The late Felix Owusu-Adjapong
The late Felix Owusu-Adjapong

He paid on behalf of Ghana - Elizabeth Ohene on Felix Owusu-Adjapong

This past week, the late Felix Kwasi Owusu-Adjapong, a former Minister of Communications, of Energy, of Parliamentary Affairs, Majority Leader in Parliament during the Kufuor Administration, popularly known and called Great Leader, was given a full-scale Ghanaian funeral and finally laid to rest at Akyem Swedru, his hometown at the weekend.

I worked with him and also got to see parts of him that emerged from the vantage point of him being related to my husband Prof. G.K.A. Ofosu-Amaah, who many of his old students still call Prof.

As I sat through Owusu-Adjapong’s funeral rites, I recalled an incident involving him that I think I might share.


In December 2017, Prof. had a fall at home and injured his eye.

We ended up at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital Eye Clinic and the doctors decided he needed to be taken to the theatre for some urgent procedures.

After all the paperwork, he was wheeled into the theatre, with the scrubbed and gowned doctors by his side.

 Since the eye doctor hadn’t given me any idea about how long the procedure was expected to take, I settled down to wait in an anteroom with Abyna-Ansaa who had arrived after hearing about the accident.

A few minutes after Prof. had been wheeled into the theatre, his eye doctor, who was leading the team, came out and walked towards where I was seated.

 She stopped behind a red line on the ground that I hadn’t noticed until then.

There was a look of distress and embarrassment on her face as I got up and walked towards her, trying not to be alarmed but not sure what to expect.

She was very apologetic and said to me that the anaesthetist was insisting he had to be paid before he would undertake his part of the procedure, which had to be done before the surgery could take place.

He was not taking the word of the doctor that she knew the person on the operating table and his family and could promise the money would be paid after the surgical procedure. 

The young anaesthetist was adamant he wanted to see the colour of his money before he would proceed.

This was not the time nor the place to be shocked, or outraged, or angry, or any of the emotions that would come later in recounting the story.

Luckily, I had in my bag, the GH¢1,000 that was being demanded.

I took it out and offered it, the doctor shook her head, walked back into the theatre, the anaesthetist came out and I handed the GH¢1,000 to him in a tired envelope; he took it and went back towards the theatre door and I walked slowly back to my seat to wait.

I don’t remember how long they were in the theatre but Prof. was wheeled out eventually and the surgical team said they were satisfied with the work they had done.

The next day, he was discharged from the hospital and we came home.


A week later, Felix Owusu-Adjapong came to the house to visit Prof. He had heard about the anaesthetist story which I had told the first batch of people who had visited after hearing about the accident.

After asking and hearing the details of the accident, he thrust into my hands an envelope containing GH¢1,000 and said it was his responsibility as Prof.’s nephew to pay for what the anaesthetist had demanded.

It would be fair to say Owusu-Adjapong was angry and extremely upset at the story about the anaesthetist asking to be paid before seeing to a patient on the operation table.

I took it that giving me the GH¢1,000 was his way of showing his disgust at the behaviour of the young man.

He reminded me about what he had always told me was his responsibility and that he would take charge of Prof.’s funeral when he dies. 


A week later, he came again to check on Prof. He did not look and he wasn’t angry this time around, but he had a steely and determined look that I couldn’t immediately understand.  

When he was through talking with Prof and questioning me on how the recovery process was going, he thrust into my hands another envelope with GH¢1,000.

I was puzzled and was wondering if it was acceptable practice to ask why I was being given this thousand cedis.

He was a stickler for upholding traditions and I did not want to come between a man, (a nephew) and his uncle. 

Then he said, “Last week, I gave you the money for being there and having paid to save my uncle.

Today, I am paying on behalf of Ghana”.

I repeated, uncomprehending, paying on behalf of Ghana? 

And he continued, “When I thought about the sheer number of lawyers my uncle had taught and nurtured in Ghana and reflected generally on the services that my uncle had rendered to Ghana, and continues to render, my heart broke at the image of him lying on an operating table and a young man refusing to anaesthetise him to be operated unless he was paid money first.

It is the kind of thing that brings curses to a nation.

We must appreciate those who serve Ghana. 

I am paying on behalf of Ghana and apologising on behalf of Ghana.

It doesn’t atone for the indignity but I hope it appeases our elders who are gone before us”.

I confess he brought tears to my eyes.

The concept of paying on behalf of Ghana was new to me.

After this encounter, I stopped telling the story about the anaesthetist.

There was nothing to say, someone, after all, had paid on behalf of Ghana. 

I did wonder what type of young man he was that would hold up a surgical operation to be paid first.

I decided he must have had some previous experience of people refusing to pay after he had rendered his services. 

I was certain he did not know that the man lying, bleeding on the operating table was a retired professor of law but I wondered if that would have made any difference to him.

I decided it might make a difference if he was a current professor of law who was teaching some of his mates but he was not likely to be overly impressed with someone who was teaching at the university at the time when he was in primary school.


I decided that it was not worth agonising over the incident as something far more interesting had come out of that experience.

The concept of atoning on behalf of Ghana was certainly new to me. 

Owusu-Adjapong had managed to assuage the horrible feelings that had engulfed me at the entrance of that theatre at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.  

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