Our world today has gone through several transformational faces including scientific, technological advancements, socio-economic changes, natural disasters, and wars. One of the profound silent but great drivers of changes anywhere in the world is intelligence. The world has suffered and enjoyed information and intelligence through collaborations both internally and from State to state since the inception of time.
Intelligence gathering can be traced back to the Chinese mercenary warlord Sun Tzu (the master of intelligence) the art of war and the art of strategy in the 5th century BC. All facets of development today rests on the shoulders of intelligence, explaining the creation of several intelligence agencies across the globe.
Intelligence gathering and analysis is about collecting, utilising, evaluating and analysing information and processing it into intelligence to support informed decision making. This always involves a degree of interpretation resulting in an inevitable degree of speculations and risk mostly determined by the quantity and quality of available information. Intelligence can be either operational or strategic but for the purposes of this article, we will look at strategic intelligence.
Strategic intelligence looks at covert and emerging trends, changes in the environment, threats to public safety and order, opportunities for developing, controlling activities and taking actions and designing counter programs. The outcomes of this are the likely changes in policy, programs, and legislation. This is what we are experiencing at this time of the Coronavirus pandemic with emphasis on the security and intelligence agencies act, 1996( Act 526) and Imposition of Restrictions Act, 2020 (Act 1020).
As stated in this article, intelligence agencies are at the forefront of providing information for development, security and other ancillary activities for public safety. The question that continuous to linger in the minds of many people is whether intelligence agencies have failed in the case of COVID-19?
Intelligence failure is not about the inability to obtain and utilise information on time but the degree of importance decision markers will place on the information available and the necessary actions taken thereof.
Prior to this COVID-19 Pandemic, the concerns of Ghanaian politicians, businesses and decision makers would not be far from elections 2020, depreciation of the cedi, the state of the economy, high default rate, banking sector crisis among others. Nobody would have done the calculus to think of a contagious virus which began spreading slowly from China, it's effect and the mitigating measures needed to be put in place. Sadly, information were highly and rightly available to all from authorities and the ordinary person. Our lack of discipline to do the routine risk based horizon scanning and develop a unique plan and make use of available intelligence has now put us at the mercies of COVID 19.
A self coronated, styled tiny queen virus came in with a strategy, and its eating us up like a cannibal, making us seek shelter like the homeless, making the world's most powerful coil into their shells like snail sensing danger, made the morgues busy like never before, daily burials a norm, lively cities gone into perpetual coma and crushing economies like a tsunami without fear or favor. What a virus!!!
Our governments have failed with their usual inferior tactics, propaganda and the strategic catastrophic surprises they pose to the citizenry in events similar to this pandemic and situations. The ministries of health, finance and other allied institution including the Bank of Ghana and the entire government machinery would have put us in a better position should they have considered intelligence warning signs on the virus emanating from China. Just like Ghana, super powers of the world also ignored these intelligence warnings, made funny comments about the virus and it's impact. Instead of preparing, we said God is with us, God loves Ghana, Ebola never came, got swayed by false prophecies and above all a soiree of the religious fraternity including soothsayers to pray and combat the virus.
Suffice to say have we thought commutatively to take common and repeated intelligence warnings about the disease as against our intuitions, political wishes, and made public safety our priority, we wouldn't have been facing this cataclysmic surprise posed to us by this virus. No matter how poorly thought, ill informed, high level of suspicion and poorly organized the intelligence warnings were, we still remain anchored to the influences, effects and punishment of the virus. The initial judgement and impression of decision makers on available intelligence has wowed us into our current situation (quarantine, isolation and lock down).
As things stands now, it will be unproductive to delve into conspicuous conspiracies, failed intelligence, lack of preparedness and the world's inability to contain the virus. I think the Chinese with their intelligence and military, needs a big applause for their swift, active, concealed, drastic and draconian measures put in place to contain the virus, which has now become our case study.
Going forward, we need to:
- Change our lackadaisical and self centered attitudes towards intelligence.
- Look at happenings from the global point of view and it's effect on us.
-Assess and analyse risk horizons and put mitigating measures before they occur.
- Contingency fund must be activated to prevent the running around for funds during situations like this.
- More attention should be paid to financial, economic, and medical intelligence.
- Public safety should be our priority instead of political safety.
However there is hope for us to defeat our common enemy even though we have failed to act on intelligence. We need to change the paradigm , change the focus of the radar by coming together to defeat this common enemy. We are struggling with the sufficiency and appropriateness of our medical system and availability of facilities and hence we don't have time to pamper anybody. Let do our best, eliminate fear, panic and abide by all the guidelines. Let note that, when the wind plays an evil drum, every tree will dance to it including the big trees in the forest, hence intelligence in it's current state should be made the life blood of our nation. May God Almighty be with us and protect us against our common enemy.
By Thywill Nana Bawiah: The Person of Interest