How We Love Our Dead Relatives Part 2 – By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jnr., Ph.D.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jnr., Ph.D.

I have known that Mr. Henry Kwadwo Djaba (aka “I Shall Return”) had taken ill for some time now, because several years ago a London-based lawyer-daughter of the now-deceased entrepreneur wanted us to collaborate in authoring a biographical tribute to the old man. The project never took off, partly because having lived outside the country for so long, I could no longer remember this man who had evidently distinguished himself in the significant arenas of business and culture. And then also, the dry-run list of Mr. Djaba’s achievements that his namesake daughter – I suppose he was also called George – had e-mailed to me was rather too sketchy. In the end, though, it was the mercurial and curious political dealings of this otherwise quite smart, and even brainy, daughter of Mr. Djaba’s, as I personally perceived the same at the time, that had effectively turned me off the project. I am quite certain that the life of this remarkable man deserves to be written about in a book; and also certain that the right author will pursue this project in the near future.

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Then also, collaborating in authoring a biography on Mr. Djaba (Gyabaah?) did not fire up my proverbial belly partly because the soccer team whose board he had so diligently chaired, and evidently invested so much of his personal wealth in, Akyem-Abuakwa Susubiribi, had been effectively defunct for sometime now. Even so, I had been very fascinated about the fact that the old man had apparently been born in Akyem-Tafo, which made him as equally Akyem as he was a Krobo. Besides, the generally formidable entrepreneurial presence of the Krobo in Okyemanmu tends to make the decidedly thin and fluid construction of ethnic identities seem rather elusive, to speak much less about the outright tricky and at once treacherous.

Anyway, the caption of the Daily Guide article reporting the funeral of Mr. Djaba was rather misleading. It gave the shockingly false impression that it was Ms. Otiko Afisa Djaba, the nationally renowned politician daughter of the deceased, who had transitioned. The caption read as follows: “Confusion Mars Otiko Funeral” ( 12/31/13). This is somewhat forgivable, being that the Daily Guide newspaper is unabashedly pro-New Patriotic Party; and Ms. Otiko Djaba is the quite eloquent leader of the women’s wing of the main opposition NPP.

The preceding notwithstanding, what inspired me to get into the subject of the passing of the late Mr. Djaba primarily regards the widely reported confusion that broke out among the children of the deceased. In the main, it concerns the decision of whether to inter, or bury, the dead man in the impressive courtyard of his own house in Somanya, as he had reportedly declared while still alive. This impasse, of course, is called a family feud. And it is quite common among the members of legions of families the world over, even where the siblings are of the same father and mother.

In the case of Mr. Djaba, though, it well appears that the old man had fathered a considerable number of children by several women of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. This is quite common among the conjugally liberal ranks of the rich and powerful in many non-Western societies and cultures. And so the steamy dispute regarding whether the old man’s mortal remains ought to be interred within the confines of the courtyard of his own home, or be laid to rest in much the same manner as many an ordinary Ghanaian citizen, in a public or religious cemetery, is all to be expected.

Clearly, those among the offspring of Mr. Djaba who would have the mortal remains of their patriarch literally shoved out of the way and onto God’s acre, as it were, seem to be primarily concerned about the need to completely sever links with the dead man, in order to peaceably go on with their lives without the constant intrusive reminder of his death. Which is all well and good, for such is the way of humanity and the temporally ineluctable.

On the other hand, those among his progeny who want the old man’s funerary wishes to be followed through to the letter, appear to culturally and ritually want to establish a somewhat direct and permanent link with the spirit of their eudemonious and distinguished dead patriarch. In these two instances, either funerary ideological camp has a recognized claim to legitimacy.

What I am especially concerned about here, though, is what the laws of the land, as articulated by statute or the central government and Parliament, in Accra, and the country’s Ministry of Health, have to say about domestic, or homestead, and public burials. And this is also where any definitive solution to the apparent confusion over the burial place of the late Mr. Djaba clearly seems to lie. As afore-hinted, there do not appear to be any hard-and-fast rules about how our dead get buried in this country. And this is also where the functional significance of the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Cultural Affairs, perforce, comes to the fore.

We know, for instance, that former Vice-President Aliu Mahama, may Allah rest his soul, had been interred in the courtyard of his Tamale home. Parliament needs to afford us a helping hand here, too.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D. Department of English Nassau Community College of SUNY Garden City, New York


The opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views or have the endorsement of the Editorial Board of and