Feature Article of Friday, 21 September 2012
Columnist: Asare-Awuku, Kwadwo
He was Theodore Adjei Osae, but was popularly referred to as Tao - not TAO, since he signed his name in all official documents simply as Tao. He was the Headmaster of Kumasi Prempeh College from 1962 to 1977. Of course as students, we dared not call him Tao to his hearing but we referred to him as such in our chitchats and gossips.
On 7th July 2009, on behalf of Amanfoo, specifically, the 1966 ‘O’ level / 1968 ‘A’ Level year group, some mandated representatives descended on Dr Theodore Adjei Osae in his Teshie home (near Camp 2 school) in Accra to pay him a visit. Some of us had not seen Tao for more than 43 years. We read some times about him in the papers especially when he became Asst. Director General of GES in the 1980’s and also in 2006, when he received the National award in the Order of the Volta (Companion) during Kufuor’s administration. The visit seems like yesterday.
The Teshie reunion was great, terrific and memorable. Of course he knew we were coming and he assembled his wife, children and other close associates in his family to meet us. After the initial exchange of felicitations, we teased him. We sought his permission that we would simulate our secondary school lives and that we would be calling him Tao on that occasion. He gladly obliged so throughout our two and a half hours stay with his family, we called him Tao- with his own permission.
It was all fun. It was all merriment--sharing jokes, lunching, drinking, chatting, singing and praying with great Tao – fiili fiili alongside his wife and children. The ‘fiili fiili ‘ description comes in since it was the first time some of us went so close to him in such a relaxed, stress -free, undisturbed and cosy manner. How dare you talk to the former Headmaster in a relaxed manner in the 1960’s? It was not that, Tao was some ‘kakai’ or ‘ kaakaamotobi’. He was kind, approachable and always ready to listen and help but it was just that the ‘student’ in us, did not create a conducive atmosphere for us to talk to him relaxed in whatever circumstances in school.
Now, during the visit we introduced ourselves one by one to Tao and he asked each one of us to tell him what we had been doing to ourselves since Prempeh school days. The following were the representatives; - Snr Frank Mpare, former Cabinet Secretary, Snr. Prof. Rudolph Darko, Consultant Surgeon at Korle Bu , Snr. Hon. Magnus Opare-Asamoah, former Deputy Minister of Roads, Snr. Ing. K. Asare-Awuku, former Deputy Chief Executive of Ghana Highway Authority, Snr. Alexander Adu, former Director at Lands Commission, Snr. Jones Ackor, a top financial consultant, Snr. Dwamena Nyante, a former Tutor at Presec, Snr. Prof. Asenso Okyere former Legon VC , Snr. Justice Richard Apaloo, Justice of the Appeal Court , Snr. Sekyere Abankwa, MD of Prudential Bank, Snr. Ing. C.D. Antwi , former Director Of Dept of Feeder Roads, Snr. Prof. Nana Kodan Asante formerly at GIMPA , Snr Harry Imbeah, former Chief Director at National Security Council and Snr. Dr Oppon Mensa, former MOH Chief Dental Officer.
Tao heaved a sigh and congratulated us and prayed for God’s guidance for our future. At his advanced age, he still vividly remembered some of us. As the discussions went on and emotions actually took a better part of him. At one time, we observed almighty Tao taking a handkerchief to wipe some tears from his face. It was clearly tears of joy seeing his inspired leadership produce such illustrious sons of Ghana just in one, one- year group.
For some obvious reasons, Tao was very attached to our group because of the political situation at the time. February 1966 was the year Ghana’s first President Nkrumah was overthrown. It was the first coup in Ghana and we were going to write O level examinations in May 1966 in that uncertainty. Tao, a loving and concerned father feared that very young as we were, we could be consumed psychologically in the political turbulence and he urged us on many times in the run -up to the examinations to forget about the Nkrumahs, Busias, Kotokas, Krobo Eduseis etc and just study. The tutors told us they had special instructions from Tao to pursue all efforts to see to it that we concentrated on our academic work all the time. Somehow, the Prempeh College 1966 O/A level results were one of the best in the country, then. Grateful Tao, grateful -you did everything to ensure that our future was not ruined by the political upheaval.
Mfantsipim has their F.Bartels, Achimota has their Chapman Nyaho, Adisadel has their Orleans Pobee, Ghana National and Accra Aca have their Mensah Kane and Allotei Konua but Prempeh College also has their Tao – so unassuming , so decisive and so visionary. We think Tao is the greatest of the Headmasters in the immediate post independence Ghana. That is our view.
Here was a Ga from Teshie beachlands, who, acting like an adventurous colonialist took Kumasi the center of Asante nationalism by storm in the immediate post independence political and social intrigues, stood his ground firmly and selflessly and competently succeeded as Headmaster of Prempeh College, the most popular secondary school, inland ---Tao you are our hero. We salute you. Tao left his home region in uncertainty and made his mark in another region. The other Headmasters I mentioned made their marks in their home regions. Tao made a voyage into improbability in those times. Tao, don’t mind them. You are above them all.
The memories of the July 2009 meeting still linger on our minds and it is a pity some of us never set eyes on him him again until we heard the sad news about his demise. At the meeting, we read an oration about him and extracts from the oration are reproduced hereunder as part of this tribute; ‘’Records indicate that you Dr Theodore Adjei Osae first came to Prempeh college in 1957 as a history master, at the time the top management of the school was dominated by expatriates. In 1962, having served well as Asst. Headmaster to Briton Arthur Clarke over the years, you were appointed the first African Headmaster of the school to actualize the African personality concept of the then President Nkrumah-who had proclaimed then that ‘the blackman is capable of managing his own affairs’.
To be a headmaster at that time, it was obvious that you had distinguished yourself as a competent administrator and displayed unalloyed commitment to the objectives and motto of the school, namely-Suban ne Nimdee, to wit, -Good character and knowledge.
There was the wild gossip even amongst those of us students who were in the centre of the transition, whether an African would be able to measure up to the prevailing high standards set by the expatriate Headmasters, Pearson, Arthur Clarke and others. You had faith in your ability to stand out as a model first African headmaster of Prempeh College based on your years of disciplined apprenticeship, backed with thoroughness and initiative.
There followed the wonder. You stood up firmly and you were counted. You dazzled as an administrator and manager, rising up to the occasion and the discipline and good academic record associated with Prempeh College surged on during your term as headmaster. In all, you were the head of the school for 15 years, a record yet to be surpassed by anybody.
Later you demonstrated further faith in African leadership, when you became outstanding Asst. Director General of GES. We observe with pride that your inordinate qualities were acknowledged at the highest level when in 2006, when you became a recipient of a National award, namely, Order of Volta (companion). Incidentally the award was given by President Kufuor who was one of your students. Your humble contributions have surely not been in vain.
We the members of the 1966 O level/ 1968 A Level year group have interacted closely with you either as Teacher, Asst. Headmaster or Headmaster. We are therefore in a unique position to assess you critically. Confidently and in unison, we say Tao, you are an inspiration. You are our hero. You have guided us in our youthful days based on firm religious convictions and discipline of the mind. We cherish these qualities which have followed and helped us through our private lives, marital homes and public lives up till now.
We appreciate your selfless and nationalistic spirit. We believe the splendid sentiments which you bequeathed to us will continue to inspire us throughout the years as Amanfoo and as Ghanaians.’’ Tao, you have served well. Fare thee well. Rest in Perfect Peace.
Snr. Ing. Kwadwo Asare-Awuku ---- (On behalf of Amanfoo 1966 O Level/1968 A level Year Group}