22nd July 2024

By Caroline Boateng

Propaganda is information, ideas, opinions or images, often only giving one part of an argument, that are broadcast, published, or in some other way spread with the intention of influencing people’s opinions (Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary – fourth edition).

The word has its origins in the 17 Century Roman Catholic religion, when in 1622, Pope Gregory XV founded a committee of cardinals responsible for foreign missions. Indeed, propaganda is the name for that committee to date and its function is to actively and widely spread the faith for adherents.

Over the centuries, propaganda has lost its religious intent and has become key in political communication. It is so important that some become experts in the field, and courses are dedicated to it in tertiary and other training institutions.

Propaganda galore

Unsurprisingly, Ghanaians are being served with a lot of it these days. Unsurprisingly, it is because we are in an election year, a year of influencing voters through fair or foul means, for their fellowship and votes.

Last Sunday, February 16 2016, the communications director of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr Sammy Gyamfi, flanked by his comrades, held a press conference by the polluted and discoloured waters of the River Pra, with the same as his backdrop, to announce that President Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo Addo’s fight against galamsey was a “monumental failure”.

He added that the President’s intention in his “so-called fight… was a mere ruse to kick out artisanal small-scale miners and replace them with a new breed of marauding illegal miners belonging to the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the Akufo-Addo government”.

Remember the definition of propaganda? Views, opinions, images broadcast to influence…? Well, Mr Gyamfi choreographed the NDC’s “evidenced-based” press conference well at the banks of the river to prove his views to impress upon citizens/voters that the President had failed.

Before the Pra River press conference, there was the turbid matter of the purchase of three military aircraft by the NDC government, between 2009 and 2015, when more than three million euros was paid in bribes to their top officials, earlier in the month.

Two days later, the NPP at a press conference, threw down the gauntlet against Mahama, challenging him to come clean on the facts of the alleged bribery by Airbus.

At a press conference in Accra, the director of communications of the NPP, Mr Yaw Buaben Asamoa, said it was important for Mr Mahama to let the public know “the truth of the issue” and come out with the fact as to whether he was the complicit top official mentioned or not. Remember propaganda? Ideas (not the full picture) floated to influence opinions?

Special Prosecutor

The referral of the matter to the Special Prosecutor and the fact that another scandal broke about the arrest of the suspended Central Regional Vice-Chairman of the NPP, Horace Ekow Ewusi, over some 500 missing excavators seized from illegal mining operations, resulted in the cessation for a while of the accusations and counter-accusations on the airbus scandal, with the missing excavators becoming a better topic for the NDC.

There will be no end to political scandals as we approach voting day, December 7 2020. There will also not be a cessation of the political mileage that the two dominant parties will seek to gain over each other with each sordid revelation about their bad governance.

Be alert

But how must citizens meander their way through all the noise, accusations and counter accusations to get to the heart of issues? We need to be alert to all the information spewed out by political parties daily, taking nothing from them at face value or passively.

We need to vigorously interrogate their utterances, in the light of credible information we apprise ourselves of, as we endeavour to know first-hand issues about our own governance through the use of the Freedom of Information Act, actively listening to debates in Parliament or reading from the Hansard and paying much more attention to apolitical research institutions and think tanks.

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