The new media, has become an effective tool of engagement as it provides instant feedback, interactive, and instant responses to claims, assumptions, assertions, among others. The era where news remained what was fed to the people so long as there was no means of verification, is long gone. Today, coupled with the existence and far-reaching phenomenon of citizen journalism, it is almost difficult to make any publication without having the credibility or otherwise of such publications called into question.
Social media presents a new dimension to the new media space. The spontaneous reactions to issues, the wider geographical presence of users, as well as the commonality people share in groups, political ideas and other affiliations, makes it more challenging for claims to go unchallenged.
Today, those who speak the truth, have no issues when taken through the litmus test. On the contrary, those whose aim is buried in obfuscating issues for especially political gains, become exposed to the admiration of the public.
Gone were the days, back in the period between the year 2001 and 2008 when social media, though might have been present, did not generate this widespread interests, had not many participants, and had not really seen individuals with common interests converging on platforms for the purpose of prosecuting their agenda. Today, the phenomenon is different. So many groups of individuals have assumed space on social media as well as other new media platforms, prosecuting their interests.
Today, government has realized the importance of the influence social media wields, and for that matter, had recruited contingents of youth under other names, to prosecute its agenda on such platforms. For this reason, salaries as well as other allowances are paid staffers at Ghana’s presidency to engage in social media politicking with the aim of projecting the good side of government. The unfortunate circumstance they find themselves is that there is barely anything to talk about. They have become overly idle, and completely taken for granted by the non-performing leadership that had converged them at the seat of government.
Gone were the days, when it was so easy for any government project to be said to have been completed without any successful efforts at getting images for the public to see the exact state of the said project. Those days, it was easy to prosecute political agenda hinged on propaganda. Today, it is a different ball game. As soon as there is a claim of a completed project, citizens are there with their cameras to show evidence of what government’s claims are.
So easy was propaganda prosecuted that when it was said ahead of the 2004 elections that a certain book named Positive Change was launched, Ghanaians had been left to assume the good works of the then government led by His Excellency John Agyekum Kufour. For me personally, not until the 2016 elections, some 12 years after the said book was used to win elections, I had never seen how a cover of the book looked, let alone have adequate knowledge of its content. In the end, when I had the opportunity to seeing some of the ‘massive’ achievements of the time, the book contained images of then Vice President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama of blessed memory, receiving handshakes, the President Kufour kicking a football and receiving visits and handshakes, images of monkeys from the Feama Monkey Sanctuary, the Christiansburg Castle, the Elmina Castle, among others, as solid achievements of the then New Patriotic Party (NPP) government.
Fast forward, in the year 2016, even when a sophisticated book was published which was called the Green Book, people had cause to claim the projects were photoshopped. Meanwhile, it was very easy to ascertain the exact locations of these projects, but for political expediency, it was so claimed to be photoshopped.
So was the aggression that even the then flag bearer of the NPP, now president of the Republic of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo, had resorted to claims that some of the huge infrastructure in the Green Book were inflated. For instance, he made claims that the Kasoa Interchange was overpriced, a claim his own Minority Member on the Roads Committee of Parliament, had refuted, as he recounted the auxiliary facilities such as markets, schools, water, and community roads that were attached to the project. The then flag bearer, Mr. Akufo-Addo also made some outrageous comments about the Ridge Hospital, the Greater Accra Regional Hospital as though the project never existed. In the end, when the wife of the President of the United States of America, Mrs. Melania Trump visited Ghana, the wife of now President Akufo-Addo, found only the Ridge Hospital fit to take her counterpart visiting First Lady of the USA to her to.
Not only that, when recently the Crown Price of the United Kingdom, Prince Charles, visited the country later this year, the president himself, H.E. Nana Akufo-Addo, found it expedient to take him to visit the ultramodern Kejetia Market to see the economic transformation Ghana is making and the infrastructural investments the nation is making in this regard. It left many wondering if after all, these projects were needed and necessary when the NPP, then in opposition, almost commented down on these projects and made them useless before the people of Ghana.
All these would probably not have been seen and interrogated, but for the presence of new media and especially social media. In the past, all people could do were to write rejoinders when they felt there was any publication they needed to correct. Those who had opinions to share, have had to write under opinions, or feature articles. These were left at the discretion of editors, who sometimes were highly swayed by their ideologies, the determinant of which features are given prominence over the other, which one gets publication and which one not. This phenomenon has changed.
Today, the medium(s) used for this publication, is an indication of the shift. Gone were the days when one needed to have access to the printing press, and papers before a publication can be made. Today, the download of an application, the presence of an android device, or an iOS powered device, is sufficient to produce and publish news for the world to read.
This has placed a huge burden on propaganda governance. The control government used to have over the media is greatly lost. Millions who are on social media platforms, cannot be prevented from reading stories and publications that expose the lies of government. What does not exist, cannot be brought into existence.
Today, policies of governments can be subjected to several scrutiny by citizens without necessarily having to sit in the House of Parliament. This expresses the growing trend of citizens involvement and political awareness. Information is obtained and verified by as many people who want to, as compared to the past. Newspapers and other media platforms sympathetic to government, cannot just make claims and walk away without challenge especially when such publications are not true.
The presence of government appointees and past appointees on these platforms, even provide more opportunities for people to test their characters and credibility on governance. This is good for any thriving democracy, except that it makes uncomfortable, governments that are only interested in lying to sustain itself in power.
But, we can still see a trend. In the midst of abundance of information, there is still efforts aimed at directing the thinking of Ghanaians towards a certain line. For instance, there is still argument with regards to which government really resolved the long-standing power outages Ghana had suffered over the years christened “dumsor”. While the previous Mahama administration said it had resolved the challenge by taking bold steps to improve significantly on power generation, the current Akufo-Addo administration is claiming it resolved it.
The fact remains that while it was estimated that the nation required an annual power generation increase of at least 10 per cent per annum, it was on record that the entire 8 year period of the John Kufour administration, added nearly zero to our generation capacity. As a matter of fact, until the nation was faced with power crisis around 2006 and 2007, there was absolutely no effort to heed to the warning to add a minimum of 10 per cent per annum since assuming power in 2001. It was only when we were confronted with this challenge that some consortium of businesses came together to add 90 megawatts of power.
For government’s intervention, it was the reliance on pastors and clergy men to pray at the Akosombo Dam to prevent the water levels from going down. This automatically created a huge backlog. We must not forget also that it was not every community in Ghana that was connected to the national electricity grid. So as efforts to expand economic activities to other parts of the country intensified, government had had to expand electricity to villages that did not have. As a matter of fact, records had it that the entire 8 years of the NPP under former president Kufour saw electricity extension by less than 11 per cent.
As the Mills|Mahama administration embarked on massive rural electrification projects, thousands of rural communities were added to the national grid coupled with expansions and increase in urban communities as a result of rural-urban migration. This was faced with a challenge as the backlogs created by the previous government began reflecting heavily on the national situation, returning a prolonged season of power outages.
Faced with this huge deficit, efforts were made to expand thermal generations as much as possible. It must be put on record that the Kufour administration began work on the Bui Power Project which was completed during the Mills era, but whose contribution was woefully inadequate. Agreements were signed with independent power producers.
The then Mahama administration was poised to resolve the problem once and for all, and to clear the backlogs as well as create an environment for Ghana to begin exporting power as it was spotted to be located in a strategic area within the subregion. This was supposed to be followed by eventual investments as the emergency power plants are taken over eventually, while we kept consistent with the recommended 10 per cent annual capacity addition. To this end, the following projects were embarked on:
• GE 1000 MW
• The 110MW steam component of the T2 Power Plant at Aboadze.
• 250MW Ameri Power Plant
• 225MW Karpower barge
• 220 MW Kpone Thermal Power Plant
• 180MW First part of Sunon Asogli Phase II
• 38MW TTP Plant
• 2MW Solar Power Plant at Navrongo
• 110MW TEI Plant
• 186MW T4 Power Plant
In addition, having accumulated debt in the energy sector over the years, the Mahama government went to Parliament to secure the mandate to put in place a levy called the Energy Sector Levy Act (ESLA), which was to impose a tax component on our energy consumption with the aim to pay off the accumulated debt and to provide liquidity for the sector over a period of time. This move was criticized and said to be a nuisance tax.
Upon assumption of officer by the Akufo-Addo government, he was called upon to scrap the levy if he still maintained that it was nuisance. Not long after, the Finance Minister appeared before Parliament and admitted the initiative as having created a cash cow making it difficult for government to abolish it, and proceeded to use the account as collateral for bond.
Today, we are hearing that the proceeds from ESLA, instead of going to finance the energy sector debt, is being channeled into Free SHS and the Pensions Fund. This phenomenon, the Minoriry in Parliament are attributing to the recent power outages as government is said to be cash trapped in dealing with the energy sector. Instead of admitting the mess created and assuring us of a roadmap in lifting us out of the quagmire, the government is calling the bluff of the Minority and saying that they do not have the moral right to comment on power outages.
From the foregoing, I have outlined how the power outages came about as a result of the failure of the NPP government under Kufour to make the necessary investment. I have also outlined how millions of Dollars were spent building generation capacity over the years under the Mahama administration. Since handing over, the Akufo-Addo administration had not taken any step that had added a kilowatt of power to our generation capacity. How could they have resolved the energy crisis? Everything points to the fact that they are surviving on the good works of the former president John Mahama. The claims by the president that Ghana has become a net exporter of power, is an affirmation of the vision of John Dramani Mahama, a promise he made to the people immediately he began investment in the energy sector. It was these investments that have brought about that excess power that we are exporting to neighboring countries and not from any efforts made by the Akufo-Addo government.
What Ghanaians must be worried about is that as we export power today, all due to the excess power additions by president Mahama, we must be demanding from the Akufo-Addo government what it is doing to add to the capacity. If we were advised to ensure a 10 per cent annual addition and they are sitting doing nothing, except to be riding on the glories of the previous administration, we would sooner be faced with another crisis in the not-too-distant future.
We must use social media to continue mounting pressure on government. We must let government realize that we have the tools and knowledge to analyze its policies and do not require the old fashioned “editors” to tell stories and to put government on its toes. It is easy to obtain information today than before. Political promises are easy to obtain, government policies are easy to obtain so long as they are made available, and so it is easier to scrutinize than before. The days when only government official information is communicated are gone, ‘alternative facts’ are obtainable by people, breaking the mystery of media. This enables us to put government on the spot and to demand answers to questions that lingers on our minds as we play the role we were called by the president on his inaugural day to play, being citizens, and not spectators.