Below is a transcript of former President John Dramani Mahama’s address delivered today (March 22, 2020) at the end of three days of fasting and prayer declared by the National Democratic Congress:
These are not normal times, not only for us Ghanaians, but people all around the world. I do, however, believe sincerely that God rules in the affairs of men and women. Our national anthem acknowledges this supreme truth in its opening line, “God bless our homeland Ghana”.
In times of crisis such as we find ourselves today, we are reminded of the importance of faith. We remember the promise of God’s goodness, and take comfort in Christ’s message of mercy. Those guarantees are eternal.
But, my brothers and sisters in Christ, I am also reminded now of the words of Martin Luther, whose teachings spawned a revolutionary perspective on faith and which gave birth to many of our Christian denominations- Faith that is based on the essence of man’s bond with God, and his obligations to his neighbour.
Our current times, in the face of this pandemic, shares much of what happened during the period Martin Luther lived.
COVID-19 is mankind’s present enemy, but in Martin Luther’s time, it was the bubonic plague that ravaged the world. And now as then, many found their faith tested. His friends and neighbours fled his beloved town called Wittenberg in their numbers, but Luther stayed.
And when asked by a fellow minister of the gospel if he was relying on faith alone to save him from the death that was taking place all around him, he gave an instructive response that offers all of us guidance for our own time.
Martin Luther said: “I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus per chance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.”
The essence of this teaching by Luther extends beyond faith. It is a message of planning and preparedness, of thoughtfulness and mutual responsibility. It is a message of caution and of courage. And it is a message of the endurance of the human spirit in the face of difficulty, death and destruction.
We, as individuals, must all take this to heart. We must look out for each other and for ourselves. And we must be united in our commitment to do all in our power to preserve life, by abiding by the guidance of the experts and- in so doing- protecting the vulnerable.
My beloved countrymen, it is also a call to those who rule to be forthright and principled. The principle and forthrightness that would not require a court injunction to stop the National Identification Authority (NIA) from acting in breach of guidelines we have all accepted to comply with.
The principles that will let Churches have the moral courage to refuse the use of their premises for purposes that are in breach of the government’s own rules. In this respect, I commend the Minority in Parliament for standing on principle in opposing the passage of the Imposition of Restrictions Bill, which does not address the needs of the moment and portends danger for our democracy.
It is my earnest prayer that at a time such as this, the public welfare will triumph over personal and partisan interest. Our leaders owe this nation not just prayers but a plan too. One that all of us can believe in, that we can rally around, and that we can commit our hearts and mind to. For while hope brings comfort it is not in itself a strategy.
We must project the course of this disease while taking a cue from best and worst-case response scenarios such as Korea and Italy even as the world accelerates research towards the production of a vaccine. A plan that involves ensuring that frontline health care workers as a matter of urgency have the manuals, appropriate training and protective logistics to boost their confidence in fighting this disease.
We must act even as we pray!
I have made a firm commitment to support the authorities in whatever way possible, and whenever called upon, to combat this pandemic. Over the last week, I have forcefully, thanks to my Communications Team, led a public education drive that is promoting effectively the introduction, education and practice of the recommended WHO protocols aimed at helping stop the spread of the COVID-19.
I have also already announced that the National Democratic Congress (NDC) is committed to assisting government in this fight by availing all technical and logistical resources at our disposal. As evidence of our seriousness in that respect, we have assembled a technical team to guide our efforts and to lead the NDC’s response to the evolving situation.
The team is an assembly of experts from the many fields that will be required to implement a national action plan on COVID-19.
We have through our Minority Leader Honourable Haruna Iddrisu presented to the Rt. Hon. Speaker of Parliament what are the major points of our proposals and steps that may be taken to curb the spread of this plague and reinforce the readiness of our healthcare system, and to save as many lives as possible.
The immediate focus of the proposal is on the appropriate planning for a range of potential measures, including at the extreme a lockdown, should that become necessary as the realities of our present condition become clearer. Such a decision would impact the livelihoods and financial security of many of the most economically vulnerable people in this country, and jeopardize the survival of many businesses.
We will seek to propose a series of social interventions to address these unprecedented risks, and to ensure that loss of income does not become a barrier to the effective implementation of preventive measures.
Let us all hold fast to the preventive measures. They are our first line of defence as individuals and a collective responsibility. They are currently the only means by which we can slow down this dreadful virus and provide enough time to mount a robust response.
Please maintain a safe distance from any person who is coughing or sneezing, or from anyone showing any other symptoms of a cold or flu.
Always cover your own mouth and nose with a tissue if you have to cough or sneeze, discard the tissue properly afterward, and wash your hands immediately. As much as possible, avoid touching your face, nose, and mouth – especially after touching commonly used surfaces such as door handles, microphones, railings and balustrades, countertops, etc.
You will notice that all those who came to the podium including myself, used a sanitizer, and microphones were changed for everybody because they are disinfected and cleaned before the next person uses it. Hand hygiene is a crucial part of protecting yourself, so I encourage you to wash your hands at every opportunity you get. If soap and water are not available, a hand sanitizer is an effective alternative.
For all people of faith, this is a time to show charity and compassion. I urge you to reflect on your beliefs, and not to engage in practices that will escalate the present anxieties in the nation. Price hiking and other such opportunistic practices are beneath the dignity of the moment.
I will continue to extend a helping hand to the government and to share our experience in managing the Ebola crisis. I do so with an open mind and a willing heart. And I hope that gesture will be received in the sincerity it is offered. The enemy before us is no respecter of person or party. We are all in this together.
I send my heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones of our countryman who lost his life to the virus yesterday. To those who remain under treatment in the care of our courageous frontline health workers, know that the entire nation is thinking of you and bearing you up in prayer for a speedy recovery.
God bless you all for your presence. Thank you for joining us for this service, to end our 3 days of prayer and fasting. I remind us all, of the national day of prayer and fasting, now announced by the President, and invite us all to observe next Wednesday as declared.
May God continue to protect and guide us all.