By virtue of my position as the General Secretary of the Greater Accra Regional Students Representative Council, I qualified as a delegate of the National Union of Ghana Students. I was in my second year in senior high school. I was just a baby in campus politics who only knew ‘democracy’, not ‘Moneycracy’. But my ‘innocence’ was stripped off at my first NUGS congress at the UEW-Kumasi campus.
My eyes were ‘opened’ to the real value of my delegate tag. After that encounter, I wore it like the badge of honour it was supposed to be. When night came and I was about to sleep, I hid it under my pillow and wore it in the morning like a gold necklace. I took it to the shower and hanged it on the doorknob–a treasure I could not afford to lose.
On the UEW-Kumasi campus, I made it conspicuous enough to catch the eye of aspirants and their bunch of overzealous campaign team members who usually lurked around the main auditorium protecting their banners and sharing leaflet. They will sometimes notice my delegate tag and call me under a tree usually pretending to proselytize their ideas and policies.
After two or three minutes these university students will give me 10 cedis as “porridge money” to influence my young, impressionable mind. And before I leave them they will ask me to recite the candidates I am supposed to vote for in the elections. I gleefully recited it like a poem.
There was a day one of the boys escalated the ‘oath of allegiance’. He asked me if I believed in thunder. I responded in the affirmative. The fierce-looking Commonwealth Hall boy looked at me menacingly and asked me to say that if I do not vote for his candidate, thunder and lightning should strike me down. As a prodigal son of Avernopeme, I had heard stories about how thunder and lightning struck down persons who toyed with it.
“I am too young to die,” I said to myself as I tried to hand over his money to him. He said I should take it and that he was only joking. Soon, I realized my thumb was worth more than I had thought. If I had known this in my formative years, I wouldn’t have sucked it like I did when I was young. How dare me suck my little SACRED thumb?
The early morning walk on the campus with my delegate tag became a profitable venture. The regular visits by aspirants to our rooms is a subject for another discussion. And o boy! I made money! but I lost it. All the ¢10 ‘Koko sika’ was gone with the wind even before the day of reckoning-election day. I had carefully ironed and arranged the cedi notes in my wallet. It dropped as I removed my jeans to take a shower. Perhaps I paid too much attention to my delegate tag at the detriment of my wallet.
I opened up to one of my colleagues who told me about a “loaded candidate”. That evening I went to see him. I think he was not in a good mood. He told me he had seen the opulence and the political extravaganza from his opponents who were sponsored by political parties and their apparatchiks.
He said he was not ready to dabble in same and was trusting God to make a way. Instead of giving me the money I lost, he took me to a corner and prayed for me. Maybe his prayers worked. The next day during the elections, I closed my eyes in the booth and voted. For some of the candidates, I said “Sisi si, si nanako” [eenie meenie counting ryhme] and stamped my thumb on one.
So dear candidate, giving money to a delegate to vote for you is not an assurance enough that they will vote for you. Unless you will follow and supervise them in the voting booth, you cannot be sure. Fear delegates!
The writer is a broadcast journalist.