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Opinions of Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Columnist: Bernard, Afreh Manu

Kwadwo Baah Wiredu: Tribute To Man Of Diligence

“Death is … the absence of presence… the endless time of never coming back … a gap you can’t see, and when the wind blows through it, it makes no sound.”-- Tom Stoppard

I was shocked to the marrow after news hit me that the peerless Hon. Kwadwo Baah Wiredu had joined the fathers in the land of silence. My eyes surrendered its function of blinking. Bucketful of hot tears streamed down my cheeks. Indeed, like a gale that comes crashing through branches, the sad news pierced the very depth of my heart. In fact, but for the official statement-affirming the story- from the Office of the President, I would have treated such as the figment of some rumourmongers.

Hon. Baah Wiredu was one personality that had lived a life full of devotion to the service of mankind and selfless leadership. The news, splashed across the dailies have it that, the inimitable one passed away on a Black Wednesday in a South African hospital, after complications arising from lung-surgery. It is learnt that he died of pneumonia- an inflammation of the lungs probably caused by the long hours spent in air-conditioned rooms, coupled with overwork and its resultant stress.

Wiredu, a rare breed of epitome of silent heroism of behemoth intellectual mind, soul and body, was born at Agogo in 1952, but lost the battle against death on September 25, 2008. He started his secondary education at the Kumasi High School, Kumasi in 1967 and proceeded to the Prempeh College (Kings’ College), where he had his sixth form education. Like yours truly, he was in Aggrey House at Prempeh College. Placing his priorities right, and determined to climb the academic ladder, he gained admission into the University of Ghana, where he obtained a Bachelor of Science in Administration.

As a great mentor and an administrator par excellence, he served in various positions with the now defunct Ghana Airways airline and the Volta River Authority. He also worked as a senior consultant on computer-systems and as Finance Manager of Ananse Systems.

His diligence, patriotism and contributions to nation building were evident in his flag of discipline and fundamental ideology. He, until his demise, held ministerial portfolios in Local Government and Rural Development, Education, Youth and Sports, and Finance and Economic Planning.

His political marks would surely stand the test of time. As an unwavering defender of truth and justice and a trenchant voice of the voiceless, he, along with other nationalists, campaigned against the Union government (UNIGOV) concept put forward by General Acheampong's Supreme Military Council in 1978. He wrote his name in the good books of history as one who risked life and limb to sustain democracy in our beloved country.

Wiredu wore on his face a true friend and a leader easily at the beck and call of the electorates. To say he confronted issues with his magic wand is to state the obvious. Recalling his achievements, the Civil Servants Association said, ‘in 2006, when civil servants were to embark on an industrial action to press home demands for better conditions of service, he fought for the complete removal of the distortions and corrections of the placements, an agreement, which brought smiles to the faces of our members’.

Wiredu was, indeed, a man of many parts; an accountant, a politician and consultant. He exercised his mind and energy on nationalistic quests without any attachment to earthly goods and honours. A devout Christian of the Methodist denomination, he never allowed his job requirements become a stumbling block in him worshipping and thanking the Omnipotent Father every Sunday.

There is a conservative notion that nothing depicts the sense of responsibility of any individual better than the way he reacts to fellow citizens in times of need. He not only bore the pains of the less-privileged; he empathized with those who drank the very dregs of the agonizing chalice. He is one man whose branches touched the branches of other lives, in a multifarious series of games. Though an intellectual giant, he never let his fine, scholarly prowess intrude into his fellowship with people. A community leader and a philanthropist extra-ordinaire, he fraternized with the downtrodden and impulsively met their needs. More so, with a good sense of humour and his speeches laced with admirable jokes, you got the impression that he is calm, meek, and inviting. The father of six was a father to others too. Since he was a patriot, and a citizen with the track record of investment in the moral resuscitation of his nation, is it any wonder then that accolades have continued to pour to his name and legacy from people across the political divide. Indeed, the fact that his name is mentioned in reverential tones, even after death, is testament to the fact that he was a unifier.

Through the vicissitudes and dynamics of life, and with each action or inaction, man becomes a profound illustration of fallibility. Therefore, whatever may be his failings, shortcomings, and misdemeanors, I think, they were all atoned for by his contribution to humanity.

The passing to glory of our beloved nationalist not only teaches us many lessons, but it could serve as a sober reflection on our lives. In private moments, after all the mourning, we need to shoot a projector unto the cyclorama of our memories, and ask questions like: Where do I go after death? , What is the need for all those material things I struggle determinedly to gain- Is it not vanity? What would people say about me after I join my fathers in the land of silence?

Sadly, the fact that a man of no mean repute as the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, would travel to the Rainbow Nation for medical treatment best typifies the sorry state of our health institution.

May the good Lord give his family the fortitude to bear this immense loss. Well, I am consoled that this man, who is an embodiment of thoroughness and mental acuity, has given us a standard by which the commitment and sincerity of our political leaders can be assessed. Furthermore, I believe, deep down in my heart, that the Lord Almighty would keep such a great mentor and beautiful soul worth-emulating: in his wonderful city of peace, bliss, tranquility and without the anguish of death and pain. So, I begin to ask: ‘O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?’