Speech By Author At UK Book Launch
His Excellency Mr High Commissioner, Ladies and Gentlemen, I want to thank you dearly for coming in your numbers to witness this occasion.
Before I proceed, I want to give glory and adoration to the God of Heaven and earth for helping me bring my work to a successful conclusion.
Next, I want to greet my dear wife Rita and our three children Karen, David and Jonathan back home in Kaarst a little town at the outskirts of the city of Duesseldorf in Germany.
Anyone who has sat down to try to accomplish an assignment like writing a book will agree with me that a peaceful home setting is an important precondition for the realisation of such a goal.
Last but not least I also wish to express my gratitude to Dr Charles Muller, my editor for the comprehensive editorial work he carried on the manuscript to give it a final beautiful touch.
His Excellency, I called on you at the end of March this year. At that time I was in London to register with the General Medical Council. My book had then just been published. I was exploring the possibility of launching it in London. I decided to call on you with the intention to find out whether you could find time to attend it.
To be honest with you, His Excellency, your unexpected response baffles me up to this day. I may not be able to reproduce your exact words. It sounded somehow like the following:
“Oh you have written a book? That is great. The Ghana High Commission will organise the launching for you. You do not need to hire any hall. That will only lead to additional costs. We will place the hall of the Commission at your disposal. “
You then directed me to Mr Fritz Andoh, asking him to help organise the function.
Mr H.E., I want to let you know one thing: whenever your name appears on a voting list seeking for appointment, and I am eligible to vote, I will surely vote for you. Yes indeed, if all holders of public office would be so forthcoming in their discharge of their duties, we could indeed be able to push our country forward.
In this regard I also want to thank you so much Mr Andoh for the wonderful organisational work you carried out to bring this function into being.
“Organisation determines everything, so organise, organise, organise!” I do not know whether I have quoted him correctly. Indeed I was just trying to quote from the first president of the Republic of Ghana Dr. Kwame Nkrumah.
H.E. Mr High Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen I do not know your personal opinion concerning the late Dr Nkrumah of Ghana, Africa and the Black world in general.
Without doubt he was a person not devoid of controversy. Which historical figure has been free controversy?
Whatever judgement historians, political commentators, leaders of thought etc may wont to pass on him , I personally will be ever grateful to our first president, for at least one thing—his free education for all policy.
The other day when I raised that issue, someone who, from all indications could not be counted among his admirer said it in my face: “Stop saying that my friend, the money he used to build the several schools and also fund the free education scheme was not his money, but state money!”
My reply was simple: “Well friend, if every head of State of a post independent Africa would spend the monies of their respective countries supplying every kid of school going age free slates, chalk, pencils, exercise books, textbooks etc. instead of some among them stealing state money and depositing them in foreign bank Africa could today be boasting of several sons and daughters the calibre of Chinua Achebe, Kofi Annans, Prof. Kwabena Frimpong etc, etc.
Those who may not be conversant with Prof Frimpong are advised to go to the Department of Cardiac Surgery of the Hanover Medical School and ask about Dr Frimpong of Ghana. At the time I began my studies there he was already a consultant in the department. After completing his medical studies in Ghana he went on to specialise in cardiac surgery at the Teaching Hospital in Hanover. He was so skilled in his field, sometimes the head of department himself instructed his subordinates to wake him from his sleep and summon him to rush to the surgical theatre to help in difficult cases!
Who says the black colour is an impediment to success? Africa needs to buck up though. We live in a highly competitive world. If we want to compete with the rest of the world; we have to be very smart. Instead of spending our time, money, energy burying our dead and organising extensive funeral rites for them --as the Akans of Ghana to which I belong are fond of doing—we could invest the money to educate, educate and once more educate our children!!
H.E. , sometimes when I sit down to reflect on reports—not rumours but substantiated reports-- about the monies some leaders of Africa have deposit in the banks of some of the rich countries of our planet my blood begins to boil within me. It is anybody's guess as to where such monies came from in the first.
Eventually the poor countries approach such rich countries to lend money, money that could in the end turn out to be part of the money stolen from national coffers of the same country! Worst still such countries are made to pay interest on such loans!! God save Africa!!
Mr Chairman, at the time when I was writing my A-Levels in May/June 1978, it never crossed my mind that I would ever travel to Europe. The reason is not far to fetch. How could the son of two impoverished cocoa farmers ever dream of furthering his education in “Aburokyire” (Diaspora).
Instead my hope was that by virtue of the very smart brain cells my Creator had placed in my big head I would be able to pass my A-Levels very well and enter one of the two medical schools our beloved Ghana boasted of at that time.
Doesn't the saying have it that man proposes but God disposes? Well in September 1978, just as I was awaiting the release of the A-Level results in Accra, a young lady came to preach the word of Salvation through the Blood of Jesus Christ to me. I followed her to her church and made a commitment to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. That would mark a turning point in my life.
Shortly after that life-changing experience the A-Level results were released. Contrary to my expectations, I did not get an outright admission to Medical School in Ghana. Instead I was offered the chance to pursue a degree in the General Sciences at Ghana's first University, the University of Legon in Accra.
About three months after my decision to follow the Lord Jesus, the Lord by His grace revealed His will for my future in a vision, a vision so vivid that even today I can see it clearly before me.
In my vision, I was walking on the streets of a strange city. All of a sudden the sister who had led me to Christ appeared from one corner of the street. Surprised at the meeting me, she exclaimed on top of her voice: Hello Peprah! So at long last we are meeting in Europe..
The vision would shape the course of all that I did in the next several months. About 14 months after that powerful visual manifestation, my sister made it to Germany. Today she and her husband are pastoring a church in Berlin.
Prophesy was fulfilled the harder way, in my respect however. To purchase my ticket for Europe, I first left for Nigeria. After working on various construction sites in Lagos, I eventually gained employment as a teacher in a Secondary school in a town known as Shagamu in the Ogun State.
From Nigeria I travelled, armed with only a transit visa for East Germany, with the Balkan Air, the Bulgarian National carrier to East Berlin.
I first stepped on the soil of Europe on the 12 of May 1982. Though I did not know what exactly lay in store for me, one thing was certain—I would study medicine and use my position as a doctor to serve the Lord.
Some Ghanaians had at that time made it their business to travel from West Berlin to the East Berlin International Airport to meet new arrivals like myself from Ghana and Nigeria to help them find their way in the new environment. In exchange some of them cheated the new arrivals of the hard currency they were carrying on them.
Soon it became clear to me that like the majority of the new arrivals the only way I could legalise my stay in the new environment was to seek for political asylum.
I do not need to lecture the Ghanaians gathered here in regard to the political climate prevailing in Ghana at the time in question. For those not aware, it was the peak of the dictatorship of the military junta led by Flight lt. Jerry John Rawlings. The claim of persecution we put on paper permitted us, at least for the first several months to stay legally in the then West Germany.
Applying for Asylum brought me in a seemingly dead end situation though, for the prevailing laws in Germany at that time prohibited Asylum seekers from working, learning a trade and also studying.
What I know in regard to the Lord I serve however is that with Him there is no dead end situation. Thus I did not permit the law to prevent me from taking the necessary steps to achieve my goal.
For a complete account of how I moved from my little village Mpintimpi to become a medical doctor in Germany one may read my first book, THE CALL THAT CHANGED MY LIFE. Those who wish could acquire their copies today. The book is also available on order from most leading bookshops and also on leading online bookshops.
H. E., Mr High Commissioner, I have spent some time talking about my first book, because an understanding of how I got to Europe will help explain the book we are about to launch today.
Now one may want to ask me as to what motivated me to write the book we are just about to launch?
When I was growing up in Ghana there was a popular DJ on the then GBC 2. I still remember one of his popular slogans: THE BEST COMES FROM THE WEST
Also, whenever I saw a “BURGER” on the streets of Accra and elsewhere, they wore wonderful clothes and drove in good looking cars.
These factors backed by the pictures what one saw of the streets of the West watching a Hollywood film seemed to paint a picture of the West as a kind of heaven on earth…
As I just pointed out, though I was fascinated by what I saw and read hardly did I ever cherish the idea of ever visiting “Aburokyire” myself.
Indeed I was indeed fascinated about what confronted me on the streets of the then West Berlin when I first came out of the beautiful fast moving underground train that I travelled on from the check point between the then Socialist East Berlin And capitalist West Berlin.
It did not take long however before I got my first shock of in regard to the real situation prevailing in the seeming heaven.
It was about a month into my stay when the media carried a report regarding a young man in his early twenties who had committed suicide by jumping before a running train.“My goodness!” I said to myself. “What could have led that young man living in such an affluent society to commit such an act of desperation!”?
HE after I had put untold obstacles and hurdles behind me and had begun my studies at the Hanover Medical School I used to work occasionally as a Twi translator for the foreign police, the courts as well as for other official places.
Not that I went about looking for the job myself. It all began one day on my return from lecture. Roland, my German room met me at the door.
“Robert, you had a call from the foreign police. They called from Helmstedt, the border town between West and East Germany!”
“The foreign police!” I asked in astonishment. As any foreigner to Germany, particularly those from the developing world will confirm, the term POLIZEI, the German for Police, is enough to send the heart of any such resident of the land of Goethe, Schiller and Martin Luther etc. jumping from his chest.
Well as it turned out they were desperately looking for a Twi translator to help them move on in a case they were handling. It involved a young African lady ( she turned out to be from Ghana)they had arrested on a train entering West German territory East German. She happened to be travelling on a forged Ivorian passport.
After spending several minutes calling the secretariat of several institutions of higher learning in the area, they were finally got my number.
I could discern the joy in the eyes of the young lady involved on my arrival.
“Thank God for at last sending someone I share something in common with!” She began. “For the last three days I have been surrounded by only these strange people with whom I cannot communicate!” She added.
As in this case, and also thereafter, whenever I was called to translate, I tried my best to help the affected countryman or woman by not translating what I thought was not relevant to the situation. So I did not translate what I am just about to quote from the lady.
“Brother, it was never my intention to travel to Europe. It was my parents who forced me to. Because some of the children of our neighbours had made it to Europe, my well-to-do parents wanted me to travel to “Aburokyire” come what may. Even though I resisted the idea, they wouldn't listen to me. Recently they met a guy who had just returned home from Germany on a visit. When my parents contacted him, he promised to help me travel to Germany. He was the owner of a restaurant he claimed!”
In return for the considerable sum of money the parents had paid as “Connection fee” he bought her; a round-trip ticket to Germany and handed her an Ivorian passport as well as a contact address in Germany, an address which turned out to be non-existent.
I began to reflect: why in the world should her parents force her – a young, innocent girl who grew up in the rural area; an individual who based on her level of education would have had difficulty even finding her way in ACCRA, our national capital to embark on such a risky venture to the unknown?
Her only wish as I left her that day was that the authorities would return her as soon as possible back home to her village somewhere in the Brong Ahafo region of our country.
During my stay in Berlin and later as a student in Hanover I interacted extensively with the local population—both by virtue of my attending a predominantly white church and also being in the only Africa in my year group of about 300 medical students.
Often I was invited to be part of birthday-, wedding-, funeral-, as well as Christmas- celebrations etc. As a junior doctor and later as a GP I also had the opportunity to witness human suffering and wherever possible use my acquired knowledge to help bring relief.
With time I got to realise how much need there was in the affluent society surrounding me. We Humans have the tendency to talk of need in relation to material goods.
In the midst of plenty, ladies and gentlemen, one could be tormented by feeling of loneliness, of isolation, of being rejected by ones own children etc. How many times have I been called to the home of an elderly patient in Germany, a frail person past the age of 80 who has to battle life all alone? Whenever my time permit me, I on such occasions spend some minutes to ask the person involved questions in regard to whether they have children of their own or not . Often, the reply is in the affirmative—indeed not only may the individual boast of their own children, some may also have several grand children and in some cases even great grandchildren..
When I step out of such homes I take sometime to reflect: a frail elderly person living alone at home, occupy a building—some of which could as well be described as mansions. In such situations I cast my eyes back to my beloved Mpintimpi, and think about the extended family homes boasting of several occupants living together and sharing things in common. “The society here has money, but lack human beings; the one at home boast human beings but lack money!” I use to say to myself.
It was such experiences and observations that led me to want to sit down to put my thoughts in a form of a book. Oh I nearly forgot to mention one other issue, namely the exaggerated expectations of those at home vis a vis their relatives here.
I wrote in my book about a student from Ghana who arrived in Germany on an exchange programme. His scholarship was just enough to keep him going. Not long after his arrival, he received a letter from his father. He needed to be treated in hospital. His son was his last hope to provide the needed financial assistance to enable him to go to hospital. Next his niece wrote requesting him to buy her some textbooks and finally his friend wrote requesting for a camera and a walkman on his return.
In time my observations got to a point when, I decided not to keep quiet but rather put my observations as well as my reflections in regard to life in the West on paper.
The passing away of my mother in July 1994 served as a catalyst that forced me to finally get down accomplishing what had occupied me all the time.
Indeed I had all along harboured the idea of inviting her to Europe to see things for herself. Unfortunately my financial resources at that time did not permit me to carry out my plans.
If only to compensate for the missed opportunity I decided to write the book in the form of a long letter addressed to her on her deathbed to tell her know all that she might have seen and experienced on a visit here..
After about nine intensive months of work the job was finally done.
Well as I usually tell my wife, when someone like the renowned German tennis star Boris Becker , or to cite an example closer home, when a person the calibre of the British football icon, David Beckham sits down to write a book , long could be the list of the publishing houses willing to publish it. On the other hand when an unknown, big-headed, big-mouthed, village boy from tiny and remote Mpintimpi, a village which as far as I know is not found on any map, sits down to put his ideas on paper, how dare he approach any publishing house to offer it for publication.
Should he still choose to do so, he should reckon with the inevitable: one rejection letter after the other. And so it did happen to me. After I had received my ten or more rejection letters, I decided to let the manuscript go to rest on my hard disc.
Well, when God Almighty, in His grace puts the spirit of writing into a person, he/she can hardly resist the urge to write for long.
So it did not take long before I sat down to write my next book, and the next and the next—at least on my computer. My wife could only wonder at the resilient spirit of the person she had chosen to share her life with.
Admittedly, there were times when I began to lose hope. Apart from drawing inspiration from my Faith, one source of inspiration was offered by the book THE DAIRY OF A YOUNG GIRL. The Author, Anna Frank was a teenager at the onset of the 2nd World War. Being a Jew she and her family were in danger of being arrested by the Nazis to face certain death. In their attempt to avoid certain arrest and possible death she and her family went into hiding in Amsterdam.
Though facing the real threat of death her spirits was not dampened .Instead she began to write her thoughts, fears and aspirations in the form of a dairy. Though they were eventually arrested by the Nazis, though fate hat it that she would die shortly before the end of World War II her book has been an inspiration to millions since its publication.
Instead of letting the rejection letters dampen my spirits I decided to write. Thanks to the advancement of technology, there has emerged what has come to be known as BOOKS ON DEMAND. Through this technology one can pay for his/her book to be published. The manuscript is stored digitally. The books are only published when they are ordered. My two books have been published on the basis of this technology.
H.E., if the Creator permits me, this will not be the last book I will launch in the future. Yes indeed, those who admire my writing should look out for more books from the villager from Mpintimpi in the future.
The path to success is not without shortfalls and hardships but with determination, and from my point of view, the fear of God success will come our way if we persevere.
H.E., ladies and gentlemen, please do not accuse me of undue advertisement. It is my opinion however that, my two books, particularly the one we are launching today need to be read by students at the secondary school level and beyond in Africa in particular and the developing world in general.
I have already presented a copy of each book to the Minister Counsellor for Education of the Ghana High Commission in the UK.
I was recently notified about the fact that the books have in the meantime been forwarded on to the Hon. Minister of Education and Sports for his own assessment.
H.E. as I pointed out earlier, I self-published both books. I have all the rights pertaining to them. I will readily permit the Ministry of Education to supply them to our schools. Eventually we could explore the possibility of publishing them under local conditions. In so doing I will be contributed in my own small way towards the development of our country by helping save some of the foreign exchange the government will otherwise have spent importing books for English literature for use in our schools.
That of course is not the only way I wish to help towards the development of our country. I have plans to help bring some relief in the area of medical care. You will agree with me H.E., ladies and gentlemen that this is not a suitable forum for me to outline my plans in that regard into details.
Before I take my seat I want to pass a final comment. I do not claim perfection. Anyone who dares make his opinion known must reckon with a form of criticism. In the same vein, I do expect criticism from my readers. I beg you though not to criticise me for the sake of criticism. Instead I implore you to make your criticism constructive, in a manner that would help me improve on my future writings.
In that vein I want to wish all who will take the trouble to read this last communication between a son and a mother much joy along the way.
Thank you very much for lending me your time. May the Lord richly bless us all.