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Opinions of Sunday, 28 July 2013

Columnist: Ata, Kofi

Oko Vanderpujie, Theodosia Okoh Deserves Better

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

On the evening of Tuesday July 24, 2013, whilst listening to the 19.00hrs TV3 news from Accra on my laptop, I saw Dr Alfred Oko Vanderpuije, the Chief Executive of Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) read a resolution before a meeting of the Assembly to change the name of the National Hockey Stadium from Theodosia Okoh to Prof Evans Atta Mills Hockey Stadium. Following that illegal act, a lot has been said and written about it and this article is in honour of Madam Okoh for her role in national development, a contribution to the debate on honouring our heroines and heroes and to make recommendations the future.

I must confess that, I am naive about historic position occupied and the role played by Madam Theodosia Okoh in sports development in Ghana. It was therefore not surprising that until I heard about the above change of name, I knew nothing about Madam Okoh, let alone her immense contributions to the development of hockey in Ghana. When I first heard the AMA resolution, the first question that came to my mind was, has AMA Chief Executive and or AMA got the legal authority to rename a national stadium that is already named after a citizen? I was shocked beyond belief to learn that Madam Okoh was also the designer of Ghana’s National Flag. My second question was, where has she been all these years? In fact, I was unaware that she was alive, until I logged onto Ghanaian media websites.

I did a google search to find out more about this unique daughter of Ghana, why and how I never learnt about her at School in Ghana. Sadly nothing came up so I googled Ghana national flag designer, then her name appeared but with no other information about her. My third question was, is it because, Madam Okoh is a woman? I posed this third question because I learnt at school that Philp Gbeho wrote and composed the National Anthem and Ephraim Amu as the composer of “Yen Ara Asase Ni” as well as lots of information about both men on the web.

I am not sure if I am alone for not knowing that Madam Theodosia Okoh was the designer of the national flag but what I found out about this industrious citizen amazed me. I am also unsure if the non-recognition of her artistic and creative work and especially for designing the national flag is due to the role of women in patriarchal Ghanaian society. Recounting how she came to design the Ghana flag, Madam Okoh said “she saw an advert in the local newspaper calling for a design of the National Flag for the country and being an artist, I took interest in the challenge and presented my design, but since then I never heard anything even though I was appropriately credited with the creation” (see “Okoh unhappy about attempts to swap her name for Mills on hockey stadium”, Ghanaweb, July 25, 2013).

It is not clear how Madam Okoh was appropriately credited with the design of the national flag. If she was not even made aware that her design was selected and therefore won the completion, how appropriate was she credited with her hard work? I do not know the terms and conditions of the advertisement but if she was not formally informed her design was selected as the national flag, the organisers of the competition might have themselves breached the terms and conditions of the competition. For this reason, I am of the view that, Madam Okoh could still claim copy right to her design and charge Ghana for using it all these years without the deserved recognition. She can then sell the copy right back to Ghana for at least, the same amount that was paid to Woyome for doing nothing. But, I believe Madam Okoh is a patriotic citizen and would not want monetary reward for her design. Again,she might be aware that the country is experiencing financial hardships and unable to pay her bills at the moment and would not want to saddle the nation with more debts. I therefore recommend that a national event be organised to honour her design and a symbolic certificate presented to her at the next Independence Day celebrations.

I was baffled but also impressed to read about the family background of Madam Okoh and her leading role in the development of hockey in Ghana in an article by Professor Emeritus Ivan Addae Mensah, Former Vice-Chancellor of University Of Ghana, Legon which appeared in the New Crusading Guide “Don’t Deny Mrs Okoh of her Honour” July 26, 2013.

I reproduce some sections of the article, “Madam Theodosia Okoh (née Asihene), wife of the late Mr Enoch Okoh, Secretary to Kwame Nkrumah’s Cabinet in the 1960s, elder sister of Dr Leticia Obeng and the late Professor E.V Asihene, former Dean of the College of Art, KNUST, is unsurpassed in the annals of the development of Ghana Hockey. She was the Chairman of the Ghana Hockey Association and later President of the Ghana Hockey Federation for over twenty years, and was a mother to all those of us who played hockey in Ghana from the late fifties to the 1980s, and a grandmother to the present crop of hockey players. It was during her era as President of the Hockey Federation that Ghana first qualified for both the Hockey World Cup and the Olympic Games. If anybody is to be honoured for the construction of the National Hockey Stadium, no one else deserves that honour more than Auntie Theodosia. It was in recognition of her immense contribution to Hockey in Ghana that the late Ohene Djan named her the Joan of Arc of Ghana Hockey, because she rose to the occasion to save Ghana hockey when men were faltering and vacillating about development of the game. This is also the reason why the National Hockey Stadium was named after her in 2004”.

Madam Okoh is without doubt, a double national heroine and is this how Oko Vanderpuije decides to dishonour her? There is too much indiscipline and disorder in Ghana and the AMA Chief Executive is an “epitome” of such indiscipline and disorder. Neither he nor AMA has the legal authority to name or rename national assets within the AMA. This also applies to all metropolitan, municipal and district Chief Executives and assemblies. That is the prerogative of the President. Vanderpujie’s actions and omissions are signs of lack of proper Executive oversight on the appointees of the President as well as disrespect for the sector minister and the President.

This same Oko Vanderpujie had the audacity to revert the Ohene Djan Sport Stadium back to Accra Sports Stadium because Ohene Djan was not a Ga. Who told him the Ohene Djan Sports Stadium is for Ga people? Sadly, the then timid and weak president, the late Atta-Mills did not have the guts to call Vanderpujie to order, so he got away with it. I understand he also renamed a road in Accra after the late president.

I met a former Ghanaian colleague who now lives in New York and his family over lunch in London on Thursday, 25 July 2013 to catch up with him. They were on a three-day transit to New York from a family holiday in Zambia where his wife is from. He told me that he was impressed with the discipline, neatness in Zambia and the progress the country has made on his second visit compared to Ghana. Though he noticed that Ghana has also made some progress on his visit in 20011, Ghana’s progress is overshadowed by the dirty in Ghana which is the direct consequences of the indiscriminate disposal of rubbish and waste by Ghanaian as a result of indiscipline and disorder. I could not agree with my friend more. The indiscipline and disorder in Ghana is not only limited to disposal of rubbish and waste and or by ordinary citizens but across all spheres of human endeavours and by all, including people in positions of trust and authority such as Oko Vanderpujie and his cohorts.

There is no doubt in mind that, the actions and omissions of Vanderpujie may be politically motivated and could be part of the usual NDC/NPP struggle for supremacy in Ghana. If I am right, could this decision be to spite the Kufuor administration who named both Accra Sports Stadium and the National Hockey Stadium after Ohene Djan and Madam Theodosia Okoh respectively? Coincidentally both Ohene Djan and Madam Okoh are Akwapims. In my view, the AMA Chief Executive has outgrown his wings and the President must clip them before he caused any more damage and embarrassment to the government. Please do not tell me about the renaming of Flagstaff House as Jubilee House by the NPP administration.

Another indiscipline and disorder in Ghana is the use of titles. Every/any damn fool in Ghana is referred to as “Honourable”. The word “Honourable” has been devalued in Ghana when in fact, many of those called honourables are indeed, dishonourables. Another abuse of titles is the word “Mayor”. In Ghana the Chief Executives of metropolitan and municipal assembles (MCEs) are referred to as Mayors. Even journalists who should know better and educate the public also refer to these unelected officials as Mayors. There is a big difference between the two titles (Chief Executive and Mayor). The former is by appointment and has limited powers whilst the latter is democratically elected with vast powers and authority over many areas regarding the administration of their cities and towns.

By Ghanaians referring to MCEs as Mayors, these unelected officials have assumed tin gods status, unilaterally assumed powers of elected officials and act over and above their powers and authority. Dr Vanderpujie is very much aware of what I am talking about and that is precisely why he acts the way he does. He lived in the US, saw how elected Mayors in the US acted and that is what he is practising. Because he is referred to as Mayor he believes he can act like an elected Mayor though no one elected him but was appointed by the President. By his actions and omissions on this matter, he has usurped the powers of the President and he should be sanctioned for acting illegally.

To end such confusion by these indisciplined appointees, the Presidency through the Ministry of Local Government should instruct all metropolitan and municipal Chief Executives from using the title “Mayor” and refrain from naming and renaming any national asset. The Accra Sports Stadium should revert to Ohene Djan Sport Stadium without any further delay. For dishonouring the double national heroine, Vanderpujie must be ordered to publicly apologise to Madam Theodosia Okoh.

To put an end to the problems of naming and renaming national assets, the government should set up a national commission comprising of members from political parties, industrialists, traditional leaders, trade union leaders, religious leaders, distinguished personalities and other bodies and groups to make recommendations on which national assets should be named after national heroes and heroines as well as recommend deserving personalities for such national honours. We should avoid renaming existing named national assets because that does not augur well for national cohesion, if not the source of tension between different groups. If the renaming is necessary, the family of the affected personality should be fully consulted and given the reasons for the renaming. The public should also be fully informed of the reasons.

Regarding appropriate recognition for Madam Theodosia Okoh for designing the national flag, in addition to the earlier recommendation above, a national monument should be named after her before she joins her ancestors. What about the Independence Square? I also recommend that either her family or government through the Ministry of Information put together a brief biography of Madam Okoh and make it available on the web. This is long overdue. May she live longer to see my recommendations come into fruition. Madam

Okoh is reported to have said that she wants to kiss President Maham’s feet for reversing Oko Vanderpujie’s illegal act. Madam Okoh, Ghana is indebted to you for your contributions to national development. You gave Ghana a unique national identity and we all (generations gone, present and unborn) should always be grateful to you, wash your feet and kiss them, instead of you kissing those of the president.

Shame unto Dr Alfred Oko Vanderpujie and his AMA members for Madam Theodosia Okoh. A nation that does not honour her sons and daughters is not worth fighting for let alone die for. Madam Theodosia Okoh definitely deserves honours and not dishonour.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK