Why US Presidential Debate matters to Ghanaians?

Why US Presidential Debate matters to Ghanaians?

clinton-trump-5Anny Osabutey, The Christian Journal – Ahead of the presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Monday night, I got a call from my former employers in Accra, Ghana, JoyFM. They wanted me to talk about how Americans were gearing up for the debate.

“Is the buzz around the debate as passionate as it is here in Ghana?,” the news anchor asked with some excitement in her voice.  My answer was yes-but not with much intensity among the public. The buzz was more in the media. It was their season of harvest and whoever makes the most noise to attract viewers gets the highest ratings.  I told her television networks had lined up analysts who were assessing the contenders.

“But what are ordinary people saying on the streets, for example,” she continued. “I assume people will look forward to it but is not something you hear being discussed on the subways, coffee shops or anything,” I said in response. “Maybe folks are waiting for the main dish to be served and then they can make commentaries on their personal social media platforms, or discuss it later.”

The phone went dead for a minute. And as I waited for her to say the next thing, I started processing the conversation, wondering why Ghanaians should bother about a debate thousands of miles away from home. Not that the two countries are on the same time zone, no. Ghana is ahead of New York by four hours, so anyone who watched the debate might have been up by 1am. That is really a sacrifice to make. But is it worth it?  It actually depends on who you talk to but I can guarantee six out of ten people you speak to will say, YES!

As a Ghanaian myself, I know how passionate we are about politics.  Apart from endless discussions in the media, ordinary people would have owned the debate as if it were being held in the country.  Politics is our forte and we will gloat in it with every fibre of our being.  It’s interesting to mention that our election is due on December 7th this year, almost a month after that of the US. Ghana’s relations with America dates back decades but that may not be the reason why people decided to watch the debate. People didn’t watch it because it may or may not strengthen the economic ties of the two countries, no.  It has to do with one candidate, Donald Trump.  Forget about Hillary Clinton being the first woman to get a major party’s endorsement to run for the presidency.  The Donald is the pretentious darling boy in the race. He typifies everything election in America has never seen; lack of self-discipline.

A businessman whose election defied the gravitas of electoral polls, Mr. Trump has said almost all the incendiary things unbecoming of anyone seeking the highest office in America.  He accused immigrants, especially Mexicans, of bringing drugs into the country and raping “our women.”  He called for Moslems to be banned from entering the country because of what he suspected to be close links with terrorism. His call came in the awake of a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, by an American Moslem and his spouse suspected to have links with ISIS.

Mr. Trump went further by not only proposing surveillance in mosques but a database of all Moslem Americans, insisting it was the best way to keep them in check. What an insult!  And then the needless attacks on the family of the late US Army Captain Humayn Khan killed in Iraq in 2004 when a car blew up after he had told troops under him to stand back.

Then there were the attacks on women and the campaign that Barack Obama was never born in the United States.  His caustic posturing and not necessarily the so-called business savviness is what has contributed to the buzz around the debate. So almost anyone who watched the debated anticipated a “Trump style” debate laced with bully tactics and off colour, throwing jabs at the opponent without necessarily responding to the questions thrown at him.

Ironically, viewers in Ghana saw a much more subdued Trump, desperately trying to stay calm and disciplined. Even when a bait was thrown at him and he took it, his approach was without the firebrand and the so-called “politically correctness” he’s often used to get out of ‘jail’ on many occasions. He took some bait but didn’t come flying off the roof. He kept his composure and though most of the answers were off colour, he did not throw diatribes as was anticipated.

For the first time most viewers saw a Trump so lost in trying to explain himself on issues of national importance. A simple question as to how he was going to deal with the many guns in the hands of people, his solution was to go after the “bad people.”  But who are the bad people? His response infuriated lots of people on twitter, who questioned his preparedness for the office.

“Trump was schooled by Hillary,” says a friend with whom I share a WhatsApp group platform. He insisted the man lacks “depth” when it comes to discussing issues away from business, and it will be a great “insult not only to America but the world should that guy (Trump) become president-which I doubt very much.”

Samuel FiifiDzackah is based in the Ghanaian capital Accra. He played down the Trump effect as the reason why he watched the debate. It’s more of the outcome of the election and the impact it will have on Ghana’s economic fortunes, he told me.

“When US sneezes, everybody catches cold,” he told me. “Ghana now is grappling with the supposed concessionaire of Electricity Company of Ghana (the main power supplier in the country) and the lead body is MiDA or the Millennium Development Authority  being funded by the Millennium Challenge Account and by extension the US government. So, should there be a change in government say from the Democrats to the Republicans, it could affect the activities of MCA and by extension MiDA and ECG….. That’s my immediate concern as far as US presidential race is concerned,” he added.

It’s clear America’s sneeze may be thousands of miles away but whichever direction it heads, Ghana surely will not escape from catching the associated cold.



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