University of Ghana Student Politics: Covert Campaigns and the Authorities


“During a political campaign, everyone is concerned with what a candidate will do on this or that question if he is elected except the candidate; he’s too busy wondering what he’ll do if he isn’t elected.” Everett Dirksen.

Generally, politicians are smart or seen as smart except a few who act in obvious not-so-smart ways. And to be smart includes making a way where there is none -in this case, finding a way to campaign where campaigning is banned.

Of course they wouldn’t admit they are campaigning; a different nomenclature such as “making oneself known” or “advocating for students” is politically expedient and saves them any trouble.

As Everett Dirksen points out in his rather humorous quote above, contemplating defeat can be nerve-racking. The fact that running for office costs billions complicates matters and forces them to deploy their full armour and fight with relentless zeal.
In order to ensure that students stay well-balanced on the rails of their academic work, University authorities have so limited the time for campaigning that it is almost practically impossible to reach a majority of the students if aspirants adhered to it.

So how do our gifted student politicians surmount this obstacle and get themselves adequately known?
Below are the major strategies:

Motivational Messages
There is always a motivational message boom in the run-up to student elections. It is that time of the year that you can’t remain unmotivated even if you so desperately wish to. The messages come like torrential rainfall, prodding you to action. And you are likely to receive one message more than once. Double motivation!

Welcome Messages
It is this time that you see and experience overwhelming courtesy. If you see a banner with a professionally edited picture on it welcoming students to the University and wishing them the best of the semester, I can bet with my last cedi that it is the handiwork of a student politician. A less expensive way is through the use of social media, especially WhatsApp.

Innocuous Posters, Flyers and Stickers
A way to beat the system is to not be obvious that one is seeking political office or indeed canvassing votes. So our smart politician posts posters at vantage points, distributes flyers and stickers to students that usually have just their names and the positions their seek. They don’t indicate “vote for XYZ as this or that”( that may be imputing a low IQ to students), they just seek to imprint their names and positions in the minds of students. Once in a while, an overzealous aspirant gets ‘punished’ by the dean of `student affairs for posting where it is prohibited.

Standout Dressing
While ‘ordinary’ students usually dress casually to the lecture halls, every shrewd aspirant dresses to standout. It is quite easy to spot them in the lecture halls; they dress befittingly or at least improve markedly on their outlook before they declared their intentions to run for one elective office or the other.

Stellar Performances in Lecture halls
Since eloquence is an asset in politics, aspirants usually contribute with all the vivacity they can muster during lectures. They answer questions, mostly in convoluted sentences and rehearsed elocution; they contribute to discussions, sometimes pointlessly; they point out slips, mostly bravely. And they do them with a certain self-belief that cannot be lost on anyone.

To show that they stand for the cause of students, the exceedingly brave among them are always on the high alert to petition university authorities on issues they deem inimical to the welfare of students. They sometimes succeed, but ultimately they get to demonstrate their mettle and commitment to stick their heads out to defend students. Excellent campaign strategy, isn’t it?

Chalking – writing with chalk on floors, roads, walkways, etc – saw a resurgence last year after a defiant politician did it on paths not likely to be used by the authorities. He didn’t get into trouble. So he spread his tentacles to almost every path and road on campus. The move greatly helped his campaign. Others took a cue and are now implementing it with utmost enthusiasm. Of course, they merely write their names and the positions they are vying for.

Quite clearly, it takes a brave and intelligent heart to do student politics. And the 2017/2018 academic year’s contest promises to be interesting and intriguing. At the last count, they are about twelve aspirants to the SRC presidency, two to the SRC general secretary position and one to the treasurer position. All of them will be trying their best possible to win.

Emmanuel Asakinaba

Posted by Emmanuel Asakinaba

Student, UG. Poet. Activist. Writer.

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