Kofi Otutu Labi’s 10th book in five years is his memoir, which was launched by the Governor of the Bank of Ghana, Dr. Ernest Addison, last Wednesday.
The event was chaired by former Chief Justice Georgina Wood.
Memoirs from the Hilltop is one of the most pleasing autobiographies I have most enjoyed in a genre that has become increasingly popular in the last few years. Writing its review is not easy because every detail is worthy of inclusion in a limited word count.
Kofi was born at Akwatia but his earliest memories were at Osino, a town in the Eastern Region known for a white sweet corn meal known to one and all as Osino Graphic. Please, you have to read the book to find out how on earth a kind of kenkey became known as Graphic!
He attended schools at Akropong Demonstration School, Ofori Panin Secondary School, Achimota and the University of Ghana at Legon. While in secondary school, he accepted Christ, which has had the most profound effect on him all his life.
At the university he studied law also but spent a good amount of his time in Christian circles, including grooming future people of faith at Sunday school. He made his mark in corporate banking, starting at the then Social Security Bank and finishing appropriately at the nation’s central bank, the Bank of Ghana.
He met, fell in love with and married the beautiful Abena with whom they set up a home that became a haven of comfort for many people. If there is one thing that really defines our hero, I suggest it is the fact that he met his future wife for the first time in a library.
He had been the Library Prefect at school. The author is a passionate book man!
Kofi’s life is like a three-legged pot with the legs representing God, family and work and in this pot he has poured a life of devotion, dedication and perseverance to all things Godly, truthful and fruitful.
In that pot are stories of Dansoman where the family lived for 32 years, recollections of more church events across the world, of work and travels to America, Brazil, Bradford and many points in between and beyond.
In the pot are stories of bringing up the children who are themselves now grown up and continue the cycle of achievement started even before they were born. In a nutshell – more or less - is the story of the child that was born unto us 70 years ago.
It has been almost a perfect life, if ever there was one and I can tell you that this book is equally an almost perfect autobiography. The first thing that strikes the reader is Mr. Kofi Adu Labi’s memory, which appears to be inch perfect in every respect.
However, this is not surprising considering the fact that in his youth, he won the national radio competition known as What do you know, for three consecutive years, including annexing the title of Champion of Champions in 1975. (We should not confuse Kofi with Yaw Adu Larbi, who won the same competition after Kofi left).
Mr. Adu Labi’s life is fascinating but not every book about life, no matter how fascinating, is successful. For a biography to satisfy the reading palate, it has to have three ingredients. These are to entice the reader to feel a connection with the writer and his or her story.
Secondly, a good life story of a good life must ignite in the reader an evaluation of moral priorities.
Thirdly, it must stir in the reader a desire to discover something new or educate the audience in some way; and finally, it must entertain.
Memoirs from the Hilltop satisfies all these conditions. It is a most relevant story of our times in every particular instance and one with which most of us can identify. The stories that make up this life are not only relevant; they also induce in the reader a desire to discover more and understand the undercurrents of the flow of the life being described and shared in the book.
There is a lot that most, if not all of us, will discover about our country and its history, geography, various communities, the legal profession, banking, and above all, people.
With his amazing powers of recall, the author has created a parade of people, many of whom have left deep marks in the sands of time on these shores. He doesn’t do boastful name dropping but the hundreds of names in the book serve a purpose of showing the respect and gratitude he has for those who have made an impact on his life.
As the author says in the introduction, “Memoirs from the Hilltop is essentially about celebrating God’s grace, love and mercy in my life, in the firm expectation that you, the reader, will be inspired and empowered for greater works.
This book deals with various aspects of my life and I believe that the lessons from some of my experiences will benefit my readers.”
The aspect of this book that will most inspire readers is character, which is the spine of our moral consciousness. I believe that this book can serve as a source book for character building for people of all ages and situations.
Indeed, the author writes daily nuggets on character building which are shared widely on social media.
Inspirational literature is so important to the author that he takes the opportunity to meet and learn from motivational writers whenever the opportunity presents itself, and he makes the effort to support the work of those institutions that provide such moral foundations.
A case in point is the persistence with which he pursued David Wilkerson, the author of the famous books “Run, Baby, Run” and “The Cross and the Switchblade” when an unexpected opportunity presented itself in New York.
One of my major takeaways from the book is that we can and must persevere in life but without pushing other people or their feelings aside.
A good example is how the author began his career in corporate banking when a customer he had served well at the State Housing Corporation, where he did his National Service, recommended him for the SSB job when the bank was first established.
In quick order, the bank elevated him to head its legal section and Kofi became the youngest head of a corporate legal section in a major bank in the country.
A good biography or autobiography must be a journey of discovery and an experiential encounter for the reader. There is a lot for everyone to discover and some of it is quite unexpected in this book.
Take the detailed description of how Atakpame houses were built; we get this information because the author encountered such houses at Asante Asokore when he was a mere boy.
The book details how the redenomination of the Ghanaian currency, the cedi, came about as well as the establishment and workings of Central Securities Depository, the collateral Registry, etc.
Indeed, for professionals and lay citizens alike, the chapter on the Bank of Ghana is required and rewarding reading. It is full of insights and anecdotes you would not find anywhere else.
Underlying the whole book and the reading experience is the sense of humour which the author obviously loves to deploy and the reader will enjoy. Like many things about the author, the humour is refined and understated in an Akuapem Presbyterian kind of way.
This is a book the author obviously enjoyed writing and he wrote it for the reader to enjoy reading. It is in that sense a reader’s book, written by a man who loves reading, for people who love reading.
Book Review – Memoirs from the Hilltop
Author: Kofi Otutu Adu Labi
Foreword – Mrs. Justice Georgina Theodora Wood
Number of pages -383
Published by DigiBooks
Reviewer: Nana Kwasi Gyan-Apenteng