The power of an affirmation - Of Rev R.A. Lockhart, Mfantsipim, and Kwesi Amissah-Arthur

BY: Anis Haffar
Mr Kwesi Amissah-Arthur; he was a faithful and hardworking civil servant
Mr Kwesi Amissah-Arthur; he was a faithful and hardworking civil servant

The passing of our dear brother and alumnus, Mr Kwesi Amissah-Arthur,  June 29, 2018, brought to mind an affirmation that thrives to this day.

One is reminded of a prophesy by Rev R.A. Lockhart, one of the greatest educators in the Gold Coast, who - during a particular speech day at Mfantsipim - noted: “In a few years the people of this country will be amazed at the number of its influential citizens who owe allegiance to this school.”
 
Rev Lockhart was an Irish republican and identified with freedom struggles, and the education of the African. Serving as headmaster from 1925 to 1936, he led a vigorous advocacy to expand the school through the construction of the major buildings we find today on the Kwabotwe Hill.

He had been particularly incensed by the visit to the school in 1925 of Gordon Guggisburg, the then Governor of the Gold Coast, and his deputy, J. Crawford Maxwell. Guggisburg had tried in vain to twist the headmaster’s arm by asking him to consider reducing Mfantsipim to what today may be called a “cyto” elementary school, as a condition to receiving the needed funding required to grow the secondary school and increase enrolment.

Rev R.A. Lockhart’s foresight

As noted in my book, “Mfantsipim: The makers of a great school”, Rev Lockhart’s foresight and motivation were extraordinary. Having served as an assistant headmaster (1922-1925), he had grown sensors for a full-fledged headmaster. He cultivated other things too: a thick skin and a no-nonsense attitude for “managing” the pomposity of the colonial agents. In short, he was driven clearly by a distaste for imperial conceit, and he defused that arrogance through the persistently high glittering Cambridge scores of his Mfantsipim products. He didn’t teach classes per se but supervised teaching.

Rev Lockhart’s priorities included protecting his turf, and avenging the colonial stereotyping of the African as an inferior being. That commitment had inspired his template for nurturing and producing exceptional students like R.P. Baffour – the first vice chancellor of KNUST, the national statesmen Joe Appiah and K.A. Busia, and the educator par excellence - Francis L. Bartels, and others.

Protégés for the United Nations

Another exemplar was Alex Quaison-Sackey who had served as a head prefect in 1945. The day he mounted the United Nations dais in 1964 – attired colourfully in a Kente cloth as the first black African to preside over the General Assembly – was a clear manifestation of Rev Lockhart’s sanctified affirmation.

That vision, yet again, was to hoist to the world stage none other than another alumnus Kofi Annan who served two terms as the 7th secretary general of the United Nations from 1997 to 2006, and won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2001 for good measure.

Paa Kwesi Amissah-Arthur

Paa Kwesi joined the Mfantsipim clan in 1964. After his G.C.E. “O” and “A” Levels, he moved on to the University of Ghana, Legon, for Bachelor of Science and a master’s degree in Economics. He lectured at the Department of Economics at Legon, and at the Anambra State in Nigeria. As a Deputy Secretary for Finance, he was tasked with the management of the budget of the government of Ghana.

He was to serve as a consultant for the World Bank in Gambia and for the Netherlands government’s education project in Ghana. Following on the heels of another alumnus, Godfried Kportufe Agama, Paa Kwesi was appointed the Governor of the Bank of Ghana in October 2009 until August 6, 2012 when he was appointed the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana.

The tall skinny greenhorn was assigned to Schweitzer House when we were in form four. But he endeared himself to my mates in that dormitory: Kofi Aggrey, Ernest Banning, Kojo Asmah, Kofi Takyi Hagan, Joe Ashie, and others. Hagan, remembered him well: “He worked tirelessly and took his work seriously. I remember on a surprise 60th birthday party at Heaven’s Lodge, Cape Coast, he was up about 5 am, working before breakfast. I asked why he had been up so early; his response was, ‘It’s got to be done.’ He was a faithful and hardworking civil servant.”

Memories from Kofi Aggrey

According to Aggrey, “Everyone had his own interest in the young, respectful, humble and happy looking boy; but to me he was to be protected. He became my younger brother and could depend on me for defence. The friendship continued in a loose way after Kwabotwe.”

“As the deputy minister (PNDC Secretary then) he was a member of the special committee to oversee the development of football. That offered the opportunity to renew our friendship: the once ‘younger brother’ now assumed the role of looking out for the older.

“Paa Kwesi was a gentleman and truly loyal to the past, and never forgot old friends and schoolmates. He had such faith in 'The School' that he liked to surround himself with schoolmates and his pal, the late Ebo Hutchful of Ghana National College. From schooldays he desired to offer genuine help to many. A very generous person who, even at giving, would promise to give more still. He had a reputation for kindness.”

Besides his dear wife, Auntie Matilda and two children, Paa Kwesi has left behind a glowing array of loyal mates including Prof Kwasi Adarkwa (Shapiro), Nana Brew Butler, Frank Beecham, Nana Kobina Nketsia (Omanhen of Essikado), Paa Kwesi Daniels, Dr Prempeh Fiscian, and others.

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