Reactions to the State of the Nation in 2015: #SOTNGhana

This morning, Ghana’s president John Dramani Mahama stood in front of parliament to give us this yearly landmark speech. The radio stations have been gearing up for days and as a social media pundit who loves politics, I had been looking forward to this – very significant online – event.*

The state of the nation is kind of mixed at this moment. I mean not having power two nights/days out of three is very, VERY bad. But there are also improvements in infrastructure, especially water in the Grater Accra area. There is much hope that the pending IMF deal will restore confidence in the Ghanaian economy, but also many critical voices towards Ghana having to “go beg”. Many other aspects of the state of the nation can of course be discussed, but I will focus on the reactions.

Last year the State of the nation address was criticised for being too jovial This year, the tone was different, but I was saddened to realise that Ghanaians on Twitter could not take anything the president said in his speech at face value, mostly sour comments and satirical outbursts filled my Twitter time line. However, I was also not surprised. We are hot, angry and some of us hungry due to the current power crisis. It was also pointed out that a state of the nation address is supposed to chronicle what has happened thus far, but instead of somber reports, grand promises of future large scale projects were rather trumpeter out – election campaigning style! Mahama even mentioned what he was to do in his second term!

The opposition came to the parliament dressed in black and red to display their sorrow at the current state of affairs, and that deepening raft between governing NDC and opposition NPP is maybe the most worrying as, pointed out by small party PPP leader Ndoum earlier in the week, Ghana stands in front of challenges that need longterm, non-partisan solutions.

Now, Mahama towards the very tail end of his speech did touch upon that:

I do agree with the analysis made by both Nduom and Mahama, but attitude and excessive partisanship are most definitely leadership questions. Where is the bipartisan IMF delegation? The humility of statesmen and women in the face of hard times? The rapid responses to the worst effects of power crisis for citizens? Not much of those around for now.

*Although it was puzzling to us the president “announced” a hashtag different from the one we have used for years when discussing this event: #SOTNGhana, but did not even use that new hashtag in his own tweets! (Thanks to @Kwabena for pointing that out)

World Cup Discussions in Social Media in Ghana: Black Stars and Mahama

While games are ongoing in Brazil and the very popular Ghanaian team, the Black Stars, are still in the game playing Portugal later today…they seem to lose the news cycle game every day to the Ghanaian president, John Dramani Mahama.

Black Narrator

The top issues have been so far:

1. Electricity and the World Cup.

What happened: For some time now, Ghana’s power supply has been erratic. Since mid-May, the country has experienced scheduled breaks in supply. Just before the world cup, the government came out to say electricity supply will be enough for all during the World Cup.

Public verdict: I haven’t seen one single positive comment to this intervention. Although Ghanaians LOVE soccer, it seems the public opinion would prefer electricity during working hours to be able to be productive…

2. Can you insult your president?

What happened:  Before the Germany game, the president Tweeted that he had talked to the players and encouraged them that they could take on the German team. The issue quickly became politicized and many wrote angry comments to the post.

Public verdict: Here my social media friends seemed to be split between those who thought the president have more important things to do than talk strategy with fotball players and those who found the intervention worthwhile. Many however stressed that a president is president for the nation and should not be insulted.

3. Appearance fee sent by plane.

What happened: The Black Stars had been promised an appearance fee that did not come and the team expressed disappointment. Next we knew, a plane left Ghana with the appearance fee of USD 75000 for each player – (“incredibly”, says the Guardian) in cash.

Public verdict: Questions galore! Why should the team hold a poor country to ransom? How could the government prioritize this, when key functions in the country are down? (fuel crisis and owing money to school feeding programs, health professionals etc.) Why was the money sent in a plane with cash and not wired into accounts? Many were also embarrassed to see international media discuss the issue.

It seems politics and fotball intersect once again! To discuss these issues and others surrounding the World Cup, BloggingGhana’s project InformGhana will be running a Twitter discussion today between 1-3 PM Ghana time. 

 Follow @informGhana on Twitter and chip in with the hashtag #Sports4Dev

 

 

Did President Mahama Go Too Far? State of the Nation 2014 #SOTNGhana

Screenshot 2014-02-28 11.30.30This week, the Ghanaian mediascape was cluttered with comments about the state of the nation address, held on Tuesday. All well and good. The problem was, most commentators were upset about the light tone of the speech, at a time that is hard for the wo/man on the street.

See for instance CitiFM or InformGhana‘s storify-summaries of the discussions on Twitter.

Read the whole State of the Nation address here on the presidency website.

Interestingly, my last post here on the blog was on Ghanaian political humor and I personally felt the president just “joined the grammar” (“Mr. Speaker, who said ‘Tweaa’?”) and spoke about politics in the most Ghanaian way possible, with some jokes and a hearty laughter.

But clearly, I was in minority. Most commentators sighed (or even booed) and said that our politicians have lost touch with the reality on ground. What do you think?

 

Pic borrowed from InformGhana, BloggingGhana’s new project.

Ghana’s President in Sweden, Sweden’s Minister of Trade in Ghana

Right now, Ghana’s president John Dramani Mahama is in Sthockholm cohosting the GAVI alliance meeting for immunization and next week the Swedish Minister for Trade, Annie Lööf, will be coming to Ghana.

John Dramani Mahama

In the photo, minister Lööf and president Mahama. Photo borrowed from the Swedish government website/ Martina Huber.

The president is in Stockholm to campaign for vaccines for all children. Ghana is an “Immunization Champion” and have a strong track-record on immunizations. From the website of GAVI:

“As an innovative global health partner, GAVI is committed to promoting the health of children through immunisation and this must be commended”, President Mahama stated in a meeting with Ms. Evans.

He further observed that, “GAVI deserves the support of all leaders desirous of building healthier communities. I pledge my unflinching support as an Immunisation Champion to enable GAVI achieve its noble objectives.”

The Swedish minister comes to Ghana with a trade delegation including Ericsson, ABB, Atlas Copco, Sandvik och Eltel, continuing on the visit three years ago with the then Minister of Trade Ewa Bjorling. The minister is also following up on her favorite issues: innovation and womens’ leadership. She will visit a local innovation hub, Meltwater, and talk to Ghana’s minister of foreign affairs, Hanna Tetteh about women in politics, according to her schedule (only in Swedish).

Granted, these two news items are suitable for a Swedish/Ghanaian blog. But this time, there are more connections! Last week, I saw Mahama at the ICAS13 conference , my daughter got immunized and next week I have been invited to meet with Annie Lööf ! Report to follow.

CNN and the Ghanaian Government: Interview with President Mahama and Media Ethics

Today I get the prompt to “upload my question to the CNN interview with president Mahama”. I think to myself, CNN…Ghanaian government. Was there not a thing there? Going through my emails, in a discussion thread on the perils of “too positive” media coverage, I find a link to this blog post by a BloggingGhana colleague, Roxanne L Scott from the end of May 2013.

In summary, Roxanne writes that the Ghanaian government payed 1,5 million USD to CNN in 2012 for positive coverage under the “CNN Eye on Ghana Project”. The project was centered around tourism and investment and produced stories such as “Welcome to Ghana: Historic castles, exotic wildlife and a golden coast”. (Scroll down and the slideshow title reads: “Ghana: the jewel of West Africa”) This project is no secret, it is covered in official documents!

In the same documents, we can read about the plans for 2013: “the Ministry [of tourism] will augment its Marketing Ghana Programme through intensive use of the international media. Funding will be mobilized in pursuit of the CNN Eye on Ghana project…”

(Docs below I have borrowed from Roxanne)

Roxanne writes:

“I’d love some clarification for how this $1.5 Million goes in reference to CNN.

If it is in fact payment, its unethical.

I recently learned at an arts and culture journalism workshop in Ghana it’s quite the norm for media houses to charge artists and organizations for coverage according to time. For example one can call a radio station in Ghana and get the price for a featured interview. Event planners also charge journalists to “cover” their event. Political parties engage in this as well. After press conferences, political parties pay journalists for coverage.

I thought it was a journalists job to look for the news. A journalists creates the content. If you’re being paid by an organization to cover the news, or if you’re charging for individuals/organizations to feature their content, thats more public relations (PR) and its unethical. You really shouldn’t call yourself a journalist.”

The media ethics debate in Ghana has a long way to go. However, it is not just in Ghana the lines between journalism and PR is blurred, as Roxanne rightly points out. The president’s CNN interview is scheduled for some time in October. Meanwhile, it looks like the CNN Eye on Ghana program alive and well and possibly “augmented” for this year. Does that CNN Eye on Ghana Project involve a primetime presidential interview? Later today over at CNN the window for uploading your video questions for president Mahama closes. CNN iReport, urges:

“Send us your questions for the president in a video (15 seconds or less, please) and they could be asked on CNN!”

I am guessing the most critical voices  (if they even can be captured in less than 15 sec!) – “What is the relationship between CNN and the Ghanian government?” and “Can we trust this interview to be objective on the basis that the Ghanaian government is paying CNN for coverage?” will likely not be featured…

My colleague Roxanne ended her blogpost in May with a plea to CNN for some clarification. She never heard back. I hope this time CNN will answer.

Please share this blogpost with your networks if you also want to know more from CNN on their relationship with the Ghanaian government.

Mahama’s Biography: My First Coup D’Etat or the Lost Decades of Africa

 Screen Shot 2013-09-23 at 5.38.25 PMGhana’s president John Dramani Mahama is the first Ghanaian president to be born in Ghana – his predecessors were all born in the colony of Gold Coast. This fact was many times commented on in the 2012 elections and maybe it was an advantage to his main opponent who, 20 years his elder, belonged to the group born in the Gold Coast. What makes Ghana’s current president even more unique is he is the only Ghanaian President to have written an autobiography before entering the office.

I read it last year as prep for my election involvement. I was surprised at how well the book worked as literature. I was surprised to understand that Mahama who has an air about him to be “an ordinary man”, in fact is a descendant of kings on both sides of his family.

I felt the book expertly walks us through how someone finds themselves politically, discovers their ideology and therefore I decided to use it as a required reading for my Social Theory class. Reading a book with a group of 120 others, makes it even more come alive and also other qualities are discovered.

For instance, many of the students liked how he wrote about music and what it meant to him as a young man. Others found side stories interesting such as how he dealt with bully Ezra, the friendship with his teacher and his strange welcome into the Soviet Union as formative moments, possibly shaping his political thoughts.

There were also some surprising voids, for instance his romantic relationships were reduced to a cute story about a young Mahama falling in love with a 12 year old neighbor. What about his wife Lordina and possibly other women? What his personal relationship to Flight lieutenant Rawlings, now an elder in Mahama’s party, who led the nation in difficult years of starvation and lack of freedoms in the beginning of the 1980s and Mahama’s father was forced to leave the country?

Reviews have over all been positive. See for instance the extensive review in WSJ:

Mr. Mahama is at his best in describing this vanished world. He does so with the eye of a historian and the flair of a novelist. “My First Coup d’Etat” is a collection of personal reminiscences centered on the traditional customs of his home village, where every older man is respectfully called a grandfather and every woman a grandmother.

and blogging colleague Nana Fredua-Agyemang:

There is some ambiguity in Mahama’s (the author’s) life as described in the book. On one hand his home was better than the average Ghanaian – thus, one could – in the context of Ghana – say that he was a privileged child, regardless of the ups and downs that came with it. However, his individual life – isolated from that of the family, was average.

In this video, J. D. Mahama reads from the book. 

Frankly, I am surprised this book has not been made more readily available in Ghana (for instance through a local publisher) as it is an important, well written book that lets us understand our current president a bit better; where he –  and the country –  is coming from.

Swedish News Article Feat. Election Petition Verdict

Screen Shot 2013-08-28 at 8.44.41 PM

While Ghana holds its breath (ok, not really) for the election petition verdict coming tomorrow, my friend sent me this timely Swedish news article from one of Sweden’s premier morning papers with a heading that reads (in translation) “Belief in Future Despite Worrying Wait for Election Results in Ghana”.

I am cited in there, from an interview done some months back, saying:

 

–President Mahama är säkert försvagad av att valresultatet diskuteras dagligen i tv och radio och gör inte många utspel. Det senaste halvåret har varit besvärligt med många strejker bland lärare och läkare i offentlig sektor och en elkris med många dagliga avbrott. I det område jag bor är vi av med elen sex timmar varannan dag, berättar Kajsa Hallberg Adu som bor med man och barn i Tema, utanför huvudstaden Accra.

Translation:

– President Mahama is likely made weaker by that the election results daily are questioned in TV and radio and does few interventions. The last six months have been difficult with many strikes among teachers and medical doctors in the public sector and an electricity crisis. Where I live we do not have electricty 6 hours every other day, says Kajsa Hallberg Adu who lives with husband and child in Tema, just outside the capital Accra.

For the record I also spoke of things going well and stressed there was no panic. But reading this again makes me remember that times have really been tough for some time…

The article is concluded with a (wo)man on the street who voted for Akuffo-Addo who says she will accept the supreme court verdict.

–Jag kan stå ut med John Mahama också. Det gör inte så stor skillnad.

Translation:

–I can live with John Mahama too. It does not make a big difference.

I have the feeling this is a pretty representative view. Tomorrow and the ensuing days will tell…

Read the article in full here.

 

 

Opposition Files Complaint Against Election Results: Now What?

Just now, the news was released that Ghana’s main opposition party, NPP, has officially filed the petition with the supreme court over this year’s presidential election results. The news was expected, the continuation is not as clear…

Now it will be very exciting to see what the Supreme Court will do.

  • Will it speed up the trial process?
  • Will it make the evidence public?
  • Will it order a recount of the vote? (the Supreme Court cannot change the results, only at most order a recount).

Today was the very last day to file (officially 21 days after election results are declared, but as the 30th falls on a Sunday…) and NPP have been very sparse with information of their case. I was nervous they wouldn’t even make it! Yesterday, journalists were waiting in vain!  Finally, it was the party flag bearer, his vice and the party chairman who signed the petition as a registered voter has to complain, not  a party.

Hopefully, this examination of the election will close what ever loop holes is still out there and strengthen the Ghanaian democracy. However, likely, the investigation will take a bit of time and the president elect, John Dramani Mahama will still be sworn in as planned on Jan 7th.

What then happens if a recount is ordered by the supreme court and it indeed confirms the election results add up to a different result? 

These are indeed interesting times.

See TV3 and Daily Graphic for more details.