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Opinions of Saturday, 27 January 2018

Columnist: Kofi Owusu Tawiah

K.B. Asante, the patriot, diplomat and writer

K.B. Asante K.B. Asante

The writer of ‘Voice From Afar’, a column in the Daily Graphic, is now far away from us. The statesman died in the early hours of Monday, 22nd January, 2018 at 93 years old.

The announcement of his death shocked many Ghanaians including the President and Chairman of Groupe Nduom, Dr Papa Kwesi Nduom, who on his Facebook wall, paid a glowing tribute to the late diplomat, describing him as “an uncompromising patriot.”

Born on March 1, 1924, Kwaku Baprui Asante was a Ghanaian retired diplomat, writer and politician.

He began his education at O’Reilly Educational Institute, Tudu, Government Junior Boys’ School, Adabraka, and Government Senior Boys’ School, Kinbu, from 1927 to 1937.

The late diplomat also attended Achimota College Upper Primary and Secondary School from 1938-1942 and obtained a BSc Degree in Mathematics at the University College, Durham University in 1952.

After his university education, Mr Asante became a Senior Mathematics tutor at the Achimota College from 1954-1955.

The politician and writer also became a member of the Institute of Statisticians in 1953.

After a sojourn in England, Mr Asante returned to the then Gold Coast, where he worked as a Consul at the British High Commission for some time before going back to London to assist in the establishment of the Ghana High Commission in 1957. He was also tasked to establish yet another embassy in Tel-Aviv in Israel.

He was the Secretary to Ghana’s First President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah. Mr Asante also served under most Heads of States in Ghana, starting from Nkrumah, and also served as the Principal Secretary at African Affairs Secretariat from 1960 to 1966

He was in Addis Ababa when President Nkrumah was overthrown in 1966 and he remained there where he later took a job as Head of Administration at the OAU office.

Late K.B. also became Ghana’s Ambassador to Switzerland and the United Nations Offices in Geneva and the UN establishment in Vienna, with concurrent accreditation as Ambassador to Australia from 1967-72.

Mr Asante became the Chief Representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and World Trade Organisation (WTO).

He also served as the Ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Economic Community from 1976-1978.

Mr Asante retired from the Civil Service in 1978 to form the Social Democratic Front to contest the 1979 elections in Ghana. The party won three parliamentary seats in those elections.

When J.J. Rawlings staged his1979 coup d’état and formed the Provisional National Defence Council, Mr Asante became the Secretary for Trade and Tourism in the administration in 1982 and later Secretary for Education and Culture from 1986-1990.

K.B., as his peers affectionately called him, passed on his thoughts and experience in his column published in the Daily Graphic for several years.

Volume one of his book contained collected articles he wrote from 1994 to 2002. It is a 192-page anthology of 52 selected articles.

The following are some quotes by the late veteran writer:

On work ethic: “Civil servants have learnt to do nothing unless directed because ‘if you do nothing, you do nothing wrong and you survive.”

On the IMF/World Bank: “The major economies ‘sin a little when it is in their interest to do so … We should not only listen to our benefactors but also observe what they do … our future lies (in) manufactures and not in more commodities.”

On civic issues: “it is time for serious politics and not political promises that ‘would be bedtime infatuation or a lie’ ”.

On self-knowledge: “If you compose your own obituary at 20, you have time to make sense of your life. Think about it”.

On discipline: “Ee Ghanaians do not seem to like the discipline of working within rules, within a well-defined system. A minister or politician would rather like to engage, promote and sack officers as he pleases.”

On scruples: “Fufu was put in the middle of sacks of rubber. Years later beer bottles were broken by some foreign companies to cripple Accra Brewery.”

On sharing: “Today we tend to hide the food and wipe our mouth when a visitor approaches while we are eating, because we do not have enough.” “Men know that women come in all sizes, shapes… The Ghanaian gentleman generally likes some flesh to cuddle.” (Please: Which man – tender or vile – will not stoop to the pillowy bosom?).

“We live in a world which does not look into the heart (but prefers) riotous living or yielding to desires and the base instincts … some old habits must die to make life better.”

“I remember an accountant being sacked in the colonial times, because there was a shortage of £1 in his safe when it was checked by a visiting auditor.”

Some of the dignitaries who eulogised Mr Asante when his demise was announced included former President Rawlings who tweeted “Ghana has lost a true statesman. K. B. Asante was a gentleman, historian, public-spirited person, a patriot and a genuine.”

Paying tribute to the late veteran, former President Mahama wrote on his Facebook wall describing him as “a fountain of wisdom.”

Mr Asante was survived by a wife and four kids—two boys and two girls.