I was only 10 years old when I left Ghana to attend boarding school in the United Kingdom so knew nothing about politics. Fifteen years later, now in my mid twenties, I returned still not knowing much about politics in Ghana. But I did know one thing. John Jerry Rawlings was the President. And Ghana was not a "democratic" society. People actually lived in fear. There was so much that could not be done or said, even in private.
A few years after my return, "democracy" was introduced in Ghana and President Rawlings peacefully handed over to the newly elected President Kufour. Private television and radio stations were not only licensed to operate, but actually began doing so. The "Gentle Giant" Kufour and his "democracy" introduced a certain sense of freedom into Ghana. Now all of a sudden having an opinion and freely expressing it was welcomed. Or so we were told. From now on, we were told, Ghanaians could do and say anything we wanted. Nobody would be arrested for having or more importantly expressing an opinion that the government of the day did not agree with. Finally, Ghanaians were told freedom of speech was to be our new way of living. Yeah, Ghana had joined the "developed" world.
From the outside at least, that was the perception. But having lived and worked in Ghana for 17 years, I have no choice but to accept this for the myth it has turned out to be. And as Ghanaians go to the polls on 7 December I am rather worried about this, for two main reasons:
Firstly, I feel because Ghanaians were so restricted under Rawlings, you can almost say they are abusing this sense of freedom brought on by "democracy". Because today "democracy" in Ghana has been understood to mean the freedom to go on air and insult politicians. Turn on the TV or radio, especially in the morning, and you will regret it, because all you will hear are insults and shouting. All the stations spend their morning shows talking politics. If they were talking political issues and problem-solving, it would not be so bad. But all that is happening is people call in, make accusations against politicians they do not like and heap insult upon insult upon them. This does not stop there. Even the politicians are at it.
Can you imagine the situation where two high-profile personalities from Ghana's two main leading parties (National Democratic Congress (NDC) and New Patriotic Party (NPP)), go on live TV or radio to trade insults at each...