President Akufo-Addo this evening honoured some fellow Ghanaians who have distinguished themselves in the service of the nation in various fields of endeavors.
They included individuals and institutions who gave their best during the infamous COVID-19 pandemic that devastated the world of which Ghana was no exception and those that played various roles which led to the country winning its maritime dispute against neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire.
The awards which included The Order of The Volta Companion which was given to members of the National COVID -19 Taskforce, Trustees of the COVID-19 Trust Fund and the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) main legal team.
The other category of the awards was the Grand Medal and Presidential Honours for Distinguished Service which went to frontline health workers, institutions and faith-based organisations, manufactures of hand sanitisers and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and donors to the COVID-19 national trust fund, as well as international partners.
Apart from these two main categories of awardees, that is the COVID and ITLOS awardees, there was a third category of awardees of a few individuals whose work according to the President deserved the plaudits of the nation.
They included late philosopher, Prof. Johnson Kwame Wiredu, described as one of the outstanding philosophers of global repute of the modern age, who was given a befitting posthumous award, Order of the Volta – Companion; as will Ms. Margaret Sophia Darkwah, the first female Commissioner of Police; Prof. Akwasi Osei, former Chief Executive of the Mental Health Authority; and Dr. Veronica Agartha Martinson, former Executive Director of the Cocoa Research Institute, Ghana.
In a speech, President Akufo-Addo could not help thanking each and everyone of the award recipients for their selfless service to mother Ghana.
“To each and every one of you, we say well done. Ghana is, indeed, indebted to you”, was how he put it.
That, he said was because “you (referring to the award winners) have helped guarantee not only the possibilities of development, progress and prosperity of our country, but also that of successive generations of Ghanaians yet unborn.”
He recalled with nostalgic memory how three years ago, on Sunday, 12th March 2020, Ghana recorded its first two (2) COVID-19 cases.
At that time, the President said “it was obvious to me, watching what was happening in Asia, Europe and Latin America, that, if it was not well-managed, it would disrupt our lives and livelihoods. In fact, it did.”
“That is why I made the statement, which gained some traction at the time, that we know what to do to bring the economy back to life; what we do not know is how to bring people back to life”, he recalled like yesterday.
“Our first priority in Ghana, then, was the health and safety of our citizens, and that is why Government put in place a comprehensive strategy to deal with this novel virus, whose incidence was unknown. We were restrained from shaking hands and hugging one another; we had to keep a distance from each other; we had to put up with the discomfort of wearing face masks every time we left our homes; we had to endure distress caused by the poking of our nostrils and throats with swab-sticks, each time we underwent a PCR or antigen test; and we had to endure, for three weeks, the painful lockdown in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area and Kasoa and the Greater Kumasi Metropolitan Area and contiguous districts”, he emphasised.
In addition to that, he said “we had to support households and micro, small, and medium-size businesses (MSMEs); we had to keep our schools open, and ensure that the education of our children was not truncated; and we instituted a GH¢1.1 billion health response package to procure supplies and equipment, and a relief package for health workers, which included tax waivers, allowances, transportation and COVID-insurance. Government also found the money to recruit, on a permanent basis, fifty-eight thousand and forty-one (58,041) more health professionals.”
He however noted with delight that “COVID-19 inspired our domestic manufacturing capabilities, and deepened our self-reliance. The pharmaceutical industry, at my instigation, responded positively to the need for domestic production of sanitizers, disinfectants, and liquid soaps. Furthermore, Government was able to procure some eighty-one million cedis (GH¢81 million) worth of personal protective equipment, such as face masks, headcovers, medical scrubs and hospital gowns from domestic garment and textiles manufacturing companies for health workers, and for students who wrote their final examinations.”
“We pioneered lifesaving innovations that the WHO replicated elsewhere. Our relative success in winning the fight against COVID-19 is a testament to the tireless work of our researchers, scientists, advisors, public health managers, frontline healthcare workers, hospital staff, contact tracers, the security services, public and private sector agencies, faith-based organisations, chieftaincy institutions, charitable organisations, and so many others who dedicated themselves to the fight to keep Ghanaians safe, and that is why we are here today to express our sincere appreciation and gratitude to all these segments of our population, especially, as at the height of the pandemic, Ghana and South Korea were considered the two countries who undertook the best management of the pandemic”, he noted.
He acknowledged the fact that “our victory in the maritime boundary dispute could not have been achieved through the actions of one person, one political party or one government.”
Rather, he indicated “it was a collective effort, and it is for this reason that the important roles played by successive governments and groups of individuals, cannot not be overlooked, discounted or understated.”
The judgment of the Tribunal, the President said “has brought finality to a maritime boundary dispute that had been extant for over five decades.”
“Although the precise economic impact has yet to be conclusively established, what has emerged quite clearly is that our western maritime boundary remains intact”, he stated with excitement.
Even though many feared that the outcome of the judgement could strain the friendship that exists between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, President Akufo-Addo could not help thanking President Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire whose spirit of understanding and accommodation rather strengthened the bonds of co-operation.
He, therefore, thanked all who contributed to the attainment of this feat and all other recipients for their selfless services to the nation.
By Charles Takyi-Boadu, Presidential Correspondent