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Imaginary presidential, pre-election COVID-19 update

BY: Caroline Boateng
President Nana Akufo-Addo
President Nana Akufo-Addo

Fellow Ghanaians, with a month to the conduct of the December 7 presidential and parliamentary elections, there will, obviously, be an intensification of political party activities in all parts of the country, with its accompanying human contact. Nevertheless, I encourage political party leaders and supporters, at the very least, to wear the mask at all times at these gatherings.

This task is not only for the leaders of our political parties. All of us, in the Executive, Legislature, Judiciary, public sector, security agencies, private sector, civil society, professional and trade associations, religious bodies, traditional authorities and ordinary citizens, must do what we can, in this period, to help minimise disease transmission.

— President Nana Akufo-Addo’s 19th update on measures to combat the spread of the COVID-19 on Sunday, November 8, 2020.

These days, I know not how to take the presidential updates on the spread of COVID-19. Particularly, I am at a loss as to how to react when President pleads for all to take seriously the protocols in our local languages. I have been ploughing through the President’s speeches from October, when Election 2020 campaigning heightened, to the most current on January 31, 2021, with the country grappling with a second wave and reports of 15 deaths from COVID-19 in 24 hours on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2021.

I have been feeling helpless and felt at a loss when I heard the President in his 23rd address on Sunday, January 31, 2021 pleading with us thus:

“Anua nom, efri bre a me ne mo kasae no, naawotwi mienu nie, yarea no eyi ho ba, faa na efa nipa. Mesre mo, monfa yarea no ndi agoro. Mondi nshishei no so. Ni titiri, monshe mask no, eno na ebe boa yen.

“Nyemi mei…. Helaa efee gbeyei, eke men ya waa. Me kpa nye fai….”

With the inner turmoil about such pleadings, I wondered: Could they not have come prior to the heightened campaigns in October 2020?

Month

I admit that a month to the election on November 8, 2020, the President did encourage Ghanaians to conscientiously wear masks. However, that was merely that, an encouragement.

There were no directives for the police to do spot checks on mask-wearing.

On Sunday, August 30, 2020, in the 16th update, the President reported thus, “… We have continued to witness low hospitalisation and low death rates. The number of active cases continues to be on the decline.”

Was that what gave us all such optimism to be so carefree in our acts and expressions at campaign rallies?

The 17th update on September 20 gave more cause for optimism, with the sense that Ghana had parted ways with the COVID-19. It was so palpable!

“We, in Ghana, have certainly come a long way, and have made significant progress in combating the disease,” the President said in that update.

Cost

What would have been the cost to politicians if there had been no political rallies then?

What would have happened if rallies had been banned and political gatherings prohibited?

Could we have all thought outside the box and carried campaigns on Zoom, Webinars and Facebook?

Some organisations, such as the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG) early in the year, anticipating the situation, organised a discussion on campaigning on social media platforms.

In my musings, I have concluded that in the summation of the political class in Ghana, a total ban on political campaigns and gatherings of any form last October might have been the loss of votes, and hence, the presidential seat. Campaigning on Zoom and other social media channels might have been the exertion of precious time and resources to innovate, something our political class does not have the time or patience for.

Thus, we freely engaged, normally, in all activities political! Today, we record 15 deaths in 24 hours. I muse, are the lives of citizens quantified only in votes for politicians?