It was a novelty that kept everybody - the flag-bearers of four political parties, the moderators, the audience in the auditorium and the rest of us privileged to listen to our radio sets and view on the television screens - in suspense.
When the zero-hour approached, supporters of the main actors - Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the New Patriotic Party (NPP); Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom of the Convention People's Party (CPP); Prof. John Evans Atta-Mills of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and Dr Edward Mahama of the People's National Convention (PNC) - were on edge wondering how their idols, sitting before a select audience of distinguished personalities, were going to perform before live cameras that will beam proceedings on television channels.
You know talking on campaign platforms at rallies is very easy. Most members of the crowd are actually not listening. They are only cheering or screaming because that is what they are really there (or is it paid?) to do. That is why it is easy for the principal characters to spew out anything that crosses their mind and which can spill out through their mouths insults, threats, vain promises, a few plain truths - to their charged listeners. After that the jamma, borborbor and kpanlogo groups will lead what is commonly described as teeming supporters who are now drenched in sweat and alcohol, all the way home. A job has been accomplished and the politicians, satisfied with the attendance, will begin to count their chickens even before they are hatched.
As for the masses, their sweat-soaked T-shirts and if lucky, a few wads for the evening's kenkey plus heavy doses of promises and comforting words assuring them of a better future are all that they gained. But that is even enough to incite some of them into violent confrontation with supporters of rival parties.
This time the setting was quite different and there was no room for vituperative language. There were no teeming crowds to cheer or jeer at the least opportunity and the main actors on stage cannot take things for granted and make -loose talks. The whole nation was watching and they had to make every conscious effort to score as much points as possible.
Ours could not match those we are used to seeing on Cable News Network (CNN) or the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), judging from its formal setting and selected and restricted audience. All the same, it came out well and the next one will surely be better.
Seriously, I am not interested very much in what the gentlemen on stage said and I believe many voters may not switch allegiance because of what somebody said or did not say. They all said the same things differently.
My interest, therefore, lies in the spirit behind the exercise. So if those noble men could face millions of Ghanaians in that subdued manner and dole out their promises in civil language, how come that when they mount campaign platforms and stare at the crowd, they turn into a different breed of people?
Why do they take us many, many years back, when the majority of today's generation were not born? Why do they try to take credit for policies and projects that they condemned in the past? And why do they promise us what, deep down in their hearts, they know they cannot deliver? Why do they have to insult and attack others when the focus should be their own capabilities? We can continue asking more questions whose answers we may never get.
I also see the hands of money rakers who parade as journalists and social commentators in the tension and violence that show up in our political campaigns. The presidential debate has proved that our future leaders can still carry their message across in a language devoid of rancour and acrimony, and it is possible for them to comport themselves on platforms so that they can articulate their vision and mission objectives clearer and better.
As stated earlier, our version of the presidential debate may not come near what we see between say, Barack Obama and John MacCain on international networks, given our deficiencies in technology and funding. But the stage has been set for more of such debates in future.
It is also the wish of many Ghanaians that the candour and civility which prevailed at the presidential debate last Wednesday, will be extended to the final stages of the campaign so as to bring some relief to a tensed nation ready to explode.
Apart from the flag bearers who showed a lot of respect to each other, members of the audience could also be seen after the presentations mixing freely and sharing the conviviality the Ghanaian way. Surely, they all came out of their artificial or imaginary trenches to be what they actually are Ghanaians.
Our democracy has also taken another giant step forward. What more can we wish for ourselves, if we are assured by Dr Nduom, that his administration will ensure that we receive our pension, the very day we drop dead? That is what makes us an interesting people and we cannot afford to wipe away the humour from our faces.
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