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Jul
30

UPDATED: R.I.P. ISAAC OPOKU EDUSEI

 

R. I. P. ISAAC OPOKU EDUSEI, KWABOTWE HILL  STALWART

By CAMERON DUODU

(PICTURE: Isaac Opoku Edusei (right) with his youngest son, Nana Kwame Adusei, in happier days.)
Nana Kwame A. Adusei
Why do secondary schools seem to win a greater affection from their alumni than Universities and other institutions?
I suppose it’s because secondary schools play the ‘midwife’ to  a boy who is being transformed into  a man,  whereas, by the time one passes through a secondary school and gets into a University, one is  already a man and one does not need too much of the gentle handling that only a midwife is qualified to 
offer to those emerging into the dangerous world we inhabit.
But how many secondary schools are aware that they are “delivering babies”? Not many, I guess.  There is much ugliness in secondary schools — even the most reputable ones —  world-wide. Perhaps, then, disappointment is also part of the mysterious allure of secondary schools? I suppose memories that do not include days of hardship — and even cruelty, such as initiation processes  or, in Ghanaian parlance,  “homoing” — are easily tossed into the rubbish heap that lurks within  our minds.
My brother-in-law, Isaac Opoku Edusei, or Yaw Barima as everyone called him, often talked to me about his secondary school, Mfantsipim. Once, when he saw me reading the autobiography of a former headmaster of the school, Mr F L Bartels, he “stood behind my neck” and silently eyed the book until I got the message, finished reading it in record time, and handed it to him to read.
(By the way, that Bartels book is an extremely good one: it is very frank, and one can get a flavour of the battles some of our educationists of integrity had to fight during our days of one-party rule in the 1960s, from it. It isn’t bitter though; just matter-of- fact and replete with insights. Prof Adu Boahen also wrote a very good book about Mfantsipim, which was his alma mater. I suppose the fierce loyalty that Mfantsipim alumni have for their institution is partly caused by the fact that the Governments of our country tended to favour Achimota  over it, despite Mfanstipim’s superb academic record.)
Once, Yaw took me to a small gathering of his Kwabotwe Hill school-mates at a small club near the State Transport Corporation h.q. in Accra. Beer, kebabs and a great deal of laughter. It reminded me that  people used to envy me when I took them to the Press Club in Axxra in the esarly 1960s: there, too, there was beer, kebab and a great deal of laughter. Plus an occasional live dance band.
These days, such gatherings appear to have vanished from the face of the earth. Who can replace an “afternoon jump” at the Star Hotel on a Saturday afternoon? Any afternoon, for that matter? Or the Continental Hotel bar/terrace on a hot. humid afternoon?  I shouldn’t forget, of course, the Ambassador Hotel,  when the Ambassador Hotel Band under Rex Ofosu was playing on the terrace and a fabulous “club sandwich” was easily affordable? And la creme de la creme: the Senior Common Room at Commonwealth Hall, University of Ghana, Legon, on a Saturday afternoon, when everyone was expected to grill his own fillet beef kebab to his taste  on the charcoal pot? Ah-yah—yah-yah-yah! How does one cry for a whole vanished world?
Yes, Yaw loved Mfantsipim, but I seldom heard him talk about the University of Cape Coast, where he actually obtained his degree. I am sure, though, that his Cape Vars mates will mourn him as much as the Kwabotwe Hill lot – for he was one of the most lovable, generous, good-humoured and conscientious people anyone could have the good fortune to meet or befriend
Yaw left us, sadly, on 16th July 2013. How does one weep for such a man? How does one comfort those who loved him so much and whom he has left behind? Woe! Woe!! Woe is us! For Yaw, ‘The Man’, is gone from us for ever.
I first met Yaw when he was a young lad who lived opposite my house at Osu New Estate in Accra (later Nyaniba Estate.) My beautiful sister, Elizabeth, often came and stayed with me when she was on holidays from Aburi Girls Secondary School. 
I was then a busy editor working for Drum Magazine, and a lot of things went on in my immediate vicinity that passed below my radar. And I happen to have brothers who are gifted with the most  wooden of  lips — they’d see things, which they should tell me, as the eldest of our clan,  but never whisper a word about  what was going on! I have learnt to write many of them off as secretive so and so’s — as far as sharing crucial information is concerned!
One such “invisible” development that was effectively hidden from me  was a love affair between my dear sister and Yaw. I had no knowledge whatsoever  of it until some YEARS later, when Yaw’s elder sister came to me one day and said that – she wanted me to take her to go and see my father!
My father?” I asked. “What do you want with my father?”
She was silent.
Then, in  a shy but forthright manner,  she blurted out: “My brother Yaw wants to ask for your sister Elizabeth’s hand in marriage!”
What?” The shock to my system  was considerable.
To cover my ignorance about things I clearly ought to  have known about, I took refuge in tradition: “Your brother wants to marry MY SISTER and you want ME to take you to see my father? It’s never done!” I declaimed. “Neither in your place, Asante,  nor in mine, Akyem!”
 
I have a short fuse and it was close to being lit. I mean, heck, the woman had succeeded in absolutely confusing me…!
Yaw’s sister looked at me mischievously. As gentle as a lamb, she adjusted her cloth. But I could hear her say in her  head,  “Ahah! You Cameron  Duodu you think you are a tough nut. Today, you will meet your match.”
Without much ado, she casually lobbed   the nuclear option into my lap, POM!: “I think the idea came from your sister, actually.  She said – she said that even though it might be unusual, you WOULD do it for HER!
Almighty  help me! I immediately  melted like a mushroom left in the sunshine for several hours.  Mushroom? No — shea butter, more likely.
For, in  truth, there was nothing I wouldn’t do for that young lady.  She doesn’t know it but she was born in the year my maternal Grandmother –Nana Yaa Wusuaa – who was my very first and also my greatest-ever friend on earth, left us suddenly one afternoon, whilst I was in school. When I returned home that evening, chaos wasn’t the word to describe what I found there.
My Mum was totally traumatised and couldn’t handle anything. The only food available was something my Grandma had been eating when she suffered her heart attack and died. Maame wanted me to eat it, but I was afraid of eating a “ghost’s food” and chose to remain hungry.
There was oncessant crying everywhere. It was only the second time that anyone had ever died in our house. So everything felt weird to me; the whole scenario was just  bizarre — beyond the comprehension of my 9-year-old mind. 
But, then, a few months later, my sister Liz was  born, purposely (we all thought)  to make up for our mammoth loss.  Maame was so pleased with her lovely appearance  that she named her “Ante” (Lady)!  And as if to add sugar to her soul’s porridge, my father also named her after my dead Grandmother, Nana Yaa Wusuaa, herself. Nobody had the slightest doubt — not even    for a second — that she was indeed my Grandmother reincarnated. To me, who was even then acquiring a taste for things literary,  what was most remarkable was that her name rhymed: “Akwasua Wusuaa!”
The years passed and then I became a teacher and had the good fortune of teaching  Liz in Class Three. I saw how bright she was and was absolutely convinced that she would have a bright academic future.  So when she later  passed the Common Entrance examination and my father exposed the misogyny typical of his generation by muttering unhappily  about “wasting” so much money to  pay for “a girl” to go to Aburi Girls, I didn’t say a word but took matters into my own hands. Realising that my father’s hesitation  had delayed her response to the offer of a place, I   borrowed ba friend’s Jaguar and drove straight to  Aburi and saw Miss Anderson, the headmistress. She agreed that  Liz should come for the interview, late though she was.
Of course, Liz sailed through. I wasn’t earning too much as a junior civil servant at the time, but I made sure that   I didn’t disgrace myself before Miss Anderson — I never left  her fees unpaid.
Liz eventually got into  the University of Ghana, obtained her degree, and went on to Britain to study French. Meanwhile, she’d also acquired secretarial skills, and on her return, she became the Secretary of the Registrar of the University of Ghana.
She is, without doubt the greatest investment anyone could ever have made, for having already mothered four children, she then astounded everyone by enrolling at the Ghana School of Law, obtaining her lawyer’s qualification and succeeding in being appointed a Circuit Court Judge.
Which, of course,  goes to show what a good husband Yaw was  to her, for how many men would stand by a woman with four children on her hands, and assist her to achieve her ambition of acquiring a law qualification in addition to her [already adequate] B.A. degree?
Of course, I couldn’t foretell that any of this was going to happen, when 
Yaw Barima’s sister came to me that day ages ago with her “provocative” request! Indeed, if truth be told, I haven’t let on what I really felt! I strongly  wanted to throw the book at her: “ YOU go and tell YOUR father that your brother wants to get married to my sister, and urge  HIM to go and see my father. That is the custom!”
 What a good thing self-restraint is, at times.

 

For if I had not eschewed  formality and voted in favour of  love, guess what a fantastic brother-in-law I might have lost. As it was,  I took Yaw’s elder sister to my father. And he told her, “If this son of mine has brought you, then it means it is a good thing.” And thus was sealed a fruitful union that lasted all their lives — until Yaw’s untimely demise. As far as I know, they were good friends till the very last day — which is extremely unusual in the “normal” Ghanaian marriage, given the strains and stresses that our extended families, our harsh economic conditions and our propensity to gossip about each other, exert on all our relationships.

Yaw Barima never let me forget the “extraordinary” role he said I had played in making his marriage to Liz possible. Any time I wanted to thank him for some kind deed he had done for me, he would start, “Had it not been for you!…” And I would be thoroughly embarrassed and simply shut up. We used to play a game of  “revenging” ourselves on each other with kindness — whenever possible!

Isaac Opoku Edusei was born on 3rd June 1943. His father was Mr Jackson Adusei, who worked for many years at the Ministry of Defence, Accra. Yaw has two surviving brothers: Joe Adusei and Abel Edusei, both products of Legon.  He also has a sister, Mrs Akua Kyei.
Yaw’s four children with my sister are Akwasi Adusei (currently in Chicago, USA;) Kwame Poku Adusei (Ghana); Yaa Adusei (a Medical Practitioner in the USA) and Nana Kwame Adusei of Vodaphone, Ghana.
Yaw was a stable character and his employment history is pretty short: he worked at the Ministry of Communications in Accra; then moved to the  Special Action Unit during General I K Acheampong’s NRC regime; then to the Cocoa Products Division,  CMB, Accra and later at Crocodile Machetes, Tema.

Now, this guy Yaw Barima, be it known,   was a very astute observer of Ghana’s political  and economic scene, and gave me many insights into how things really were,  despite the gloss on the surface. He was a democrat through and through and never feared to express his opinions. His no-nonsense approach to issues was charming to some and distateful to others. If you didn’t mind hearing a spade being called a spade, then he was your man. Otherwise, you’d have to put some distance between yourself and him, for he hated hypocrisy. He especially despised those who gave excuses for the ineptitudes of politicians. He would ask the vaccilators pointblank: “You can see all the roguery going on with your own eyes and you are still  saying that?!”

When I  learnt, on my visit to  Ghana in December 2012, that he was due to have a surgical  operation,  I tried to reassure him by saying that I had had a nasty, complicated  one myself the year before, but had come through it successfully.

In his usual blunt way, he threw my reassurance aside. “But yours was done in the UK!” he said. I retorted, “But Yaw,  the doctors here are trained by those in the UK,  or those trained in the UK!” He said, “But in the UK, you have so many facilties that we don’t have here.”

With that knowledge preying on his mind, I shudder to imagine what he went through in the few hours while he lay on a hospital bed, ALONE WITH HIS THOUGHTS, waiting to be operated upon. Our selfish and short-sighted governments have perfected the art of turning our hispitals into mortuaries, by starving them of facilities, and “dashing” the money needed to equip our hospitals to the most modern standards,  to rogues like Alfred Woyome (who got C51 million for doing nothing for Ghana!),  while the, the rulers, fly around in tax-payer-financed executive jets,  to enjoy expensive and superb medical facilities abroad — whenever they are taken ill themselves, or need a medical checkup.  

What great wisdom is needed to realise that if they put the money they waste in that way into our healkth services, they would not only  save the lives of the many fellow-countrymen who voted for them, from a needless death,  but also,  most probably, prolong their own lives?  Who knows the future? I mean, look at the mess that is reported to have occurred when our late President,  Prof J. A. Mills, was stricken by his last illness.

Adequately equipped ambulance — baabu!

Adequately equipped emergency life-saving unit in hospital  — baabu! 

And the man died. But will his successors learn from that terrible disaster? I doubt it.
Up to today, the actual cause of the death of Prof Mills is hidden from the populace,  because no-one wants to expose the inadequacies that were unearthed in the few hopurs leading to his death. Some aspects of his treatment are still being debated, one year on. That is a civilised nation for you. In some countries, the mere approach of an “important birth” is turned into world news and medical operatives hover over mum and expected baby like you-know-not-what.
Here,  fools that we are, we send Mills to spend huge sums seeing the best specialists  in the USA, or South Africa, or the UK, or now ( so I hear) Equatorial Guinea!  They forget  that sooner or later, a ruler might  be let loose into the hands of the local doctors we despise so much  and whose intelligence we constantly abuse in the crassest manner  by denyng them the modern equipment and  facilities that they know exist and which they could emply to  save so many lives. If only…. if only!

When will our “important people” realise that you cannot phygsically transport  the facilities in America or Britain or South Africa  or Equitorial Guinea  to this country on a day-to-day basis and that the best thing is to DUPLICATE what they have, here on Ghanaian soil?  Is it any wonder that some of our more intelligent citizens are sometimes so dispirited by what they see our governments do that they are forced to ask themselves whether — sebi o,  tafrecher —  (I beg your pardon to have to make this monstrous statement) there isn’t  something “wrong with the blackman”? You can say what you like, but they see what they  see.  And only a change in the attitudes of our — sebi o ,tafrecher again! —  empty-headed rulers can make them revise  their opinion.
Yaw went to Korle Bu for his operation. He never regained full consciousness after his operation. The same thing happened to my mother, fifteen years ago!
What am I to think? I just sink into sheer despair.
For is it not maddening that in the 21st century, one can go and lie on a hospital bed and die before anybody has touched one with a surgical  knife, because one is so petrified by the knowledge that if anything goes wrong, the facilities for ressuscitation might not be good enough? Death in the mind before physical death — that’s what it amounts to, isn’t it?
 
Pardon me, my heart is in the mortuary there with Yaw,
And I must say what he cannot say to the world
But would surely say, if he could only  rise up and speak.
Yaw was a keen sportsman during his school-days, and excelled in football, cricket and the high jump at Mfantsipim School. 
O, Me nua Yaw, M’akonta Pa, Da yie! (My Brother and Good Brother-on law, Yaw, Rest In Peace!)
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