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Opinions of Thursday, 23 June 2016

Columnist: Nkrabeah Effah-Dartey

Ghosts invade Achimota School

I am not sure there is any living mortal who enjoys encountering GHOSTS. But even so, I do not think I owe the parents of Achimota School Students any apology for scaring them about the presence of GHOSTS in Achimota School.

The only caveat is that please read on.

About 100 years ago, the British Colonial authorities appointed a very correct army officer, Colonel Gordon Guggisberg as the Governor of the Gold Coast Colony.

When he came, he decided to GOVERN the Colony, to solve problems, to make life better for the people. He built hospitals, Korle-Bu is his flagship, he built the railways and he built schools and colleges.

According to history, Guggisberg so developed the Colony that eyebrows were raised back home in London and he was quickly withdrawn. When he died he was buried without ceremony.

In parenthesis I think the Government of Ghana should lead a campaign to bring back the mortal remains of Gordon Guggisberg and inter him either at his official residence Aburi Botanical Gardens, Korle-Bu or Achimota School.

One of his lasting legacies was the concept, construction and opening of Achimota College, commenced in 1920 and completed officially in 1928.

Achimota College soon became the apex or by word for higher education in Gold Coast. I concede that over the years Achimota had to battle with other equally very good schools.

Mfantsipim, Prempeh College, Wesley Girls but, even so, in terms of CO-EDUCATION, where both boys and girls are trained together, Achimota still remain tops.

The other day I had a very good laugh when my first born, Hyebere, then a student at Mfantsipim came home on holidays and while chatting, generally, he told me, with total confidence……….” as for you, daddy, every day Achimota, Achimota very well. I am going to school – just write a letter and post it to Hyebere, the school and it will be brought to me in Mfantsipim!!!

I entered Achimota in 1967 and left upper six in 1974.

Apart from occasionally attending funerals or weddings or Carol services, I really had nothing to do with the school. Even when my last two children attended the school, I still did not hobnob with the school- Achimota has been, is and shall always be a perceived haven for the “bourgeoisie” and with my typical rural background from Jinjini maybe my association with them was an accident.

But on Wednesday last week, June 8 2016, I read a full-page advertisement calling for Emergency General Meeting of Old Achimotans Association – both ancient and modern. AKORAS.

Wow! That is invitation for some home coming. For forty years, I have never attended any OAA programme – let me sacrifice and attend – 3pm on Saturday 11 June, 2016.

At exactly 2:30pm I left my Asylum Down office and sat in my car ignited the engine, and set off: objective – Achimota School for OAA Emergency General Meeting.

Saturday afternoon – traffic was very light. In 15 minutes I was at Achimota School police station and I remembered 10 July 1967 when I first came to Accra from Jinjini to attend “interview” for form one, after having passed the common entrance.

I confessed I did not like the road – full of potholes, looking very much abandoned, the shoulders of the road overgrown with weeds.

Oh God, how I felt when my car passed through the famous Achimota School gates, saw the swimming pool on the right, the post office on the left, then ahead I saw Guggisberg House with some students sitting on the lawn; small boys are young, you don’t pay rent, taxes, water bill, you have no wives, no children…how great it is to be young!

I got to Aggrey Chapel, venue for the meeting – I was the third person to arrive, I registered then took a seat, not too far in the front, not too far at the back.

Slowly members started pouring in, one by one, and how I felt so proud that the 1968 School Prefect, now Dr Henrietta Hemans-Mensah still looking so fresh came to sit next to me!! Then came OKPOREE – now NDC Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Honourable Quartey, who since leaving Achimota has spent almost all his life in Foreign Affairs.

Hold it – Her Lordship Mrs Justice AKUA KUENYEHIA, a Justice of the International Court of Justice in the Hague, Netherlands also emerged.

Then Nana Dr. S.K.B Asante – a great lawyer, statesman, chief and several big men, so many of them came to the meeting.

At exactly 3:05pm, OAA President, Professor Ernest Ayittey, Vice Chancellor of University of Ghana, Legon declared the meeting opened. He told us simply that this emergency meeting has been convened because trespassers have taken over all our school lands and the situation is very alarming.

Lawyers for the school gave us a very interesting briefing. The Headmistress of the school was there in her office when she heard that bulldozers were clearing our land. When she checked, they waved at her “Entry of Judgment” between the Osu Group and Lands Commission – some people have taken Lands Commission to Court and secured judgment, giving them the right to enter the land and take possession.

Lawyer Fynn explained to us that Achimota School was completely left out in the picture, so they issued a writ of summons – but WHO DO YOU SERVE WITH THE WRIT? The Osu Group-who is Osu Group? Work is going on to take the land, but NOBODY is showing up – no office to be served. GHOSTS!!!

Counsel for Achimota School in desperation went to Court for leave to serve the writ by substitution, and had the writ published in the papers, complaining that it cost GH¢7,000 and he is scared of publishing application for interim injunction.

In answer to a question from Nana Dr SKB Asante, the lawyer told us the Colonial Authorities acquired the land compulsorily in 1920 and again in 1927. He said by Government legislation, the land was vested in the college in 1930 and when it became Achimota School in 1948, again the land was vested in the school- so it is school property.

During discussion time, several, ideas popped up, and there was this modern old Achimotan, I think 92 year group, an architect – he gave a powerful analysis of the problem – drew our attention to the hostile environment, the huge bonanza profits being scooped by developers,

the need to build a wall which will not be lower than one million dollars……….and the need for a positive action in the nature of demolishing ongoing works…………..

Tension became so high that one Ancient AKORA seated behind me actually shouted chooboi!!!! And the response was instantaneous – Yieee !!!!!! !. Danduruwa !!!!!!!!!!

A certain advertising guru, Joel Netty, gave a beautiful summary of all proceedings in the need to apply for the injunction, the need to do some PR work in the media, the need to build the wall, and the need for some positive action.

As a first step, we all agreed that we should walk to the site to see the state of trespass. We curiously started the meeting without praying and so we all just got up without prayers to signify end of proceedings.

Then a long convoy of over thirty automobiles formed up, ready for the drive to the playing fields – site of the trespass.

As we drove along the campus, passing the Science Block, the Girls Gymnasium, Siessor House for the girls, I was talking to myself: “Achimota School-look at how big your school is, go to a hundred secondary schools in Ghana and Achimota can easily swallow them up.”

We got to the playing fields – and oh, what a degradation! In my days, the fields were ALWAYS trimmed, very nicely, for cricket, hockey, athletics, football…………now, heavily overgrown with weeds.

We disembarked from our vehicles and started walking over to the area where we used to do cross country competitions. Reader, suddenly I saw in front of me one old Achimotan, a lady, most probably a “Modern” akora, probably OAA 2014 or so – with a knock out backside which DAILY GUIDE’s cartoonist Akosua will find as a very rich material for her trade. And she was wearing a very tight dress that accentuated her fabulous endowment to a great advantage. However hard I tried to keep my eyes off, I could not, so I deliberately slowed down for her to get lost in the groups ahead.

But the climax was yet to come.

As we walked at the site, with great amazement at the various demarcation walls erected for estate developers, some gunmen appeared, threatening mayhem and forcibly seized the cameras of TV3 Journalists covering the programme.

Late in the evening, darkness approaching, we sat in our cars and left – billowing in fear and tribulation. God save Achimota from GHOSTS stealing our lands.