Fare Thee Well, Paa Kwesi

Do you not know that a man is not dead while his name is still spoken?

Terry Pratchett

PAA KWESI AMISSAH-ARTHUR has left Mother Earth in a sorrowful manner. O, how pitiable. But there is nothing we mortal beings can do about it. On the first anniversary of the passing of Fiifi Attah-Mills, Kofi Anyidoho composed a very doleful, sonorous poem for him to mark the occasion. It was headed; ‘He spoke Truth Quietly’ It was poignant and Kofi wrote; “We compose praise songs for leaders filled with guiles and biles. We carve statues with bronzes– in polished bronze. For preachers filled with scream and lies. But he came and spoke truth quietly. And he lived in a world of thunder. Lived and died in the world of thunder!”

On the passing of noble Pass Kwesi Amissah-Arthur, we would like to read something similar to what Kofi had for Attah-Mills. For, Paa Kwesi was also “a warrior but with the heart of a dove”.

Paa Kwesi was a perfect gentleman, and ever since he mounted the political platform he had never spoken an ill word about anyone or to anyone. You could tell the gentleman in him by watching his mien, his gait and his elocution. Now, he is no more.

Gone, gone, with all his knowledge in calculus, logarithms, consumption and inflationary curves, and the Speaker of Parliament acknowledged his days as a lecturer at the University of Ghana. The Minority Chief Whip, Muntaka Mubarak, spoke for all Ghanaians (except those who think they will be like biblical Enoch, and never go the way of all flesh) when he stated that Paa Kwesi’s death was “a great shock… [and that] at 67 he died too young”. Of course, the Majority Leader, Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu could not have said it better than that the death was “a great loss to the nation”.

Dr. Mahumudu Bawumia has described Paa Kwesi as a ‘first class gentleman’, and truly he was. Former Presidents Jerry John Rawlings, J.A. Kufour and Dramani Mahama have expressed deep sorrow at the sad episode: President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo has declared that the national flags would fly at half-staff across the country. He stated: “I have decided, and it is an obvious decision that he should be given a full state burial, and as of today, and for the next five days, Ghana’s national flag will fly in half-mast, here and across the country in commemoration of the death of our former vice-president”.

Pass Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur was born in Cape Coast on the 29th day of April, 1951. He attended Mfantsipim Secondary School where he obtained his G.C.E. O and A Levels in 1969 and 1971 respectively. He graduated from the University of Ghana with a Bachelor of Science (Economics) degree in 1974, then the Masters degree in Economics in 1976. He took up lectureship at Legon from 1980 to 1988, with a stint at the Anambra State College of Education between 1981 and 1983.

Paa Kwesi was a Special Assistant to Dr. Kwesi Botchwey who was the PNDC Secretary of Finance and Economic Planning. He became the Deputy Secretary for Finance in the PNDC government from 1986 till 1993, serving at the same position under Rawlings’s NDC government.

Between 2009 and 2012, he was the Governor of the Bank of Ghana, and sworn-in as Vice President of Ghana on 24th July, 2012 after the death of John Attah-Mills. He became John Mahama’s Vice-President. His widow is Mrs. Matilda Amissah-Arthur with whom he has two children: Kwesi Nyan Amissah-Arthur and Araba Amissah-Arthur.

The massage that shook the nation that fateful Friday, 29th June 2018, was that Paa Kwesi had (simply) died – and it was at the Air-Force Mess Gym, so close to 37 Military Hospital. The Okyenhene Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin II who saw it all recounts what happened at the Air-Force Gym; “(I heard a ‘bang’)…left my machine and went out, and there lay my friend, trying to find some air to breathe. We gathered around him and pumped his heart as hard as we could and yelled out his name; his wife was calling out, ‘Jesus save…’, I just said call the ambulance…”.

As things turned out, no ambulance came, and Paa Kwesi was put into the bucket of a pick-up van. The Okyenhene used the occasion to admonish the school authorities “…to make emergency response system and other basic first aid treatment part of our school (curricula) to equip people with the requisite skills to help those caught up in emergency situations”. Reflecting on ‘life’, the Okyenhene remarked; “I saw how hopeless all of us were trying to bring him back to life, and I said to myself, this life is not ours… We must have humility in this life…”

When Joseph William Swain de Graft-Johnson (Joe Diggie) who was the Vice President to Dr. Hilla Limann (1979-1981) died in London on 22nd April, 1999, little was known about the circumstances of his death. Ekow Nkensen Arkaah died on 25th April, 2001 in Atlanta, after the injuries he sustained in a freak road accident at the Cantonments in Accra. John Attah-Mills died in office on July 24th 2012 as the President of Ghana, after serving as Vice President under J.J. Rawlings. And, of course, Aliu Mahama, the Vice-President under J.A. Kufuor died on 16th November, 2012, aged 66.

People have died in mysterious circumstances; some have died in shocking contexts. We shall all die one day. But someone would ask; “Why the fuss, when one person dies…Are we not all equal?” Yes, agreed, but even though we are all equal, it is only one person who can become President (and Vice-President) at a particular time.

In Shakespeare’s play, ‘Julius Caesar’, Calphurnia, Caesar’s wife admonished her husband not to step out that morning on the Ides of March. She had had disturbing dreams, and she elaborated; “When beggars die, there are no comets seen; The heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes”. Julius Caesar insisted: “Cowards die many times before their death; The valiant never tastes of death but once. Of all the wonders that I yet have heard, it seems to me most strange that men should fear; Seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come”.

Okyenhene advises all Ghanaians:“…whatever we do, we may be powerful, we may be successful and have material wealth, but we should also have humility”. Paa Kwesi, nantew yie.

Africanus Owusu-Ansah