Another testament to the ease with which common people can organize en masse via social media for the purposes of social and political impacts may be brewing in Ghana where for more than 48 hours, hundreds of thousands have tweeted their concerns with the hashtag #FixTheCountry, sending the government and pro-government media to respond.
Ever since the Arab Spring that happened a decade ago, world governments have been alert to the social media dynamics of political organizing. It is therefore very little surprise that on Tuesday, a pro-government radio station platformed a consultant who urged Ghana’s security agencies to pay attention to the hashtag that trended on Twitter at number one in Africa and number two worldwide on Monday.
The hashtag began to gain momentum on Sunday morning when a young social media influencer started a personal rant on socioeconomic difficulties. Soon enough, his followers chimed in with various anecdotes of economic and political alienation. By afternoon on that day, #FixTheCountry had gain modest appeal and was nationwide by evening.
Although the Ghanaian government has yet to officially respond to the protests, politicians belonging to the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP), as well as pro-government members of the media have pushed back against the protest. On Monday, #FixTheCountry was met #FixYourself and #FixYourAttitude, generated by NPP partisans on Twitter. The rationale of the response held that individual Ghanaians, and not so much the government, were to blame for Ghana’s problems.
By the morning of Tuesday, #FixYourself and #FixYourAttitude had been overcome by #FixTheCountryNow. This development forced government officials to adopt a more receptive tone to the protest, urging NPP partisans to then generate another trend: #LetsFixGhanaTogether. Yet, the calls of those who have been angered by government policy keep on drowning party apologists.
President Nana Akufo-Addo, 77, who is in his second and final term as president, has presided over a rising cost of living for Ghanaians in the first few months since he was reelected in December 2020. The government has attributed its imposition of higher taxes to a hangover from 2020 when the global economy was ravaged by COVID. Power outages too, which is a perennial problem in the country that is increasingly becoming urbanized, have resurfaced.
Meanwhile, the activists who pushed #FixTheCountry on Twitter have been negotiating with the country’s police to embark on an anti-government protest on May 9. Initial reports from local media indicate that the police have been unwilling to cooperate, pointing out that Ghana is still in the midst of a public health emergency. But critics have dismissed the position of the police. Among Ghanaians, there is a daunting perception that security officials are weaponized by ruling parties.