Peaceful Rest, KB Asante (1924-2018)
It has been said, time and again, that even the evildoer has his/her day of remembrance. Not that there was anything remarkably baleful or baneful about the man. His kind of existential longevity was a great achievement in of itself. My main source of inspiration for writing this tribute stems from the fact that the subject was the same age as my beloved eldest maternal aunt, Mary AkosuaBaaduaaSintim of Akyem-Apedwa and Asiakwa. Among the membership of the Jehu Appiah-founded Musama Disco Cristo Church (MDCC), to which she once introduced me, she was known as Pastor Saribaba Mary B. Sintim. The MDCC adherents believe that every person has a heavenly name that is indelibly etched on one’s spiritual forehead, by which Divine Providence will call the supplicant into His /Her presence on the Day of Judgment.
I spent several days at Mosano, Gomoa-Eshiem, in the Central Region, with my Auntie Mary and her two daughters, namely, Naa(Catherine Moir) and Korkor (Anna Keith) - (nééAgboka), but I never got my Heavenly Name read for me. Naa and Korkor had their respective Heavenly Names which I cannot readily remember. Nevertheless, what made me identify with Mr. K. B. Asante, the renowned diplomat, politician, mathematician and journalist, was the fact that the staunch Nkrumah disciple and, some critics say, unabashed propagandist, was the fact that he and Auntie Mary had been born in the same year, 1924, perhaps a month or two apart. I was especially close to my aunt because the two of us were the pair of the most sickly members of the Aboagye or Sintim-Aboagye Clan, of Akyem-Asiakwa, that nearly every family member expected to pass on before the time that it took the fastest speaker to say “Grandpa!”
Well, my Auntie Mary passed on some four years ago at Akyem-Apedwa, where her accidentally globally famous maternal uncle, Nana Akyea-Mensah, or BarimaOhemeng, once ruled the roost. She was 89 years old at the time and perhaps the second-oldest on our side of the AmankradoAgyeman Clan. The oldest member of our clan was MaameDamoa, who lived near the old Apedwa market. At any rate, I quite admired the man Mr. K. B. Asante, who, for quite a brief while, I would confuse with Prof. SKB Asante, the erudite and distinguished international legal scholar, invested traditional ruler and JB Danquah protégé. I would depart the country before the recently deceased Mr. Asante joined the rag-tag cabinet of the Jerry John Rawlings-led junta of the so-called Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), and so I cannot credibly or authoritatively attest to the administrative competence, or the woeful lack thereof, of the man.
Nevertheless, gauging by the general track-record of the PNDC, as well as the National Democratic Congress (NDC), it does not appear to me that the Principal Secretary of the Nkrumah-fangled African Affairs Secretariat had made any significant impact in the areas of public education and trade and tourism, which ministerial portfolios he had headed under Chairman Rawlings. At any rate, I generally do not have any high regard for any well-educated Ghanaian adult who had the impudence and the impertinence to serve in any capacity under the Rawlings dictatorship. I tend to believe that these are the pathological reprobates; and, some would say, reckless opportunists, who significantly contributed to the primitive regression of the socioeconomic, cultural and political development of the country, and may very well have also remarkably contributed to the extremely slow rebirth of Fourth Republican Ghanaian democracy.
But what I vividly remember about the man, though not in any particularly substantive shape or form, is Mr. Asante’s tenure as President or Presiding Officer of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), which does not appear to have been captured by any of the obituaries and tributes paid him by the media in the wake of his passing, if memory serves me accurately. Well, his last- or sur-name clearly indicated to me that Mr. Asante had some consanguineous/consaguineal links to the Akan-majority ethnic polity of the country. But listening to him make what were unmistakably intemperate tirades against Ghanaians of Akan descent, one could not help but wonder whether the had had any remarkable or affectionate relationship with the Akan paternal part of his ethnic and cultural identity. I cannot vividly recall any specific details, but one such tirade that stands out in my mind regarded what needed to be profitably and perhaps educatively done with the old Danish fort or castle at Osu, Accra, that used to serve as the nation’s seat of governance.
I vividly recall having to write and publish an article seeking to set the proverbial records straight, vis-à-vis who the real builders and owners of the Christiansborg Castle or the Osu castle were, namely, the Akyem and the Akwamu, the bulk of whose wealth went into the construction of this tragic citadel of our massive Euro-colonial enslavement and prolonged dehumanization as a people, in both the African Diaspora and at home. And so I was quite a bit amused to learn that Mr. Asante’s father had, indeed, been an Akan of Okwawu descent or extraction, as we commonly say in Ghana. And the man does not appear to have done any badly by his son. Which is why his clearly anti-Akan rhetorical salvos continue to puzzle me even as I compose this column. Of course, as always, I stand to be corrected.
But the one great moment that especially inspired my measured admiration for the man, regarded the deafening and palpably inglorious refusal of President Kwame Nkrumah to receive Mr. Nelson R. Mandela, then a freedom fighter and head of Mkonto-We-Sizwe, the military wing of the African National Congress (ANC), in 1962 or thereabouts. One of the daughters of the late dictator by his Egyptian wife, Ms. SamiaYaba Nkrumah, had issued a pontifically self-glorifying statement seeking to forcefully deny that any such rebuff had, in fact, occurred. And that if it had, indeed, occurred, then the full heft of the blame must be heaped up at the doorsteps of the late dictator’s main political opponents whose Kulungugu attempt on the life of the Ghanaian leader had put him heavily under the weather during Mandela’s aid-seeking visit to Ghana, among other newly independent African nations.
Well, pleasantly surprisingly and quite refreshingly, an otherwise characteristically and invariably fanatically Nkrumaist Mr. Asante honestly rose to the occasion to set Ms. Nkrumah right. Mr. Asante minced no words by wisely acknowledging that, indeed, President Nkrumah had rudely rebuffed Nelson Mandela’s desperate pleas for audience and material support because the Ghanaian leader had been persuaded by some close associates and advisers to side with the purportedly more radical and Afrocentric Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), against the relatively moderate and insufferably revolting “Uncle Toms” of the ANC, of which, one supposes, Nelson Mandela was the most execrable pontiff. That was how I came to admire the man Mr. K. B. Asante, in spite of our sharp ideological differences.
I also admired the mental agility of the man. It is a widely known fact that by 70 years old, most Ghanaian adults, especially men, would have already degenerated past clinical senility. Not so with Mr. K. B. Asante the journalist and prolific columnist. We may, however, gently quibble over the “statesman” part of his legion accolades. Neither would I fully agree with those critics who have described him as a “smooth-sailing opportunist.” He simply did his bit as he wisely knew how.
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