The good people of Berekum in the Bono Region woke up from bed on Wednesday 26th April to hear shattering news: that a household name in the municipality, one of the richest men in the town, a larger than life personality but diminutive in physique, Ernest Kwame Apraku, my elder brother, had crossed the river of death into the other world. He was 75.
From Achimota, the military, prison and politics, I have seen and heard of so many deaths that naturally I have developed a thick skin for news of such tenor, but, that earth shattering dawn message forced me to shed a tear – Kwame Apraku, biological son of my father's biological brother, was now with the sages. I shed a tear.
I knew he had not been too well for some time, but less than a week before I chanced upon a new initiative in the furniture industry, and I said why not call my brother to give him a million dollar contract with his ABTS timber sawmill factory? I dialed his number several times without response, not knowing that he was on his way out of this world.
Writing a tribute for him will take appropriately a book, nay, an encyclopedia of life, definitely not two pages, but of course time and labor will not permit that scale of justice for him.
The very first thing to say about him is his iconic living premises in Berekum. An exotic palatial residence seated on an acre of land at Jamdede suburb of Berekum – the tress, the gardens, the columns in Apraku's house require visiting, not reading about, fit for princes and monarchs.
What will happen to this funtabulous edifice now that he is gone? Will the children and the family quarrel over it? Sell it or maintain it?
King Solomon was right: you don't know what will happen after you, so the best a man can do is to eat choicest food, drink wine and make merry – leave God to take care of tomorrow.
As a person, notwithstanding his fabulous wealth, Kwame was always very humble in appearance – both in private and in public – Visitors to his palatial residence always found him either in sporty track suit or simple shorts and T shirt, and, at the work place, as the capo of the biggest timber firm in Bono Region, called ABTS, visitors several times ,met this relatively smallish looking man standing on the corridor, and will ask – please I am looking for the MD – Mr Apraku – and he will say – “Go inside, that is his office” then he will pass through a side entrance, to sit on his executive chair to welcome you!!!!!
Kwame Apraku – very modest, very simple, very easy going chap. He gave his life totally to the community.
There are some rich men who flaunt their wealth on the society, proud, boastful and inaccessible – no, not at all for Kwame Apraku. He attended literally every funeral in Berekum and of course made appropriate donations commensurate with his name. He paid school fees for God knows how many children, and his hand was in every pie in Berekum – donations to churches, organizations and so on. Who in Berekum did not know him?
When it comes to politics, my brother was a typical businessman. He tried to play it safe, so much so that the NDC in Berekum thought he was their capo, while of course with his brother, yours truly as MP for Berekum, we of the NPP saw him as our backbone.
I will never forget that throughout my campaign in the year 2000 to unseat J H Owusu Acheampong as MP for Berekum, my brother was very civil to me, until the election night – he called me and told me “Kwame, I know tomorrow is the D-day and you will need all the money in Bank of Ghana – I don't have that, but take this envelope!!!
Oh, Kwame Apraku, rest in perfect peace.
One extremely remarkable feature of his life is that there is this craze among the youth to travel and hustle outside, far away, and make money. That is very well, but Kwame Apraku was a living symbol of the principle that YOU CAN STAY IN GHANA AND MAKE IT!!!!
After form five in Dormaa Secondary School, he did not go to University but plunged straight into business, starting life as a cigarettes vendor, then later changed into timber business.
According to a research results published by a prestigious university in America, across ten years period, the BEST BUSINESS IN THIS WORLD IS ANY BUSINESS – DEPENDING ON MANAGEMENT.
Whatever vocation you set for yourself, do it and do it very well, observe all the rules-take calculated risks, invest profits, separate business from jokes, work is different from charity, office is office, for work – reader, Kwame Apraku did not go to any Business School nor held any degree but he was a very successful businessman in the timber industry.
Lastly it is not uncommon to associate most rich men with dark secrets behind their incredible wealth, but at the human eye, having entered his coveted bedroom before, I can say authoritatively that my brother was a true practising Christian in the Presbyterian faith never joking with Holy Communion and Christian rites.
William Shakespeare through the mouth of Mark Anthony says: “The evil that men do lives after them, the good is often interred with their bones”. About my brother I will say: “For Generations to come, the good deeds of Ernest Kwame Apraku will resonate in Berekum; for the glory of Almighty God.”
Oh, I forgot. Like all great men, my brother was very active downstairs, leaving behind over 10 children but nowhere near Rameses I Pharaoh of Egypt, who left behind 46 sons and 66 daughters four of whom he married.
Requiescat in Pace, my brother.
By Nkrabeah Effah-Dartey