Harruna Attah writes: Ending Lockdown: Green Light for Jean and Ken?

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Call it dark Ghanaian humour, Ghanaian cynical humour or whatever, the illustration above, which started trending immediately after the lockdown was lifted early this week, paints the picture of a country that could do with several doses of credibility and trust to help us along…

The scientists and medical people have been busy dissecting the minutiae of Covid-19 and making us quite confused in the process. At the same time, the political undercurrents are also bubbling as two public officials, Mrs. Jean Mensa of the Electoral Commission of Ghana, and Dr. Ken Attafuah of the National Identification Authority must be straining at the leash to dash off into election related activities. They would no doubt see the easing of the lockdown as the green light they have been waiting for to justify their inclusion in the 2020 election line-up. The illustration above is most apt, therefore, considering their total devotion to the political agenda of forcing through a new voters register and the Ghana Card respectively. Indeed, even when the danger of corona was already manifest, their assiduous zeal never waned…

We are living in true times of “fear and loathing”, in suspended animation, trying to make sense out of scraps of (mis)information, rumour, trepidation and speculation.

A few days before the lifting of the lockdown, it was already an open secret that it would be eased with the national broadcast expected on Sunday night, April 19 2020. Rumour and speculation also had it that the underlying, but unspoken reason would be to create the necessary “safe” environment for the pair to implement their joint Election 2020 agenda. A wicked speculation it may be, but has there ever been smoke without fire?

These two public servants have so distinguished themselves with their single-minded determination to dance to the tune of the governing party that, they have often come across more as lackeys of the governing party than the impartial arbiters they are expected to be in creating a free, fair and level environment for elections. 

Covid-19 arrived and set the cat among the pigeons! Or did it…? Dr. Attafuah even got a judge to permit him to put Ghanaian lives at risk and Mrs. Mensa held fast to her April 18, 2020 date for the commencement of her new voter registration exercise. Corona has been too scary and even they were compelled to go along with the strictures of lockdown.

Even as lockdown made prisoners of us in the designated zones, Election 2020 was never far from our thoughts and every now and then, attention would turn from the virus to the ballot box with people not quite certain about the fate of Election 2020. Will it, won’t it?

The lifting of the lockdown has not met with the unanimous approval of the scientific/medical community with some falling short of calling it reckless and deceiving the country.

To us, that is, the general public, however, restoration of the freedom of movement, even if without that of assembly has been most welcome. It is these two freedoms, movement and assembly, that are the most requisite for political activity/activism. They now beg the most crucial question of them all: Was lockdown lifted so that the governing NPP can hold its primaries and also give the EC and NIA the chance to revisit their controversial registration exercises? It is a fair question.

A disclaimed memorandum, purported to have been leaked from the National Steering Committee of the governing party, dated 20th April 2020 had said, “Thankfully the president has responded to our request to lift the ban on lockdown in the greater Accra region, greater Kumasi and Kasoa.” And how about the one dated 17th April 2020 from the Director of Training at the Electoral Commission alerting key staff to a training session to last from 24th April to 29th April in preparation for the new voters register? That to my knowledge has not been disclaimed and it anticipated the Sunday evening address by a good two days. Either they were also working with rumours and speculation at the EC, or they knew something the rest of us were not allowed to know before the lockdown was lifted.

The disclaimed memorandum notwithstanding, it was bringing to the fore a deep-seated fear of the many who have been worried about the trajectory of Ghana since January 7 2017: A country wallowing in the quagmire of the politics of “Onka yer whon”.

How, for example,  the one man with a hands-on experience of how to contain a pandemic, the hero of Ebola, President John D. Mahama could have been side-lined in the drawing up of a national strategy on Covid-19 beats my comprehension –  another missed opportunity. With his world acclaimed coordinating role in the fight against Ebola and his considerable international stature, his would have been a most reassuring face in the efforts – more like a goodwill ambassador. This I know is monumental wishful thinking on my part and who says one cannot engage in positive wishful thinking when his/her country is facing an existential threat? The man has not let the churlishness and pettiness of his successor get in his way and without prompting, has been extremely proactive in reaching out to the weak and vulnerable during the lockdown and indeed so did Lordina Mahama, his wife and former First Lady.

As our scientists and medical people continue to question the Ghanaian government’s economy with the truth regarding figures, the UK started clinical trials on a vaccine yesterday, Thursday April 23 2020…Something to look forward to by the entire world, away from the gloom and uncertainty in my town as we mull over why we were locked down when infection was only 58 and now free to move about when infection has jumped to over 1000…We must concentrate as a nation to have full control over Covid-19 and stop it from spreading and claiming lives. Ghanaians have shown that we value our lives and observed the lockdown pretty well in the affected areas. As to whether Jean and Ken would see the relaxation of the lockdown as a green light, they should think again…Even if Covid-19 were to disappear today, we would still need a mopping up period to make sure the situation has truly been stabilised, so a new voters register and Ghana Card would have to wait. Fortunately Election 2020 is not in jeopardy as we have a register we can still use with the appropriate identification system also already in place.

By Amb. Alhaji Abdul-Rahman Harruna Attah, MOV

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