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Opinion | Jul 19, 2018

He Logo – Ligies To The Afterworld

J.H. Mensah
J.H. Mensah

So, Ya Goya is gone?
Tell, tell, me who authors his epithet?
Pray, pray, pray for him.
A Haiku Triad by aoa

IT IS DIFFICULT to compose a tribute for a person who has gone to the other world. It is more onerous to scribble same for two persons in the same boat. It is most strenuous to squiggle one for the two persons when they are both honourable and respectable people. But, we shall try; we shall essay. So, sail on!

Honourable J.H. Mensah passed away in the twilight of his life-aged almost 90. He had had his education at the University of Ghana between 1948 and 1954. He left for the London University to study and earned a specialization in Economic Theory and Development. He returned to Ghana to become a Research Fellow in Economics at the University of Ghana.

In 1958, J.H. Mensah joined the United Nations Secretariat at the Centre for Development Planning Projections and Policies in New York City. He came back to Ghana to head the Agency at the National Planning Commission. It was this Commission that drew and implemented Ghana's Seven-Year Development Plans from 1962 to 1969. After the 1966 coup, the plan did not work again. In 1969, Mensah was elected into Parliament, later becoming the Finance Minister till the Busia government was overthrown in a military coup d'etat in 1972 by Ignatius Kutu Acheampong.

Between 1975 and 1978, Mensah was imprisoned by the National Redemption Council. He was one of the Parliamentarians of the Popular Front Party (PFP) who were in opposition to Dr. Limann's People's National Party (PNP). He was exiled after the Rawlings's 1981 coup, and he stayed in the United Kingdom. He joined a group which was opposed to the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC). He was on the African Advisory Council of the African Development Bank (AfDB) from 1993 till 1996 when he won the parliamentary seat in Sunyani East, for the New Patriotic Party. He was re-elected in 2000 and in Parliament, he was the Majority Leader, later giving way to Paapa Owusu-Ankomah while he became the Senior Minister.

J.H. Mensah has contributed immensely to the growth of democracy in Ghana. His debating prowess in Parliament aside, he contributed to the development of Constitutional Law-in the case of Mensah v Attorney General. It was remarkable that Mr. Mensah became the first JCR President of Legon Hall in the University of Ghana, and in private life, the proprietor of Banka Farms. May Mother Earth lie gently on him.

Professor Atukwei Okai has been described as an icon. Indeed, as a poet, he made a mark with his 'Logorligi Logarithms', 'Rosimaya', 'Fontomfrom', 'Freedom Symphony', and many more. He was also a cultural activist and academician. Born in March, 1941, Atukwei started schooling at Gambaga in the Northern Region where his father, a Ga, was the headmaster of a school. He later came to Accra High School for his Secondary education. At a time when rap music was not popular, Atukwei would string rap-words together in the streets and in corners.

His talent was recognized, and he was sent to Gorky Institute in the Soviet Union on scholarship in 1961. The coup of 1966 jolted his plans and he returned home in 1967. Apparently, he did receive a warm welcome. He recalls: “It was a most despondent time of my life. I was already a writer and broadcaster of some note before I went to the Soviet Union. It galled greatly that those of us that went to study in the former Eastern Bloc were tarred by the general suspicion attached to socialism in those days. We were not politicians and we did not get our scholarships on our political affiliations. We were Ghanaians with a passion to help build the country”.

He went back to the U.K. on a post-graduate scholarship for a Master of Philosophy degree in 1971 at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies in London.

On his return in 1971, he was engaged as a lecturer at the School of Modern Languages and taught Russian literature. That was where our destinies met, he as a lecturer, and I as a student, but as Douglas Coupland says: “We are all of us born with a letter inside us, and that only if we are true to ourselves, may we be allowed to read it before we die”.

I recall the enthusiasm of the class in his lectures on poetry, which he lived by and which he encouraged his students to emulate. Of course, like the Biblical 'seeds', (Matthew 13:4).

“And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the wayside, and the fowls of the air came and devoured them up; others fell upon the rock, and struck no root upon the rock; And others fell in the thorns; they choked the seed and the worm ate them. And others fell on good earth, and it sprang up, and bore good fruit”.

Atukwei was only 16 and a student at Accra High School when he became a member of the Ghana Association of Writers. This enabled him to rub shoulders with the celebrated arts scholars like Efua Sutherland, Michael Dei-Anang, Kofi Awoonor, Kwesi Brew, Krakye Denteh, Adali-Morty and Cameron Duodu.

Many of his early works were penned under the name, John Okai, and Professor Femi Osofisan of Nigeria observes that: “Okai was the first to try to take African poetry back to one of its primal origins, in percussion, by deliberately violating the syntax and lexicon of English, creating his own rhythms through startling phonetic innovations”. He was a champion of Pan Africanism.

He led a fulfilling life, and our sorrowful hearts go to mourn with his wife Beatrice and his five daughters. To these beautiful ladies we read his own composed dirge: “…So, let crying women cry And our sobbing men continue to sob; You are our fallen king, you are our fallen hero. So, Fare thee well You, legend of the Poetry Concerto. Rest in power, Einstein of this genre of our boast!”

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Africanus Owusu-Ansah

Africanus Owusu - Ansah
Africanus Owusu - Ansah, © 2018

This author has authored 88 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: AfricanusOwusuAnsah

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