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Mourning in celebration of lives lost

BY: Collins Essamuah
Former Vice President, Paa Kwesi Bekoe Amissah Arthur
Former Vice President, Paa Kwesi Bekoe Amissah Arthur

By the time you get to read this column today, one important thing which has seized public news space would have been decided one way or another.

The Finance Minister, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, would have presented the mid-year budget review yesterday but too late to meet my deadline.

Of course, this important event will come with its own political and public reactions, as it is imminently political.

Today, I want to be a true and culturally aware Ghanaian and mourn with my fellow countrymen and women who have lost their loved ones in the past few weeks to the Leveller of mankind.

My faithful readers should permit me to pay my early respects to the four or five Ghanaians we have lost recently namely our former Vice-President Mr Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, J.H. Mensah, Professor Atukwei Okai, Philip Gardiner and the mother of the immediate past chief of staff, Madam Kate Debrah.

A celebration?


It is a wonder why we choose to describe the funeral of a person who has lived life to the full as a celebration, but perhaps this is what makes us 21st- century Ghanaians because it is relatively a recent phenomenon.

We have managed to insert a week’s observance before the burial proper at which, it is claimed, decisions are made on the rest of the things to be done following bereavement in the family.

Everything is then rounded off with a lavish funeral banquet.

I will not be surprised at the rate things are going for calls to be made for funerals to be heavily taxed as no expense is spared.

It is not far-fetched.

I was present when Victor Owusu was asked by Major Adutu if he had paid the gift tax on the ¢120, 000 realised at his mother’s funeral when he appeared before the Citizens Vetting Committee in 1983 or so in the regime of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC).

It is humanly impossible to feel the sense of personal loss that attends a loss in any family.

It is even more painful when the dead is or was a public figure, whose life and works touched many in various ways in society. Then we all share in the loss to society of an important and impactful citizen. Such is what we must feel at this time as so many stalwarts of society have left us unexpectedly.

Madam Kate Opokuaa Debrah

I did not personally know Madam Kate Opokuaa Debrah, the mother of our immediate past Chief of Staff to the Mahama Presidency, Julius Debrah.

But I know that Julius was a fine public servant who had risen in the political class from constituency propaganda secretary through to regional chairman, then to minister, and eventually to the manager of the Presidency in the time of President John Mahama as his Chief of Staff.

My sincerest condolences and sympathies to him as he grieves this personal loss.

Philip Gardiner

Many of my readers will justifiably not know Philip Gardiner who died in the United Kingdom (UK) last Tuesday.

He was the President of the National Union of Ghana Students [NUGS] at the time of the December 31, 1981 coup which ushered then Chairman Jerry Rawlings into office, when I was a student at the University of Ghana, Legon.

He committed the entire student body in Ghana to the support of the new regime without consulting the membership, forcing them to embark on the cocoa-collecting exercises known as the Task Force that my brother and I, with a few others, absolutely refused to join.

This gave the wrong impression to the regime that students overwhelmingly supported the PNDC coup.

He later, with others, fell out with the regime, and left for exile.

I am very sad and sorry that I never got the chance to ask him a few questions.

Now he is gone.

I extend my condolences to his loved ones left behind and join them to mourn his loss.

May he rest in peace.

Professor Atukwei Okai

I knew Prof. Atukwei Okai I knew personally from a lift he gave my brother and i from Legon to town in early 1982 when he was PNDC Secretary for Greater Accra, ie, regional minister.

He drove his green Fiat Mini at top speed in the centre of the road to our house, then not far from the regional offices near the Worker’s College, chatting us all the time.

We learnt his lovely wife shared a hometown with us and he had twins in his family.

The last time I heard from him was August 2013 when he got in touch over my first epistle in memory of President Mills and an interested Nigerian friend.

Our Ghanaian literary heritage owes a lot to his poetic talents. Prof. rest in peace!

J.H. Mensah

I also knew J.H. Mensah quite well from 1980.

He was actually a distant cousin tracing his maternal roots to the Mankessim royal family to which my father’s mother belonged.

It is a measure of his impact that he held his influential public offices in the 1960s and 1970s, but was also highly regarded in the 1990s and early 2000s by the present generation, when age had diminished his energy.

He was a fighter to the last.

Rest in peace, JH.

Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur

In my previous epistle, I hinted that I did not know former Vice-President Amissah-Arthur that much, having met him one-on-one only once in 2014.

We discussed a matter dear to the hearts of not fellow party members, but our common alma mater and church, and he had all the relevant documents in front of him.

I must say I was impressed because normally, our indecisive leaders are wind vanes, waiting to hear you out before saying what one wants to hear.

He was a thoroughly briefed public servant and a calm, unpretentious intellectual.

May his passage open the way for more of such solid, hardworking but calm and collected individuals to join public service.

My deepest and sincerest condolences go first to his mother, who must be devastated by this death, his brother Jabesh, who was my senior in school, and the family. May he rest in perfect peace!

Death does not discriminate, just as the grief it brings. May we all be guided in our conduct of public affairs such that strangers will mourn us.