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Opinions of Thursday, 9 June 2016

Columnist: Africanus Owusu-Ansah

A legend’s demise; A revolution’s demur

“Debonair, swash-buckling eighteener.

In 1960 he won Olympic gold in Rome.

Sony Liston, the boxing ogre, tasted his fury in 1964.

He bragged as the world’s strongest and most beautiful, and so he was, both.

Master of all he surveyed, he was – stinging like a bee, floating like a butterfly. Stylishly, adopted Mohammed Ali, Islamic, taunting Cassius and Clay as slave names.

Foreman, Frazier wouldn’t be George and Joe again when his physical antics and verbal punches he did throw.

He dribbled America with his shuffle, and wouldn’t fight the Kinh People of Vietnam.

For him, Cassius wouldn’t be cautious and clay wouldn’t be clayey – both slave names.

Brightened up Accra, Kumasi, Africa, 1964, and Kente galore- Otumfuo Prempeh – style.

Parkinson gnawed at him in 1984, the year George Orwell believed could see Communism triumph; his lightning speed crumbling into tortoise – like crawl.

Felled by unsung Ernie Terrell.

To his death-bed in Phoenix, Arizona, crest-fallen, melancholy and woebegone.

Friday, June 3, 2016, the Louisville Lip was a goner,

Received back home, Louisville, Kentucky.”

An Ode To a Legend-Africanus Owusu-Ansah

Mohammed Ali, born as Cassius Marcellus Clay on 17th January, 1942, stormed the boxing world with his powerful punch interspersed with poetic and lyrical taunts in the ring. Ghanaians born after independence may not have a feel of the legendary Ali in the heyday of his boxing career.

We, Gold Coasters, like Dr Addo Kufuor have a longing and lasting memory of the myth surrounding the boxing icon, especially when he visited Ghana in May 1964. He stated: “I want to see Africa and meet my brothers and sisters.” This was after he had won gold for the United States of America in 1960 and humiliated the 7-1 heavyweight boxing favourite Sony Liston, in 1964.

Ali helped to raise black American consciousness, and the whole world- black, white, mixed- enjoyed his pervasiveness. When Ali announced that he had converted to Islam, Americans smarted, and when he refused to join the military and go to the Vietnam War, he was stripped of his boxing title, and he had to fight a legal battle for four years to earn back the chance for a fight, you could hear him say: “Why me, why me alone?”

His fight with George Foreman was no less episodic. He carried boxing to Africa in ‘The Rumble in the Jungle’ in Kinshasa, Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) under President Mobutu Sese Seko in October, 1974.

He revealed some secrets: “If you think the world was surprised when Nixon resigned, wait till I whup Foreman’s behind… I done something new for this fight. I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale, handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick; I’m so mean, I make medicine sick.” He tormented George Foreman to the point of calling him a “gorilla.”

Parkinson’s disease was not kind to Ali. He suffered this disease for more than thirty years. And when he was being taken to the Phoenix Hospital, his gait amply showed what disease could do to human beings. By Friday, 3rd June, 2016, stylish Ali Mohammed was no more.

Was it any wonder then that Papa J a. k.a Jerry John Rawlings challenged the latest publication of Africawatch that he, Rawlings, was suffering from Parkinson’s disease?

Ghana’s strongest man of 1979 and 1982 could not believe that a day would come when he would have to stay on the fringes and ‘bemoan’ the state of rot in the Ghanaian society.

On June 4th this year, he was celebrating the 37th anniversary of his so-called ‘Revolution’ and he stated: “… I note with pain that the poisonous and agitated environment, the attitude of leaders, the unprecedented level of dishonesty, exploitation, the abuse and misuse of the judiciary and the arrogance of appointed and elected officials, have returned.”

If the clock could be rewound, he would have assembled all those people he suspected of having had a hand in the ‘rot’ and got them shot. He would not have sat back to moan. Now, what is he moaning about or moaning for? The NDC is his own, and his own people are the perpetrators of the corrupt governance that we are in now. Need we list the corrupt practices?

Jerry could talk about June 4, 1979 as a “… justifiable intervention and an expression of rage against corruption and the rape of the country by some political and military leaders at that time.” He adds “…June 4 is, therefore, not about me. It is rather the collective action and expression of a people. When you cry out, rise up and rightfully demand proper governance, accountability, probity, justice and respect from those who are supposed to govern them…”

History has its own way of teaching everyone a great lesson. It is helpful for mortals to admit our mistakes, do a mea culpa and move on- with perpetrator and victim alike.

What is the justification for June 4 as has always been trumpeted to the chagrin of Ghanaian historians? Why can’t Rawlings call his own ‘small boys’ who have matured into ‘big men’ (tadpole becoming frog) into his chamber and give them lessons? The NDC party belongs to him, so we (ordinary simpletons) expect that he has control over the running of the party. We have to be proved otherwise.

Otherwise, his sermons would not flow down to some of us, more so, when some of us are mourning our losses these thirty-seven years.

However, I wish Dr Ezenator Rawlings success in his tango with the Klottey parliamentarian.

Lest we forget; this is the first anniversary of the ‘flood-and-fire at the Nkrumah Circle. Our condolences go to the families of those who perished. What are we doing about the report of the committee that investigated the disaster? What are we doing about (or to or for) the victims, like Alex Mensah whose children call him ‘kakai’? Shouldn’t Justice Dotse’s report be made public- at least to convince the general public about the actual number of persons who perished, and the suggestions made to avoid a repetition?

One last bit: We mourn with Nigeria over the death of Stephen Keshi, the coach of the Green Eagles. He has played his part for his nation. Adieu. May his Soul Rest In Peace.

Oh sorry, the very last bit: We wish Somchai speedy recovery after his manhood was sliced by his wife for cheating on her, Ann, in Pattaya, Thailand. Some story!