How Press Conferences Saved Ghana Electoral Violence

A voter casts her ballot in Accra, Ghana, on Dec. 7, 2016. Ghana's general elections began from 7 a.m. (0700 GMT) on Wednesday, with more than 15 million registered voters casting their ballots at 29,000 polling stations across the country. (Xinhua/Shi Song)(gl)

The 7th December election recently held in Ghana could not have been that successful if all major stakeholders had not resorted to settling issues with press conferences and counter press conferences.

Seven candidates to contest for 2016 Presidential election
Seven candidates to contest for 2016 Presidential election

The Electoral Commission(EC) being the referee in the match, made it clear to the public that it would organize press conferences from time to time to make known to the anxious public what they needed to consider as formal and to ignore all hoax from all angles.

This position was not only considered by the carrier of the message “media” as the formal position of the EC but it settled dusts raised by the “wind” from the various political parties.

What is a press conference? A news conference or press conference is a media event in which newsmakers invite journalists to hear them speak and, most often, ask questions.

After barely some eight hours after elections, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) was the first to organize a press conference in their party’s headquarters spearheaded by the acting chairman Mac Manu to reveal what the soothsayer (strong room) made them believe.

He said: “After collating results from about 80% polling stations, we have won and we call on the leader of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) John Dramani Mahama to concede defeat”.

Taking a clue from the 2012 general elections, NDC organized a counter press conference led by its Director of elections; Samuel Ofosu Ampofo to warn the NPP to be careful in psyching the public to violence should their “victory declaration” twist in favor of the NDC. “NDC is in a comfortable lead, as law abiding political party, NDC won’t declare its figures”, he said.

To calm the frustrated and anxious public down, the EC chairperson Charlotte Osei, quickly called a press conference to allay the fears of the public assuring that, the process has not yet ended and that all parties declaring results should stop and corporate with the commission deliver on its mandate.

That brought to three the number of press conferences organized in the early hours of the second day of the elections.

As if the flood gate of press conferences was opened, the Ghana police service led by its Inspector General, John Kudalor, warned political parties to be circumspect in declaring results since this could easily jeopardize the peace we enjoy as a nation.

The National Peace Council, the Commonwealth observers, CODEO, and other bodies added their voice through PRESS CONFERENCES.

Could there be an alternative to press conferences/briefing?

Making a count of the number of press conference throughout the election, they were about 15 in all.

The NDC, the ruling party engaged the press for about five (5) times with its last one being the President Mahama conceding defeat to the 72year old opposition leader while its main contender, the NPP brought its count to about six.

Peace Council organised one(1), :CODEO two (2), Ghana Police Service one (1), and Commonwealth observer led by Thabo Mbeki former South African president held one (1).

The EC ,the final arbiter held about seven (7) with the final one settling the dust and confirming the revelation of the NPP’s soothsayer which declared the NPP winners of the 7th December, 2016 general elections with a 53.85% and an unprecedented defeat for the ruling NDC with 44.40% in a bid to seeking a second term for John Mahama.

The various press conferences organized by all the stakeholders were timely and on point, and this added to the value of democracy and put Ghana in the lead among other West African countries.

Press conferences literally will exist in a vacuum if the media were to be inept with their duties. Over the years, the Ghanaian media has improved in its reportage. They keep their eyes wide open like the tiger following its prey no matter the detractors they come across.

One could only hope for a better and excellent performance from the media in the 2020 elections “ceteris paribus” (all things been equal).
Press Conferences played significant role in Ghana’s 2016 general election.

By: Fred Kofi Makafui Duhoe

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