Feature Article of Sunday, 12 February 2012

Columnist: Fordwor, Kwame Donkoh

Tribute to Nana Asuama Dei Kumi II

(Kofi Kumi Dei-Anang Esq.)

Ankobeahene, Mampong Akuapem

By Kantinka Kwame Donkoh Fordwor

Former President of the African Development Bank (the ADB)

I first encountered Kofi Dei-Anang during an afternoon drink with my late brother-in-law, Yaw Attakora-Amoo. I recall it was one o’clock because Radio Ghana was broadcasting the news and Kofi had a commentary slot on current affairs, which came on just after the news broadcast. On this particular afternoon, Kofi used the opportunity to refer in public, some views which he claimed he had privately expressed to the National Redemption Council (NRC) Commissioners. These were views and sentiments which, I am sure, not many people would have dared to express to a member of the Government, under any circumstances at the time. In addition to the commentary slot, Kofi also had a weekly television programme, "Face to Face.” In these shows he appeared to have much pleasure of mercilessly savaging the sycophantic acolytes of the government, who were naive enough to seek to project themselves, their power, and wealth on national television.

At the end of the commentary by Kofi, Yaw told me that he and Tsatsu Tsikata were Kofi’s pets, when they were students at the Law Faculty in the University of Ghana. He explained that both of them spent most of their free time in his house passionately debating and arguing over many topics. Yaw was full of admiration for him. According to him, Kofi was a workaholic. He had been a Barrister for nine years, and had been teaching and practicing law with a fair measure of success for seven years. In 1973, his colleagues at the Bar Council had unanimously decided, without any reference to him, to nominate him for appointment to a newly-vacant seat on the Circuit Court. This promotion was announced on his thirty-third birthday. In addition to his judicial functions, Kofi also served as the personal administrative assistant to the Chief Justice, in the three years he was on the Bench. He worked extremely long hours often ignoring his annual leave. He enjoyed being a Judge, but his administrative abilities had also come to the attention of the administrative staff, and the Chief Justice. As a result, his schedule was to increase during the celebrations of the Centenary of the Supreme Court of Ghana, which lasted for a whole year: 1976-1977. As expected, Kofi played a very influential role in planning and organizing the Centenary celebrations. Although I was in Abidjan at the time of the celebrations in Accra, I was informed that the celebrations were better than had been imagined. All Chief Justices of the Commonwealth were invited and most of them attended in person. Even the Soviet Union sent a senior representative of its supreme judicial organ. Accra had somehow managed to attract international legal headlines.

Upon his qualification as a Judge, Yaw assured me that he was in no doubt that as far as legal knowledge was concerned; Kofi was good enough to sit on the High Court without difficulty. He noted that he had been practicing law successfully for ten years, and he had also built a good reputation as a law teacher at the Faculty of Law. Kofi was initially apprehensive about being elevated to the bench at the rather young age of thirty-three; although it had been his ambition to be a Judge one day. It was true that he was jumping from the lower echelons of the judicial ladder, but he also expected to progress much faster because he knew that he was not an amateur in the profession.
During this time, I had taken up my appointment, as President of the African Development Bank, in September 1976. I inherited a Legal Department that was in shambles: a serious threat to my ambitious plan to re-design the Bank completely! I was in need of a brilliant legal mind that could pull up the Legal Department, and so I approached Dr. Thomas Mensah, who said he was not available for the position. In desperation, I approached Mr. McNamara, President of the World Bank at the time, to assign one of his lawyers, on loan to the ADB. His delay in response led me back to Dr. Mensah, to propose an alternative, if he couldn’t take up the position himself. His strongest recommendation was Kofi Dei-Anang. Initially, I was concerned about his choice because I wasn’t sure about Kofi’s ability to operate in French - one of the official languages of the Bank and the most commonly used at the Headquarters in Abidjan. However, Kofi assured me that his French would not be a problem: although he had swapped his French education with Greek at age thirteen, he had also spent some of his vacations in France, where his sister was studying, while he was a student at Oxford. At several international conferences, he had made it a habit to listen to French-speaking delegates directly, instead of through the interpretation system. In addition his father, a renowned Ghanaian poet, diplomat and politician, had strong contacts with the French linguistic institute "Presence Africaine" which sought to promote contacts between English and French-speaking African writers. His father’s library in Mampong Akuapem had works by French writers such as Leopold Senghor, Aime Cesaire, Camara Laye, Mongo Beti, and several others: many of which had been given by the authors themselves; including mimeographed and autographed copies of poems by the Ivorian Bernard Dadi. Kofi had even translated some of his poems from French into in English, without difficulty. He had also built on this foundation to establish a sizeable library of French poetry while at Oxford. Consequently he could read French quite easily, although writing and speaking French would be a temporary challenge, he said he believed it would not be a serious obstacle to his work. This turned out to be quite true, for Kofi mastered the French language, in all aspects within a very short time.
Based on this and other glowing references, I decided to offer him the position, and he duly accepted. Kofi arrived at Abidjan Airport at 11.00 on June 1, 1977. He came to my office at 15:00. Soon, he had full rein of his duties, and it became quite clear that finally, I had in place, the kind of legal support required to achieve my objective of opening the capital of the Bank, to non-regional members. For example, it was obvious to him from the start that his principal task was to ensure that the Legal Department plays a much more significant role than it had done in the previous fourteen years of its existence, in the Bank’s operations. The Legal Department had become an object of mild ridicule, and it was considered merely as a source of entertaining "interpretations" of the Bank's internal rules. One such incident had, apparently, been hilariously broadcasted on BBC’s Africa Service.
With this background in mind, I was pleased that I had at last found a lawyer who was likely to execute the Legal Department’s role, professionally and effectively. I intended to change this Bank radically and make it much bigger: its balance sheet was just $800 million. Africa needed a bank with a balance sheet of at least $16 billion, if it was to be in a position to finance a small part of the development needs of the continent. I shared this with Kofi and his calm response was “And how do you propose to do that?” I answered “Why, by opening it up to non-African membership." At the time, I did not realize the stupendous nature of “the heresy” that I was proposing to Kofi. But Kofi soon found out. The opposition to this idea was stupendous and some "politically-correct" diehards were determined, in pursuit of their own self-interest, to have me removed, and so thwart the execution of the plan that I had almost single-handedly designed to open the Bank’s financing, to non-regional Members. When Dr. Thomas Mensah heard of the crisis in the bank, he flew to Abidjan on Thursday, July 5. He stayed with Kofi from that day till Monday (July 5 to July 9) so that he could review all the legal work done. In the end he could only issue a clean bill of health for the work done by Dei-Anang. As far as legal matters were concerned, Kofi was in a class by himself. Today, many people wonder why the Members of the Bank clung desperately to a position that Kwame Fordwor, as President, took only 18 months to dismantle.
When I left the Bank, Kofi continued to work even harder for the institution. As a result he had a heart attack that put him in a coma in 1987. I sent him a note about the attack of vertigo that I had in 1977 in Norway. He had another heart attack in 1995. Luckily he had been made aware of this heart condition after the severe attack of 1987, and the second one in 1995. It is interesting to note that on both occasions, the attacks had been preceded by one of the many crisis periods in the Bank; and each of the attacks ended with him in a coma. It was, perhaps at this stage that he realized the extent to which he had broken his body, in his zeal to serve the Bank.
Kofi left the Bank on retirement in 1995, though he continued to accept consultancy assignments from the Bank and other sources, and this did not help matters with his health. One particularly taxing consultancy was the Africa Infrastructure Fund. He was the Resident Legal Consultant. They raised US$500.00 million and helped to bring Air Ivoire back in the air. During that time, he had also decided that it was time to serve his father’s people in Ghana: specifically the people of the hilly mountains of Mampong Akuapem, he had already served his nation, the continent of Africa and world in various capacities.
Eventually, Kofi yielded to a long-standing traditional obligation and agreed to become the Guantoahene of his Traditional Area. I had the pleasure of meeting him in Mampong with his uncle/cousin Nana Otu Pabi IV, who presided over the Traditional Area. Nana Otu Pabi IV passed away some three years ago. A new Mankrado was only installed in 2010 so, for nearly two years, Kofi presided over the affairs of the area as the Ankobeahene. Kofi believed that he could carry these many assignments with ease, but it seems he had overreached himself. First, he had to cope with all the headaches involved in performing the functions of the Ayipasohene. In addition he was closely and actively involved in the selection and installation of the new Mankrado. By the time the new Chief was installed, he was literally exhausted both physically and emotionally. Kofi succumbed to a final heart attack and passed away peacefully on Sunday December 4, 2011.

Kofi was meticulous, conscientious, hard-working, well read, and very poetic. As far back as September 28, 1968, he could express himself eloquently and intelligibly in an interview with Ivan van Sertimer, of the African Writers Club, on poetry in Ghana. At the end of the interview he recited one of his own poems: An Exile’s Song. Kofi Dei-Anang was steeped in African Culture and he had no difficulty moving away from Western culture and being completely African, whenever the need arose.

How better can I bid him goodbye than by recalling the words of the elegy by Albius Tibullus, the ancient poet of the era before Christ?

“Bene placideque quiescas, Teraque securae sit super ossa Levis”
“Sleep well and peacefully, and above thy untroubled ashes may the earth be light.