It’s been slightly more than a month since the first Coronavirus case was confirmed in Ghana. And since then, it’s been a tough month for most Ghanaians. Suddenly, our ways of life have been altered in ways few of us ever imagined. We can’t go to funerals like we used to – and it has nothing to do with people refusing to die. Some of us have had to place our faith under serious scrutiny. So we can live without going to church every Sunday? Incredible! And how come our so-called prophets and men of God never saw this coming? God didn’t reveal to redeem? What was God thinking? What were the pastors doing?
And then there’s the little matter of the lockdown. For those in Accra-Tema and Kumasi, it must be surreal that we don’t have the freedoms anymore to move around and go anywhere we choose. Those outside of these cities might be thanking their stars and singing song of praises, grateful that the lockdown doesn’t affect them. Or will it? If only they knew…
What we know for us is that a lot of us are scared, anxious and extremely worried about what the impact of the pandemic could be for us, our families and ultimately, our nation. None of us, however, is as burdened and anxious as the leader of the Republic, Nana Akufo-Addo.
This is undoubtedly the toughest test of his presidency so far. He didn’t sign up for this. Yet, here we are. He’s in lockdown with us and even he, cannot jump on a plane and fly away to escape this problem. We are a nation at war and whether he likes it or not, whether he wanted it or not, and whether he wants to be called as such or not, Nana Addo has unwittingly become wartime president. He needs to rally troops, organise logistics, shelter the vulnerable, keep morale in the nation high and above all else, make sure that come what may, we win this war against coronavirus and with minimal casualties.
How is he doing so far?
Fantastic, I’d say. I’ve been quite impressed actually.
I think Nana Addo took the coronavirus more seriously than other world leaders did. And just as well. Look at Boris Johnson, who was so cavalier when the disease first got to his country, boldly proclaiming, as the cases were increasing in the United Kingdom, that he had been going around shaking all sorts of hands. Today, he’s in intensive care, battling for his life.
And then look at Donald Trump who when asked if he was worried about the coronavirus, responded with such pompous disdain that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that his words annoyed the virus so much that it vowed to show him who was boss. It is “going to disappear,” Trump said. “One day it’s like a miracle – it will disappear.” The only miracle we are seeing right now is that the richest nation on the planet is getting pummelled by a disease it could have very easily handled with a little more foresight, planning and, of course, leadership.
And leadership is what Nana Akufo-Addo is offering aplenty through this crisis.
The man has been able to generate enough fear for the disease in the country without causing too much panic. From his first address to the nation to the most recent one, it’s easy to tell that he has a very acute sense of the scale of the threat and what the consequences might be if he doesn’t set a good tone for the nation to follow. I can tell from his eyes. He’s afraid. And he’s been able to transmit that fear to the entire nation to the extent that few of us would want to fall on the wrong side of the national effort to deal with this pandemic.
My only criticism against Akufo-Addo in this crisis is that it took him a little too long to come to the decision to close down the country’s borders. Otherwise, he was swift in banning public gatherings, shutting down the schools and universities, and instilling a sense of urgency in almost everyone in his administration to cause them to put their shoulders to the wheel to make sure that the nation doesn’t get overrun by this invisible enemy.
Through it all he’s addressed the nation five times in just about a month. That should be a record in televised national addresses – a record not just in this country but probably in the whole of Africa. I have some Nigerian friends, who are so jealous of the fact that whiles Akufo-Addo has been regularly updating the nation on efforts to combat Covid-19 their president, as one of them put it, “is nowhere to be found.”
“I’m impressed by the way Akufo-Addo is leading the country through this Covid-19 crisis,” another one, who used to be resident in Accra told me. “Please, in case you are tired of him, kindly send him to Nigeria. We will receive him well paaa.”
My response to him was that Ghanaians will decide whether they are tired of him in December. For now, he’s our leader in battle, he’s shouting the right commands (mostly) and we are hopeful that given the circumstances, he’s leading us down the right track to defeat Covid-19.
So far every one of Nana Addo’s addresses has been both instructive and impressive. The fourth address, actually earned him some international plaudit with the line that: “we know how to bring the economy back to life. What we do not know is how to bring people back to life.” I’ve heard it said in some quarters that he stole the line from an American writer. Maybe he did. Maybe he didn’t. Under the circumstance, he can even plagiarize the whole of Psalm 23 and he’d be forgiven.
But even if we dock some points from him for allegedly plagiarising a couple of sentences from a non-descript American writer for a 15-minute speech, I believe Nana Addo has been speaking the right words and doing all the right things to assure the nation he won’t allow this disease to take us down without a fight. Even the source of the alleged plagiarized line should be happy that a world leader amplified his words and got many other world leaders to hear them.
I’ve not seen a Ghanaian leader take such charge in a moment of crisis in my adult life. This probably is the biggest existential crisis this nation has ever faced and Nana Addo is doing pretty darn well, considering that those before him performed so abysmally when confronted with relatively minor crises like ‘dumsor’.
I decided to write this to congratulate the president for a job well done (so far!) after his last address on Sunday. As I listened to him I got goosebumps. He was measured, composed, compassionate and assuring. He seemed in my eyes more credible than he’s ever been. Nana looks good on coronavirus.
The fact is that the president is not taking any chances. Perhaps, it’s because people his age are considered to be more at risk of dying from the disease. Perhaps, he just knows that we can’t face this virus head-on and win, and that we need to be pragmatic to ensure we don’t make ourselves more susceptible than we already are. It could also be that he’s just seizing a once in a century opportunity to go down in history as a consequential African leader – the man who became an example and led Ghana to escape the ravages of a disease that wreaked so much havoc in more advanced nations.
It doesn’t matter what his motivations are. As long as he stays the course he’s set himself and the nation on, the outcome wouldn’t matter when all this is over. What matters is he led, the nation followed, and we fought this virus the best way we could.
Most importantly, when all this is over, and we get through this crisis alive, with Nana Addo still at the helm, let just hope that he will make himself an even bigger and better leader by pointing his fellow politicians, those likely to form and be part of current and future governments, to the realisation that a nation’s health is indeed its wealth. That would mean that in all our efforts to bring the economy back to life, we should honour those who died in the crisis, those we can’t bring back to life, investing heavily in world class health facilities, a well-trained corps of healthcare professionals and a well-funded health insurance scheme which will altogether make other African citizens as envious of this country as they’ve been of his leadership throughout this crisis.