A win by the informal coalition of civil society, traditional and social media activism which has pushed government to backtrack on the intended new 450 seater parliamentary chamber at a cost of $200M, is a statement of empowerment and confidence in the Ghanaian.
The unexpected U-turn by Parliament to backtrack on the intended project under the hashtag #Dropthatchamber is a pleasant surprise of awakening of civil action. More importantly however, it shows the power of social media.
In a country where the voice of traditional media is gradually being doused as a result of tacit intimidation and partisan politics, social media undoubtedly becomes a powerful resource for advocacy and reforms.
Ordinarily, there should be no qualms about a new parliamentary complex large enough to accommodate legislators and all who appear before the house to conduct official business. This is especially when it is not entirely a new idea. However the project, to the citizenry is an absolute misplaced priority.
The question then is whether it’s a protest from a discontented population, with a perception of failed promises, alleged corruption, no jobs, poor sanitation, and brazen impunity of government officials and party supporters. Or a case of positive defiance?
Perhaps the impact of social media in the governance process until this has been underestimated. Admittedly social media was flooded with picturesque infographics and posts of the precise juxtaposition of the cost of the project against needed social impact projects that have left a chunk of the population in deplorable state and vulnerability.
While some analysts are of the view that government may have only shelved the project, probably because it does not want to muddy the waters against its gains in the 2020 elections, others think the issue was poorly communicated or handled without building consensus.
However you look at it, it’s a historic dawn of the impact of civil advocacy and activism, through the power of social media. While many may want to adopt a wait and see attitude, it goes without saying that public opinion in shaping the priorities and contesting performance in the build up to election 2020 and beyond, make Ghana a real test case of democracy.
That power rests with the people is gradually becoming a reality and this win has opened possible opportunities of collectively proving that power belongs to the governed. Is it a case of coming events casting their shadows? Only time will tell.