Inspirational Discourse With An Octogenarian

What’s in a name? That which we

call a rose By any other word

would smell as sweet.

Romeo and Juliet (Act II Sc. II)

William Shakespeare

KWAME AWUAH could have been a household name if the political tables had turned when he was still politically active, some forty years ago. And if I. K. Gyasi with his undisclosed age, would stand up and salute him, then you can guess Kwame’s age. Simple BODMAS, (given x=83)

            Obituaries (Obit. for short) are news articles that report the recent death along with accounts of the person’s life and information about the upcoming funerals. Epithets are adjectives or phrases expressing a quality or attribute regarded as characteristic of the person or thing being mentioned.

            Epithets can be described as a glorified nickname or sobriquet. Some epithets are known by the Latin term ‘epitheton necessarium’ (epithet necessary) – Alexander the Great, Richard the Lionheart. Shakespeare in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ uses talks of: ‘star-cross’d lover’, ‘death-mark’d love’. Epitaphs are phrases or words written in memory of persons who have died, especially as an inscription on a tombstone: ‘Here lies Kofi B; always in our hearts’. People may have served as a candle, or as a beacon, in the darkness ‒ unsung heroes. Do we have to undo that? Yes, we think so.

            This is where Kwame Awuah comes in. He calls his house ‘The Republic of Patasi’, and it is a humble four-room apartment. He shows satisfaction and contentment at what God has done for him over the years. He has no regrets in life! Or so, it appears. Sitting at his feet, he would patriarchally advise you: as a lawyer, take your client’s case as seriously as you can, but having done that, accept the outcome, whatever it be and don’t brood over ‘nkurofuo nsem-hunu’. Respect the Bench, and colleague lawyers. It happened that at his office one morning, a preacher man went to preach the word of God. Awuah was so engrossed in preparing a case for court, he disregarded the presence of the man of God. In anger, the apocalyptic man charged: ‘Nkurofuo nsem-hunu nti, mereka Nyame-sem kyere wo a, wonntie’.

            William Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, ‘The King’s Men’ had a motto ‘Totus mundus agit historionem’ (All the world plays the actor), and in ‘As You Like It’, he says: “All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances. And one man in his time plays many parts. His acts being seven ages…” The infant, mewling and puking; then the whining school boy; thereafter, the lover; then the soldier; then the justice; the sixth age sees him shifted into “the lean and slippered pantalon with spectacles on nose and pouch on side”; then he turns towards childish treble, pipes and whistles in his sound… “In second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans everything.” In the 5th Century BC, Democritus had stated: “The world is a stage, life is a performance; you come, you see, you go away.” So, the world being a stage had been talked about before Shakespeare. When Awuah finds it difficult to decipher some words or when his ears cannot capture the interlocutor’s words properly, he would say the wires that link those parts of the body to the brain are being disconnected by the maker. Which of the seven ages could this be, with his full set of teeth?

            If Opanin Yaw Adams Awuah and Maame Afua Bruku had been alive today, they would not have regretted giving birth to Kwame Awuah in September 1932 at Fante New Town, Kumasi. His parents would rather have been proud to see their “mewling and puking” son completing the MSLC in 1951. They would have debated the propriety in the decision to deny him the opportunity to go to secondary school after passing the Common Entrance, and rather desiring to push him into farming. Irrepressible Kwame joined the National Liberation Movement in 1953 and was an active Action Trooper (wawe dzi wawe) till he left to join the Gold Coast Railway in Takoradi as a train guard in 1955.

            In 1959, he resigned and left for Cape Coast to look for a secondary school, but was declared too old for secondary schooling. He saw an opening in Pitman’s Commercial Institute and went there to learn shorthand, type-writing and book-keeping. He was the eldest in his class. With determination, he took the GCE O Level and passed, having been tutored by lecturers from the same St. Augustine’s College and Adisadel which had refused to admit him for his age.

            Wolsey Hall (Oxford) and Rapid Results College offered another avenue for his A Levels, but got recruited into the University of Ghana as the Dean’s Secretary (Law Faculty) in 1964. He was impressed by the students’ eagerness to study law: Atta Mills, Kwesi Botchwey and Tsatsu Tsikata. He gained admission into the Law Faculty in 1968, attaining the LLB in 1971, and in 1973, he was called to the Bar at Chief Justice Azu Crabbe’s time. End of the labyrinthine path.

            Kwame entered private practice, becoming the Ashanti Regional Bar Secretary, then Assistant National Secretary. He was instrumental in the Professional Bodies’ strike of 1975, which resisted the pressure for UNIGOV and chose rather full civilian democratic rule. Kwame has never regretted his association with General (Okatakyie) Akwasi Amankwaa Afrifa, B. J. da Rocha, R. R. Amponsah, Akufo-Addo (now President of Ghana) and Professor Adu Boahen. These were the men who fought relentlessly to restore Ghana’s democracy. During Hilla Limann’s time (1979 -1981), the debate was whether the substantive Chief Justice was to be subjected to vetting. Kwame insisted that the Chief Justice should not go for vetting. Chief Justice F. K. Apaloo opted to be vetted. It was a tug-of-war when Parliament gave him a fail mark and Apaloo refused to resign. In the court case, initiated by Amoako Tufuor, the court under N. P. Sowah ruled that Apaloo should remain Chief Justice.

            In 1982, Kwame left for Nigeria, upon the advice of a close confidante (call the person in today’s parlance (Government Official 1): “These boys (can be) vicious.”  He taught at Akanu Abiam Federal Polytechnic, Afikpo (Imo State) as a lecturer in Law.

            In 1992, Kwame returned to Ghana and once again engaged in private practice. In 1999, he established Nkunim Chambers (Victory Chambers). He would seek proper legal means to achieve victory in all cases he handled.

            Now, he has the time to go deep into the Bible. As a political animal, he relishes Proverbs Chapter 29. “Show me a righteous ruler and I will show you a happy people. Show me a wicked ruler and I will show you a miserable people… When the king is concerned with justice, the nation will be strong, but when he is only concerned with money, he will ruin his country…” The allusions must be obvious.

            Now sporting a whitish Mosaic beard, what is best to keep him smiling – to answer the Lord’s Prayer: “give us this day our daily bread”, and we literally interpret it, and “break bread” each day- short of finding scriptural explanation to 6-year old grand-child Gloria’s question: “The communion wine you are drinking, is it the real Jesus’s blood?”  Sufficient to say: “It has not been sacramentally blessed.”

Africanus Owusu – Ansah