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How do you want to be remembered? – What Legacy?

In the first week of April 2024, I attended two back-to-back funeral services at Burma Camp on Friday, 5 April and the following day Saturday, 6 April at Anyako in the Volta Region.

While the Burma Camp funeral was to see off 79-year-old Gp Capt Fred Twum-Danso (Rtd), an engineer of the Ghana Air Force, the Anyako funeral saw off the 93-year-old proprietor of the popular “Keta Chop Bar,” in Takoradi, Madam Daavi Glover Attipoe.

Between 1994-1996 as Lieutenant- Colonels (and equivalents), Gp-Capt Twum-Danso, the late CDS Vice-Admiral Quashie, the late Brig-Gen P.K Opoku and I, were the four Ghanaian Directing Staff (Lecturers) who taught at the Nigerian Armed Forces Command and Staff College in Jaji-Kaduna, Nigeria. In this exchange programme, Nigeria also had, and still has four Directing Staff teaching in the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College at any one time.

Daavi was an in-law whose early entrepreneurial acumen led her to Takoradi to start a “chop-bar” business after her basic education in Ho! Interestingly, while the officiating minister at Burma Camp had as his theme, “what legacy will you leave behind?” the Anyako minister asked, “How do you want to be remembered?”

The questions reminded me of the two American Kennedy brothers.

Kennedy Brothers

Two brothers, who made significant statements for which they are remembered were former President of the USA JF Kennedy, assassinated on November 22, 1963 and his Attorney-General and younger brother Senator RF Kennedy who was assassinated on June 6, 1968.

At the foot of his grave at the Arlington National Cemetery, Washington DC where a perpetual flame glows, President Kennedy’s famous words are inscribed as follows: “My dear American! Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country!”

Equally poignant are the words of Senator Robert Kennedy who said, “Some people see things as they are and ask, why? I dream things that never were and ask, why not?

These two pithy statements by the two brothers have etched them into history books as people who selflessly paid the ultimate price for a cause they believed in, for the benefit of their country, the USA.

While some have etched their names in history, being remembered for the good legacy they left, others are only remembered for the negative legacy they left. In 1648, Oliver Cromwell, then a Colonel in the British Army, led a group to stage arguably the first coup d’etat in British history by overthrowing/executing the monarch King Charles

I and replacing the monarchy with a Republic.  Ten years later, Cromwell’s skeleton was exhumed, tried and executed. To this day, Oliver Cromwell remains probably the most controversial and divisive figure in British history. Indeed, his grave is unknown.

As if the two preachers at Burma Camp and Anyako had coordinated and rehearsed their sermons, both talked about selflessness, integrity and humility as some of the most important attributes of any successful leader or nation. Quoting extensively from the Bible, they both cited the selflessness of Christ which enabled him to offer himself as a sacrifice for mankind.

Discussion

An inscription at the entrance of a cemetery reads, “lead a good life so that we don’t have to tell lies about you in your tribute!”

Generally, Ghanaian culture does not allow anything negative to be said about the dead even if that is the truth. Half-truths are, therefore, blended with half-lies in an attempt to bring some respectability to the deceased.

As an example, the story is told of the village goat thief whose tribute went as follows: “Brethren, our departed brother who lies before his Maker today, was a very good and kind-hearted man.

So kind was he that everybody liked him. Indeed, our brother was loved not only by us human beings but also by animals. Goats in particular had an affinity for him and loved him dearly. In the process, these goats sorely tested him.

As ordinary mortals, we are often tempted in life, just as Christ was. But unlike Jesus who was the son of God and whose shock absorbers against temptation were specially designed by his Heavenly Father, we humans fall to temptation. And so was it with our brother who lies before us today.”

Legacy

How do you want to be remembered? Ghana’s first President Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah will always be remembered as a Pan-Africanist who is probably more respected outside Ghana, than in Ghana. In nine years, he set Ghana on the path of semi-industrialisation. He did not factor himself into any equation of wealth acquisition and the resultant greed. Indeed, he did not own a single house.

In the words of the priests, how do Ghanaian leaders want to be remembered? A recent clip comparing Abidjan’s clean waters entering the sea and our Korle Lagoon entering the sea made one sad as a Ghanaian.

In the tributes to Gp Capt Twum-Danso and Daavi, it was obvious that what was said was the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They were both described as honest, selfless and with integrity. They did not have to be doctored like Kwadwo Aponkye’s.

Can our leaders confidently beat their chest to make such a claim? Remember Oliver Cromwell is still remembered as the despicable man who committed regicide. The American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “what you are shouts so loudly in my ears, I cannot hear what you say about yourself!”

A school has for its motto “Facta, non verba,” which means “Action, not words!” “Galamsey” is a national disgrace! Is it a legacy to be proud of?
Leadership, it is said is Cause, the rest is Effect!

Leadership, lead by example! Fellow Ghanaians, WAKE UP!

The writer is a Former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association, Nairobi, Kenya
Council Chairman
Family Health University College, Accra
dkfrimpong@yahoo.com

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