In a previous article, I used an ancient Akan metaphor to describe the nature of the devastation that the Covid-19 pandemic is wreaking on our nation.
I said it was like a ‘kurotwiamansa’ [leopard] lurking along the pathways of human habitation, pouncing on people unawares and gobbling them up.
‘?da amansan k?n mu!’, I added for good measure. This means it has ‘draped itself around the necks of the entire people of a nation’.
Think of that – it means that Covid-19 can catch the young and the old alike; the rich and the indigent; the powerful and the powerless; the brilliant as well as the boneheads.
And in reality, if you look closely at the type of people that have been forced to make the acquaintance of Covid-19 in our country, you can see how true it is to liken the pandemic to the vile and ruthless omnivore, the leopard.
Most important of all was our Minister of Health. He’d been soldiering on, under the glare of the television lights, telling everyone how his Ministry had got the measure of the disease and was working hard to save the nation from the claws of the evil beast.
Next thing we knew – the beast caught him!
Then it caught ‘Napo’ – one of the most brilliant members of our Cabinet and as a doctor himself, a personage who should know the nature of the beast even better than the Minister of Health.
We also heard from the Ghana Medical Association that other doctors had been got; and from an open letter by health workers that they were working in abject fear of their lives.
Then came news that the former General Secretary of the ruling New Patriotic Party, ‘Sir John’ [Kwadwo Afriyie], had succumbed to the disease. Was there no hallowed ground where this kurotwiamansa rascally fellow would not dare to tread? It seemed there was not!
Yet, politicians of both parties were carrying out their pre-planned 2020 election agenda as if nothing disastrous was happening in the country. Nomination of would-be MPs – went on as usual! I heard one of those mind-numbing “discussions” on the radio. What were the party spokespersons worried about? The possibility that “the other party” was busing people from constituency to constituency to be registered! I didn't hear a word about fears that Covid-19 would attack the people who would ignore the official guidelines and rush to vie with one another in getting registered. What? Nomination to some of the most lucrative jobs in the country with the tête-à-têtes that would be required, going on as if conditions were normal? Think of the the caucuses that would be taking place; the late night visits; the involuntary hugs and handshakes; the passing of bundles of cash from one person to the next!
Yes. It shows that we are not serious in this country. You live in a world in which the country that has used technology to send people to the moon and bring them back to earth is in danger of exposing 100,000 people to be infected per day because of this kurotwiamansa, and you – with your lack of resources – also carry on political activity as usual?
But (we are told) South Korea did hold an election in April 2020, didn’t it? And yet isn’t South Korea one of the countries least affected by Covid-19?
Ahah! Comparing Ghana to South Korea is like comparing apples with not oranges, but stones! Which South Korean official, let alone a Deputy Minister, would release himself from quarantine, knowing he had tested positive for Covid-19, and drive around election registration centres, to ensure that his would-be supporters would register in deed to vote for him? Even if he wanted to do that, would the South Korean police allow him to?
You see, the South Koreans have a culture that is voluntarily submissive to higher authority. They also have the technological know-how to be able to photograph people en masse in the streets, apartments and workplaces, for the purpose of checking the movements of huge swathes of the population.
And – believe it – they have an enormous digital database that can cross-reference citizens’ recorded information with their current whereabouts and what they are up to. Above all, they have the means of checking the temperatures and state of health of citizens on the hop, as they enter shops or other public places. Plus loads of testing apparatus and quick dissemination of test results.
And what of us? Out of a population of 30 million, we haven’t even managed to test more than one per cent to see whether they’ve got the virus or not. (The number of ‘ROUTINE SURVEILLANCE TESTS’ carried out, as at 29 June 2020, was under 110,000, whilst ‘contact tracing tests’ had been carried out on 191,888 persons, bringing the total number of tested persons to 300,520. That works out to only 1/100th (one percent) of our population having been tested.)
Yet we’ve had the confidence to carry out registration of voters – a complicated exercise that will put millions of Ghanaians in close physical proximity with one another. Simultaneously, we’ve also opened almost all our non-junior schools.
Who decides that we can do all this? A Ministry of Health led by a Minister who has himself got caught by Covid-19?
An administration that cannot even guarantee that the important Ministers of Health and of Education, would be provided with handlers and personal assistants who would keep an eagle’s eye on them and ensure that they adhere strictly to anti-Covid protocols at all times?
What are headteachers to say when they read that the Minister of Education who has sent them so many guidelines, has himself caught and recovered from Covid-19? What about assistant head-teachers think? Registrars and assistant registrars? Senior teachers? Junior teachers? School workers? The students themselves?
To be perfectly honest, I shuddered when I saw that the President had been allowed to go to the public places where voter registration was taking place. I am afraid that such a decision should not be left to the President. His personal detail should assess the risks he takes and veto any movements that are deemed unnecessary. Did they do this? If so, why has he put himself in self-seclusion?
President Kwame Nkrumah did not enjoy wearing a bulletproof vest under his Maoist jacket. But he was obliged to use one. And thereby lies a tale.
As for the Deputy Minister who has had to resign because he admitted going out to visit voter registration centres in his Tema constituency, despite knowing that he had tested positive for Covid-19, the least said about him the better.
But the episode involving him must not be allowed to be swept under the carpet. My advice to the President is this: please, when selecting Ministers and Deputy Ministers, do not only consider whether they can ‘deliver’ their constituencies for the party at election time or not, but do also thoroughly investigate their intellectual capabilities. Are they fit to be put in charge of their fellow citizens? it should be ascertained.
‘Animguase mmfata Okanni ba!’ [The Akan-born person does not allow disgrace/embarrassment to come near him!] is another gem from the Ancient Folks! I recommend it to all people who may themselves be people of probity, but who end up appointing people to serve them who have never heard the word, probity, or observe its tenets by ignoring them.