Rt. Rev. Prof. Joseph Obiri Yeboah Mante (PhD)
The Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, Rt. Rev. Prof. Joseph Obiri Yeboah Mante (PhD), has hit out at critics of the government’s Agenda 111 project meant for the construction of hospitals across the country, describing them as witches and wizards.
Prof. Mante said he could not imagine how such a laudable project to be undertaken by a ‘poor’ nation like Ghana would attract opposition, and drew the conclusion that only witches and wizards will be against Agenda 111.
The Presby Moderator was speaking at the commissioning of the Assin Praso Presbyterian Hospital in the Central Region.
“When I was elected the new Moderator, I used three months to tour the whole country. I travelled to Takoradi and on my way back to Accra, using this road (Assin route); I came across a health centre with a beautiful sign post. I stopped by and realised it was a Presbyterian health centre.
“I was new to this Moderator position. I entered the health centre and the people searched for the person in charge of the facility for me. He took me around, and what came to mind was that before I completed my work as the Moderator, the health centre would become a hospital,” Prof. Mante narrated.
The Moderator continued, “Recently, I heard the Minister of Health hinted of something and later the President of the Republic announced publicly that the government intended to construct 111 health facilities across the country.
“Some will be district hospitals and others will be clinics, amounting to 111 facilities. Nana Chairman, what beats my imagination in this country is that we find ourselves in abject poverty and someone says he wants to construct 111 health projects and some others are angry.”
“Is it not witchcraft?” Prof. Mante queried rhetorically saying “Some of the things do not make sense to me.”
“We allow politics to blind us to the point that as people in abject poverty without good hospitals compared to what we have abroad where a hospital is a hospital and a clinic is indeed a clinic,” he said, adding “and someone says he wants to construct 111 hospitals and you are angry out there, it means you are indeed a witch or wizard incarnate. If you are a pastor looking for witchcraft to exorcise please look for this kind of witchcraft.”
For him, the Agenda 111 is a good initiative and should have the support of all and sundry, intimating that “anything that will help any African country to develop should be supported by all, and we should stop this NPP-NDC politics and others that are wasteful.”
“Things that will help us to progress should be looked out for. If 111 hospitals and clinics will come to Ghana, let us all go for it to happen. Let us support. If you go out there to lament and talk against it in public it means that you are a witch and should avail yourself to be exorcised,” he fired.
The Akufo-Addo-led NPP government’s ambitious effort to build 111 hospitals at every part of the country to enable easy access to health facilities and proper healthcare has ruffled the feathers of the opposition NDC recently.
Their leader, former President John Dramani Mahama, hit the rooftop complaining bitterly about the project which has been hailed as a catalyst for the development of health infrastructure of the country, upon completion.
On one breadth, Mr. Mahama is saying that the cost of the project will increase the debt profile of the country and on another, he is saying that the government cannot raise the needed funds for such a huge project, and cynically called it a deception.
He also said the NPP government abandoned all the health projects he left behind after he was heavily defeated in the 2016 general election.
Several NDC communicators and activists have described the project as a lofty idea which cannot yield any tangible fruits.
Other former appointees who served under Mr. Mahama were over the place giving varying and incoherent criticisms of the massive project.
A former Minister of Health, Alex Segbefia, said Agenda 111 is a repackaged plan whilst others described it as a scam.
“We have been building hospitals in districts for a long period. From Rawlings right to the time of Mills, and to the time Mahama, so this idea of every district should have a hospital is not new. You decide to package it differently and call it Agenda 111,” Mr. Segbefia said.
A spokesperson for former President John Dramani Mahama, Felix Ofosu Kwakye, said President Akufo-Addo may not be able to deliver on his promise to start and complete the building of hospitals under his Agenda 111 initiative.
‘Thank You’ Tour
Mr. Mahama’s political opponents made cynical claims that it was because the NDC realised that the Agenda 111 has been accepted by the public that is why he hurriedly arranged his ‘Thank You’ tour of the country to throw water down the negative effects the commencement of the project will have on the fortunes of the opposition party.
He started the ‘Thank You’ tour on the same day that President Akufo-Addo was at Trede in the Atwima Kwanwoma District of the Ashanti Region on August 17, officially cutting the sod for the commencement of the massive project.
President Akufo-Addo had said that each district hospital will cost $16.88 million and explained that $12.88 million will be for the construction of the hospitals and $4 million for medical equipment.
Government has already set aside $100 million as commencement funding for the Agenda 111 project.
Mr. Mahama’s first stop was in Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region where he described the project as an afterthought with no transparency as far as funding is concerned.
Speaking on Bolgatanga-based URA Radio, Mr. Mahama claimed the government has increased the public debt but has no infrastructure to show for it, saying the Akufo-Addo administration upon realising that Ghanaians are asking for accountability, has decided to draw up the Agenda 111 plan.
“You are witnesses to what has happened: from GH¢120 billion of total public debt, today, we are almost hitting GH¢400 billion public debt and what most Ghanaians ask is that what have we done with that money.
“It looks like most of them have gone into consumption rather than into providing the country with the kind of infrastructure that we need. It is only as an afterthought that suddenly they realised we must be doing some infrastructure, so, Agenda 111 has been drawn. There is no transparency how the money is going to be procured and all that,” Mr. Mahama stated.
Mr. Mahama queried that “is it going to lead into more borrowing when we already have a high level of debt hanging around the country’s neck? So, these are things that we could build consensus around if they were prepared to open up and involve everybody in doing so, but it doesn’t look like they are prepared to do so.”
Agenda 111 Scope
The much-talked-about Agenda 111 Hospitals initiative is arguably the single largest health infrastructural project ever done in the country, particularly in the Fourth Republic.
It is in direct response to the negative exposure that the COVID-19 pandemic visited on the country.
The initial plan was for the Akufo-Addo-led NPP administration to build 88 district hospitals where there are none, and this was also captured in the NPP’s 2020 manifesto.
Along the line, the government revised the 88 district hospitals and moved it to 111, with additional hospitals including 13 more, bringing the total of district hospitals alone to 101.
The remaining are six regional hospitals in the newly created regions, two specialised hospitals (mental) in the middle and northern belts, redevelopment of the Accra Psychiatric Hospital, as well as a regional hospital in the Western Region and the renovation of the Effia-Nkwanta Regional Hospital.
The regional breakdown include Ashanti (10), Volta (9), Eastern (8), Greater Accra (7), Upper East (7), Oti (5), Upper West (5), Bono (5), Western North (5), Savannah (3), Bono East (2), North East (2), and all the hospitals are supposed to be built from scratch.
By Ernest Kofi Adu