On 12th March, the Health Minister of the Republic of Ghana at an emergency press briefing confirmed and announced the country’s first two (2) cases of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Before the first two cases, there were individual experts, both in security and health who had called on the government to undertake rapid measures requisite for managing a pandemic. The suggestions of these experts were based on the World Health Organization (WHO) declaration of the novel coronavirus as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on the 30th of January 2020.
However, typical of most African governments, showing ‘reactive response’ always supersedes ‘proactive response’ in the face of crises or unforeseen circumstances. The Government of Ghana led by His Excellency President Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo was no exemption when he hesitated to take into consideration the experts’ advice.
What could have accounted for the government’s hesitation in acting on the ideas propounded by these experts?
The idea propounded by these experts which sought to put the country in a well-position to manage the coronavirus outbreak was not only embraced by the major opposition political party but was also championed as one of their causes. Again, most of these experts were individuals who are not politically aligned with the ruling party -thus making these ideas unsolicited. Anyone with keen interest and understanding of Ghana’s ‘Political Game’ will be familiar with these political jargons; “these are our party ideas; this was initiated by our party; you’re implementing our ideas” among many others. Therefore, it was evident the incumbent party will find it challenging acting on the suggestions coming from these experts particularly when the ideas are being espoused by the opposition political parties.
However, COVID-19 is seen as a common enemy, and as such the ‘political color’ of whoever gives an idea targeted at defeating the common enemy should not be a matter of relevance. Conversely, for a country like Ghana where the next presidential poll is on the 7th day of December 2020, it does matter whose ideas are presented as the managing strategies of the pandemic, COVID-19.
Also, just like scoring political points from any other thing, the two (2) dominant political parties in Ghana, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), and the New Patriotic Party (NPP) peculiar of them extended their political scoring characteristics to the management of the global crisis. The National Democratic Congress (NDC) citing the Ebola virus outbreak unremittingly tagged and referred to the incumbent party (NPP) as unfit and incompetent to manage the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak. Their actions stem from the fact that Ghana had no reported cases of the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa at the time when the National Democratic Congress was the ruling political party of the country.
In response to the fictitious name-callings by the biggest opposition political party, NDC the incumbent party, NPP responded by stating that ‘Ghana is Ready and Prepared for COVID-19.’ The position of the Government of Ghana that the country was ready and prepared for the novel coronavirus was parallel to the 2019 Global Health Security (GHS) Index which suggests that not a single country in the world can be fully prepared to handle an epidemic or pandemic. Adding to this, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported having identified gaps in Ghana’s preparedness for any suspected and/or confirmed case of SARS-CoV-2.
Therefore, it is fair to write that the Government of Ghana only engaged the opposition party in a political scoring platform where they could demonstrate to citizens government’s adequacy of managing the novel coronavirus as against the opposition party’s, NDC claims of government’s inadequacies and reference to the Ebola outbreak which they opine to have managed so well.
On 11th March, the day the novel coronavirus was declared as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) was also the same day His Excellency President Nana Akufo-Addo instructed his finance minister to make available $US 100 million for the country’s preparedness and response for the pandemic, COVID-19. This move by the president was received by many Ghanaians as a shock in that for a long time the country could not afford to raise the $US 35 million recommended by the WHO as the amount needed to beef up the country’s surveillance measures against the novel coronavirus. Interestingly, on the next day, the country reported about her first two (2) confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus as stated in the first paragraph of this essay.
The first line of the second paragraph of this essay alleges that most African governments are more of ‘reactive respondents’ than ‘proactive respondents.’ Per the personal views of the author, most African leaders when elected into power tends to rule or govern in a way that suggests citizens are rather being favored by their decisions. It is no surprise that particular in Ghana, construction of roads, the building of schools and/or hospitals, employment for unemployed graduates, and among many others usually takes place either in an election year or the last year in office. The aforementioned becomes a political scoring factor of which political actors pride themselves as being sensitive to the needs of the people and thus must be voted for again into power. A similar thing was witnessed in the country after the President’s announcement of the release of $US 100 million where sympathizers, supporters, loyalists, and members of the ruling party (NPP) showered praises to the president for being sensitive to the needs of Ghanaians.
Ghana’s biggest opposition political party, NDC as a way of strengthening their points scoring, unequivocally set up a COVID-19 management team viz-a-viz government’s special COVID-19 task force. The National Democratic Congress and some other opposition political parties incessantly criticize every move/decision by the government whilst the Akufo-Addo led administration refused to remain focused on managing the pandemic but joined in retaliation to critics of his administration. The aftermaths of who bears the crown of the championship among this two major political parties in Ghana is the recent reported case (31, 057 as at the time of this essay) of COVID-19 in the country.
There is a proverb that when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. Through a community sensitization project on the pandemic by the author and his team of volunteers, it was uncovered that a significant percentage of the about 500 rural inhabitants visited have no conviction in the existence of the novel coronavirus in Ghana. Furthermore, the inhabitants of these rural communities also admitted that aside from the team of the author no government agency or institution has visited them on awareness creation of the global crisis.
The author and his team believe that the Government of Ghana under the leadership of President Akufo-Addo is somewhat bent on retaining power in the upcoming presidential poll than the welfare of his people particularly those in the rural communities. It is in the light of this the author and his team of volunteers have offered to support by providing essential services to these rural folks who seem neglected by the government.
By: Joseph Nzeh
Local Coordinator, African Students For Liberty