What Adu Boahen Has Bequeathed to Ghana

When we talk of “bequests” left to the living by the dead, we often think of material things. Buildings, for instance, Or farms. In the case of the late Professor Adu Boahen, books that can be held in the hand – although spiced with a fairly abstract concept, namely, a precedent set in relation to courageous political activism, that can inspire those alive and kicking to be brave enough to expose themselves to personal risks (if necessary) in trying to improve the living conditions of those less fortunate than themselves.

Prof Adu Boahen, as was made marvellously clear at the Event that was held on 24 May 2016 in Accra to commemorate the 10th anniversary of his joining his ancestors, left a worthy legacy to all Ghanaians, especially with regard to what must concern them most – living in freedom as proud Ghanamma; a people able to choose their own governments, and prepared to be unsparing and vocal in their critical evaluation of the performance of those governments, once elected; and on a continuing basis.

I shall be devoting future columns to the speeches made at the commemoration by such august figures as Nana Dr S K B Asante, a classmate of Adu Boahen’s, who was chair for the occasion; Prof Addo Fenning, who, I think, has annexed unto himself, Prof Adu Boahen’s title of “Uncrowned Doyen of Ghanaian Historians”; and Mr Henry Kwasi Prempeh, a social and political commentator whose observations on our national affairs scythe through legal and political issues seamlessly. His views on the state of the media in Ghana, and why we have a multiplicity of media and yet see the media making such woeful impact on government policy and social developments, will, of course, merit a lively discussion.

What we all failed to notice at the Event, though, was the complete and utter self-effacement of the Adu Boahen siblings, who organised it and made sure that it went ahead without the slightest hitch. The evening belonged to their father, and they discreetly allowed it to be so. Even the auction that took place to raise funds for the just-launched Adu Boahen Foundation, was handled with good taste and magnificent humour.

There was also a breath-taking cultural show, at which a worthy successor to President Kwame Nkrumah’s Okyeame Akufo (the gifted herald who used to introduce the Osagyefo the President with amazingly-constructed appellations in Twi and ended up with the invitation: “Kwame, Kasa! Kasa!” before the President spoke on the radio) made himself heard. What kind of tongue has that man got? I intend to find out!

As I predicted in my last column, the choice of MCs for the occasion was quite inspired. Dr Ebow Daniel and Ambassador James Aggrey-Orleans were both at their loquacious best and were able to draw plenty of laughs, even though the occasion was necessarily a most solemn one. Also worthy of note was the role played by Professor Akosua Adoma Perbi, head of the Department of History. Prof Perbi generously sacrificed part of her time at the podium to tease out from another lady, the story of how her dancing at the 37 Military Hospital bedside of Prof Adu Boahen, aroused the (then) bed-ridden Professor from his near-coma.

The lady told us that according to the Prof’s wife, Auntie Mary (who has been described by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo, Flag-bearer of the NPP, in these words: “as fearless, staunch and loyal a consort as could be found!”) Prof had not spoken a word for two days, but the lady’s dancing – which, in all likelihood, was rather eccentric – not only enabled the Prof to recover his speech but his sharp tongue as well. “But who told you you are not mad”? he asked the dancing lady. This anecdote both brought Adu Boahen back to life to those who knew him, and also – brought the house down.

The final word of the evening was spoken by Nana Akufo Addo, a doughty comrade-in-arms to Prof during the anti-Unigov campaign of the mid-1970s, and at the hustings, during the 1992 election, at which Prof Adu Boahen demonstrated enormous bravery and stood for the presidency against the incumbent, Flight-Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings. Nana Addo, too, managed wittily to bring Adu Boahen back to life to us.

The rest was silence – a sad, reflective silence, during which we each had to wonder whether the Almighty would be as kind to us as he had been to Adu Boahen, whom He had enabled to live such a life that even when he was no longer on earth, his name was on every tongue. And a good ten good years after his demise, at that; by which time, most dead people tend, sadly, to be completely forgotten.

Since the Event, I have been privileged to talk at length to one of Adu’s children, Kwabena, who is making huge waves at the cutting edge of the bio-engineering and the related electronic world in the United States.

In my opinion (and I know journalists are constantly urged to bury any ambitions they may harbour to become prophets – a warning that is particularly apposite in Ghana, where the Prophet Obinims of this world have turned prophecy into a profitable but deceitful enterprise!) Kwabena will, in a few years time, be at the pinnacle of a breakthrough in research into the “computer-brain” synergy, on which he and a group of scientists have been engaged at Stanford University, in the US, for some time now. Since computers now rule all aspects of our lives, nothing that affects their development can be hidden for long, and I urge you to follow Kwabena’s career with unusual interest.

The project, if successful, will, I strongly believe, be such a game-changer in the computer industry – and therefore, (I repeat) in how we all live – that Ghana’s name, through Kwabena Adu Boahen, will for ever be associated with the new development, which is an exponential increase in the ability of super-computers to do unimaginable calculations, whilst – through mimicking the human brain — consuming only an infinitesimal proportion of the electric power currently needed to make super-computers work today.

Kwabena talks about his ideas on “Ted” at

I am so excited about Kwabena’s project that I shall devote my next article to a discussion of his ideas. Do not be disappointed, therefore, if you have to wait a little longer to read about what the speakers said at the Adu Boahen commemorative Event.

I assure you I wouldn’t make such a sacrifice if I wasn’t 100 percent convinced that the interview with Kwabena should take precedence over what we said about his father, who was well-known enough already, whereas Kwabena or “Buster” (as his Legon Primary School, Mfantsipim and KNUST mates knew him) has been rather off-screen in Ghana, having done all his post-graduate studies in the US.

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