William Jacob Paatii Ofosu-Amaah – Goodbye!

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William Jacob Paatii Ofosu-Amaah: 1950-2016

Good bye – Ruby Tuesday 
She would never say where she came from
Yesterday don’t matter if it’s gone
While the sun is bright
Or on the darkest night
No-one knows
 She comes and goes
Goodbye Ruby Tuesday
Who could hang a name on you?
When you change with every new day
Still I’m gonna miss you.

Most will attest that Paatii was easily and undeniably one of the most accomplished sons of Adedainkpo and Jamestown who rose to great heights in his professional life. Indeed, whenever anyone mentioned the World Bank in any conversation with me, I always made it a point to let it be known that I also know somebody “important” who worked there, someone I had grown up with and in whose achievements I take great pride.  I enjoyed basking in the compliments, acknowledgements and of course the heart warming praise about how good he was at his job.  He was a coach and a mentor to many, often offering sound advice to several younger people in their professions.  He made Ghana proud by rising to the top position of a Vice President, and in recent years making his mark as a diplomat and lawyer helping to solve some of the intractable political problems in Africa at large.

I have not quite got over the shock of his passing and painful as it is for me, I must say goodbye to my ‘older brother’ by remembering those good old childhood and teen years.

Paatii was christened William Jacob to my Jacob Williamson, three and a half months older than me, a fact he never failed to remind me of during our formative years.  We were closest in age within the larger Mould family and we were inseparable as children.  He insisted that I should always obey his every command if he was to get me out of the many sticky situations that I landed in as we walked around the streets and alleyways of Adedainkpo – playing at Gbonbon, Awusa Gormli and other ‘areas’ around the lagoon that were out of bounds to us. We played with lorry tyres and played football down the park from Bartholomew and even created a game of sorts out of the tote cards that Dad would bring home on Saturdays after his work at the turf club.  We made our own toys as was the fashion in those days of the early 1950s, the sardine tins with agbomi wheels and playing alokoto out of snail shells. But our pre-school childhood was also about studying.  With all his older siblings around there were always books around and somebody to teach us the ABC and 123. Also because Mother was a teacher we could always lay our hands on some play dough and even crayons to draw with on real paper instead of learning to write on the concrete floors with charcoal.  Those were our competitive years.

Oddly enough we never attended the same schools. He started at Class Two and then went on to Class Four at James Town Government Primary School, the famous school of choice for most males in our family and then to Rowe Road, to Adisadel, the school for “tough” boys and then to sixth form at Labone.

Holidays were always great, I got to know many of Billy Jefferson’s friends (the name he went by during his Adisco days); the Avalons, Burghers, Bobos, Sellers etc. – it would seem that all Adisco boys of the time had ‘guy’ names – and they also became my friends as we planned our holiday activities from parties to student dances and from the movies at Opera and Orion and pop chains at Ringway hotel. The music of the time was just fantastic; he knew all the lyrics and really showed off then, he had this book that had all the lyrics of songs such as Melody Amour, Take this Message to my Lover, songs by Nina and Frederick and such like. Billy Jefferson was also very stylish, he loved to dress smart, colour coding his attire, knew which shirt materials to get at Super, the shop that sold the materials of our time, and which tailors were the best for the styles of the day.  Even now I can still remember him in some cool polo neck shirt of our times with his bell bottoms. He cut a very dashing figure as a handsome young teenager, the toast of the many parties we attended and he was also so well behaved that he was appreciated by all the older people in the area.

By the time we got to university my older cousin still had the responsibility for advising me on my errant ways and curbing my penchant for outrageous behaviour.  I continued to barge into his room whenever I was hungry and started calling him Kwesi Anamia, this despite the fact that he was born on Thursday, and then changed it to Kojo Nam because I felt that he must have been named after a grandfather or great grandfather with such a name!  He really took all these antics in his stride and just thought of me as being troublesome.  But he always turned these situations around – he would offer me whatever I wanted so long as he could have my plantain when it was served at the cafeteria.    I mean the guy just loved his amadan: cooked, smoked, fried, braised, baked, mashed, whatever – ashamomo, ablongo, tatale, kakro, kelewele and no matter how much of it he ate, he never put on any weight.

He matured at University much faster than I did, acquiring along with it some sophistication in his dressing, check shirts, relearning the different varieties of the necktie, Dad always did a good knot, even experimenting with a cravat at times, drinking the afternoon tea and scones that we were served and even inviting several of us to tea in his room when all I wanted was Gari and some sardines to go with it.

His friends called him Struggle because he had said that there was no need to struggle in doing mundane chores when he could have someone else to do those for him.  University for him was about studying and he rose to the occasion, going to the library almost every day after super and easily coming top of his class, inspired very much by KA, our mentor, who had made us a promise that he would strive to get us scholarships if we did well.

But coming from a family of high achievers it was not surprising that Paatii attained such success in his professional life.  Dad, his father, always talked to us about excellence; that through hard work and determination, he had risen from the position of a lowly clerk to become a company director.  He encouraged us to strive for excellence in whatever professional path we took.  Paatii listened well and acted on this sound piece of advice.

I visited Paatii when he was at Harvard, he showed me around the campus and I felt so proud that my brother had made it to such an Ivy League University and was destined to higher things.  He took me around Boston and found time to come to New York to also show me the sights and introduce me to the other Ghanaian folks around the place to make my short stay enjoyable.

I also had the opportunity to visit him at the World Bank and at his home in Maryland but his very busy life in America and the rest of the world meant that we had fewer and fewer opportunities to meet. Anytime that he came through London though, I always made sure that I would treat him to a meal of ‘red red’ in one of the black restaurants around Brixton where I worked.  We called each other every birthday and learnt to use social media to keep abreast of news; the last time we communicated, he said that he was involved in some project or the other about the rehabilitation of Old Accra and was going to get back to me about any information I had about the Tabon people.  I commended him on the fact that he had also started taking an interest in our heritage.

And so it was whenever we spoke or met – reminiscing about the fun and the good old days of our formative years in a Ghana of yesteryear and the strong and desirable cultural values that has seen as through the years. We both agreed that the best period for us was between our sixth form and university days. It was a holiday to last a lifetime – the summer of 1968, peak of the student revolts across the world and height of Flower Power and how fortunate we were to have the privilege of house-sitting at the Folly, Achimota for Bra Kofi Ansah.  We had his car, driver, houseboy, freezer stocked with food to last us for a whole summer at our disposal, we even learnt how to cook jollof rice and corned beef without a recipe with unintended results.  This was our preparation for independence and the responsible life ahead of us at university and what a blast we had!. We both learnt how to drive and it was one party after another and we all became very popular during that holiday period meaning that we went to university with the confidence to face new challenges of life and perhaps to more studies.

Rambling on has become my style so I will end here by extending my heartfelt sympathy to Waafas, Nii Amaah and Naa Abia hoping that you will stay strong in the knowledge that this affable gentleman made his contribution to the world at large in the many tasks that he undertook in serving and advocating for Africa.  Ahinae and Olumide join me in offering you our condolences

So Paatii, Billy Jefferson, Anamia, Struggle, my handsome older brother of many names, you were a guy too and we did have fun, this is my goodbye song, one that we learnt and which became the defining song of our teenage years again in the summer of 1968.  Though the words are about someone else perhaps they reflect how I feel about you, and remind me of my big brother…

There’s no time to lose, I heard her say
Catch your breaths before they slip away
Dying all the time
Lose your dreams
And you will lose your mind
Ain’t life unkind?
Goodbye Ruby Tuesday
Who could hang a name on you?
When you change with every new day
Still I’m gonna miss you….

Paatii yaa wɔ ojobaŋŋ yɛ o nuntsɔ ŋɔɔ

Your little brother Ade

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