Nii Ayertey Aryeh, citizen journalist, freelance reporter and budding activist, takes time out to talk to GUBA about the Ghana Decides project. As we are all aware Ghana is gripped with election fever as they promisingly await the December elections. Nii who is part of the Ghana Decides team, eloquently talks us through the successful utilization of social media in the run- up to the elections.
How did the Ghana decides project originate?
The Ghana decides project is being run by BloggingGhana. We used to be called Ghana Bloggers but we had to change the name when we registered legally as we couldn’t have Ghana preceding it because, it would be seen as a national project and the law wouldn’t really recognise that so we had to changed it to BloggingGhana. We started in 2008 but we never really registered till last year. We then heard that there was an opening from (Star Ghana) which we could take advantage of to use social media to report on the elections. We then put together a proposal which they accepted and gave us the funding.
The main idea was that, as bloggers we wanted to contribute in the lead up and during the elections because there are people outside of Ghana who are always trying to impose their own views and when you don’t have traditional media representing exactly the views of the people, information comes out bias. As bloggers we are opinionated and interested in national affairs so that’s where the idea comes from.
What part do you play in this project?
I’m part of the blogging and interviewing teams. We speak to other organisations that are also running their own projects. For example the Media Foundation for West Africa who are monitoring the airwaves for language that promotes violence. We also organised what we call the ‘I-Registered’ that was during the Biometric Voter Registration, and we spoke to people about their biometric registration experience. This is because there were a lot of false claims that it causes cancer and so forth so we aimed to alleviate such misinformation. So we blog, write, conduct interviews and many more.
How do you feel about the Biometric Voter registration that has been implemented for this year’s election?
We are in a digital age and the world is focused on ICT, so I think that it is what pushed us to organize our records. It gives us, Ghanaians, the assurance the data is likely to be more accurate because now, we are detecting people who have done multiple registrations. I’m not saying that the data will be 100 per cent accurate because the data itself will be handled by people but if we assume that the data will not be manipulated then yes it should be good. The whole process went well except for a few logistical problems concerning materials but it was soon rectified by the EC. There were a few problems at some registration centres because people registered where they worked instead of their places of residence and that was due to insufficient education prior to the registration. Overall it was good.
What measures would you say the government has put in place to ensure a fair, free and democratic election?
I think the President himself has pledged his commitment to have a free and fair election which I think is going to be an assurance to Ghanaians. I read today that the Electoral Commission will be opening the register to expose those that have registered a number of times; little things like this can assure Ghanaians of a fair election. As I mentioned earlier, people will be manning the boxes counting the votes etc. so people as a whole have to make sure that things run smoothly.
If you could recommend something that would make the elections run smoothly, what would it be?
Honesty from the candidates of the various parties. To me it’s very important if they would be honest enough to accept the results after it’s declared. I would say that candidates need to be prepared to accept the results otherwise as Partisan as Ghanaians are, I think they will lose confidence. This is because candidates and flag bearers influence their supporters a lot so if they come out and dispute the results, it undermines the whole process. So that is what I will recommend.
Looking at the current economy which areas would you say Politicians need to focus on? If you could name three main areas what would it be?
Whenever I hear a question like this it makes me smile. I think the problems we face in Africa, Ghana are very basic. They are nothing other than Food, Shelter and Health. These are the things that concern everybody and these are the areas Politicians should focus on. They need to make sure that the Agricultural sector is thriving and that we have food , I don’t think people will complain if they have shelter and I don’t think Ghana will be a bad place if we have access to and can afford health. Ghana should be a wonderful place if agriculture, health and housing are in accessible and affordable to all. In terms of agriculture there’s nothing to show for the resources that we have because we have sold everything. The main focus needs to be on health. Just this morning I was reading that the Urological centre at Korle Bu Teaching Hospital was struggling for space for patients and that is a big issue. There’s more they can do but these are the main areas people are concerned about because health as we know is very important.
Talk us through ‘Umbrellagate’ and by that I mean the argument about the NDC’s umbrella logo
From what I’ve read a logo that belongs to a political party cannot be registered to one person but although the logo is registered to the NDC at the Electoral Commission it is however registered in Nana Konadu’s name at the copyright office. This started in 2011 when Nana Konadu lost the race for flag bearer to President Attah Mills and even though she accepted the results she stated that there was a lot of manipulation and her people weren’t allowed into the Sunyani congress as delegates and so forth. On the other hand also you have her husband Rawlings who argues that Attah Mills is surrounded by ‘greedy’ people and have deserted the ideals of the NDC. By the Constitutional laws of Ghana you cannot have one person as the founder of a political party but the NDC decided Rawlings is the founder in 2004. So Konadu was arguing that the logo that has been registered in her name and since they are not living by the ideals of the NDC she wants to withdraw it. To sum it up the logo was registered in Nana Konadu’s name but I don’t know how the party will solve that.
To sum it up, what does the Ghana decides project hope to achieve in this election?
There are about 1.2 million Ghanaians on Facebook, we think we can use social media tools to engage them and also participate in governance. So by January 2013 we hope citizens will have been empowered to speak on issues that affect them and be passionate about affairs in Ghana.
How will you define your job/role?
Usually I call myself a citizen journalist. I’m interested in the things that will go unreported by the mainstream media and I concern myself with the stories that go unpublished by the traditional media. I’m passionate about the raw and natural news that happen in the country and report them as it is without any bias.
If you would like to know more about the Ghana decides project please visit www.ghanadecides.com
GUBA will like to thank Nii Ayertey Aryeh for taking time out to give us this interview, we are truly grateful. If you would like to contact Nii, you can find him on twitter, (@nii_aryetey).