June 17, 2020

Hello and good evening.

Thank you for making the time to join me, once again, on #JohnMahamaLIVE.

Tonight, I want us to discuss the way forward for our country, Ghana, as the number of people contracting the novel Coronavirus and the death toll increases.
The impact of the pandemic on businesses, on our lives, on households and the effects on the economy, are all issues that we must discuss.

At this point, I want to extend my condolences to all the bereaved and grieving families of those we have lost to COVID-19. It is difficult when the life of a loved one is cut short so prematurely. I know words are not enough to console you at this time, but rest assured that we share in your grief.
Our hearts particularly go out to the likes of 48 year-old Dr. Harry Owusu Boateng of the SDA hospital at Kwadaso who died in the line of duty at the prime of his life.

A mourning nation expresses its gratitude to you for the ultimate sacrifice you have made in serving your country and fellow citizens.

We must also continue to pray for the speedy recovery of our compatriots currently undergoing treatment as a result of COVID. It is sad to note the increasing number of our frontline health workers who have tested positive for the virus.

Today, disturbing reports are being received of health workers getting exposed, testing positive and forced into self-isolation, quarantine or treatment. This is happening at a time that isolation and treatment centres are reportedly full, and both health workers and other positive cases are compelled to self-isolate.

This is a sad reflection of the Akufo-Addo administration’s chaotic handling of the COVID situation. Lack of adequate protective gear several months after our COVID emergency was declared is a sad testament of the bungling inefficiency that has characterized the handling of this pandemic from the start.

A refusal to be guided by science and a parochial desire for political interest has led government to ignore advise from well-meaning Ghanaians, including the Ghana Medical Association (GMA).
Any perceived disagreement with government, in its decision-making or published information, is met with savage attacks by government and ruling party officials.
This was the experience of renowned pathologist Professor Agyemang Badu Akosa, who questioned the credibility of COVID statistics released by government.

It is trite knowledge that you cannot do propaganda with a pandemic. Lining up Council of State members, Chiefs, student groups to the seat of government to congratulate the President on his handling of the Pandemic will not let the virus go away.
The infections and deaths will ultimately expose you.    

I have been briefed by the NDC COVID Technical Team about how isolation and treatment centres are filling up resulting in several patients being asked to go home and self-isolate.
Some health professionals are also being redeployed from their original units to beef up management of COVID cases. This is having an adverse effect on the provision of reliable and quality health care service to other patients coming in with other conditions.

Admittedly, there is a lot of pressure on health workers, and also on our health facilities. We are indeed not in normal times. Do you have a question to ask, do you have any experiences you want to share, an advice or an idea, let’s get interactive- use the hashtag #JohnMahamaLIVE and post or tweet your question, comment, idea or experience on Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. You can also email me: [email protected].

I appreciate, most sincerely, the times many of you, my cherished friends on social media, my brothers and sisters from across the country and the world, have spent, not only interacting but also sharing your ideas with me on a wide range of issues including COVID-19, which is threatening our way of life.

Thanks to my latest initiative, ‘LET’S TALK’, I have also been interacting via Zoom with many of you who sent in messages with a topic you want to talk to me about. And I have enjoyed all the call-ups so far.

Deborah Laryea from Ablekuma West contacted me on behalf of her excited mother; Bright Bell- a health worker; Yaw Loku is a private school teacher, Edem with whom I had an interesting conversation about entrepreneurial finance and a dozen others. The interactions were heartwarming and informative. For example, Yaw Lokou- like many of his colleagues teaching in private schools across the country is not receiving his salaries in full- and he decried the inequity associated with the distribution of the COVID-19 food relief in the Kasoa area during the lockdown.

In my zoom conversation with Yaw, he said he did not benefit from the food relief because it was distributed on a partisan basis.
It is this failure and inability to competently distribute food relief, and the attendant feedback from especially the vulnerable in society that led to the premature and inevitable lifting of the lockdown, earlier than it should.

Of course, many people were eager to resume normal life because of the economic impact of the lockdown and the government’s failure to proportionally reach out to households in the affected locations.

I wish to emphasise that the present situation we are grappling with could have been avoided if suggestions offered by well-meaning Ghanaians including myself, were heeded by government.

The Akufo-Addo administration refused to listen to calls to include Assembly Members and traditional leaders in public education about the disease, distribution of COVID relief items, contact tracing and surveillance. The result has been the disorderly and chaotic distribution of food that caused the lifting of the lockdown.

Public education has been abysmal and understanding of the transmission of the virus is low. Messages in our major local languages are very few or non-existent in many cases.
This is reflected in the total absence of physical distancing in our public places such as markets and transport terminals. Involvement of traditional rulers in guiding surveillance and contact tracing would have delivered positive outcomes because they know their communities well.

The consequence of government’s decisions, borne out of short-term political considerations instead of the science of the pandemic, has been the rising number of COVID-19 infections and the resultants deaths we are seeing today.
From two confirmed cases on March 12, that rose to 8,548 on 1st June, today, 17 days later, we have 12,590 confirmed cases and 66 deaths. Reports that isolation and treatment centers are full make the situation all the more dire.
While government has prided itself with success in testing, and has attributed the high rate of infection to the increasing number of tests being conducted, many have expressed scepticism about the accuracy of government’s COVID statistics and gone as far as accusing the authorities of massaging the figures.
It is recommended by International Health experts that as countries start to ease restrictions, it is necessary to expand testing in order to understand the trajectory of the virus.
Unfortunately, a strange directive has popped up issued by the Central Regional Director of Medical Services requesting all districts and facilities in the region to halt mass testing and test only in conditions when a patient comes in with suspected symptoms of the disease.
This is interpreted by many as an attempt by government to restrict testing in order to show a slower rate of infection.
We all have a part to play – all of us – towards ensuring that we protect ourselves and our family and colleagues from infection. But it is the responsibility of government, more than any other, to ensure that our management of the coronavirus is transparent, is people-centred and based on the best scientific advice and practice.
My brothers and sisters, health is a human right.

The outbreak of Coronavirus has shown that a strong healthcare system is vital for any country. The provision of modern, well-equipped health facilities with motivated staff will make it easier for you and every Ghanaian to access quality healthcare.
The NDC party I lead has demonstrated over and over again that it does not talk, it delivers. We are guided by deeds and action and not talk. In our period in office at all times during the 4th Republic we have delivered state of the art regional hospitals, district hospitals, polyclinics, health centres and CHPS Compounds. Evidence of our delivery abound all over the country.
If given the opportunity again by the grace of God and the will of the Ghanaian people, we will continue our aggressive roll-out of social infrastructure, making sure that every region has a modern regional hospital, and each district has a modern hospital facility depending on the demographics and population of its catchment area.  
I will ensure that all our citizens have easy access to quality and efficient healthcare, anywhere in our country.

In my ‘LET’S TALK’ conversation with Bright Bell- and you can watch that on my Facebook page or on JohnMahamaTV on YouTube- he brought up the ‘Onuador’ mobile vans my administration introduced in 2015 and which have been left abandoned by the President Akufo-Addo administration.

These were vans deployed to provide medical outreach services – dental care, eye and optalmic care, mammography and general care etc. – in underserved and hard to reach areas of the country.

As was noted by Bright, the vans have been left at the vagaries of the weather at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering compound at Korle Bu.

We would rehabilitate and expand the fleet of mobile clinics and make them available in all our 16 regions so that we can take health care to the doorsteps of all our people, even in the remotest areas of Ghana.

We will build a new “Onipa Nua” Hospital Ship and deploy it to provide medical services to the inaccessible riverine and fishing communities on the inland Volta water ways.

Ladies and gentlemen, my attitude during this pandemic has been to support Ghanaians including health workers with whatever I could mobilise and also to assist Government with ideas and possible solutions borne out of the technical advice offered by our team of experts and my own experience in government.
This has been my motivation all through. That has motivated me, our party executives, parliamentarians and parliamentary aspirants and the NDC COVID-19 Team to move around communities to educate the people, provide essential items to our health workers and also distribute relief items to Ghanaians.
We have also offered many useful suggestions for consideration by government.
As the easing up of restrictions continue, it is the duty of government to Protect Health Workers, Students, Lecturers, Teachers and the Public at large.

I commend all health workers – doctors, nurses, field and laboratory staff, support staff including cleaners and orderlies – who are risking their lives to save Ghanaians from COVID-19.
I invite you to take a moment to think about the doctors, nurses and others whose samples are taken after exposure to patients who test positive for COVID-19.

Think about what they go through together with their families while they wait – in some instances more than a week – before they receive their results.
Just think about the anxiety alone. I believe we can serve our gallant health workers better than we are doing. They did not sign their death warrants when they swore their respective professional oaths to serve humanity.
We need to inject efficiency!Government must take specific steps to curb the long waiting times, which in itself has contributed to the community spread of the virus – including spread at workplaces and among health workers.

We continue to hear reports of non-payment of promised allowances and incentives to healthcare workers. It is difficult to understand the delay in such payments, considering that this was adequately budgeted for, and provision made, in the money that was drawn down from the Stabilization Fund with the approval of Parliament.
We must motivate our health workers by paying them a dignifying and commensurate compensation for risking their lives so that you and I can live.

I am aware that adequate supply of PPE to frontline workers remain a major challenge. How does government expect them to work fearlessly if protective gear, including face shields, continue to be scarce commodities?
There are reports of health professionals having to buy such protective gear out of their own income.

How can a doctor or nurse examine a patient’s face or throat in this era of COVID-19 when PPE and face shields are not available?
I call on Government to expeditiously provide adequate and fit for purpose PPE to health workers to facilitate health care delivery, and to protect them from being infected.
Similarly, the education sector deserves attention. I take note of the President’s promise to distribute adequate PPE and logistics to the schools as they are forced to re-open for limited academic work.

But we have been here before. Lofty promises, which are never fulfilled. We cannot continue on a trajectory where we talk more than take action.

Students on campus will need adequate supply of water, multiple handwashing points, sanitizers and prompt responses from the COVID-19 teams in the various districts if any suspected cases pop up.

I pray government does not to fail them and us, their parents. I wish our dear students well in their examinations. I also urge you to take personal responsibility for your health and safety.

Our lecturers and teachers must also be in our prayers and on our minds. They are obviously going to be overly exposed to the virus. Government should, therefore, not renege on the assurances it has given them.
I wish to reiterate my call for mass distribution of reusable masks to the general population. Food vendors and others who provide services on campus live in the wider community. If they do not use appropriate masks, they will spread the infection on campus and in their communities.

And we also need to begin to prepare now for the next academic year. That is more important in the current scheme of things, than President Akufo-Addo’s overbearing desire to control and muzzle academic freedom in the few months left of his Presidency.

The Public Universities Bill is totally unnecessary. I agree with the UTAG Legon branch that it is unconstitutional and only intended for the president and for that matter the executive to control the public universities.

The bill must be withdrawn from parliament immediately and the Universities allowed the space and time to prepare for the admission and management of first batch of Free SHS students, alongside the continuing students.

Two weeks ago, I stepped out to the Asuogyaman District in the Eastern Region where I visited New Pormu or Tusker fishing community. I listened carefully to their concerns, both in the community, and during an interaction with the fishermen. Beyond their pre-COVID 19 difficulties, which related to lack of premix fuel, unavailability of and the high cost of outboard motors and general excruciating socio-economic hardships, they also lamented the negative impact of the pandemic on their lives.
In all my interactions, during my community engagement sessions and digital conversations, hardships and socio-economic pain have been the worst complaints.

One cannot contest the genuine feelings of the citizenry considering the reality that President Akufo-Addo and the NPP raised the expectation of Ghanaians so high and have turned out to be abysmally disappointing in government.
It is only when failure stares you in the face that you make a distinction between vision and promise. Ghanaians understood perfectly well what promises were made to them in 2016.

Today, you can cherry-pick the definition between vision and promise as much as you like, Ghanaians will take into the polling booth what their perception of what they believe constitutes the level of fulfilment of the promises you made to them before the last election.

As part of the alleviation of the effects of COVID on local businesses, I suggested a stimulus package to assist small and medium enterprises that had been affected already by the double whammy of government reneging on its contractual obligation to pay up on valid contracts entered into with indigenous suppliers and contractors and also the poorly thought-through and parochial financial sector clean-out.

All these have left many families and SMEs with their life savings and capital locked up in the closed banks. President Akufo-Addo promised to refund the monies of all depositors in full.

Unfortunately, it appears that like almost everything else promised by his administration, it was all words and not backed up by deeds.

Depositors and investors were shocked to learn that they were only to receive a percentage of their deposits and have the rest placed in zero-rated five-year bonds.

This is unacceptable. What would be the value of their investments in five years’ time? If government paid up on these deposits and investments, there would be no need for the stimulus package we are applying now.

We will present a programme for reinstating indigenous Ghanaian investment in the financial sector of our country.
In the meantime, it is my hope that the disbursement of the stimulus package will be guided by transparency and not applied to vote-buying in advance of the elections. I call on the members of our honourable Parliament to call on the Finance Minister to present the Implementation document of this stimulus package to Parliament for approval, as he had earlier promised.

I support the call made by the Minority in Parliament for the Auditor-General should audit the account of how the money drawn from the Stabilization Fund it has been utilized. It was most dishonest for a government official to suggest that a positive response from the Auditor-General will suggest that he is a puppet of the Opposition.
Our party has been in the vanguard of a fight to prevent the disenfranchisement of a wide swathe of the citizens of this country. We recognize that our opponents are determined to suppress votes in areas of the country they deem not to be their strongholds, otherwise it is difficult to understand some of the restrictions being put in the way of a wider enfranchisement of all eligible Ghanaian voters.

We await the verdict of the Supreme Court and it is our hope that whatever verdict is given would be in the national interest to promote the wider participation of our citizens in our democratic process rather than a restriction to an elite few.

Following the easing of restrictions, I have requested our Functional Executive Committee to arrange a meeting of the Council of Elders and the National Executive Committee to finalize my constitutional obligation to consult on the choice of my running mate.

We have agreed on our 2020 Campaign team and will announce this shortly. Our Manifesto committee is wrapping up its work and we expect to launch our 2020 Manifesto in August.

But even before the launch of the manifesto, I intend to begin a series of policy dialogues that will present to the Ghanaian public the main take-ways of our contract with the people of Ghana if by the grace of God and the will of our people we are given the opportunity to govern again.

Thank you, let me end it here and take your questions and comments.