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In spite of overwhelming vilification, insults, fabrications and concoctions that included anything available to the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) – from his petite stature to the shape of his head and the biological attributes of his immediate family, to allegations of drug use and drug-peddling, to allegations of sexual and violent tendencies – Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has been elected the 5th President of the 4th Ghanaian republic. And what a trouncing John Dramani Mahama received at the polls!
Four years ago, 300 thousand votes separated the two in a disputed presidential election, but the astute lawyer, diplomat and patriot shellacked his opponent by an unprecedented one million votes and a couple thousand thrown in for good measure by the Ghanaian electorate.
But the 72 hours of the entire voting, collation and declaration process was not without the drama of Charlotte Osei, Chair of the arbitrating Electoral Commission of Ghana. At the end of the entire process, I was left with little doubt that the electoral results did not go the way she envisaged, and my clues, haunches and gut feelings come from nowhere else but her amatory, sassy lip-gloss. Let’s examine the evidence:
  1. Good Charlotte Lip-gloss
December 7 this year can be said to have recorded the smoothest, most glitch-free election in the history of Ghana. And I don’t care what anyone else says, especially if that “anyone” is international media who don’t know a droplet of what Ghana stands for. So I say this with a 99-percent conviction rate. This was the best election, characterized by no more than a few squabbles and disagreements, which is why I get pissed off when our illiterate media refers to these as pockets of violence. Nonsense. Even half a pocket of violence leaves at least 25 people dead, mo’ate? So stop repeating the sickening dictum of international media and stick to squabbles and disappointments, but I digress. So Election Day was good. An “A” mark is well-deserved for December 7.  And Charlotte Osei’s lip-gloss that evening was the same as always – a sassy hue between sheer bright and dark gloss, with a pinkish blush to it that had that perfect mesh with her wonderful lip tone. There’s been only three occasions that her lip-gloss went awry, and those three can be categorized as when she lied, when she arrogated to herself more arrogance than the constitution permitted, and when she was declaring the final certified results of the 2016 presidential contest.
  1. Bad Charlotte Lip-Gloss
As soon as Charlotte appeared on TV on December 8, I immediately sensed something was wrong. She seemed to have frantically either chewed or rubbed her lips together. This clearly pushed the lip-gloss outward and made her lips look unfinished. And that was when she claimed the following palpable lies: (1) That the EC’s website had been hacked; (2) That there had been attempts to compromise the results transmission system; (3) That there had been incidences of widespread over-voting in Ashanti; (4) That some parties had refused to sign collation result sheets; and (5) That voter-turn out was at an all-time low of 49%. Let’s debunk these frivolously ridiculous statements and restore Charlotte’s lip-gloss to their healthy choler, unless of course those statements were designed to aid in something more sinister. Like the final desperate collation-rigging plans of the ruling party or such other nonsense as will from time to time be verified under scrutiny. Was the EC’s website hacked? On 1:58 AM of December 8, 2016, the EC tweeted, “We deplore the attempt to hack the EC’s website. Please respect the integrity and independence of the EC”. This short statement got my hackles up, and was pregnant more with what it said than with what it didn’t say. Who attempted the hacking? How did they attempt it? What did the EC know about the hackers? How could it assume that the hackers were Ghanaian and needed to respect the independence and integrity of the EC? Would foreign hackers give a rat’s posterior about integrity of the EC? Or – and here’s where I’d put my money – was that misguided tweet the EC’s knee-jerk reaction to the NPP’s press conference announcing the figures that put their candidate in a trouncing lead (and would later prove to be supported by the EC’s own declaration)? The NPP’s press conference ended at exactly 1:45 AM. The EC tweeted at 1:58AM. That’s just 13 minutes after the NPP had gotten the Flagstaff House scuttling in all directions with their announcement after a mere 8 hours after the close of polls. Clearly, neither the NDC nor the EC had any idea how effectively competent the NPP’s War Room had been configured to operate by that NASA-trained dude. The EC suddenly came face-to-face with their incompetence at collation. Heck, even the media were way ahead of them in getting provisional results in, and Charlotte and her lip-gloss found themselves ball-watching like a bunch of incompetent quarterbacks. With a mere hundred thousand dollars, the NPP’s system was unimpeachable. But the EC could not even safeguard its own website when it had been awarded a whopping 800 Million Ghana Cedis of our taxes. Add to that, the NPP was announcing a flawless victory. The idea that the NPP’s – and the media’s – superior collation methods exposed the EC’s ineptitude at that exercise at way less the cost was not as lip-gloss effacing as the idea that her sweetheart, her appointing authority, her yori-yori and darling boy John Mahama was going to go down in history as the most flawlessly trounced incumbent in an African election. Shocked, appalled and ashamed, she gets someone in her outfit to tweet that the NPP had somehow hacked into the EC’s system to get the results. Of course she didn’t mention the NPP (like she would have tasted her smoothness level paa), but there was no doubt who she was trying to finger. Right after that, a series of blunders followed in a crazy choreography between Charlotte’s lip-gloss and Dzakpasu’s dry lips to cover up the first blunder. The truth is that the EC’s website was never hacked. The website’s bandwidth was simply not enough to survive the overwhelming traffic flowing there in search of some results, and it had no other choice than to fold in on itself. But Charlotte chose to lie about everything. The first lie, as mentioned, was the tweet. This was followed by allegations of over-voting and the threat to review some results. This threat came in because the NDC was shocked that, whilst its results from the Volta Region fell abysmally beyond usual figures, results from the Ashanti and Eastern Regions remained mostly unchanged. My hunch is that the NDC assumed that the NPP had been massaging NPP votes in the Ashanti Region the way the NDC has been doing in the Volta Region over the years. It therefore felt that over-voting had to be the logical conclusion from the shocking phenomenon, and persuaded Charlotte’s lip-gloss to assume an unsightly sheen. This is what led to the third blunder of the declaration of a 49% voter turn-out, when she was only probably repeating the 49% Volta turn-out whispered to her by the FSH. The media immediately subjected her false declaration to some bashing (to put it mildly), forcing her to retract and to amend. But to cover up the fact that they had been rigging the elections in Volta, as well as to reduce the palpable shame that forced Lordina Mahama to hide in the water closet when Mahama met with those pathetic white-clad supporters who were organized to assure him of his “comfortable lead”, the NDC and the EC needed to sell the idea of a low Volta turn-up, which, happily for me, caused Charlotte’s lip-gloss that eba-rice-ment of shameful proportions. Then came the biggest blunder of all – the failure to declare the results after 210 constituencies had still put Nana Addo in an unassailable lead over John Onaapo Mahama and, in its stead, report at a press conference that the electronic transmission had to be stopped due to what the EC suspected was a compromise of the system, for which a switch to manual verification of pink sheets was necessitated. What utter rubbish! 3. Monstrous Charlotte Lip-gloss The little mole I had planted where the gloss-saliva combo collected in the corners of Charlotte’s mouth revealed that while at 210 constituencies, the other Commissioners began to pile up pressure for her to declare. They were shocked when she told them she had to go home and change her dress first. Eish. And it took her three hours to do so! Ataa mɛi. Even with that, when she was declaring, there was no denying the monstrosity of her maquillage and lip-gloss. She could not have spent three hours in the shower la. I am pretty sure she was trying to let her darling boy know that the defeat was beyond “riggable” margins, and sweetly persuaded him to concede so he doesn’t get overly embarrassed by her declaration. When the agreement was reached, Charlotte forgot to carry her Q-Tips with her to swipe the excess gloss, skin, saliva, or whatever-the-heck-it-is off the corners and inner rims of her mouth and flopped unceremoniously into her chair on TV to declare the results with messed-up lip-gloss. By this time, President Mahama had conceded, and well-nigh made Charlotte’s – and her lip-gloss’s – declaration nothing but a constitutional declaration without its usual power and pomp. Charlotte needs to come clean. Her attitude and the EC’s shenanigans have produced an overall C-minus grade for an election that could easily have peaked A-plus. And, most importantly, she needs to be careful how she handles her lip-gloss when she’s up to no good. My entire crush on Charlotte is based on the sexy, sassy wahala of her lip-gloss. Take that away, even for a second, and I get broken hearted. #Lip-gloss Love #Lip-gloss is bae #Onaapo

20150429_185212I was recently in Ecuador for the Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Conference (ESTC) 2015 as a Speaker and member of the International Ecotourism Society (TIES). Before I left Ghana, I visited the website of the Ecuadorian tourism ministry, ECUADOR.TRAVEL. My breath caught as graphic images of a true adventure destination was displayed, and the sense of a unique ecotourism identity screamed at me from the site, inviting me to come explore the country’s lush environmental and adventure resources. And it did not disappoint. When I arrived at the airport, the banner, ALL YOU NEED IS ECUADOR, was everywhere in a brilliant kaleidoscope of colours. Everything about the airport, and later on from the taxi drive to the entrance to my hotel room, was the story of a country that is serious about tourism and makes no apologies for it. I went biking in the Cotopaxi National Park while some of my colleague TIES members visited hot springs and toured the nation’s many national monuments including the Centre of the World monument. Taxi drivers were polite and friendly in spite of my Spanish language deficiency, and the taxis were all metered. Not so my beloved country, Ghana. Our GHANA.TRAVEL website looks like an online news portal, and the video that runs is anything but Ghanaian. And the least said about our airport the better, although I’m holding on to a tiny bit of optimism that expansion works on the nation’s only international airport would change the current miserable status. In today’s competitive global economy, nations are selling themselves to potential visitors with ever-more-sophisticated branding campaigns, and Ecuador does a far better job at it than Ghana. The sad fact is that we are not serious when it comes to the all-important business of tourism. Our tourist destinations are in some of the most rural and deprived communities in Ghana, and I hope it is not too late for us to realize that the best way to safeguard Mole National Park, for instance, is to provide economic incentives to its neighbouring communities in ways that makes the elephants and all others more beneficial to rural folks alive than dead. That means the provision of good roads, access to potable drinking water and educational scholarships. And our local communities never ask for too much, do they? Ghana’s attempt at nation-branding has not only been laughable; it has also been mediocre. Less than four years after the rolling out of some not-well-thought-out “Brand Ghana” initiative, Mr.  Mathias Akotia, CEO of the initiative, blamed the palpable performance of his office on “poor customer services, congestions at the country’s entry and exit points and the negative habits of some people towards visitors”. Mr. Akotia behaves exactly like most failing practitioners of nation branding. Eager to construct a positive image and, at the same time, constrained by the adage that one cannot put lipstick on a pig, they find themselves urging citizens to engage in significant reforms as a prerequisite to seeing tourism flourish. But he forgets that nation branding is about using strategic marketing to promote a country’s image, products, and attractiveness for tourism and foreign direct investment. Nation branding implies that countries “behave, in many ways like brands do, and be perceived in certain ways by large groups of people both at home and abroad; and be associated with certain qualities and characteristics.” And these characteristics must be espoused, promoted and advanced over a period of many years. Four years is nothing to write home about as the cause of abysmal failure, and every serious nation-marketer knows that effective state branding not only serves to reinforce positive images but also helps to fight negative ones by shaping new images and associations. Therefore, Ghana can only be well-branded by real and serious branding like Ecuador does, and when a good job is done at it, the rest of the nation – taxi drivers, airport officials, bribe-taking policemen, hotels and ecotourism destination areas – will begin to reflect that brand. Needless to say (yet I say it), the fundamental assumption in country branding is that country names amount to brands and as a result convey images and help everyone evaluate products and services in order to make purchasing decisions. Therefore, a powerful country brand translates into a better perception of the country, increased exports and inward tourism, and foreign investment. Simon Anholt, in his foreword to The Journal of Brand Management (p. 229, vol 9. no 4-5, April 2002), rightly points out that country brands still stand for a limited number of qualities (power, wealth, sophistication) and therefore allows for plenty of space for countries to brand themselves with qualities such as ‘creativity, music, philosophy, trust, innocence, wisdom, hospitality, challenge, safety and so on. So, if we say as a country that we have failed at the Ghana brand because of poor customer services and attitude of Ghanaians to foreigners among other more mediocre excuses, then the message we send out there is that we are not a serious country. And Ecuador proves to me that we are not. The only excuse I can accept is if we are a case of putting lipstick on a pig. Which can be true, giving the mediocre government now in power and the endless dumsor plaguing the economy. In that case – and to that extent only – I could agree to why Ecuador is well-marketed and branded and we’re not. And even in that case, whose fault is it? Otherwise, there’s absolutely no excuse at how abysmally we have done our Nation-branding.