Something is rotten in the state of Denmark is one of the memorable lines in William Shakespeare’s drama titled “Hamlet”. The statement was made by an officer of the Palace Guard upon seeing the walking ghost of Hamlet’s father over the palace walls.
Borrowing from this, there is no denying the fact that something is really gone amiss in Ghana, in as far as the management of COVID-19 is concerned. It is all about the exposure of our weak institutions – especially enforcement agencies. In my previous article titled ‘Enforcing COVID-19 Safety Protocols – If all Africa were Rwanda’, I was very candid that Rwanda is noted as a country where every citizen is a vigilante and where discipline is imbibed in the citizenry. In this global pandemic era, it is mandatory for every resident in Rwanda to wear a mask while outside. Non-compliance, I was later informed, is an automatic penal march to the national stadium where big or small violators mark time in the open space. A sight to behold indeed.
In the same article, I noted that in Ghana, only 1 out of 10 persons has a nose mask on. However, many of those seen with nose masks only hang them around their chin and thereby expose their mouths and noses which the masks are supposed to cover. I still stand by this assertion and want to reiterate that the situation has gone from bad to worse. As lockdown restrictions are gradually being relaxed, churches have resumed, schools have reopened for final year students, etc., But take a tour to the various medium to big markets centres all over the country and you will have live testimonies of an embrace with death to share. In the midst of these chaotic chaos, only a few social networks and organisations, such as religious gatherings have been unjustifiably selected for monitoring while political activism increases multiple-fold every day. What is good for the goose is also good for the gander. So why put a radar on church gatherings and neglect enforcement on markets, or political activities? Nothing matters in Ghana anymore.
At the time of writing this article, there is an 11.4 million global infections, 6.16 million recoveries and 534,000 deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic. Ghana is having its fair share of 20,085 infections, 14,870 recoveries and 122 deaths. These figures have made nonsense the purpose for which the lockdowns (with the attendant anxiety, social and economic costs), were imposed.
In the midst of infections with significant public figures falling as victims to the disease, Ghana is going to the polls in December. Examples have been cited of some countries that have gone through the polls as well during this pandemic era. So therefore, based on science and logic, Ghanaians are also ‘ripe’ to go to the polls to avoid a constitutional crisis! After all, we are being informed that we now live in the ‘new normal’ and will have to learn to live with the disease. This is a clear case of comparing apples and oranges. Of course, presidential elections were held in Malawi on 23 June 2020, having originally been scheduled for 19 May and later 2 July. And in Burundi, general elections to elect both the President and the National Assembly were held on 20th May, 2020. The incumbent president, Pierre Nkurunziza, who did not seek re-election, succumbed to COVID-19 and died unexpectedly on 8 June 2020 even though the Burundian government covered up his cause of death as a heart attack.
Science and logic are telling us that two wrongs don’t make a right. Different structures exist in different countries. In Ghana, if open markets are flouting safety protocol rules, should enforcement agencies stand aloof? How long will we, being citizens, not spectators, stand unconcerned while careless residents in the country continue to put the lives of everyone at risk. Currently ongoing is the voter registration exercise, an exercise in which COVID-19 safety protocols are being breached with careless abandon. Yet, we have the Police Service that is charged to enforce law, order and the social and physical distancing protocols.
What song will we sing after the voter registration exercise is over? Perhaps the living will be reciting, sarcastically, a known Bible verse: Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory? And when some, including those seeking public office positions, have fallen victims before the December 7 polls, let not the dirge be: How are the mighty fallen? This is simply because we don’t learn from our mistakes.
But until then, we are all deemed sick in Ghana, physically, mentally, psychologically, politically, economically and what have you, and are heading towards the abyss until the right thing is done – strict enforcement of safety protocols even if that makes the state unpopular. A healthy people is a healthy nation.