If elections are conducted on the social media, it would be safe to say that, the President, John Dramani Mahama, has already won the November 7, polls– and by miles too. This is a known fact.
Even the most hardcore of the Nana Akufo-Addo’s supporters won’t tell you otherwise. The President’s support on the social media is nothing short of massive support, far overshadowing that of the candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) whose social media performance in the run-up to the November 7, elections leaves much to be desired.
Be that as it may, elections are not conducted on the social media, neither is social media popularity a reliable pointer to or a reflection of the support a candidate or a party enjoys.
In more advanced countries, where the internet penetration is up to at least 80 percent, it could be a reliable barometer to gauge, but this doesn’t hold true in a developing country like Ghana.
According to the Ghana’s National Communications Authority (NCA), “Ghana’s mobile internet penetration stands at 54.09 percent, as at the end of April, 2014, compared to the country’s population of 26, 354, 769,”
In a country of over 25million people, this is a far cry from what pertains in other countries.
In France, for instance, the total population, according to official estimates is about 67 million, while the population of people who have access to the internet over there is about 56 million, giving it an internet penetration of 84 percent.
In the United Kingdom (UK), the figures are identical. The entire population of the country is put at 64 million, while the internet population is about 55 million, giving it a penetration of 86 percent. In the United States of America (USA), the population is estimated to be 320 million, while the internet population is 280 million, giving it an internet penetration of 88 percent.
We are far behind here in Ghana. The internet population is still low, though it has been improving tremendously over the past few years, having increased from 40 percentto 40.7 percent but that is still not enough.
It is also pertinent for me to mention here that, internet population does not equate to social media population. It is not everybody that has access to the internet that makes use of the social media. The social media is distinct from the internet, though it is subsumed under it.
A good number of the 15 million or so Ghanaians, who have access to the social media, are below the age of 18, so they cannot vote. They will be mere onlookers and spectators in the real electoral process.
Some others are above 18, but they have no Voter’s ID Card. Without it, it means they cannotvote. Also, some of those Ghanaians, who flood our social media space and spray comments here and there, do not even, reside in Ghana. They are often the most vocal, but they will eventually be monitoring the situation from afar.
Some would argue that the social media echoes the sentiments of Ghanaians. However, in it, everybody is responsible for his or her own opinions and cannot be said to be speaking for others.
In France, the UK and the US, the social media will be an adequate tool to measure and sample the feelings of the entire population, but the same cannot be said over here. 15 million or so Ghanaians cannot be said to be speaking the mind of 25 million of us.
The market woman in Makola, Kaneshie, Mallam-Atta or Madina, etc., have voter’s ID card, but has no interest in the social media so her political inclinations and sentiments are not known.
In essence, it is dangerous to rely on the social media when predicting electoral fortunes in Ghana– only 15 million of us actively use it. Those who already have the social media in their pockets, should not relax and believe that victory is theirs. The social media is only one of the several battles that make up the contest. There are other more important battles to be won, including those that happen behind the scenes, which are not reported in the pages of newspapers, in blogs or on social networks.
These days, it is very common to wake up and find out that, you have been added to one group or another on Whatsapp, purporting to be advocating for President, John Dramani Mahama.
Unfortunately, we put ourselves into groups and all we do is write nice literature against Nana Akufo-Addo and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and then share among ourselves.
We comment and make fun of it and we all go back to sleep, expecting our mothers, sisters and brothers, who are not on social media to also read and appreciate the arguments put forward.
We can do so much for our candidate, when we constitute ourselves into working groups and go to the people who matter most, sitting in the comfort of our homes and offices, forming one group after another on whatsapp, will not inure to the benefit of anyone, except our own amusement.
One person will constitute himself into an administrator and be adding you to more than three different groups that, he has formed, without first seeking your consent.
It is sometimes a nuisance, but since you consider it rude to exit, you stay on and one article, picture or video, which is shared on one group, ends up being shared on as many platforms as you belong.
I am not totally dismissing the impact or importance of the social media in the electoral process. The social media is integral to the 21st century politics and advocacy. It has come to say.
I am well aware of its possibilities. Needless to say, it helps to shape people’s opinions and any message sent to the social media can be delivered to millions at home and abroad within a few hours. Its importance cannot be overemphasized, but it should not be the focal point of an electioneering process in a developing country like Ghana.
We are rather abusing it and seeking to please some appointees of government who happen to be on the platform with us.
The government, has also not help matters, as some people have immensely benefited from posting articles, which most often are full of insults, targeted at their opponents.
When we reward insults, those observing, will also think that, instead of going to the people to campaign, why not also adopt the lazy attitude of writing and posting pictures of the President to court the attention of officialdom.
The NDC and the government will have themselves to blame, if they think social media, will win them the elections.