.

I surely understand the pain of losing an election and the joy of emerging victorious but I can’t understand why anyone would think the hundreds of professionals working within a particular media organization would all be aligned to one particular political party.

Whatever the case maybe, I take pride in the team I work with and feel fulfilled that I played a part, no matter how negligible, in promoting Ghana’s democracy.

I just love my job and my country.

May Ghana continue to set the pace of political maturity in Africa!

Views of Kofi Adu Domfeh

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