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Opinions of Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah

Stenography & journalism: Reflections on Mustapha Abdul-Hamid’s latest press conference

Dr. Mustapha Hamid Dr. Mustapha Hamid

Sheikh Dr. Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, the minister for Zongo Affairs and Inner City Development, misled the general public about Dumsor and the ghanaian health system on Monday while addressing an NPP press conference.

He stated that Ghanaians will not enjoy constant electricity supply if John Dramani Mahama wins the polls in December.

He praised the drone delivery service as the panacea to our moribund health system.

Sheikh Abdul-Hamid, a deputy campaign manager for the NPP said: “Here are the statistics for how many hours the lights were off in 2015, 2016 and 2017. In 2015, there were 868 hours 44 minutes of power outages. In 2016, there were 320 hours, 27 minutes of power outages. In 2017, there were 41 hours and 7 minutes of power outages. So, they should tell us if resolving over 800 hours of power outages is tantamount to resolving dumsor”.

He did not continue through to 2020.

So has there been no power outage since 2017?

The Mahama administration from 2013 to 2016, introduced Karpowership and other Independent Power Producers (IPPs) to help curtail the problem of capacity.

There is no controversy over the fact that Mahama created excess capacity through more IPPs, a process that had initially been given prominence under President Kufuor when he created the Ghana Grid Company (GRIDCo), a power distributor, as a separate entity using assets of the Volta River Authority.

Both the VRA and the IPPs were to produce power for GRIDCo to distribute to Electricity Company of Ghana, and other future electricity service providers.

John Mahama’s option which solved the production capacity problem is without doubt a heavy toll on our public finances since Ghana has to pay for the electricity whether or not the power is produced and or utilized.

However since the production capacity now exists, though erratic power supply remains, the NPP likes to take credit for ending that no production phenomenon while at the same time blaming Mahama for the crippling energy sector debt.

But why will Sheikh Dr. Mustapha Abdul-Hamid, a former editor of the Statesman newspaper, who is not unaware of these facts, choose to address the media that way?

One possible explanation is that poliTRIKcians expect journalists to report their words verbatim devoid of analysis….like stenographers.

Here is another quote from the same press conference by Sheikh Abdul-Hamid.

He said: “For many years, Ghanaians in rural areas were dying because basic medical deliverables like anti-snake serums were unavailable. The empathy that President Akufo-Addo has for the rural people and his vision got him to institute the drone service for delivering critical medical supplies to remote areas of our country to save lives.

We have established drone delivery centres in Omenako in the Eastern Region, Walewale in the North-East Region, Mampong in the Ashanti Region and Sefwi-Wiawso in the Western-North Region. To date, 79, 800 life-saving products have been delivered to 945 health facilities across the country, including 2,500 COVID samples to two testing centres. Just yesterday, Ghana’s drone delivery system together with that of Rwanda, were the subject of a BBC documentary.”

Some of us here in Accra spent sleepless nights and tortuous days only a few weeks ago, calling doctors and all when a certain young Ms. Alima badly needed blood in Walewale.

Managerial staff at the National Blood Transfusion Service and haematologists have told writersghana.com that the drone service is nothing to write home about.

We shall not mince words with the former Minister for Information who is otherwise an affable gentleman and friend, for, we shall be failing our moral obligation: it is clear that Sheikh Abdul-Hamid is not familiar with or chooses to ignore the mechanics and determinants of a modern health system.

And sadly those who wrote the media reports did not know any better either.

Fortunately, just a few days ago, on 5 September 2020, Lenore Taylor, writing on theguardian.com had her say on the existential media crisis in Australia, the UK and the U.S.

Journalism was “never supposed to involve unthinkingly transcribing whatever nonsense a political leader might spout…….without making an assessment of those claims,” Taylor wrote.

She continued: “It was never about a reflexive positioning midway between the views of opposing parties. If someone is demonstrably lying, or talking through their hat, then that is what we should say”.

She argued that the media should not slump into the lazy chair of “he said/she said” journalism.

“Journalism is not stenography,” she wrote.

For journalism obligated to the truth, Taylor agreed with my mentor whose mantra is: “The scientific method is a way of life”.

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