Sunday, December 7, 2008

Nubia’s lyrical ballads


Beautiful Nubia’s most recent album Kilokilo is an eclectic mix of love ballads and didactic playground stories that are carried along with simple drum strokes and gong beats. In Wa bu’ra, he sings about finding love on the dance floor in a manner that makes one really wish to have such an experience. At once he takes the listener back memory lane into the dance rhythms of the 1960s and 70s lulling the listener along with his Afrobeat style. The story of beautiful Amoke, a love interest, comes alive with every twang and ascension of the beat. It is also at once romantic as well as it is didactic; “Haa Amoke arewa omoge/ jowo nje mole ba o jo/ lo ba nowo pe oya/ l’aba bo s’agbo ijo/ Agba wa bu’ra/ b’ewe o se e ri”.

In Mama Bendel, Nubia’s reminiscing takes the listener back to the University of Ibadan of the 80s with his tribute to the all caring food vendor, Mama Bendel. He immortalizes the legend of Mama Bendel with his typical racy beat tucked into palm wine music. “She was always there, she put the shine in my dull days”, he sings. His tribute takes the listener down his own memory lane remembering the days of yore at the hands of caring mama puts.

In Down the street, Nubia offers a beautiful sing along with a sad song about a little girl who has lost her family; “Where is papa gone, where is mama gone…everybody’s gone, the little baby cried and cried”. In Kilokilo, the title track, Nubia cannot run away from the poet’s role as the society’s voice of conscience. He sends a warning to politicians to desist from their evil ways. My mother’s fatter than yours tells of the average person’s willful ability to make others feel smaller than them. It is a funny depiction of a playground exchange between children at loggerheads. “My child is better than yours/ my brother’s stronger than yours/ my sister’s prettier than yours/ and I’m richer than your family; my house is bigger than yours/ my father’s taller than yours/ my mother’s fatter than yours/ and we’re richer than your family”. At the end he compels the listener to live life above wanting to be like the Jones’.

The twelve track CD album might not exactly be like his previous massive album Jangbalajugbu but Segun Akinlolu has surely scored another hit with Kilokilo. His music slowly grows on the listener and one cannot but fall in line with the rhythm with more listening.

Ghana goes to the polls

After eight years of John Kufuor’s rule, Ghanaians go to the polls to either create a “moving forward” or cause “change” in next week’s general elections. Analysts say it is a close race which could go into a runoff.


Everywhere one goes to in Ghana these days there are political billboards with candidates’ faces smiling back at one. The most popular of these messages are either carrying the mantra “We are moving forward” or the less pungent message of “For a better Ghana”, the opposition’s signifier for change. And all across the country, opinions are polarized among citizens as many have taken sides with one of the two major parties contesting this December 7 presidential and parliamentary elections, the ruling National Patriotic Party, NPP and the opposition National Democratic Congress, NDC. Things don’t get any easier because of the immense rivalry between both parties.

In 2000, incumbent President John Kufuor defeated then Vice President John Atta-Mills of the NDC and has led the country for the last eight years after another victory in 2004. It is Atta-Mills third time carrying the flag of the NDC which was created by former president Jerry Rawlings out of his revolutionary Provisional National Defence Council, PNDC. The tricky thing about this year’s election is that Atta-Mills will be going head to head against Nana Akufo-Addo, the candidate of the ruling NPP, a man who has been chasing the presidency since 2000. Whoever wins this time will make history in Ghanaian politics. If the ruling party wins, it will be the first time in Ghana that a ruling party will succeed itself. And if the NDC wins, it will be the first time that a ruling party goes into opposition and then comes back into government. The desperation of the NDC may cause a rift in the party’s ranks if it fails to win this time around, says Alex Frempong, a governance expert and senior lecturer in the department of political science at the University of Ghana, Legon.

The NDC feels it is very close to winning back power at this point in time when many Ghanaians have had eight years of the same policies of the right-of-centre NPP. It is asking the people to vote for change for the better while the NPP is campaigning for moving the country forward. Ghana has made tremendous success in the last decade coming from the background of a very highly indebted poor country to being a destination for investments and tourism. “Our achievement is one of the bedrocks of our campaign. We want to build on it. We want to work on the teething problems and make it smoother”, says Konadu Apraku, campaign director of the Nana Akufo-Addo Organisation. Konadu says they hope to ensure free secondary education for all Ghanaian students after having introduced tuition free primary education all over the country. They also want to ensure that the national health insurance that has been introduced which presently covers about 57 percent of the entire population is extended all over the country. He feels it is a deal which the electorate cannot afford to let pass them by. But the icing on their campaign manifesto is the fact that under its watch, Ghana finally struck oil in commercial quantity last year where it hopes to earn $15 billion in the next five years. Konadu says that with the increasing investments coming into the country and the proposed oil money they hope to be able to fund all these programmes.

The opposition has a different idea though. Asiedu Nketsiah, secretary general of the NDC spoke to TELL in an interview that the people are ready for a change and all they need is to be watchful on how the election goes. “If you walk around and interview people, you’ll realize that the urge for a change and the mood for a change is in the air so much that what we need to be careful about is that nobody tampers with the peoples’ verdict when December comes”, Nketsiah says. The NDC’s hope is premised on the laughable fact that the American Democratic party has just defeated the Conservative party. The Rawlings government was closely aligned to that of Bill Clinton while the Kufuor government has been aligned to that of George W. Bush. Hence, the feeling that as the Democrats take over in America so also will the NDC win in Ghana.

Such is the growing confidence of the opposition that it is only counting on the Electoral Commission to do its job properly in order to ensure that the votes are fairly and properly counted. Its confidence might be attributed to the performance of the party in the last two elections. The party has consistently scored about 44 percent of total votes cast and maintained its hold on four (Upper West, Upper East, Northern and Volta) of the 10 regions of the country. It hopes that this time around would be better and that it would perform a little better in the strong hold of the NPP which is the five Akan-speaking regions (Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Eastern, Central and Western) of the country and as well as the Greater Accra region.

Interestingly, Atta-Mills has lost twice, plus a runoff in 2000, in his home in the Central region. But if he will lose again this year is what analysts cannot predict. Frempong believes that the Central region holds the key to the presidential elections this year. The Central region has always voted for the winner in any election since 1969. It is more noteworthy that in Ghana there are 92 ethnic groups which can be broadly broken down into Akans and non-Akans. Anytime that any of the five Akan regions have failed to vote for the tradition which the NPP represents which dates back to the JB Danquah and Kofi Busia days, the party has lost power. Hence, the NDC might get a foot in the door if they can find a way of swinging the votes of the Central region their way this time around if Atta-Mills could somehow find a way of shedding the tag of being a puppet for Rawlings.

One other permutation of this year’s election is the possibility of it going into a runoff like it did in 2000 when the NPP came into power. The winner needs 50 percent of the votes plus one to triumph. In 2000, the third parties, that is, the smaller opposition parties got seven percent of the votes which helped to push it into a runoff. This time around, anything between five and 10 percent for the third parties will definitely push the elections into a runoff. This is very possible considering the fact that the Convention Peoples’ Party is enjoying great resurgence at the moment. The party which was founded by Kwame Nkrumah, first president of Ghana has as its flag bearer Kwesi Nduom, a former cabinet minister under President Kufuor. A runoff might not be in the interest of the ruling party says Frempong. “It is not always good for the ruling party to allow itself get into a runoff as the opposition parties might gang up against it”, he says. But the idea of a runoff could also be disquieting for many Ghanaians. “They may vote en mass for one party to avoid going into a runoff which can be very aggressive thereby trying to keep the peace, one must not rule that out”, Frempong says.

The Electoral Commission, EC, has assured of a free and fair election. Headed by Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, the EC is one of the most respected in Africa for the way it has handled the previous elections. It is not without some fault of its own though as it was steeped in some controversy for the manner in which it handled the updating of the voters’ register recently. The register was over bloated by the fact that many under age people were allowed to register as well as people who had been previously registered. The EC laid the blame at the doorstep of the political parties who tried to cheat their way through encouraging their supporters to manipulate the register. The EC has cleaned up its house though as it has now expunged about 349, 000 names from its books. In an earlier interview with TELL, Afari-Gyan stated that the EC has in its books about 13 million registered voters for this year’s elections.

Apart from the presidential election, candidates are also vying to fill the 230 seats on offer in the Ghanaian parliament. Current figures from the last elections indicate that the ruling NPP has 128 seats, the NDC 94 seats, the CPP 3, the People’s National Convention, PNC, 4 and a single independent candidate.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Ghana will not be another Kenya” says Kwadwo Afari-Gyan

“Ghana will not be another Kenya” says Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, chairman of Ghana’s Electoral Commission as the country goes into elections in two days.
By OLOLADE ADEWUYI (interview conducted in October 2008)

How prepared is the EC for the December 7, 2008 elections?Election preparation is a steady process. You do one work after the other, they come in stages. The first stage is about to come to an end which is the registration and very soon we will carry out an exhibition of the voters’ register, a public display at all our polling stations for people to g and see whether their names are there. And if there are any persons whose names are on it, people can object to it. Afterwards we will be in a position to prepare the final register, take the nominations and from then onwards. We’re going in stages.

There has been some controversy trailing the registration of voters’ exercise that you have a bloated register in terms of under aged registration and double registration to vote, how are you looking to resolve this issue?
It is not a controversy really. We ourselves as a commission believe from what we saw in queues of people lined up for registration and various people who observed the process indicated to us that there were people who could not be 18 years old. And from the pictures that we’ve seen on the registration forms, we’re led to believe that this is the case and it is rather widespread. So we’re concerned about how to remove those people, the under aged, during the exhibition process. We also believe that there are some people who are not Ghanaians who managed to get their names on the voters’ register. This will also be a target group during the exhibition process. Another group is people who have already been on the register but want to register again because they have lost their ID cards or damaged them or have moved from away from where they registered. Even though we have a process for replacing damaged and lost cards, and transferring voter location, they didn’t wait for the process. Those are also part of the target group and we have to get them. So it’s not really a controversy. It’s a question of the belief that there are some people who are in the register but do not belong in the register. And we should try to get rid of them during the exhibition process.

What’s the number of voters you are looking to present for the general elections?
This registration was a limited one because we already had the database and we were only adding to the database people who had come of age since the last registration exercise. And our target was no more than a million but it turned out, because of what I have just indicated, the minors, non Ghanaians and the multiple registrants, we ended up with over 1.8 million people. If you add that to the people on the existing register, we’re saying that we’re going into the 2008 elections with a voter population of close to 13 million.

How much is Ghana spending on the elections?Well, it is very difficult until you finish the elections to know exactly how much money you need. But the election budget was over $40 million.

How is the Electoral Commission funded?It is the state. What we do is that we make a budget before the election. Parliament approves the budget after that the finance ministry releases the money to us. We don’t require the money at one time. There are phased releases of the money. As I told you the preparation is in phases. And for each phase we need so much money and when we’re about to begin a phase we apply for the amount we need for it. Up till now we have received all the money we need in connection to the elections.

Do you want to put a figure on it?Oh no, I wish the deputy in charge of finance will be here to tell you.

Does the EC get funding from international organizations?We don’t do our budget with international organizations in mind. The election budget is the bill of the government. If the government for one reason or another cannot find the money, it can appeal to the foreign donors to assist. That is the responsibility of the government not us. We do not go to donors and ask for money.

Recently, the EC increased the cost of nomination forms for candidates and the parties are claiming that you didn’t carry them along.It’s not the nomination forms. According to our laws you have to pay a fee to get nominated as a candidate. It’s a nomination fee and not a form. This is a deposit real, you put the money there to indicate your seriousness as a candidate. And after the elections you get a certain percentage of the votes, and then you get your money back. This is not money that the commission is collecting for its use. The money does not belong to the commission, it belongs to government. Of course if you fail to get up to a stipulated percentage, then you forfeit that money to the state. They are saying that the fee is high but we don’t think so. It’s about $500 for a parliamentary candidate and $5000 for a presidential candidate. We do not think it’s too much.

Are foreign organizations allowed to donate funds to candidates?By our law, no. it’s only Ghanaians that can contribute.

What if an organization is registered in Ghana?Well, Ghanaians organizations, yes, but you have to do it through a certain medium. The contributions directly to candidates are supposed to be on an individual basis. If you want to contribute as a company, you can contribute for the collective use of the political parties.but foreigners are not allowed to contribute.

What about foreign companies registered in Ghana?Yes, if you’re a company registered in Ghana, you’re a Ghanaian entity you can do that.

Are there any challenges you’re facing that you hope to surmount before the elections?
Yes, an election is always a challenge no matter how often you’ve done it. Of course the number of illegitimate registrations that we’re trying to get rid of presents a challenge. We hope that the Ghanaian people will assist by scrutinizing the register closely during the exhibition and object to names that shouldn’t be there. There’s also the challenge to get the right caliber of people to administer the elections come election day. It’s such a big undertaking that you have to hire a lot of temporary workers to conduct the elections. They have, ideally, to be people of integrity and it’s difficult because you’re hiring a lot of them. No less than 100,000 people will be hired. It’s a challenge to get people of the right caliber, honesty who will treat the poll fairly and so on. Training them is also tough because you have a short period of time to do that. So lections always present their challenges.

Looking at the coming elections, the stakes are higher than the last one because Ghana has now struck oil in commercial quantity, how independent will you say the EC is from the government in power?About that one, I don’t think anybody doubts our independence. The law not only guarantees our independence, it does actually insulate us from the control of the government. So unless you’re a wicked person you don’t have to do anything to please the government. We’re very well insulated from control by the government. I don’t think there are people in this country that doubt the independence of the EC.

Looking at Kenya which has had a lot of smooth transitions over the years and then suddenly imploding after their most recent elections…Well, like what we said, it’s not only the EC that is responsible for free and fair elections, it’s a collective responsibility. We have a part to play, the politicians have a part to play, the government has a part to play by providing the money. The police has a part to play by making sure that they don’t tolerate nonsense from any politician particularly with regard to election related violence and infractions of the electoral law. So we will play our role but let everybody else play their role. If everybody else does, there’s no question of Ghana becoming another Kenya.

Are there going to be foreign observers?
Yes, plenty of them. The Carter Centre is already here and they’ve been observing the registration process. The European Union has given an indication that they are coming. The Commonwealth are coming. The ECOWAS are going to be here very soon. And I’m quite sure that African Union is coming too. So there will be quite a large number of observers.