A patient will lose one of the most prized organs of the human body (say an eye) if he or she is operated upon by an incompetent surgeon. Of course, the surgeon wouldn’t have meant to inflict harm on the patient. But for the patient, it’s tough luck all the same.
Again, a motor vehicle will reverse and kill people if its gears are turned around and the reverse position moves the vehicle forward!
Similarly, doctors will kill people if they are made to take decisions best left to sociologists and psychologists.Our just-lifted lock-down is a perfect example of things bringing awful results although concveived with the worthiest of motives.
Doctors determined that social distancing was one of the best means of preventing the disease from spreading within our community. The doctors’ analysis of the situation was confirmed by the figures coming from those areas where the disease had been relatively tamed – Wuhan, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore etc.
But what our doctors didn’t factor into their desire to effect similar results in Ghana was the – Ghanaian character!
People who are willing to invite foreigners to come and wantonly destroy their own water-bodies in search of gold, are also capable of:
Going out to “see” boy-friends/girl-friends in spite of the “Stay-at-home” edict laid down during the lock-down; or, in a similar attack of stupidity, going out en masse to see whether soldiers and policemen are really manning the streets!;
Insulting, or actingin an insolent manner towards, policemen and soldiers placed at lorry stations and on the roads to ensure that only authorised people go about their lawfully authorised business;
Creating rowdy scenes that make it impossible for food to be distributed to ease the hunger of those unable to go to markets to buy their requirements and
Turning food distribution and other humanitarian actions into a riotous political game whereby party cards are demanded of potential food recipients; and passionate political speeches are made in public, at a time of great tension between complete strangers, about food distribution. Palpable anger can be discerned to cause palpable anger; and all is made weorse by the unruly behaviour of people in queues that sometimes results in physical cxonfrontations.
All these are signs of anti-social behaviour, and we have evidence, from our own recent history, that our people are capable of engaging in such behaviour. Ask yourself: Have we not lost lives during enjoyable outings like football matches and merry public musical gatherings? Do we not periodically hear of unspeakable violence and acts of indecency being visited upon centres of learning, where we hope to create our intellectuals and ruling elites?
Yet, we deceived ourselves into believing that we could get our populace to show enough appreciation of the humanitarian concerns of their Government, as to enable them to line up patiently, (“social distance” observed!) and take away food, money or whatever bounty it had pleased the Government to bring to our “poorer” districts (relatively speaking). Difficulties would be understood to be natural occurences, and not mischievously attributed to de,liberate partisanship or corruption (we piously imagined).
Well, we undeniably exposed ourselves to ourselves: WE ARE A BAD PEOPLE!
And bad people should be treated with cunning and even occasional ruthlessness. Otherwise they are perfectly capable of destroying themselves, as well as all around them. Think of galamsey.
When there is a riot in an urban centre, churches (the home of sweet, heavenly music) can be torched by mob action. The offices and warehouses of charitable institutions; hospitals and clinics; even schools meant to educate the next generation(s) can be torn apart.
So Governments must not be naïve during dangerous times. When an enemy arrives on the doorsteps of a country, the Government of that country can – and often does – impose very severe sentences upon people who refuse to join in the defence of that country. People are prevented from (for instance) consorting with, or supplying the enemy with information, no matter how trite it may seem. The word of wisdom is: if the information was not useful, why would the enemy seek to have it, and if it gets it, does the supplier exactly know to what use it would be put?
In other words, dangerous times demand that all officials entrusted with public duties go about those duties with PROFESSIONAL COMPETENCE, SHORN OF SENTIMENTALITY.
It is against the law (for instance) to smoke a banned substance. But would it not be unprofessional for a law-enforcement officer to seek to enforce such a law when he had been posted to a busy road intersection specifically to ensure that traffic flows easily there during an emergency? Yes, breaking the law is bad and must be punished. But enforcing the law without common sense is worse than breaking the law. For if, whilst he’s strictly “teaching the smoker some sense” (although the smoker is basically only harming himself at that moment) two or three vehicles collide, killing all their occupants and passers-by, what has the law-enforcement officer achieved?
Professionalism should also have told those who drew up the Government’s programme to enforce a lock-down and at the same tome distribute food and other essentials to those who would suffer as a result, that such an unprecedented step should be implemented with great forethought and metoculous planning. Depending on the good nature of the public, is taking too much for granted.
Did the officials think, for instance, about using the huge amount of data available to the Electoral Commission and those compiling figures for national identification, to serve as an initial indicator of how and where food should be distributed? Using the most basic common sense (even if one was completely devoid of data analytical skills, as such) one could begin by using algorithms to indicate houses that contain more than 5 people (say) and working downwards or upwards from there.
Next could be a sorting-out by age groups. Then the disabled. Children under 10. And so on.
Proper experts, of course, can easily evolve such criteria on the basis of actual data that can be used in real time. If food/cash distribution of any sort were carried out on the basis of such criteria, it is difficult to see how politicians could make use of the exercise (even iof they wanted to!) to embarrass their opponents in the Government. Leaving the field open for (mis)interpretations that cannot be easily dismissed with data, was as bad as handing a propaganda weapon to be exploited by those who put their partisan interests above those of the nation. Amateurism is always to be deplored, is it not?
Finally, I come to the area of my own competence – communication. Our President has won much praise for the easy and personable way in which he has been talking to his fellow countrymen and women during the COVID-19 crisis. But unfortunately, the machinery of government is so unwieldy and so bereft of unorganised feedback that it can kill a very good thing with sheer insensitivity.
You cannot talk to people who are, subconsciously, tense with fear of an invisible pestilence, late at night, for any great length of time! Some will be tired enough to fall asleep during the broadcasts. Others (who don’t own TV sets) might be worried about how to get back safely to their own homes. Thus, a shortt, shartp message should always be the order of the day. Explanations, parentheses and strings of figures may look good in pamphlets and on websites. But they can be counter-productive if trotted out at length in a live broadcast.
You see, left to the Ministries, they would like to make as much “input” into the presidential broadcasts as possible, tyo illustrate that they are on top of the job. But the President’s staff must not allow this.The President is not anyone’s propagandist! What the country really needs to know is quite simply: WHAT ACTION has been taken; WHAT RESULTS have emanated from these actions; and WHAT FUTURE ACTION IS CONTEMPLATED AND WHY.
Meanwhile, we must all cheer up. After all, we are all still here. And despite the bad eggs in our midst, we shall give a hell of a good bash at – beating COVID-19 and staying alive!
The author, Cameron Duodu is a United Kingdom-based Ghanaian novelist, journalist, editor and broadcaster.