Apr 02

March 2016 has been a bad month!



Well, it’s been a bad month for me. First was the funeral, on 10-11 March 2016, of my cousin, Mrs Comfort Akua Agyemang (known to all her relatives and friends as “Akua Fio”), who passed on 3 December 2015.

Akua grew up in a house directly opposite my grand-mother, Nana Afia Korang’s house, at Asiakwa. So I saw a lot of her as a child.

But our ways parted – as they always do. I next found her in London, married to my friend, Kwaku Agyemang (known to our age group as Kwaku Danso).

Kwaku and I were old friends who called each other “Joe”. The “Joe” had passed to him from one of my greatest friends, Kwaku’s brother, Kwasi Ampofo. Kwasi Ampofo was great fun, for he had spent his early years in Accra before coming to settle at home at Asiakwa, and he had a great number of stories to tell, to someone with as great an ear for stories as me.

As is often the case in a village, if you had a friend, all his brothers and friends became your friends, too. So I played table tennis with “Joe” and his brothers, and when I encountered Kwaku again in London, we immediately resumed calling each other “Joe”.

Amazingly, his wife, Akua, also began calling me “Joe!” Not only that – she played a great part in getting me to become less homesick of Ghana. They lived in Notting Hill Gate and she introduced me to Portobello Road Market, where, at that time, one could buy a lot of the things that West Africans like to eat – especially, smoked fish and ripe plantains. It was she also who taught me how to mix potato flour and “Farina” into something as much like fufuo as possible.

I need hardly say that I was very often in their house, and that Akua never failed to provide me with a super-Ghanaian dish which, for the moment, transported me back home.

When I heard that she had passed, after a short illness, I couldn’t believe it. She was so full of life, and, of course, was the very soul of kindness.

Her burial service was held at a very posh church in Kensington Church Road, St Mary Abbotts. It was very well attended – for a Friday morning when a lot of people wee at work – and the singing, by the Kensington Parish Church Choir, was exquisite.

Among those who attended was my old friend, Ken Wiwa, son of the famous Ogoni writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was executed by the barbarous Abacha regime in November 1995.

Ken Wiwa told me her family and that of Akua had been friends “for decades.” Small world, I said to myself. Who would have thought that Ken Saro-Wiwa, about whom I’d written thousands of words, would have an unknown mutual friend with me, called Akua Agyemang?

The “proper” Ghanaian funeral for Akua took place the next evening at the Old Town Hall, Chelsea. Again, very posh. And again, loads of people one hadn’t seen for years (such as my old friend, Kumi Agyei) and others whose existence one wasn’t even aware of (such as a lady who introduced herself to me as the daughter of my brother, Opanin Akrasi, otherwise known as Agya Kwaku Nsuaapem!

So Akua did not only have a very nice send-off; she also brought a lot of people together as she embarked on her final journey. This would have pleased her a lot, for she loved bringing people together. My condolences to all members of her family, who have incurred a loss such as a few privileged people like me are capable of sharing fully.

NEXT, I heard that Jake [Otanka] Obetsebi-Lamptey, former National Chairman of the NPP, ex-Minister of Information, and ex-Minister of Tourism, had also kicked the bucket.

Jake? Larger than life Jake? How could that be? Apparently, he had been receiving treatment for leukaemia in South Africa and was flown to London when he didn’t improve. Sadly, the hospital in London to which he was taken, couldn’t help much either. And Jake passed.

His passing now is a reproach to his political opponents, some of whom floated cruel rumours some months erlier, that he had died, when he was in fact still alive. It must have been with a very heavy heart that he had to tell some radio stations that he was still alive. Indeed, our politicians and their “rented media” need to re-examine their consciences about some of the things they do.

Politics is only a small part of a human being’s life. Why should it be so elevated that it destroys all the decency to be expected of a normal human being?

I ask: what kind of human being peddles false rumours about the death of a fellow human being, when he has no evidence that such a death has actually occurred? Who on this earth will never die? If we shall all taste death, then why should another person’s death delight someone else so much that he would hurry to invent the death, when it has not yet occurred? Can these people not realise what pain it must cause someone else for him to be made to feel that other people would want him to die?

I last spoke to Jake when he came to London with Nana Akufo Addo, just before the election. He was, as usual, very debonair, very cool. I’d also seen him when he was Minister of Tourism under President J A Kufuor. He hit upon the a brilliant idea of launching what he called “The Joseph Project”, through which he wanted to invite Africa-Americans to come to Ghana in large numbers, to get reunited with their roots, by attending festivals and creating organic relationships with the people of Ghana.

The scheme didn’t take off, for want of financing. It would be a very good thing for someone to revive the idea in future, for we are inextricably linked to our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, and nothing but good can come from an organised reunification of our two societies.

Finally, my condolences to the family of Squadron Leader Melody Danquah, who is being buried this weekend (2-3 April 2016). I remember vaguely that she did a short stint at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, when I worked there, before she joined the Air Force as the first-ever female pilot of Ghana. She was extremely popular with journalists, all of whom wanted to do a feature or two about “The First Female Pilot” of Ghana. She handled it all with decorum and didn’t allow the publicity to come between her and the serious business of keeping her aircraft and its passengers safely in the air.

My condolences to all members of her family – and especially to Ken Ofori Atta, who was related to her by marriage.


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