Saturday, May 22, 2021.
“If you have never voted ‘skirt and blouse’ based on your conviction about the competence of those standing for the elections, you have never experienced the satisfaction that only a minority of Ghanaians have experienced during elections.”- Dr. Kofi Effah.
(December 6, 2020)
Two weeks ago, a friend sent me a message to vote for her son who is competing in a reading competition which comes on TV, the ‘Book Worm’. Students from many institutions read from a text provided by the judges. They are judged according to how well they read, looking at pronunciation, speed etc. The public is given the opportunity to vote to keep contestants in the competition. Those who don’t do well are evicted. My son’s school also sent a message that we should vote for the students from their school to stay in the competition.
I decided to watch the competition. I enjoyed it. These young ones are being challenged to read well and it promotes healthy competition. What motivated me to write this piece is that my best candidate (if I were to vote) was neither my friend’s son nor the students from my son’s school. If I had voted without watching the competition (as many would do), I could have voted for someone who is not good enough to be adjudged the best.
This is something that has troubled me for many years. It happens in many such competitions, in beauty contests, talent shows, in the music industry… Sometimes we get messages on social media to vote for people to be winners of awards only because the person in the competition is a relative or a friend of someone on the platform.
Though in many of these competitions the public opinion/votes may account for only a percentage of the final mark (with the judges having a certain percentage), there are some competitions where only the public voting decides the winner. This means that better (or the best) people in some competitions who do not have many friends in the public may be evicted or may not win. The organisers of some of these competitions are more interested in the economic aspect, including money generated by the telcos when more people vote.
I have a personal philosophy. I do not vote for anybody in any competition unless I know the person well and I am convinced that the person is better than the others in the competition. It does not matter if the person in the competition or race is a friend or relative. I stick to this philosophy.
I have taken my philosophy to voting in political elections. In the last (December 2020) elections in Ghana, I voted ‘skirt and blouse.’ In Ghana, this refers to voting for the presidential candidate and the parliamentary candidate from different political parties. In the 2016 elections, I voted ‘skirt and blouse’ too, but in a different way. I need to know those standing for the elections and vote for the person I think is the best at that particular time.
We can decide to vote for people just because we know them or because they are recommended by family and friends without finding out who is the best in the competition. What we must not forget is that we may be creating a system where people believe it is better to be ‘popular’ than to be competent, and one day our popular musician, Shatta Wale, who may have hardly any experience in medicine can be adjudged the best medical doctor in Ghana.