Following President Akufo-Addo’s inspirational address described by the World Health Organization’s Director-General as a powerful message, and the litany of praise showered on him for his timely interventions geared to limit the havoc caused by COVID-19, our own Manasseh Azure chose to use his widely followed pages to promote not only pessimism but to paint a bleak image of the situation in Ghana. This is not surprising coming from someone who has never hidden his admiration for some African leaders like Paul Kagame, praised them for their projects (which he has no idea whether they are popular in those countries or not) like the medical drones but is always quick to criticize his own leaders who the “outsiders” praise for outstanding performance.

In difficult times like this, the normal thing to do is provide the optimism and hope even when there appears to be no rather than seeking to water down the impact of a very rare inspirational statement that has gotten everyone that matters talking about and citing it as a reference for other leaders to emulate. In answering his own question as to what provisions President Akufo-Addo had made in his speech for people like hawkers and beggars on the streets following the lockdown, Manasseh said emphatically “NOTHING” had been done. He went further to add “…he (President Akufo-Addo) did not make any provision for them”. He went on to play on the emotions of his readers using very unfortunate populist political arguments the likes of which have not even been made by opponents of the President. A critique of his assertions are based on a number of reasons some of which are:

It is very sad that someone like Manasseh will strongly and emphatically argue that “NOTHING” had been done to cater for the poor in our society. First, in this COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed several lives locally and globally, the ultimate goal of every government is the preservation of lives and reduction of the spread of the disease. This is the primary goal of all governments across the globe and I am sure if he (Manasseh) had pondered over this basic fact he would not have said “NOTHING” has been done. He would have arrived at the conclusion that the tough measures put forward by the President are geared towards the preservation of the lives of all citizens whether rich/poor or literate/illiterate. This is one of the reasons why I described Manasseh’s article as populist and unfortunate.

Secondly, even though the lockdown measures are tough and will affect businesses/ the economy, a fair analysis of the conditions attached to the lockdown will reveal that they have been very relaxed to allow some space to reduce the hardships anticipated as a result of this action. This I believe is mainly due to the President’s high concern for the welfare of the citizens and this fact was alluded to by Manasseh himself in his introductory paragraphs before he decided to make a dive into his populism.

Finally, on this point, I agree that some form economic reliefs should be made for all categories of Ghanaians especially the underprivileged but the point must be made that safeguarding their health takes precedence of any economic considerations. This I believe is the main reason why the President made his popular statement “We (government) know how to bring the economy back to life. What we do not know is how to bring people back to life,” to give hope to citizens and let them understand that their health is the priority. So people like Manasseh who have large followings should rather focus in promoting this profound statement to our people. Unfortunately, he is leading a crusade to paint this beautiful speech black whilst foreign leaders continue to use this statement as a motivational tool to inspire and give hope to their people under these difficult times.

His analogy that the speech was solely inspirational to the international community but not to most citizens is a false impression. Prior to the lockdown measures, there was a lot of debate on whether to lock down or not and anyone who followed the discussions will realize that a good number of people preferred the lockdown. Even when arguments of economic considerations were made against proposals for lockdown most people still preferred the lockdown citing the priority of health before economics.

This is basically what President Akufo-Addo did and he even relaxed the conditions just to make live easy for citizens under the lock down. Following his speech, large sections of Ghanaians took to various media platforms to express their happiness for this move. In fact, the opposition NDC which never gets satisfied with what the President does did not even have any reason to disagree with the President except to hang on to the expression “Greater Kumasi” used by the President in his speech. This shows how the message was welcomed and any attempt by Manasseh to downplay the positive impact of the speech and interventions will only hit a snag.

In conclusion and as indicated earlier, Manasseh and all other influential Ghanaians should rather use this time to educate people especially the underprivileged cohort he (Manasseh) claims to be fighting for and to help them understand the need to stick to the preventive measures stipulated by the health authorities as well as complying to the presidential orders. This does not in any way stop them from contributing and making meaningful suggestions as to how government could make the lives of citizens better in these difficult times. Reducing important issues of this kind to pessimism and playing populism on the emotions of people as done by Manasseh in his piece should be discouraged.