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04.02.2021 Feature Article

Gold Coast Boy (A Memoir)

Gold Coast Boy (A Memoir)
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“Plants are shaped by cultivation and men by education…” Jean Jacques Rouseau (1712-1778)

THE WORDS THAT FELL from our mouths after completing the reading of the 245-page memoir of Dr. Kwame Addo Kufuor were: “fantastic treatise”. The wordsmith may add his own synonyms: “marvellous”, “wonderful”, “visionary” …treatise.

Professor Mike Oquaye sets the tone with an incisive “Foreword”, providing a luculent peep into the whole book. An eminent writer himself, Mike Oquaye whets the reader's appetite with these words: “Anyone who wants to know about the essence of qualitative governance in Africa and how this was exemplified under President Kufuor should read Chapter Ten of the book”. Respectable Mike Oquaye gives an excuse for his “lengthy” forward: “… I could not have cursorily gone through such an excellent work without attempting an introduction which will do some reasonable justice to a noble and well-executed effort.” A memoir of an excellent professional doctor, a family man par excellence, an astute politician, the book takes the reader through “My Early Years”, “Schooling and Exposure to Politics”, “Years at Cambridge”, “Marriage and Family”. In the “Introduction”, Dr. Addo-Kufuor laments the puzzle “…why many of the very distinguished senior colleagues in politics, the medical profession and other spheres of public life in Ghana had not written their memoirs… the life story of J. H. Mensah… remains untold.”

Revealing his early years at “Ash Town”, he explains why someone born on a Sunday would not be called Kwasi but rather, as Mrs. Thelma Philips who supervised his birth told him years later, that that was the decision of his mother, Nana Ama Ampomah (Dapaah). His father, Kojo Agyekum III, Oyokohene of Kumasi who was “…calm, dignified and a man of few words” must have condescended.

He recalls his visits to his hometown, Darbah, where his ancestors lived on their arrival from Denkyira. He would organise a “small party” for the townsfolk, and the headmaster would give him a list of bright but needy school children for financial support.

The author has a good memory of the happenings in his youth when, like his brother, John, he wanted to become a lawyer (indeed, he was called “Kwame Lawyer”) and opted for Arts after leaving Government Boys' School, Asem and Osei Tutu Boarding School, Akropong. He mentions his class mates and friends; E.C. de Graft, Kwaku Kyei (a one-time IGP), Prof. Kwame Sarpong, Prof. S.N. Woode (School of Administration). Life at school was enjoyable except for occasions when he would be whipped for wrong answers at “mental” and “dictation” and a particular instance when Mr. Gabrah noticed that of all the 400 pupils, he alone had opened his eyes at a morning prayer!

A clever student, he would often have his essay read in class. His uncle, Nana Owusu Afriyie III, Apagyahene got him to Achimota, “the institution for ambitious youth” for the likes of Nkrumah, Busia, Rawlings and Atta-Mills and Gambia's President, Dauda Jawara had. A shy student, the author first encountered female classmates at Achimota School. He and his brother, John, got snubbed at Bompata – Kumasi when they went looking for Jemima, a classmate.

One could say, politics was in the author's blood. With the two leading parties CPP and NLM having their regional offices in the same building, the young Kufuor could hardly fail to see K. A. Busia, Victor Owusu, Joe Appiah, Chief Dombo, Modesto Apaloo, R. R. Amponsah, B. F. Kusi, Krobo Edusei, Kojo Botsio, S. K. Danso, Gbedema, Atta Mensah… and Joe Appiah, who could mesmerise the people at rallies with his impeccable English.

It was at Cambridge University that the author did his course in Medicine. He got delighted when Arnold Prempeh (That is so) got admitted to read Law; they became an inseparable pair. But meeting his future wife, Rosemary, was fortuitous. He had attended a wedding and had asked Rosemary for a “twist” dance (the song could have been: “Let's twist again, like we did last summer” by Chubby Checker). When some notes fell from the author's pocket, Rosemary, the “loving, respectful and industrious” lady assisted him in picking them up. The “facilitator” of their union was Dr. Edmund Prempeh, and the father-in-law, Justice Prempeh, specifically stated that he would have consented “…even if no bride price had been paid.” The wedding took place in July, 1966, in Hampstead Town Hall, London.

In March, 1971, the author arrived in Accra, and took up an appointment at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital, getting his wish to be a paediatrician. Two years later, he went back to London for postgraduate studies where a pastor revealed to him that he would pass the exams, and that “in future, many people would eat from my hands”, and the author believes that the pastor's “…visions have come to pass”.

The author vacillated in joining the military as a medical officer and the Medical School at KNUST, Kumasi. But he took his mother's advice, to “…become like Victor Owusu, who is a very successful practising lawyer…” He established the Kufuor Clinic. Mother was getting old and the French wine 'Dubonnet' could improve her appetite, and the author was assisted by Nana Akwasi Agyeman to stock the 'Debonair' for her and other old ladies.

The author became the Vice-President of the Ghana Medical Association (GMA) and later, the President. All this while, the author had not forgotten his God whom he worshipped at Anglican Church, being a Chorister at St. Cyprian's Church, Kumasi, with his wife in the St. Mary's Guild. Of course, since 1997, the family had been worshipping at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Accra.

Chapter 7 of the book introduces the reader to “Playing Opposition Politics”. The topic starts off with a quotation by Winston Churchill: “A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen.” He became a committed member of PFP after Victor Owusu had asked him to organise a party in his house for some dignitaries in 1980. He and his brother, John, were founding members of the Danquah-Busia Club which had been formed by Attakora Gyimah and Rev. Asante-Antwi. He could not forget the contribution of Lawyer Mmieh, Lawyer Koduah, Amo Bediako, Nana Akufo-Addo, Odoi-Sykes and Adu Boahen in the formation of the NPP. The party boycotted the 1992 parliamentary elections: they wrote “The Stolen Verdict”.

In 1996, the author was elected MP for Manhyia Constituency, and in 2000 he was re-elected, but the invitation to be a Minister of Defence “came as a shock”. Two years later, he was also invited to take up the Ministry of Interior in an acting capacity and his assignment to talk peace with the Moshie group on Burkina Faso on the Dagbon crisis was lacklustre. He analyses the requirements for progress in Chapter Ten: Leadership, discipline, where: “…next to corruption, indiscipline has the most serious damaging impact on our national development efforts…”

Thanks to God for giving us Dr. Addo Kwame Kufuor; thanks to the man in Sampa for predicting that John Agyekum Kufuor would “one day rule the land”. Thanks to Addo Kufuor's grandson for seeing a picture of his two-year old grandfather and calling him a Gold Coast Boy, the title of the book.

Africanus Owusu-Ansah

[email protected]

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