Casting my mind back to my childhood years, I remember the Christmas period was by far the most festive occasion on the Ghanaian calender. Houses--whose walls had over the previous year suffered from the constant exposure to red sand from untarred roads--got new paint jobs. People could be seen coming from markets daintily balancing big baskets of foodstuffs on their heads, while tugging at a leash, at the end of which was a meek sheep (literally being led to the slaughterhouse) or a stubborn goat, resisting every effort being made to lead it to its new home. As for the children, we were just glad to be out of school and played football all day till mothers called us to come home for supper.
I think that spirit of Christmas is no longer here. Maybe it's just my nostalgia talking, but it's going to be hard for anyone to argue that the Ghana X'mas feeling of yesteryear is still intact. Well, times change. These days, instead of worrying about whether to prepare their husband's beloved chicken palm-nut soup or their fastidious mother-in-law's favored goat light soup, the average Ghanaian housewife is half-thinking of who to vote for on the 28th of December in a Presidential run-off election. Well, it so happened that Ghanaians went to the polls on December 7, 2008, to elect a new President, but were unsuccessful because none of the contestants passed the "50% + 1" mark required for an outright win. The constitution thus dictated that a run-off election had to be held within twenty one days of the first one, so the 28th of December was chosen as the judgment day.
But I have to commend Ghanaians for their apparent nonchalance towards the run-off elections. Why am I praising passive behavior? Well, in a continent where many countries dread elections because they are a potent and constant source of violence and national destabilization, Ghanaians are doing well to go against the odds. The cynics would say that the electorate in Ghana are savvy about how little influence its everyday life is going to improve irrespective of whoever comes to power.ï¿½ In other words, they think there is more to life than choosing whoever is going to enjoy the currently-being-built $50-million Presidential palace. Lucky bastard.
The general feeling among Ghanaians of various political leanings, after the first election this month, was one of disappointment. Were they disappointed that their preferred candidate did not win? Perhaps. But more dominant was the feeling of disappointment that came from their inability to finish the electoral exercise in one sitting and now have to contend with another one in their cherished Christmas season.
These days fireworks have been banned in the country for security reasons. In the past, they were the second most important attraction of the period. (The food came first...and still does.) The Christmas holiday period is being stripped bare, layer by layer, fun thing by fun thing. Soon all Ghanaians are going to be left with are the extremely long, overcrowded, sweat-filled Christmas church services. How fun!