Some people vote on ‘issues.’ Some people don’t. Apparently, smart voters vote on issues. All others are voting against their own self-interest. You’ve probably seen many variants of this argument in the past few weeks leading up to tomorrow’s elections. So why do people vote?
To better their lot.
That is the whole idea of multiparty democracy, isn’t it? One party doesn’t deliver the goods, you change it. Or choose the better alternative.
But that is the theory. In practice, we see voters making choices which have left many asking, ‘What the hell!’ These choices have been blamed on ignorance, illiteracy, abrɔ ne beyie, frivolities.
But let’s try to see elections in another light; not as a tool to effect good governance, but as a grand entertainment, an expensive but magnificent event, a World Cup.
From the observer’s point of view, only a small number of party supporters benefit from an electoral victory. The real winners are a tiny group of core members. And these get to share the spoils of victory.
It’s a different case for the losing party. All members lose together. ‘Misery loves company,’ they say. They all go as a team to wallow in the Slough of Despond.
A few weeks later, a couple of months, life returns to normal. We go back to our drab existence. We toil away at our jobs. Until the four-year cycle returns and our lives are again agitated by the excitement of another elections.
Just like the World Cup.
When the tournament starts, the country suddenly becomes a nation. We are captivated, our attention arrested. Nothing else matters. And when Ghana plays Germany or Brazil, we support Ghana against these teams even though we may still acknowledge that they are the better side.
In the World Cup, the issues don’t matter. It all boils down to emotions. And personalities.
If we win (may that day come swiftly!), the entire country erupts in joy.
The World Cup draws out our most fervent emotions. We scream. We weep. We smile. Our hearts race, sink, rise, sink, rise again. We’re aggressive. If we win, we’re jubilant. And depressed if we lose.
However, the spoils of victory go to the players. They get their winning bonuses. Some get signed on by big-deal international teams. The rest of us are just happy.
Just like in the elections. Some get ministerial appointments. Board membership. Ambassadorial positions: hello Tony Aidoo!
Of course, others see opportunities and cash in on it. Traders make a killing from the sale of jerseys, flags, paraphernalia. Bars fill their customers with booze. With heightened excitement come awakened and voracious libidos. And there is supply for that demand. In Dubai Circle.
Nobody questions the wisdom of supporting one national team over another. Or indeed the whole obsession with the World Cup. The most impoverished countries will pour millions into their participation.
Even the debtor deserves to eat, our elders say. Our elders also tell us not to lose sleep over fear of death. Even the wretched of the earth deserve a little joy.
So what has all these got to do with governance and elections?
Maybe not everyone makes a direct connection between elections and governance, between December 7 and Dumsor, between voting and economic growth or decline.
Elections are extremely exciting. There are rallies and speeches and heated arguments and mascots and dancing and sex and chanting and screaming and euphoria. And when your candidate wins, oh the joy!
The deep, deep indescribable joy!
The untold ecstasy!
All the pleasures of life are concentrated in that one single moment.
That is something to live for.
And for a large majority of people in the country, the state is never going to be able to do anything for them that comes close to this feeling.
But what about the issues? What about education and inflation and energy and health and roads.
Of course, those are important!
But if you’re part of the truly deprived, you don’t have the luxury of believing politicians to provide you with these. Not that politicians won’t provide these. Not even that the politicians are lying. But if you live a precarious existence, if you dwell on the edge of hardship, you get tired of waiting. Moreover, these things are there, in varying qualities, regardless of who is in charge.
But every four years, you get a chance to participate in something which is immediately gratifying. Like Christmas. The poor celebrate Christmas, not because they look forward to an improved life after the celebration.
It’s not an investment. It’s just a event. A celebration. One to look forward to.
It’s tempting to look down in contempt at that ignorant jerk who refuses to vote on issues, how dare him!
But wait. Just remember the World Cup. Even the jerk deserves a little joy.
Maybe for them, the election is only a World Cup, literally speaking.
So they don’t ‘take it as World Cup,’ figuratively speaking.
By Kofi T. Asante