Election year is here again and along with it have come its shenanigans. One of such is the “Voters Region” tag some have given to my region, the Volta Region.
I suppose the geniuses behind the coinage thought it clever because its a play on the name of the region. It sounds punny and who doesn’t like puns right? And I reckon, as the creators intended, the tag is gradually catching on. It’s becoming more common on social media and in this day and age, the journey from social media to real life is a very short one.
As catchy as it may sound and as amusing as some find it, the tag is frankly offensive, derogatory and spurious.
Voters Region literally translates to a region of voters and to suggest – even remotely – that an entire ethnicity exists solely for their ballot casting purposes, I feel is unflattering and irksome. I don’t know if I’m alone in this feeling but I believe a lot more people will understand after I make my arguments.
First of all, it’s offensive because it grossly reduces the significance of Voltarians to that of an election enthusiast people with nothing else to offer than our ballot casting abilities. It paints us unfavorably, as a bunch of mindless sheep who go into hibernation for four years only to be awoken during elections to simply go cast votes and then back to slumber, supposedly enjoying our sweet dreams until the next elections. This idea is crass and demeaning. It’s an absolute disrespect to the Chiefs and people of the region. It goes without saying that the people of the Volta Region have so much more to offer.
The tag was probably birthed to be a negative spin on the “World Bank” tag the National Democratic Congress (NDC) usually refers to the region with. The world bank tag in itself is one that makes me cringe every time I hear it. Personally, I think the NDC has taken the immense support and unquestionable loyalty of my people for granted but that’s a story for another day.
It’s no secret that Voltarians have turned out and voted massively for the NDC in past elections but if that primarily is the basis for the “voters region” tag, then not only is it inaccurate and unfortunate, it’s duplicitous and hypocritical because even though one can rightly say Voltarians have a “one-way” voting pattern, it would be erroneous and disingenuous for anyone to single them out for blame since this phenomenon is not at all exclusive to them. The Ashanti and Eastern Regions are just as guilty, ’cause they are also known for the same one-sided voting. i.e. Largely for the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in their case.
In my opinion, the one way voting style isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just how democracy works. People have the choice and if they decide to choose the same people over and over again – regardless of standard of living, state of the economy, development or lack there of – well that’s their choice.
Even in the so-called advanced democracies like the United States and United Kingdom, states and cities divided along party lines is not uncommon. In the U.S for example, they have the concept of blue and red states. The blue states vote predominantly democratic and the red ones largely republican. Hilary Clinton won’t win in some red states because she’s representing the Democratic Party and her opponent, Donald Trump won’t win blue states mainly because he is republican. This is what democracy is all about… Peoples Choice, no matter how polarized we may find it.
So why are we in Ghana, a relatively toddler democracy, seemingly shaming and vilifying people for their voting pattern. If a region consistently votes a particular way, to me it only suggests that among other things, the people identify with that party. They probably feel a connection or simply agree with the party’s ideologies. It then becomes the responsibility and burden of the other parties to find ways and means of breaking that party’s monopoly and force their way through and I certainly don’t think name-calling the people is one of those ways.
If the rationale behind the “voters region” tag is to somehow ridicule and shame Voltarians into voting for someone else other than John Mahama and NDC, then it appears that such reasoning might be gravely flawed. Lets look at it this way, if there’s a beautiful lady you desire, do you woo her by ridiculing and shaming her for her poor taste in men or you do it by sweet-talking, cajoling and making her fall in love with you. I imagine every sensible, red-blooded human being will go for the latter. In that sense, if you’re a political party trying to get the people of the Volta Region to sway their voting pattern in your favour, wouldn’t it more prudent to do it by getting them to like your party or maybe buy more into your party’s ideologies?
Over the years, I’ve tried to understand why the NDC is so popular in the Volta Region and why they enjoy such unflinching support. Though the answer to this might be more complex, one significant factor I’ve realized, is the man and personality of former President J.J. Rawlings. Jerry Rawlings is charismatic, articulate and downright likable but above all, he is Voltarian. He is a son of the soil. He was incidentally enstooled at the weekend, Tougbuiga Nutifafa (Senior Peace Chief) by the chiefs and people of the Anloga Traditional Area. “He’s one of our own” many would say across the length and breadth of the region and so his party becomes our party. The love and adulation he enjoys naturally transfers to his party. On the other hand, the other parties trying to make inroads in the region are largely seen as “foreign” and this I believe hurts their cause. I guess they’ve got their work cutout but I have to note though that during Nana Akuffo Addo’s recent tour of the region, I’ve seen great multitudes gather to listen to his message of change but like any student of politics will tell you, campaign rally figures and voting figures are completely different things. Is the NPP really breaking NDC’s hold of the Volta Region? I guess we’ll all find out after December 7.
Here’s my other point… Even if we assume the “voters region” tag was based on voting figures alone, presumably pointing out high voter turnout among people in the Volta Region, the tag would still be factually wrong. A quick check has revealed that during Ghana’s most recent polls, the 2012 elections, Volta wasn’t the region with the highest voter turnout. In fact Volta came ninth (which however, is consistent with our Number 9 tag). According to Electoral Commission figures, total voter turnout in the region during the 2012 elections was 75.74 percent, which is only higher than that of Upper East Region which recorded the lowest of 75.67 percent. The region with the highest voter turnout in the country was the Ashanti Region with a turnout of 84.90 percent, higher than the national turnout figure of 79.43 percent. And even at the constituency level, Kumawu Constituency in the – you guessed it – Ashanti Region recorded the highest turnout nationwide with an impressive turnout of 88.80 percent.
And what if Volta indeed had the highest turnout of any region, should that be a basis for mockery? Isn’t voting a civic duty, one that organizations like the NCCE spend millions of cedis of taxpayers money trying to encourage amongst the populace. Would it be wise then to mock people who exercise said civic duties judiciously?
So Volta is NOT the only region with a preference for a particular political party, Volta is NOT the region with the highest voter turnout in the country, the constituency with the highest turnout is NOT in the Volta Region… Makes me want to ask the inevitable question, why is it then being referred to as the “Voters Region” Maybe there’s a point I’m missing and if so, I’ll gladly like to be enlightened.
To my fellow Voltarians, next time someone tries to denigrate your region with such a tag, straighten up your chin, point the facts to him or her, and tell them politely, IT’S VOLTA REGION, NOT VOTERS REGION.
By: Israel Ahedor
Writers email: [email protected]