Information Minister Kojo Oppong Nkrumah has advised persons calling for a depoliticisation of Ghana’s COVID-19 fight to condemn all the political actors who began politicising it in the first place rather than only calling out the political response to those who started the fight.
According to Mr Nkrumah, the government cautioned all actors not to politicise the COVID-19 fight over a month ago but the opposition side did not heed that call.
“The nation, in all honesty, stands a real risk of losing focus and degenerating into partisan political banter while the real key issue of COVID-19 and managing is relegated to the background. That’s the real risk that we run with where we are going, and this risk, we started warning a little over a month ago, so, it’s important that we all not be silent when our candidate is politicising the matter only to speak when other people start responding politically. What is good for the goose is good for the gander,” Mr Nkrumah said at a press conference in Accra on Tuesday, 5 May 2020.
Former President John Mahama, who is also the flag bearer of the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), has been critiquing the government’s approach in fighting the coronavirus in a series of Live Facebook videos.
Among the many criticisms is that the food distribution exercise led by the government to alleviate the unintended consequences of the three-week lockdown on some vulnerable Ghanaians was “an abysmal failure”.
The former Ghanaian leader also said the economy was in intensive care as a result of the COVID-19, adding that some of the measures implemented to ease the burden of the lockdown on ordinary Ghanaians were his ideas.
Responding to the Mr Mahama, Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia noted that President Akufo-Addo is a better manager of crises than the NDC flag bearer.
At a media interaction in Accra on Monday, 4 ay 2020, Dr Bawumia said: “If you want to test the robustness of an economy, you test it in a time of crises. Thankfully, we’ve had two crises.
“Under the NDC, there was an internally-generated crisis, which was dumsor. Under the Presidency of Nana Akufo-Addo, there’s been an externally-generated crisis, which is the global coronavirus pandemic. I just want you to ask yourselves how have these two crises been managed?
“The dumsor crisis, which crippled this economy for four years, what were the mitigating measures offered to businesses and individuals during dumsor which was an internally generated crisis?
“We saw that even during dumsor, electricity prices were being increased, fuel prices were being increased, teacher training allowances were being cancelled, nurse training allowances were being cancelled; all of that was happening during that particular crisis.”
He continued: “You look at the coronavirus crisis and you look at the difference in terms of what has happened. The President has reduced electricity prices, made it free for lifeline consumers, given free water to all Ghanaians for three months, has made sure there’s a stimulus package of GHS600 million for businesses and we have seen domestic production of PPE for our health workers.
“So, the difference couldn’t be [clear] during a leadership under the crisis of dumsor and under the coronavirus pandemic. So, I ask a simple question: Who will you trust in a time of crisis? The answer, I will say is very clear – Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has shown leadership and concern for ordinary Ghanaians.”
Answering a question on how to depoliticise the country’s COVID-19 fight, Mr Oppong Nkrumah said people should not keep quiet when one actor is being political and call for a ceasefire only when there is a response from the opposite side.
The Ofoase Ayirebi lawmaker told journalists: “Some of the very respected persons who are now calling for the de-escalation of politics today, at that time, were very quiet. They were quiet when their political leaders and candidates were championing a political agenda at the time – so they were very quiet”.
“Now when political actors from the government side are also now responding politically, all of a sudden, they say everybody should begin to tone down on politicisation. That is the truth of what has happened so far.
“Over a month ago, the president started saying: ‘Let us not bring politics into this, let’s focus on the common enemy’. At the time, some persons were championing a political agenda and they thought it was a mockery for him [President] to even suggest it. Now, in the last 24 hours or so, when political actors from the government side are also responding politically, now you are hearing people saying: ‘Let’s de-escalate the politics’”.
“The nation, in all honesty, stands a real risk of losing focus and degenerating into partisan political banter while the real key issue of COVID-19 and managing is relegated to the background. That’s the real risk that we run with where we are going and this risk, we started warning a little over a month ago, so, it’s important that we all not be silent when our candidate is politicising the matter only to speak when other people start responding politically – what is good for the goose is good for the gander.”
Mr Nkrumah continued: “Let’s be honest in this country: if we don’t want politics in this matter like we are preaching, when people start politicising it, the faith-based groups, religious leaders, civil society organisations, the media, call it out that: ‘This is politics, let’s put it aside and focus on the enemy.’ If you don’t, the other side also has politicians and they will start politicising it and we’ll be the collective losers. And, so, we will go back to the prayer we prayed about a month ago that let’s focus on the common enemy; that’s COVID-19, and let’s put the politicisation aside.
“If senior statesmen sit aside because their political candidate is politicising a matter and they choose not to condemn it, religious leaders, civil society groups, everybody sits by, then don’t be surprised when political actors from the other side also starts responding. However, we still have an opportunity to keep our collective focus and cut out partisanship so that we can work together”.