At election time, certain things are always going to appear on the horizon. Promises, reports of failed commitments and money just happen to be the three most prominent ingredients for any campaign. The US election earlier this month certainly vouches for the universalism of what happens to a country in the run up to the polls. It’s no different in Ghana. Parties make promises, their opposition point out mistakes, and they spend piles of money.
And in both the recent US election, and the imminent opening of the polls in Ghana the youth have an almost unlimited power to sway the vote. It may even be more pronounced in Ghana than in it was in the US elections.
Just look at the goodies the National Democratic Congress (NDC) are handing out to university students. Here, is a hint – the goodies are new, shiny, have four wheels, and require a constant supply of petrol to move young voters from place to place. Although there are reports of grants and subsidies left unpaid to schools, the NDC has distributed cars to students who will ensure the election goes their way. You can spot these Kia Picantos around just about any University in Accra, and some throughout the country. There are also reports of motorcycles and free petrol to students capable of mobilising their peers.
With any luck, tax payers will find their money is well spent on new cars for young voters. The NDC certainly hopes this will turn voter attention away from recent reports of failure to supply textbooks and uniforms to schools as promised. Findings released by a New Statesmen investigation report that the NDC have grossly misrepresented themselves in terms of their delivery to learners.
Although the New Patriotic Party (NPP) was not directly responsible for the release of these statistics, they are certainly willing to use them to push their agenda to the front of voters’ minds. They promise to push youth job creation to the forefront of their agenda, beginning with free senior high schooling. The media are continuously reporting that the NPP are reassuring voters that their free education policy will be implemented. However, there is remarkably little discussion about exactly how they plan to do this, especially if younger learners are behind in their studies due to a shortage of textbooks.
Of course, these tactics may not make any difference. Reportedly, young voters remain largely apathetic about the upcoming elections; they are unsure of the difference any governing party will have on their lives.
So, the distribution of cars to students may seem underhanded, but it may be just the thing to engage youth voters in the process of democracy. After all, in today’s world where a cell phone provides personalised shopping, entertainment, games, and communication in one device, it is difficult to get excited about an impersonal election. To them, it is all money, promises and a shameful lack of fulfilment – just about what you can expect from any election.