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Opinions of Thursday, 23 April 2020

Columnist: Jeffrey Agyemang Duah

Ghanaian attitude, an enemy to good governance


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Our divergent views on every Public Policy decision in Ghana makes one begin to understand why former President John Mahama a few years ago opined to some officials of the New Patriotic Party not to criticize him since they were not in his position as President. Upon sober reflection, even though it may sound undemocratic, one could comprehend that in as a much we all have opinions, the decision-making table in Ghana cannot make available seats for everybody and accommodate all ideas shared by the citizens.

I could not agree better with the American newspaper columnist, George Ade, when he asserted that, “the cream of all jobs is to perch on the fence and tell the other feller how to saw woods”. Decision making in Ghana somehow not difficult but when opinions try to take the seat of evidence and facts, it worsens decision implementation.

Looking back in school days lectures on “Governance and Politics of Public Policy”, an interesting debate on how governance is a serious business whereas those who are not on playing field sees it as a walk-in park.

The pronouncement by President Akufo-Addo regarding the lifting of the ban on the partial lockdown may have come as a surprise to Ghanaians but it is important to consider the reasons behind his decision which was cleverly outlined in his speech, supported by data and science with forward-looking proposals including the mandatory wearing of mask to cover both nose and mouth and enforcement of social distancing. Remember, the decision to unlock the affected regions could not have been as an easy one and it is not every policy that requires comments from everyone but experts without addressing it with political spectacles.

Since the lockdown started, there have been countless of cases of recalcitrance including market centers, commercial vehicle drivers, churches, food vendors and with some, it took the intervention of the security personnel’s to “put the fear of God” in them before they adhered to the President’s directives. People even travelled to regions that were not experiencing lockdown and for crying out loud if they were carriers of the virus which unknowingly, affected those they came into contact with because most of the COVID 19 cases are asymptomatic and the virus moves when we move.

I begin to contemplate why we should struggle with a decision that is meant for the general good of the people. We have cried because of the restricted movement posed by the lockdown but we are the same people questioning the President of why he lifted the ban. In as much as we are scared of the increasing COVID 19 cases in the country, the time is due for us to prepare and do the right thing to support decision making.

Meanwhile, a statement issued by the Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council on April 20, 2020, specified their support for the President in relaxing the 3 weeks lockdown especially for the many Ghanaians who are in the informal sector of the economy. Additionally, the Trade Union Congress, TUC, has also indicated that it was the right decision given the dire economic consequences of prolonged restriction.

Be that as it may, COVID-19 has found its way to more than 100 countries and till date, no proper medication has been found by even the greatest scientists and virologists in the world. This however shows that, coronavirus is and will continue to live with us for some time and innovative strategies including the precautionary measure by World Health Organization must be deployed by Ghanaians in order to comfortably sit with the virus and dine on the same table without the fear of being infected. We must tighten our boots very well because the journey of fighting the virus is very far a distance!

South Korea, on April 15, 2020, had their Presidential and Parliamentary elections and one would wonder how they were able to successfully conduct the election despite the concern of coronavirus outbreak. The election, according to StraitsTimes.com had the highest voter turnout for the past 20 years. If you asked me, I will say, they had a good strategy which was implemented with discipline by the citizens. At the time of the election, South Korea had recorded 10,591 of COVID-19 cases and 225 deaths but they were able to adhere to the strict measures put in place by the government such as 2m social distance and disinfection of the booth and stamp after every vote. Provisions were made for every citizen who qualified to cast their ballot including those affected with the coronavirus.

Ghanaians can easily practice discipline if we are committed to doing so and we should not allow the fear of indiscipline to take away our capabilities of exercising what is best for us as a people. It is said that, when the going gets tough, the tough get going, so Ghanaians must begin to put into action the discipline, sacrifice and above all, limit our persistent attitude of complaining in all matters and support the President in discharging his duties at this tough moment.

When the decision to partially lockdown the Greater Kumasi and Accra some 21 days ago, a lot of Ghanaians for some reasons best known to them came up with strong concerns to either support or denounce the President instructions. There is no denial about its implications on business and other economic activities and this is the time to rethink new ways of doing things with discipline.

No matter how much we lambast the President for lifting the stay-at-home order, he has already done so, and we have to look ahead as we prepare to live together with the virus whiles we continue to undertake our daily economic and social activities, discipline should guide our endeavours because the President has done his part and the onus lies on us as citizens to put our discipline to reality check.

Therefore, “be a citizen, not a spectator” expression, is not applicable to this issue if you are not an expert so let us shelve our opinions for now and allow data and evidence to do the talking because the devil we are dealing with is purely scientific. The “I think we should do this and that” must stop for the meantime for the President to think through and make right decisions informed by science, data and the experience of medical professionals so to save lives and get the country back to work!!

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