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Opinions of Saturday, 9 May 2009

Columnist: Awuni, Manasseh Azure

Tribute to Kojo Oppong Nkrumah

By Manasseh Azure Awuni

On Thursday 23rd, April 2009, I was invited by two friends to attend a public lecture at the College of Physician and Surgeons auditorium. I first asked about the subject matter of the lecture and it was one everybody is concerned about but would not normally attend such lectures. It was a lecture on health, organised by the Family Health International. The two school mates who invited me added that the ceremony was also to honour Dr. Fred Sai, the father of Oboshie Sai-Coffie, a minister in the NPP regime. I decided to go since the place was not far from GIJ, and another reason being that by the time the ceremony ended, there would not be heavy traffic on the way. But it was to be an evening that would challenge me to leave footprints in the sands of time as long as I live on this planet.

Dr. Fred Sai is one of the many unsung heroes who have escaped our attention because they have not taken the “honourable” professions of being politicians. Speaker after speaker spoke very highly of Dr. Fred Sai and his contribution to family planning and reproductive health in Ghana, Africa and the world at large. The man had swept many international awards and his tributes were very challenging. At the University of Ghana Medical School, he had instituted a scholarship foundation for needy girls to study. Some of the beneficiaries were present to lend credence to his tributes. I thought he had passed away and the ceremony was held remember his deeds. But I later got to know that he was a living legend.

When his name was finally mentioned to take the award, he was given a standing ovation while the auditorium thundered with applause. His wife and three beautiful daughters present, I believe, were more than proud to be associated with such a man. He handed the cheque which formed part of his prize to authorities of the University of Ghana Medical School to support the foundation he had formed. Dr. Fred Sai is the only person I have seen or heard receiving his tributes while he still had breath.

As a country, if we are to encourage hard work and sacrifice for national course, we should not wait for people to die before we begin to sing praises of their achievements. What is the use of praises to clay?

One man whose service to the nation has endeared him to many Ghanaians and for that matter listeners of radio discussions is Mr. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, the host of Joy FM’s Super Morning Show. Last year when the GJA failed to produce a Journalist of the Year, a few names were suggested by people who knew what good journalism is. They were of the view that such people were qualified enough to be crowned Journalist of the Year award. One of the names was Kojo Oppong Nkrumah. Dr. Nii Moi Thompson in his feature titled “Whither Ghanaian Journalism” published on ghanaweb.com on October 29th, 2008, had this to say:

“Radio, more than any media, has helped smash the information monopoly that the state once enjoyed, and many radio hosts – such as Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah of Joy FM – are good enough to compete with the best anywhere. But there are many on air who are clearly unprepared. They range from people who barely understand the subject matter they discuss on air to those who can be so ill-prepared that they don’t even know the names of their guests.”

I used to listen also to Cecil Nii Obodai-Wentum of Uniiq Breakfast Drive and in addition to Kojo, I had enough information for my morning. For reasons best known to the ageless old man beyond the azure skies, Cecil is no more and the vigour and the high level of control he had over UBD is now a thing of the past. With Kojo still around, Ghanaians can still listen to a morning show “good enough to compete with the best anywhere.”

Kojo Oppong Nkrumah has some few qualities which are as rare as twenty-one year old virgins in this twenty-first century of ours.

He has control over the main tools of trade. The main tools of the journalistic trade are language and content. One does not only have to rattle the Queen’s Language like a talking bird been adequately fed with pepper. One must be well-read and also understand the issues of the day. Many of Kojo Oppong Nkrumah’s interviews usually turn out to be banner headlines of most news papers. The questions are relevant and do not in the slightest way suggest the host’s stance. This brings us to his high level of objectivity which is peerless. We live in a country divided into two equal halves. It either NPP or NDC, or Hearts of Oak or Kotoko. A presenter does not usually have to say which of the two sides he or she belongs before one gets to know. Their line of questioning and usually betray them even before they are halfway through the interviews. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah’s line of questioning balanced that one hardly knows where he stands.

Right from the news paper review to the end of the programme careful listeners will find it difficult to know his stance and I think this is the hallmark of a good journalist. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah and his team of correspondents did a great job during the just ended election and I was waiting to hear GJA include the Best Media House in Election Reporting as one of the categories for the 14th GJA Awards, but it is missing. Nevertheless, I have no doubt where the award for the Best Morning Show will go.

Kojo Oppong Nkrumah is also very natural. He is not one of those hosts who speak the locally acquired foreign accent (LOFA). Though he speaks very impeccable English, he is who he is. This, among other qualities, makes him stand out and for those who wondered whether Komla Dumor would get a suitable replacement, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah has proved that he is more than equal to the task.

Anytime I hear Komla Dumor on BBC World Service, I feel proud. What usually comes to my mind is that in Ghana, we have journalists who can compete favourably with the best journalists the world over. We therefore need to appreciate the efforts of those who have tried their level best to rise above the mediocrity we so much adore as a nation.

It is very rare to read tributes about the achievements of people while they are alive. It is therefore no wonder Francis Nana Ackah, a student of St. Thomas Aquinas Senior High School asked me why I was writing the tribute of someone who is alive. “Why is he dead?” he questioned when he saw writing on my computer.

Tributes at funerals have now become works of fiction, replete with time worn clichés. They are usually as monotonous as the rhythm of francophone music and as boring as anything. The only two people I’m sure will not be accorded those tributes when they die are Robert Mugabe and Osama Bin Laden.

If Kojo Oppong Nkrumah erred today, many critics and investigative writers would fill news papers, websites and airwaves with their views .Why then do we fail to celebrate our heroes when they are alive and doing their jobs well? Why can’t the nation honour people like Prof. Stephen Addae who got to GIMPA when the institution had no name and left at a time GIMPA now connotes excellence? Such individuals are the drivers of national development but they are not common to come by. They are very rare, like bearded men in Burma Camp. We should not wait for them to die before we drape their caskets in the national colours. Let us criticize when our fellow citizens falter and praise where praise is due. People like Kojo Oppong Nkrumah may not have done great things but they have done small things in a great way. People who cannot even recite the first three letters of the English alphabets can now say anything about journalists in Ghana. There are however certain names that make us juveniles in the profession proud. George Sydney Abugri, Kofi Akordor, Kwaku Sakyi Addo, Merari Alomele, Doris Yaa Dartey among others have given those of us still hoping to join the inky fraternity the impression that all hope is not lost. When I recently met Kojo at the launch of MDS-Lancet Laboratories at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, I watched him like an idol. Were he a female I would have had to pray to God afterwards for forgiveness for fornicating in my heart. A man’s praise, they say, sounds sweeter when it comes from another person’s mouth. I think Kojo, like many other hardworking Ghanaians, deserves commendation. We should not only criticize them when they go wrong. It costs nothing to commend someone doing his work well.

To Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, I say ayeekoo. You can do still better. Though it has never being my aim to be a radio presenter, you inspire me a lot. Tell Ato Kwamena Dadzie that I like his laughter and funny comments on the newspaper review, but some of his writings are too rude for public consumption. There are so many ways of telling a man that he is a fool and still have him smile. Long live all hardworking Ghanaians like Kojo Oppong Nkrumah! Long live Ghana! And may apostles of mediocrity never prosper! Aaameeen!

By Manasseh Azure Awuni {azureachebe2@yahoo.com} The writer is a Level 300 student of the Ghana Institute of Journalism, Accra.