Farewell to Bleoobi Jacob Korley Okine, Former Headmaster of Accra Academy

BY: Nana Akuoku Sarpong
 Farewell to Bleoobi Jacob Korley Okine, Former Headmaster of Accra Academy
Farewell to Bleoobi Jacob Korley Okine, Former Headmaster of Accra Academy

Jacob Okine my mathematics tutor at Accra Academy, and much later the second longest-serving headmaster to several generations of students is no more.

He lived to a grand old age, that is fourscore and twelve years.

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He served Accra Academy well.

He served his people well.

He served Ghana well.


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And he lived long enough to witness the remarkable progress of the school to which he devoted nearly his entire adult life.

I am sure that in death, he would be full of justifiable pride for the numerous students of his who have scaled the heights of personal and public achievement and brought glory to the school and gratitude to his prodigious efforts and several others.

Born more than 92 years ago, Mr Okine, as would be expected of someone so long associated with the school, completed Accra Academy in 1945 as the school prefect.

He returned to the school to teach on a permanent basis in 1952 after graduating from the then University College of the Gold Coast after studying Latin, English and Mathematics.

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He remained in Accra Academy all his life, ending up eventually as the second longest-serving head of the school after the foundation headmaster K.G. Konuah, who chalked up the first 21 years of the life of the school as its head, leaving in 1952.

Five founders

It is instructive to learn that Mr Konuah, one of the five founders of the school in 1931, had met Dr Aggrey at Fouray Bay College in Sierra Leone, and been persuaded to abandon his ambition to study law and come teach in the Gold Coast.

Looking back at the progress the school has made and the reputation it has gained for itself since then, Dr Aggrey was indeed a font of good counsel.

Jacob Korley Okine, popularly known as Bulldozer or Ataa Okine to generations of grateful students, was headmaster for 19 very eventful years at a period of our country which saw the swing between civilian and military regimes, and also between democratic and dictatorial rule. He retired in 1986.

My personal association with Bleoobi Okine began in 1954 when I first entered the school as a student.

I found him a ramrod straight professional intent on raising the true image of Accra Aca as a school for the poor in Accra to the level that it rivalled the big schools like Achimota, Adisadel, Mfantsipim and others.

This was no mean feat as Accra Aca was initially a private school situated right in the heart of the city in Jamestown.

It was the Anglican Bishop of Accra, Bishop Orfeur Anglionby, impressed by the efforts of the founders, who persuaded the then colonial government to make it a government-assisted school to bring it up to the level of Adisadel, Mfantsipim and other assisted schools at the time.

Focus

Jacob Okine emphasised on academics for future personal development to the exclusion of the extra-curricula which produced moments in our educational experience that are worth sharing in this tribute.

Brigadier General George Pattington (retd) was admonished to abandon his athletic interests since running like a horse had no future.

I was taught mathematics and additional mathematics by Mr Okine, but his style of teaching did not sustain my interest and in 1956, I gravitated to Mr A.N.B. Andrews’ history and Mr C.A. Brown’s classics classes where my lifelong interest in these two subjects was kindled.

Contemporaries

Notable contemporaries of my time in school were S.N. Adjei, former banker and now Krontihene of Akyem Bosome, Anum Thompson the broadcast sports commentator at Radio Ghana, Enoch Dodoo and Agyen-Frimpong both accountants, C.F. Khasah, another lawyer who was the school prefect for the 1957 cohort, Jacob Nii Aryee, yet another lawyer, crusading engineer Robert Woode and the calm General E.K. Utuka, who was executed with General Acheampong by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) ostensibly for corruption in 1979.

The death of Utuka and others, unfortunately preceded far more egregious cases of corruption in later governments than the manner of his death warranted.

In 1956, I joined our athletic team to Cape Coast for the Annual Inter-School Collegiate Athletic Games with the leading participating schools being Accra Academy, Achimota and Adisadel College.

I remember we went to Cape Coast in the company of the then young Graphic Sports reporter, Kofi Badu, now chief of staff to the Asantehene in Kumasi.

Kofi Badu was then starting his stellar career in sports journalism which ended with his managing directorship of the Graphic Corporation.

It was my first trip to a city I was later to be associated with professionally as a lawyer for several years.

It is a pity such sports meetings, regular at the time, have all but died down robbing us of the talents available at that young level for eventual national recruitment.

Retirement

As noted earlier, Mr Okine retired in 1986, but I had occasion to interact with him again as a dutiful product of Accra Aca, this time as headmaster.

After the December 31, 1981 coup, I had occasion to meet him several times when I used to send foodstuffs from my farms to the school to battle the near famine which resulted in the ‘Rawlings chain’ phenomenon in Ghana.

The readiness of the Ghanaian to give colourful names to social problems is just legendary, Akufo-Addo club beer to drown our difficulties in drink in the 2nd Republic, Acheampong weeds to describe a particular resilient weed which taxed our farmers’ ingenuity in those days were all examples of the capacity of the Ghanaian to reduce his difficulties to humour to make them bearable.

Mr Okine, after his retirement as headmaster in 1986, was appointed the Presiding Member of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly.

From there, he became the chairman of the Government Pensioners Association retiring finally from public life in 2006.

I found it difficult to associate the hurly-burly of politics at the AMA with Mr Okine and believed that he must have been persuaded to get into that minefield of intrigue. If he chose or he found it necessary, or a combination of both that propelled him to the presidency of the AMA, it was obviously a feather in his cap of personal achievements.

The writer is the chief of Agogo