Some Ghanaians who have excelled in their various fields of national endeavour over the years on Tuesday received national honours and were presented with awards for their meritorious services, hard work, sacrifices and contribution to national development.
The awards were dominated by workers in the health sector and their leaders who were at the forefront of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as individuals and organisations that supported the fight.
Forty-seven national icons in various national endeavours were given the Order of the Volta for their exploits and sacrifices for the country, while in the event brochure it was stated that 19,557 frontline health workers across the country were also being recognised for their roles.
All the awards were presented by the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
On behalf of the Ghanaian people and their government, I expressed the gratitude of the nation to the men and women who were entrusted with the responsibility of keeping us safe at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, to our foreign friends and partners who aided us in that enterprise, to the men and women who made sure that the maritime boundary dispute with our immediate, western neighbour, the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, ended favourably for the Republic of Ghana, thereby, ensuring that our western maritime resources, including its oil and gas potential, rightfully remained in our possession.
Apart from these two main categories of awardees, that is the COVID and ITLOS awardees, there is a third category of awardees of a few individuals whose work deserve the plaudits of the nation.
They are the late great philosopher, Prof. Johnson Kwame Wiredu, by common consent one of the outstanding philosophers of global repute of the modern age, who will be given a befitting posthumous award, Order of the Volta – Companion.
The rest are 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.
It is important to state that today’s awards ceremony is a purely national event, devoid of partisan, ethnic or religious considerations, and organised solely in recognition of the services offered by its recipients to the growth, development, progress and prosperity of Ghana.
I, as the President of the Republic, the Fount of Honour, act as the Head of State, and not as Head of Government, in the distribution of awards. I can happily say that I am not aware of the political sympathies or views of the overwhelming majority of today’s awardees. Their politics is of no moment to me, only their exploits in favour of Mother Ghana, President Akufo-Addo said.
It was a moment of pride for the recipients as they showed up with enthusiasm and excitement and absorbed the warm and welcoming atmosphere at the Accra International Conference Centre, which was draped in the national colours.
Apart from the awardees and their families who were there to lend support, the event attracted many dignitaries, including the Vice-President, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia; the Chief of Staff, Akosua Frema Osei Opare, among others.
Order of the Volta
Forty-seven Ghanaians were decorated with medals and sashes in three categories under the Order of the Volta.
They included members of the National COVID-19 Task Force, trustees of the Ghana COVID-19 Private Sector Fund and the team that executed and won Ghana’s case at the International Tribunal for the Laws of the Sea against Cote d’Ivoire.
Another was the designer of the Veronica Bucket that received international usage and acclamation for the washing of hands, Veronica Bekoe, who was given an individual award, the Order of the Volta, Companion.
The remaining recipients were the first Chief Executive Officer of the Mental Health Authority, Prof. Akwasi Osei; Ghana’s first female Police Commissioner, Margaret Sarpong Darkwah; a renowned philosopher, Prof. Johnson Kwasi Wiredu, and a crop scientist, Dr Veronica Agartha Martinson, who were all adorned with the national honour of Order of the Volta, Companion.
Awards were also presented to trustees of the COVID-19 National Trust Fund, the COVID-19 Private Sector Fund (Support Team), institutions and faith-based organisations (FBOs), manufacturers of hand sanitiser and PPE, donors to the COVID-19 National Trust Fund and international partners in the fight against the COVID-19.
Before presenting the awards, President Akufo-Addo, in an address, said the awards were purely a national event, devoid of partisan, ethnic or religious considerations and organised solely for the recipients whose work and contribution had benefited the country.
Justifying the awards for those who gave of their best during the COVID-19 pandemic, he recounted the difficult times and the comprehensive strategy the government adopted to secure the priority, health and safety of the Ghanaian.
He said the country was in serious times when “we were restrained from shaking hands with one another, keep a distance from one another and put up with the discomfort anytime we left our homes”.
He spoke about the painful three-week lockdown and the need to support small and individual businesses, shutting down and opening some schools at various intervals, the procurement of PPE and relief for health workers in the form of tax waivers, allowances and COVID insurance.
Misfortune inspired ingenuity
President Akufo-Addo indicated, however, that the pandemic inspired the entrepreneurial and ingenuous spirit of Ghanaians, which deepened the country’s self-reliance, leading to domestic pharmaceutical companies responding to his call to manufacture sanitiser, liquid soap and other essentials.
He said the country was able to procure GH¢81 million worth of locally manufactured scrubs, hospital gowns, face masks, among others, for health workers and students who wrote their final examinations.
He noted that Ghana pioneered life-saving innovations that the World Health Organisation replicated elsewhere.
He said the country’s relative success in winning the fight against the COVID-19 was a testament of the tireless work of researchers, scientists, advisors, public health managers, frontline workers, contact tracers, the security services and FBOs.
He also intimated that the awards were to express the country’s appreciation to all those who helped in diverse ways to fight the pandemic that made the country and South Korea to be the only two nations which, at the peak, best managed the pandemic.
Explaining why those who executed the court case to secure Ghana’s western border and its oil deposits were also being recognised, President Akufo-Addo said the work was not done by one political party or government but was a collective effort, especially the important roles played by successive governments and groups of individuals which “cannot be overlooked, discounted or understated”.
He said the judgment settled the matter that had been hanging for over five decades, and that although the economic impact of the oil in that region could not be ascertained now, it was clear that the country’s western maritime boundary was intact.
He said contrary to fears, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire still maintained great bonds of cooperation and a strategic partnership agreement.
Speaking on behalf of the awardees, Dr Anarfi Asamoa-Baah expressed their appreciation for the honour and recognition, saying that would encourage them and others to continue to sacrifice for the nation.
Dr Asamoa-Baah, a former Deputy Director-General of the WHO, who was appointed as coordinator of –Ghana’s COVID-19 response programme, said Preisident Akufo-Addo also deserved honour and commendation for showing leadership during the fight against the pandemic by sitting throughout and chairing all the meetings including the very technical ones.
“He sat through the meetings and asked questions and indeed, if the world remembers COVID, the famous Fellow Ghanaians presentations would be well recorded as playing a key role in helping Ghana manage its response well to be documented among the best-managed during the pandemic,” Dr Asamoa-Baah said.
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