J.H. Mensah, the granddaddy of UP/NPP passed at 89

BY: Kwabena Akosah Sarpong

Oh, J.H., probably the last of the grandaddies of the UP/NPP political family, to join the ancestral world.

Very brilliant politician and economist, may his soul and body rest in peace.

J.H. never shied away from press interviews. He was the first of the Kufuor's ministers to give me interview. Perhaps, he was the only one.

Yes, J.H. was always ready for an interview and when he was speaking in an interview or on a political platform or in the chamber of parliament, he spoke with such boldness and bluntness he elicited both admiration and angst.

I remember at the start of Rawlings second tenure as a constitutional head of state in 1997, J.H. openly telling a full session of Parliament with Speaker, Justice D.F. Annan, in chair, that he would have toppled Rawlings' totalitarian PNDC regime if he had arms and ammunition.

Like the great legends of UP, Danquah and Busia, J.H detested authoritarianism. He was in exile during Rawlings' authoritarian years from 1982 to 1992 and he spent most of that decade in his base in London making passionate case for a return to constitutional rule.

In several interviews on BBC's Network Africa radio program, J.H. sparred with rambunctious BBC interviewer Robin White in which J.H. assailed Rawlings and his PNDC as a power-drunk military junta which had no intention of restoring democratic rule in Ghana.


J.H. had always accused Rawlings as an usurper of constitutiinal order and that it would have been appropriate to have removed Rawlings from office through the barrel of a gun.

In exile, he and some other Ghanaians were mentioned in an arms deal that was allegedly meant for coup in Ghana in a scandal that came to be known as Nobista Affair.

Yes, he was the type who often backed words with action.

He would speak his mind to anyone whether that person was a fellow party member or a colleague or a political opponent.

In fact, l recall another occassion at Mpraeso-Kwahu at an NPP rally where J.H., being his blunt self, instantly drew the attention of Prof. Adu Boahen to a factual error the professor had made; the learned historian stood there on the platform giggling in awe of old J.H.

That was quintessential J.H Mensah, always bold and frank. And he also was an exceptionally brilliant man.

A first-rate economist, J.H. after education in Ghana, England and United States, worked in the public and civil services in Ghana, the UN headquaters in New York City and then at the ECA in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

He was MP and Minister of Finance in the second republic.

He became MP again alternatively serving as Minority and Majority Leader in the fourth republic before being made a Senior Minister during Kufuor's government.

J.H was a veritable public servant whose entire life and career were devoted to making Ghana a better nation. He came from the Brilliant Generation which included folks like E.N. Omaboe (Nana Wereko Ampem) F.T. Sai, etc, the generation of Gold Coasters who had been prepared to get our nation and its nationals to a Promised Land.

But that was not to be as one military intervention after the other denied smart types like J.H. political power for many years. Fortunate ones like J.H. who ultimately made it into government arrived when their prime years had long passed.

What a big loss to our poorland!

J.H. was a Brong from one of the outlying towns of Sunyani called Awua-Domaase.

But by birth and upbringing, he was from Kumasi. He grew up at the heart of the Asante capital, Adum. In fact, he was heir to the Bantama Stool which is the Kronti Wing of the Kumasi Traditional Council.

A Catholic by faith, J.H. came from a very prominent, large Kumasi family.

Mrs Theresa Kufuor, wife of President Kufuor, was his younger sister.

And his nephews and nieces included the former World Bank Rep in Burkina Faso, Albert Osei, Ambassador D.K. Osei (Dekay), Minister responsible for Evaluation and Monitoring, Dr Akoto Osei and the journalist, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, who was once BBC West Africa Correspondent based in Abidjan

J.H's son was the late Kwabena Buahen Mensah (KB), another BBC star journalist who together with the great Chris Bickerton anchored BBC's Focus on Africa program for several years.

Besides J.H's brilliance and boldnesss, his seflessness and incorruptibility were legendary.

A patriot and a great public servant is gone.

Da yie, Old J.H.