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Opinions of Thursday, 8 October 2015

Columnist: Brig Gen Dan Frimpong

Komla Dumor and Legacy

Opinion Opinion

He was born in Ghana on October 3, 1972. He died in the United Kingdom on January 18, 2014 at the age of 42. If he had been alive, Saturday, October 3, 2015, would have been Komla Afeke Dumor’s 43rd birthday. The day was marked with the inauguration of the “Komla Dumor Centre for Journalism” at the African University College of Communications (AUCC) in Accra, Ghana.

In his speech, the Guest of Honour, Mr Jon Benjamin, the British High Commissioner to Ghana, had this to say. “Komla was an exceptional Ghanaian broadcaster who in his short life made extraordinary impact in Ghana, in Africa and around the world.”
A few weeks earlier on August 17, 2015, the Ugandan journalist, Nancy Kacungira, became the first winner of the newly instituted BBC World News “Komla Dumor Award” in London, United Kingdom. At the time of his death, Komla was the host of the BBC programme Focus on Africa. Indeed, he was the face of Africa on BBC Television! Incidentally, Ghanaian journalist Paa Kwesi Asare was one of the two runners-up, with South African Leila Dee Dougan being the other.

Komla died young. However, he has left behind a solid legacy worth more than his weight in gold!

So, I ask myself, for those of us who have lived longer than Komla’s 42 years, what legacy are we leaving behind for posterity? Similarly, for the younger generation, how do you want to be remembered by your children, grand— children and the world? My question reminds me of the way some personalities are remembered.

Presidents of the USA
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK), Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton may arguably be said to belong to the league of “Division One A” of very popular former presidents of the USA. On the occasion of the 235th anniversary of independence on July 4, 2011, a bronze statue was unveiled in London of former President Reagan. Similar statues were unveiled in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland in his honour. This was in recognition of the solid legacy of PEACE President Reagan left behind in bringing to an end the Cold War between the West, led by the USA and the East, led by the USSR in the late 1980s.

The Young Barclays MD
In September 2009, I watched a GTV programme on the new 36-year-old Managing Director (MD) of Barclays Bank for Ghana, Mr Benjamin Dabrah. By Ghanaian standards, 36 is considered rather young, probably too young to head a ministry or indeed a department, let alone a multi-national corporation.

In the course of the interview, he was asked by the interviewer how he felt becoming the MD of a multi-national bank at a rather tender age of 36. Contrary to what one would have thought to be the usual one of expressing joy at his achievement, his answer was that reaching the top was to him not the most important thing. The more important thing was what legacy he would leave behind at the end of his tour.

I found the young man’s answers during the interview rather intriguing and interesting for a number of reasons. One of them is that having been involved in leadership training throughout my career of over 40 years, I have found one particular quality important. However, usually it does not get mentioned as one of the frontline attributes of a leader like courage, knowledge, initiative or physical fitness in the military. Sometimes, it gets alluded to when integrity and honesty are mentioned as necessary leadership attributes. This back-burner quality is selflessness.

The air marshal’s tribute
Paying glowing tribute to the selflessness of Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah at the 50th anniversary of the Ghana Air Force in November 2009, Air Vice Marshal Ashley-Larsen, a former Chief of Air Staff, disclosed that in 1964, the Ghana Air Force had a fleet of 84 aircraft all of which were operational as against only four in 2009. What is interesting is that in spite of commanding such a large fleet, Dr Nkrumah did not have a dedicated “Presidential” aircraft.

Making amends
Now, the question I ask myself is:, how and why have we degenerated to a stage where little children do not have any role models in Ghana? When we were young, the same question would have been answered effortlessly. So, what has gone wrong and how do we correct it?

The Queen’s Message
At the summer graduation of officer cadets of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, the United Kingdom in 1965, Queen Elizabeth said this to the newly commissioned officers…. “Remember always that, the best and purest form of Leadership is example.” Our children are unhappy with us because we have not given them leadership. Hurling insults at one another on a daily basis and a fiery rhetoric does not conceal the insincerity of our actions. They are demanding sincere and selfless leadership by example from us. Let us remember Mahatma Ghandi’s famous saying that ‘there is enough for everybody’s need, but not enough for everybody’s greed!’

The young priest’s questions
Preaching about the deceased whom he described as a good man at a funeral service, a young Catholic priest spoke on the topic of legacy. “What legacy do you want to be remembered for when you die?” he asked. He continued “asset like buildings you may leave behind will not mean much to the society. What matters is the legacy you leave behind, and the legacy can be positive or negative. Do you want to be remembered for peace or for violence? Do you want to be remembered as honest or a dishonest thief? Do you want to be remembered as respectful or disrespectful? Do you want to be remembered as vicious or kind?”

A good name
I guess the point made in the Bible that a good name is better than riches adequately summarises this discussion. For many of us, tangibles such as money and property may be considered enough. However, certain intangible core values such as integrity, honesty, selflessness and respect for one another, national vision and a sense of belonging, honour, humility as well as accountability are more important than the tangibles mentioned above as demonstrated by American President Ford. Without these core values, the tangibles may not be of any use. It is my hope that, as Ghanaians, we shall all strive to leave a positive legacy which posterity will be proud of.

Komla Dumor died young at the age of 42. He may not have had houses, cars, wives and concubines such as King Solomon and some “big men,” but he has left behind a solid legacy which will forever immortalise his name. As the British High Commissioner aptly put it on Saturday, October 3, 2015, “Komla was an exceptional Ghanaian broadcaster who in his short life made extraordinary impact in Ghana, in Africa and around the world.”

For my generation and those ahead of me, what legacy are we leaving behind for the youth? For the young ones coming up, strive for excellence and leave behind a legacy like 42-year-old Komla has done! That way, our great country GHANA will continue to enjoy the respect it had on March 6, 1957 at independence.
Writer’s email: dkfrimpong@

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