Of Celebrities and Campaigns: What the NDC Needs to Learn

The politics of today is incomparable to the politics of the 1980s. Similarly, the voter of today is dialectically different from the voter of the 1980s. It is not for fun that political strategists are sometimes hired by political parties to provide roadmap on which a political campaign will travel.

Constant change in the behavior of voters has necessitated a phenomenon where political parties spend several months, and sometimes years, to study the depth of a politic river they want to step into.

Anything short of this rudimentary element in politics will lead to a cataclysmic fall of any political party, regardless of the shrewdness of members of its campaign team. In the 1990s, it was easy to hoodwink electorates with few bags of rice, cooking oil etc to vote for you.

Those were the days when blind loyalty and adulation took centre stage of our politics. Ethnicity also played major role in adding to this voting pattern. The charisma of individual candidates, as it is even today, was also determining factor.

It would not be out of place to conclude that the NDC was ahead of other political parties in terms of political strategy of in the 1990s. The party studied the political terrain and crafted strategies that best suited the politics of those days. The NDC was not concerned about the politics of suit and tie or what is preferable called “bookish urban politics”.

They identified with the ordinary people. They ate the food of the commoner, wore the cloths of the downtrodden, slept in the heat induced thatch roofed mud houses with them. In fact, NDC politicians of those days portrayed the attributes of a commoner.

But that style of politics has given way to different style of politicking even in a social democratic party like the NDC in modern days. Rightly so, there are some traces of this social democratic inclination in the way NDC plays its politics even today.

It was based on this ideological indoctrination that the concept of “door to door” campaign gained prominence in our body polity courtesy the late John Atta Mills. The NDC does not shy away from running into even people’s farms in the hinterlands to campaign.

The difference between the NDC and the NPP in this style of campaigning is that whilst the latter copied this style, the former was “born” with it. This made the NPP’s supposed “door to door” campaign looked artificial anytime they attempted something like that.

It was on the strength of this well thought out strategy, ably fashioned by the party’s strategists, that the NDC, despite resource constraints, managed to whip the NPP in the 2008 election. The NPP in that elections outclassed the NDC in all spheres save the height of intellectual and issue based campaigns ably led by the likes of the Ahwoi brothers, Totobi Quakyi, and other NDC heavyweights.

The NDC then did not sought the services of celebrities to “sell” it messages. In fact, the NDC’ s campaign then was cashless to the extent that it was less attractive to celebrities. Only a few of these celebrities who were naturally NDC identified with the party those days.

Virtually all the celebrities pitched camp with the NPP because then the party was in government and was actually swimming in money. With all the flamboyance and extravagance, the NPP still lost that election. Their supposed celebrities who were thought to wield so much influence could not help Nana Akufo Addo win the 2008 election.

Fast forward 2012, the NDC staged a relatively moderate campaign. The tragic death of Prof John Mills also pulled some appreciable number of votes for the NDC, albeit not quantifiable. In this campaign, there was no talks about celebrities campaigning for the NDC. If there was at all, they were not on full display.

The likes of Kassim Sinare and others who are well known NDC members have been with the party for some time now. They have played varying roles in ensuring NDC’s victory in previous election. In those days, they were not specifically assigned to use their “celebrity prowess” to woo voters for the party. They campaigned like any other devoted NDC member.

In the 2012 election, the NPP which paraded almost all the heavyweight celebrities in the country could only boast of just some few loyal ones. It was obvious that there was no much money for the campaign so most of the celebrities left the elephant party in the letch.

When the NDC retained power in 2012, President Mahama created the Ministry of Tourism and Creative Arts. Madam Abla Gomashie, a veteran actress, was nominated deputy minister, and she is still at post. This gave an indication that the Mahama government was interested in getting a member of the creative art industry to represent their interest in government.

Perhaps, this was partly done to reward the roles some members of the creative art industry played in the NDC’s victory in that election. This emboldened some members of the art industry to openly endorsed their preferred political party candidates in this year’s election.

This created a stiff competition between pro NDC celebrities and pro-NPP celebrities. In the NDC, these celebrities were assigned “special” roles to use their influence to whip support for the party. Because the NDC was not used to this style of campaign, the pro-NPP celebrities outweigh the former’s celebrities.

Mr John Dumelo and others, for instance, were tasked to go to schools, mostly tertiary institutions, to preach the party’s message. Achievements in the “green book” and infighting in the NPP dominated their respective messages to the students.

This golden opportunities were wasted on these trivial issues at a time teacher trainees and trainee nurses were fuming over withdrawal of their allowances. Students in other institutions bared their teeth over bursaries, payment of utility biles and others. Instead of the youth wing of the party to use such opportunities to engage the students and explain these issues to them, it was left to celebrities to engage in talk shops.

Of course, the NDC celebrities toured other areas aside schools. In villages that they toured, they attracted huge crowds. It has turned out after the election that their visits recorded such crowds because the “villagers” were only interested in catching a glimpse of them. They were not interested in their messages.

This is enough proof that the celebrities were not put to good use. It could also mean that unlike the NPP, fashionistic campaigns staged by celebrities do not work for the NDC. Bear in mind, extravagance and opulent lifestyles are alien to social democracy. Perhaps this could account for reasons why the NDC have won previous elections without the active input of celebrities like what we witnessed in this year’s election.

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