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Opinions of Sunday, 21 June 2015

Columnist: Agorsor, Israel D. K.

A Tribute To Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan: A Colossus Leaves The Stage

Dear Dr. Afari-Gyan, Happy 70th Birthday! On 18th June, 2015, you attained age 70, the biblical ‘three score years and ten’! I wish you many more prosperous years ahead. And today, as you retire from your job as Chair of Ghana’s Electoral Commission, I pay a glowing tribute to you, one of Africa’s most respected public election administrators, who oversaw Ghana’s public elections in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012, and was the Deputy Chair of the Interim National Electoral Commission that ran Ghana’s 1992 elections that returned our nation to a civilian rule. Sir, no one is perfect; we only aim to approach perfection, which is why it would have been even unrealistic to expect perfection from an election administrator in an African terrain. So, no matter what, I will describe yours as a job well done! It is no mean task to steer even one public election to its successful end in this our rough and unfriendly terrain. But you, Sir, did that so well. You did not steer just one, but 1, 2, 3, 4, 5! You, sitting in your ‘strongroom’, watched the numbers come through declaring the ‘constitutional overthrow’ of powerful incumbent governments. You never did alter our wish. Or did you? Some say you have been stubborn. But I say you have been ‘appropriately stubborn’. Your very character is a requirement necessary to look incumbent powerful African leaders in the face to tell them the will of the people ? reading out those numbers that marked the end of those powerful regimes; reading out those numbers that saw Ghana’s longtime powerful military and democratic leader packing out of the Osu Castle and the ministries with all his supporters; reading out those numbers that saw your roommate at the University of Ghana lose out, not once, but twice, on the most coveted job in Ghana. Sir, therefore, never regret it that they call you ‘stubborn’, because you were ‘appropriately stubborn’. What you have been able to achieve for yourself and for our nation is very significant. Until recently, it has been extremely rare to find an African election administrator who will muster courage sufficient enough to look an incumbent leader and his government in the face and read out to them those numbers which are the true reflections of the will of the people! So, in this respect, may I call you a trailblazer, Sir? If I ever have a request to you, it will be that you write down your memories in a book that will teach us years down the line. Sir, as I write out these words of tribute, it is not my intention to be deliberately kind to you. More than me, I am pretty certain history will even be kinder to you. And If I am ever sure of one thing, that will be that, your book, if it ever gets written, will most certainly make it into the New York Times Best Seller list for years running. Why? It will be a rare recording of the ‘never-told-before’, ‘never-heard-before’ stories in global political election history. Even I, a young academic who has just started out, have been a ‘live witness’ to telephone calls that come through from powerful people in society for one favour or another. The last time, it was a request made to a colleague, asking if it could be possible for a grade of a student who has been preparing himself to run for SRC President in one of our tertiary institutions to be ‘altered’. Why? Without the alteration, the student, who considered himself the frontrunner in the race, would be disqualified because he would not have the minimum CGPA required to be eligible to run. Of course, we pushed back; the temptation was resisted. And the student politician was disqualified at the vetting, despite the possibility of my colleague receiving some remarkable ‘handshake’. That tells me the extent to which politicians, or Ghanaians, can go to get what they want. Therefore, Sir, it is remarkable that you could do what you have done. And should you write that book that I so desperately wish to see as a lifelong student of political history, I believe we shall find therein some rare and amazing stories, an insider’s account, probably about the fat, big bank accounts you may have been promised should you alter results ? invariably altering the wish of the people. Therein, we shall find some golden nuggets, nuggets truly golden. Sir, through your book, you may raise enough money to institute a professorial chair in your name, or to get a democracy institute built and named after you ? etching that name ‘Kwadwo Afari-Gyan’ firmly in our recorded history. Sir, whatever it is, walk with your head up. Never let the critical voices burden you. Yeah, you made mistakes, but do remember, Sir, that to err is human, and that one day, when we turn the pages of our nation’s recorded history, your name, the name ‘Kwadwo Afari-Gyan’ can only be found at one place ? on the golden pages of our nation’s history, no matter who the history tellers are. For heaven itself will be kind to you. Golden stories can only be placed on golden pages, and dark stories on dark pages. Our nation has had its fair share of both golden and dark stories. And your achievements ? resulting from our collective efforts to attain a stable democratic nation status ? can only belong to the golden pages, because they are truly golden! Thanks a lot for a job well done, and have a great rest, Sir. Thank you, golden statesman!

Best Wishes. Always.

Israel D. K. Agorsor University of Cape Coast, Ghana 19th June, 2015 E-mail: