For a distinguished Ghanaian citizen of his stature, Mr. Harry (Romulus) Sawyer, who transitioned on Nov. 8, 2013, at the blessed age of 87, was buried in record time on Dec. 21, 2013 (See „Akwamu Traditional Council Threatens to Stop State Funeral of Late Harry Sawyer for Being Sidlined[sic]“ MyJoyOnline.com 12/14/13). That, of course, was 43 days subsequent to the official announcement of his demise.
This, of course, does not compare to the death and burial ceremonies for South Africa’s Mr. Nelson Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Madiba Mandela within the fleeting temporal space of 10 days. And what is more, the funeral program for the globally celebrated Mr. Mandela was one of the most elaborate of its kind in recent memory. It was also attended by more world-renowned and distinguished dignatries than any other, since the mammoth funeral of the Princess of Wales, Lady Diana Spencer.
About the only other Ghanaian funeral which comes closest to that of the immortalized spearhead of the African National Congress (ANC), is last year’s funeral for President John Evans Atta-Mills, in a Ghanaian record time of 17 days! But of course, we all know that the Mahama-led National Democratic Congress was in a rush to shoving the dead man out of the way, in order to rekindle a rudely interrupted electioneering campaign whose climax was barely four months away.
Paradoxically, though, shoving him quickly out of the way also facilitated the shamelessly inordinate capitalization on the passing of the former University of Ghana tax-law professor for massive sympathy votes, by the very operatives who clearly do not appear to have taken good care of the hitherto long-ailing leader. Indeed, some government critics have even suggested that the fulsomely touted „Prince-of-Peace,“ or perhaps more accurately, „King-of-Peace,“ had been hurried off onto God’s Acre in order to meet a fast-elapsing deadline to have the name of his arch-lieutenant printed on the ballot in time for Election 2012.
Thus, it was absolutely not the least bit surprising that among the very first public statements that a Transitional-President John Dramani Mahama made, entailed his profuse and profound gratitude to Divine Providence who, „in His infinite wisdom,“ had deemed it to be all-too-appropriate to shove off the prematurely aged Gold Coaster in favor of the first President to have been born in a postcolonial Independent Ghana.
The reason for this write-up, though, is to literally pick a quarrel with the potentates of the Akwamu Traditional Council who, reportedly, threatened to disrupt funeral and burial arrangements for the former Transport and Communications Minister, under the extremely short-lived administration of President Hilla (Babini) Limann’s People’s National Party (PNP), unless the Akwamu chieftains were prominently featured on the program of activities.
At any rate, there was a rather quaint aspect to the long political career of the deceased which readily jumped at the keen observer and avid student of post-colonial Ghanaian political culture. And it was the striking chameleonic semblance between Mr. Sawyer and the legendary Mr. Joseph „Joe“ Appiah. Back in 1979, when I had first come to knowledge of this highly respected statesman and professionally trained quality, or quantity, surveyor, I forget which, Mr. Sawyer was a bona fide member of the William „Paa Willie“ Ofori-Atta-led United National Convention (UNC).
What the foregoing means, of course, is that Mr. Sawyer was a thoroughbred member of the Danquah-Busia-Dombo Tradition of liberal-democratic principles. By the close of his long and illustrious life and career(s), though, the Nkrumah-leaning President John Dramani Mahama, smugly beaming with near-orgasmic euphoria, was saluting my dear Uncle Romulus for having also been quite a good game among the rascally ranks of pro-Gadhafy social democrats of the so-called National Democratic Congress.
Well, as for the alleged Akwamu threat of a to-do with Mr. Sawyer’s Accra-based family, it only interestingly underscores the inescapably treacherous, if also practically elusive, terrain that is the subject of „identity,“ „ethnicity“ and „nationality.“ The griping Akwamu chieftains note, quite intriguingly, that during his lifetime, Mr. Sawyer had been inducted into Akwamu chiefship with the royal title and name of Barima Akoto-Gyan III; and also that the deceased gentleman had represented the Akwamu State in the Otublohum division of the Ga State.
Needless to say, there is something rather humorous here, because it harks back to the long-forgotten days when the Akwamu had absolute suzerainty over the Ga. Back then, as I have had several occasions to regale my students and Ghanaian friends and associates with narratives of the indisputable fact that at its apogee, the Akwamu State stretched all the way from Ghana to the western Yoruba boundary of present-day Nigeria! In other words, even at its greatest heights, the Asante Empire was only a mere shadow of classical Akwamu. And, by the way, I am also partly Akwamu on my mother’s side of the family.
Yet another quaint aspect of the identity of the late Mr. Sawyer, is the fact that he was also widely known to be a Ghanaian of Sierra Leonean Creole descent. I know this because my niece-in-law is married to one of the London-based Maddy family members, a young rising star in the pharmaceutical industry. I guess, at the end of the day, what I am here suggesting is that what matters most was eloquently captured by the President, when Mr. John Dramani Mahama called his „Uncle Harry“ the quintessential kinsman of every Ghanaian.
I pretty much doubt that the same case could be credibly and legitimately made for the recently deceased Prof. Kofi Nyidevu Awoonor (aka George Awoonor-Williams), another notable Sierra Leonean-Ghanaian. That is what clearly differentiates a shameless political opportunist from a veritable statesman.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D. Department of English Nassau Community College of SUNY Garden City, New York
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