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General News of Tuesday, 24 August 2021


My rich father had 10 wives, lived with stroke for 30 years - Otiko Djaba

Otiko Afisa Djaba says life has taught her lessons play videoOtiko Afisa Djaba says life has taught her lessons

Otiko Djaba recounts how challenging life has been

• Her father, she says, had a stroke because of incessant stress

• The politician says she is encouraged by her struggles

A former minister for gender, children and social protection, Otiko Afisa Djaba, who also served as a national women's organizer for the New Patriotic Party (NPP) has chronicled her journey into politics with a revelation that the predicaments of her family strengthened her to forge ahead instead of living a miserable life.

Born to the late Henry Kojo Djaba from Somanya, and Madam Shieta Bawa from Bole in the Northern Region, Otiko Djaba, in an interview on ‘Restoration With Stacy’, said life was rosy until her father went into exile in the 1970s following a coup in the country.

“I grew up with a mother who was a teacher and my father was a polygamist. He had 22 children and 10 wives. I lived with my mother in the north but he was always sending for us to come and be with him,” the product of Tamale Secondary School said.

“I schooled in Tamale and because my father had to live in exile, I had to go and live with him in England. It was the beginning of the definition of who I am because my father was very rich and then with the coup, he was no longer able to get his monies coming in from Ghana so we became debt poor,” Otiko Djaba added, stressing that “that is what defines me because it made me understand poverty and how to overcome challenges – from being driven to school in limousines, now you have to take the bus and even to get a bus pass, I had to work as a waitress, cinema usher, cleaner”.

Their woes compounded, making life unbearable for them.

“It happened so fast,” she said. “You’ll be in school and you’d be called to go home because dad couldn’t pay our fees. It was that bad. The light would go off because we could no longer pay the bills. So, he had a stroke with all the stress and he lived with stroke for 30 years. He became impoverished.”

According to Otiko Djaba, the experience rather toughened her. She was determined to elevate her family; that determination, she said, soared and was able to sail through. This was courtesy of some persons divinely connected to her destiny.

She said: “By grace, I was able to develop myself and move out of childhood poverty to be who I am today. It hasn’t been an easy journey; it’s been very difficult.

“I always had destiny helpers throughout my life and that is also part of who I am. It makes me feel that I need to contribute my quota to support other people who are also in need. Over 30 years in my life, I’ve been doing social work to say to God, ‘Thank You’ for His blessings.

“When I turned 21, my mother asked me to come back home and get married. My 22nd birthday was spent in Ghana, got married when I was 25.”

After marriage, she secured a job at Bank for Housing in Tamale but had to relocate to the UK because her medical doctor husband wanted to specialize. She became a housewife as a result of her resolve to not have anyone raise her children. She eventually returned to Ghana.

“We came back to Ghana, I developed a programme called ‘Kokrokoo’ on GTV. I wrote another programme to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable children and that took me to Tumu,” she said.

How she joined politics

Considering that politics caused the woes of her father, Otiko Djaba in the interview monitored by GhanaWeb, said she had “no inclination of being in politics”. However, while working as a development practitioner in Tumu, her “mother’s people came and said because of the work I was doing, they thought I would be the best persons to represent them in parliament.”

She protested the suggestion but after consulting her pastor who counselled her on how that was a bigger avenue to impact positively on the lives of people, she decided to contest for the Bole/Bamboi seat on the ticket of the NPP. She, however, lost to her cousin, John Dramani Mahama of the NDC.

“It was pure pain. So I came to Accra being enveloped in self misery, crying and wondering what to do with my life,” Otiko Djaba, 59, disclosed how she felt.

She later contested for the Women’s Organiser position of the NPP and won.

On what her focus was, the mother of four said: "My dream was to empower Ghanaian women to understand their strength and how to communicate so that it’s not just about going to sell water and sing the songs. Women of Ghana have been campaigning since pre-independence but we only see them singing and dancing and serving food but they know how to do the house-to-house… I was so determined to let the women have a better understanding and appreciation of their role in politics and national development."

Watch the interview below