This past week in Kumasi has been all about politics. The New Patriotic Party (NPP), the main opposition to Ghana’s current National Democratic Congress (NDC)-led government, held their primary elections on Saturday where Nana Akufo-Addo was reinstated as the party’s leader and presidential candidate for the 2012 elections. Akufo-Addo, the most politically-established candidate at 66-years-old, celebrated a huge win, claiming 78 percent of the delegate’s votes. His opponents were Alan Kyeremateng, former Minister of Trade and Industry; Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, the CEO of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra and the director of Ghana’s National Cardiothoracic Center; Isaac Osei, a Member of Parliament for Subin (Ashanti Region), Ghana High Commissioner of the United Kingdom, and CEO of the Ghana Cocoa Board; and Rev. John Kwame Koduah, a reverend and lawyer. These five men have basically dominated all aspects of the Ghanaian media- their names and pictures were plastered on the front page of almost every newspaper, they were talked about compulsively on most radio and television newscasts, their faces were plastered on billboards and posters, and their campaign vehicles blasted their platforms from loud speakers all over town. Although I recognize the significant role politics plays in society, I would never consider myself a politics enthusiast. I find most politicians showy, insincere and decorated, whose campaigns are built on empty rhetoric that rarely ends up benefiting the common person or reaching the grassroots. However, since we started working with Mufty on his daily show “Straight Talk” that deals primarily with political topics, there was no escaping the NPP hoopla. We spent three two-hour programs debating which candidate would make the best party leader and potentially the next president. Our guests included campaign representatives, political journalists and social commentators who focused more on the candidates’ brawn than brain, arguing their favorable physical and personality traits instead of their plans to improve the country, or who would best represent Ghanaian people.
The excessive media coverage of the NPP primaries overshadowed other pressing local issues that occurred this past week and need more public attention. For example, last Wednesday, the Anti-Trafficking Unit and Tema Regional Command rescued 284 children between the ages of 3-15 who were being taken to work illegally in Yenji’s fishing industry. On the same day, The Ghana Union of Physically Disabled Workers (GUPDW) appealed to government, complaining that the majority of physically challenged workers haven’t received their Disability Allowance. Both stories deal with major human rights violations, but because of the politically-dominant stories occupying most major Ghanaian media houses, such crucial social issues are often cast aside as second-rate-news or page-fillers. Since human rights stories are not typically considered “hard news,” public awareness and concern are often not generated where they are needed most and for the people who could benefit greatly from media exposure. Dr. Charlotte Abeka, former United Nations (UN) chairperson, and serial guest on “Know Your Rights” expresses her discontent with the current state of Ghana’s media, describing it as having an “overemphasis on politics” that prevents human-focused stories from reaching the forefront. She blames media houses and other powerful institutions that have the ability to influence society on a larger scale and increase the coverage of human rights stories, but insists the average person is just as guilty for not demanding it themselves. In her opinion human rights issues “need to be preached loud and clear”- this should be the media’s priority at all times.