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Opinions of Friday, 27 March 2020

Columnist: Dr. Suzy Aku Puplampu

This Too, Shall Pass!

It was Chinua Achebe who said “A man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to save them from starving. [Afterall] they all have food in their own homes. [Hence] when we gather together in the moonlit village ground it is not because of the moon. [Because] every man can see it in his own compound”.

I find that many writers refer to this quote when sharing thoughts on the importance of family, community and social support. Unfortunately, there has been calls, globally, in the past weeks for citizens of nations to do the opposite of the preaching. Descriptions such as “social distancing”, “self-isolation”, “self-quarantine”, “mandatory quarantine” among many others have become part of our lingua franca; they are on everybody’s lips. I need not stress this fact. That the aftermath of COVID-19 is a wake-up call for many of us not to take human communion and interaction for granted any day, any time.

The Good Professor

In her novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, renowned Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie descriptively takes her readers back in the day to the 1960s as she set the stage to tell the tale of Professor Odenigbo, an authoritative academic. Prof. Odenigbo, however, had a soft-good- side. He was madly in love with Olanna, and demonstrated this through his affectionate reference to her “Nkem”. The home of the couple was a home for many other faculty members who came by every weekend. They served food, drinks, held conversations on varied issues. For these, the Prof. and his family were highly respected in their community. But there came the dark days.

And when the Odenigbo family was humiliated by soldiers who had invaded their homes violently as a result of civil unrest, the good Prof. could not handle his new life. Military orders ruled: “no movements”, “everyone stay in your homes”, “we will shoot you when you move”. Here was the academic family that some few months ago had nothing less of a good life. Call it a warming home for friends and family, yet they ended up in a humiliating refugees camp. Not to mention they lost their entire possessions. Why? There was an order – don’t move, stay in your home or else… We may not be at war, and I sincerely pray we don’t even get there. But guess what? Even the mere thought of repressive restrictions on our personal movements is beginning to cause us emotional unrest. “We are not prisoners; why can’t we step out? If we don’t step out, we will go hungry, it is our lives, leave us alone”.

People or Numbers?

My dear friends; my lovely family, sorry to indicate here: that confrontational style cannot be our attitude in dealing with COVID-19. Not at all! Indeed, Hugh Masekela could not have sung a better song – “Change is coming”. For sure, the ‘coronavirus’ change is here and it came in a dramatic fashion, shaking the powers that be, not nationally but globally. As at the date and time of publishing (March 26, 2020 at 16:15 GMT) it was as disturbing as it was disheartening to learn from Ghana’s Ministry of Health website that a total of 375,498 cases with 16,362 had been recorded on the global stage. 132 cases with 3 deaths were the Ghanaian situation. A gentle reminder: These are not mere statistics. These are human beings reduced to numbers only. This is sad! My heart goes out to all the affected families the world over.

Be Honest

I have been thinking and I invite your thoughts on this too. Be honest. Do you believe if we knew COVID-19 would be anywhere close to the shores of West African sub-region, could we have done anything differently? Others’ arguments were, or is, that if we survived Ebola, SARS, H1N1 and the others, why even worry to think we will not survive COVID-19? Now here’s my big question: Did we or do we, as a people, really understand the nature and implications of this ‘deadly’ virus? Oh! I remember but only few of them. The calls; the suggestions or better still, the rants that fellow Ghanaians have emitted on social media especially after Ghana recorded her first confirmed case: “we should have closed our boarders much earlier, as the pandemic on our motherland is largely due to imported cases”. Really? That simple? Ah well, “Is There Not A Cause to Rant?” Didn’t the ace lawyer Ace Ankomah aptly ask as title of his book?

Your Excellency

It was few minutes past 10:00 pm on March 15, 2020. I waited eagerly behind the television ready to watch the live telecast of President Nana Akufo-Addo’s second address to the nation on COVID-19 and Ghana’s preparedness on same. Was it historic? Probably. It was in that address the first confirmed case was announced by His Excellency. As I listen, both as a citizen and student of public speaking, I could imagine the fear as much as I could tell the visible uncertainties on the face of a leader who looked concerned about the welfare of his citizens, at least at that was my observation. For me, Mr. President’s four-worded-concluding- phrase – ‘…this too shall pass!’ – was the most significant part of that address. I repeat it, and with emphasis: THIS TOO SHALL PASS! In that statement was the much- needed double- edged lifeline: Hope and Faith. For such a moment in the shadows of death, every human being, every citizen needs faith to survive today’s storm, but more importantly hope for a better tomorrow. But that’s not all; there is a flip side to it.

Fear Not!

Friends, tell you what! I have decided to replace my fears with hope and faith notwithstanding the not-too-encouraging updates on COVID-19 in Ghana and elsewhere. Some have reasoned aloud, “oh it will have to get worse before it gets better”. Entirely true? My simple answer: I don’t know. My candid view is rather this. Shouldn’t what can cause us ‘the fear’ (if we have to fear at all) be focused on those of us in the population that possibly may have come into contact with the virus yet going about the normal activities without the slightest idea what is looming?

But here is even the brighter side of the conversation. In the midst of difficulties, lies opportunities. Without sounding political please permit me to state: There is light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, there is! COVID-19 isn’t all that bleak even though it is deadly. See! Here they are. The opportunities for us to hone our creative and innovative skills right as we pray and wash our hands with soap under running water. Some say, #WashAndPray. I add a third leg to the hashtag. #WashPrayLook. I do so for a simple reason. Look around for the opportunities.

Why Can’t We?

Just imagine this. Every meeting I have been to within this week was held on-line. I sat right behind my computer but I was all over the place. Honestly, why can’t this continue beyond COVID-19? I would not bother you with the savings I have made with time, fuel and energy. Amazingly, even in some cases, I found some of the online meetings being more efficiently than what we did at our physical meetings. And if there are push for all financial transactions to be done electronically, cashless etc., why can’t this continue beyond COVID-19? Then again, if consistent and persistent washing of our hands could help us fight bacteria and viruses, why wasn’t this the agenda in the past? For those of us who have faith in Him, our comfort is in the fact that, the Lord hears our prayers and knows our needs even before we present them. And for everything that happens, we should thank the Lord as 1 Thessalonians 5:18 admonishes.

Hmmm, if we examine the positive sides of COVID-19, this passage of scripture will begin to make a lot more sense. Honestly. Let me attempt to identify a few more. Stronger family bonding; recognizing the power of the omnipotent, care for the environment and improving on personal and societal sanitation, extra show of affection and concerns, absence of political banters etc. Oh Lord, if this is the way, then we should be content. This I pray!

Listen; Please do!

Personally, I have decided to obey and observe, as much as I can, all the preventive instructions to stay clear off COVID-19. I have decided to boost my immune system with relevant vitamins and exercise. I have decided to wash my hands as many times as possible, avoid touching my face (confession: that one is tough ooo) and use alcohol-based sanitizers as often as possible. I have decided that I will stay at home, if I am asked to do so. What about you?

My dear friend, please listen. I would like to urge us all. Let us remain calm in the midst of this ‘coronavirus storm’. More importantly is this: We must, and I mean MUST do whatever possible to replace our fears and panic with hope and faith. Why? Because much as I hastily admit I do not know it all, there is one thing I know: This too shall pass!

Tralalalalala

DR. SUZY AKU PUPLAMPU

Dr. Suzy Aku Puplampu is CEO and Lead Fund Manager of OctaneDC Limited – a Fund Management and Investment Advisory company approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of Ghana. As a finance and investment professional, Suzy has an in-depth knowledge and experience working in the finance industry in Ghana for a period spanning two decades. A member of Toastmasters International, Suzy, loves to write on finance and other social issues. Her feature articles are published in the Business and Financial Times and Business 24. She blogs at https://suzydotblog.wordpress.com/ . Feel free to engage with your feedback on her posts on +233 (0) 20 888 6500 or via email: suzy.puplampu@octanedc.com

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