Feature Article of Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Columnist: Otchere-Darko, Asare

Re: The Real Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko

Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko

Yes, readers, this is the real Gabby Asare Otchere-Darko. Born in Chelsea, London, 45 years ago to Dr Joseph Otchere-Darko and the late Sophia Ofori-Atta. An article was posted on this website by an author, who goes by the name Margaret Jackson, who appears to know me better than me.

S/he says, “Gabby wants Ghanaians to believe that he has a faultless character, and that he is “The Man” who has been anointed to hold President Mills’ government to account.”

I do not claim to have a faultless character. But, I do accept that as a citizen of Ghana, the Constitution of the Republic has ‘anointed’ me, or any other citizen for that matter, to hold the government accountable. And, no amount of gargantuan proportions of character assassination would stop me from doing so. I shall continue to use my pen, my mouth, my newspaper, the New Statesman, and the Danquah Institute to push what we believe to be right and good for mother Ghana.

I am not a public office holder. In fact, I do not hold any official position besides being a legal practitioner in private practice and the Executive Director of a civil society organisation that I led in founding in memory of the principles for which my grandfather, Dr Joseph Boakye Danquah lived and died. I do not run away from the fact that I have a past. And, even as I write this from my sick bed, recovering in America, after suffering a potentially fatal illness in December, I do pray to God that He shall, in his infinite wisdom and mercy, grant me a future so that I can apply the rest of the days of my life to make meaningful contribution to building our nation, support my family and do this all to Honour He that gave me more than a second chance.

Yes, I do have a past. I used to smoke and drink. I quit both over two decades ago. I used to fight with the police in Europe and get myself into all kinds of trouble. I quit all that over two decades ago. Yes, in my youthful days in the 1980s, whether in Ghana or the United Kingdom, I was, what you may call, a ‘problem child’ from a privileged background – a rebel with not much of a cause, if any.

In London, I had more than my fair share of problems with the law. So much so that I, eventually, turned around to become a ‘friend’ to the police, helping them to apprehend suspected criminals, which, inspired me as a young adult to shift fully to the right side of the law, studying to become a lawyer. But, my bad boys days are no “best known hidden secret[s]”, which I have “done well to keep away from Ghanaians all this while”, as the author wants readers to believe. For example, in 2002, Anne Sekyi (now of Melting Moments) did an extensive interview with me, on my life, on Choice FM. She later on said my story was so interesting and the frankness so much so that the public asked for the programme to be replayed and the station did so a few times over.

At St Peter’s Secondary School, Nkwatia, my bad boy ways led to me ‘sacking’ myself, only to continue at Abuakwa State College, where I was made a ‘day’ student for being bad. In fact, in addressing students of Abusco in 2010, I told them about my bad boy days and warned them not to be like me then. I mentioned the names of my best friends in school, who did not make it in life. But, by the Grace of God, I made it. May be because, besides all my shenanigans, I took my studies seriously. May be because of the unyielding support I received from my parents, who never gave up on me. May be I was lucky. Definitely because God loves me.

Yes, in Europe in the 1980s, I joined bad company and even led bad company. It was like I had to be bad to assert my young black identity – a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. But, this is no excuse. I have four sisters and a brother who became doctors without ever being ‘bad’. I chose to be bad. My first brush with the law was when, as a teenager, I took my mother’s car without her consent and she reported the vehicle stolen. I came out of a night club, with my latest girlfriend, when the police, embarrassingly, arrested me by the vehicle. This began my negative, but, thankfully, short-lived, encounters with the law.

Eventually, it took a good police detective, who saw some goodness in me, to encourage me to rather support the system to fight crime. The author who goes by the name Margret Jackson writes: “In fact he Gabby was arrested with some friends in the United Kingdom during his youthful days when they attempted to rob a supermarket with toy guns.” I wish to state categorically that I was never arrested with some friends in the United Kingdom during my youthful days, or any other days, for attempting or succeeding in robbing a supermarket with toy guns or real guns. I do not have a criminal record in the United Kingdom or anywhere else. Yes, I have had problems with the law in the past in the UK but they were problems which attracted the kind of reprimand that is, by law and by now, spent – cleaned off. I may not be proud of my bad boy days, but I am proud of what I have disciplined myself to become in my adult years and I see my life as an example to parents, especially. Let us not give up on our children who turn out bad but rather encourage and support them to turn up good. I have never contested for public office and, indeed, per the Constitution of the Republic, I am free, both legally and morally, to apply for or be appointed to public office. Except, I have no such ambition.

Over the last two decades, I have, as a journalist or otherwise, contributed to the consolidation of Ghana’s fledgling democracy and there is no stopping me now, at this moment that we have an opportunity to transform our nation. A little over a decade ago when I was preparing to move back to Ghana, the head of department of the law firm that I worked for in London, Mr Paul Gulbenkian (who’s also a judge) said these memorable words to me: “Asare, here [in the UK] you are a small fish in a big pond. But, in Ghana, I know you will be a big fish in a small pond.”

My response: “Thank you, Sir; I hope there will be enough water for me to breathe.”

Perhaps, I should have added, “And enough clean water to swim, Sir.” But, let me inform my detractors that I would not be cowed into silence. I am a strong believer in the manifest destiny of Ghana’s greatness. I believe that we are not fated to be poor, ignorant and destitute. In my own little, meaningful way, I will use every cell in my brain and every sinew in my muscle to support the social and economic transformation of our beloved country, Ghana. May God help me and all those who share this faith in Ghana and in Him.