An avoidable early bath?

“Akonta” Honourable Peter Wiafe Pepera died last Saturday. It was a tragic and abrupt end to our 45 years of a brilliant, fulfilling and ‘never a dull moment’ close friendship. In the language of the EPL terraces, ‘I am gutted and literally sick as a parrot’. It’s taken nearly a week for me to share and appreciate the very special relationship we had.

As I clutch at straws to try to unravel my deep sense of despondency and gloom about the deep void that can never be filled for the rest of my life, I am consoled by the fact that we managed to get in a last conversation  before he died.  However, it was the manner and context of that parting conversation that continues to haunt me and pushed me to both eulogise Peter and embark on a crusade that I hope will provide a lasting memorial to Peter’s life and his unwavering commitment to public service.

Peter and I were sons of two families, the Owusu's & the Pepra's, who had developed very close and loving relationships that transcended DNA bonds. We had both gone to the ‘Mother country’ to hone our intellectual skills, coincidentally both to study Engineering. He was a product of the English public school system, which accounted for his posh accent, and I had come from the clone public school in the colonies called Achimota.

Our backgrounds notwithstanding, we quickly realised that we had one thing in common, an insatiable love for parties and combining study with upmost enjoyment and fun. Our forte and preference was fishing out the late late Saturday night jams of the exile Ghanaian community in London, for whom there was only one night in the week when they could shake the sweat  from their ‘afros’ and jerry curls’

Post university, we maintained the close and intimate relationship as we pursued our professions and he embarked on a relentless pursuit of my sister to formalise the well established ties between the Owusu's and Pepera's. Peter added the accolade of Akonta when he married my sister Sandra in the splendid setting of London Zoo with Paul as best man and all the Pepera boys in tail coats and top hats. In spite of this most English of ceremonies, the couple decided to settle in Ghana

Upon my return to Ghana, Peter enthusiastically taught me the rudimentary requirements for doing business here, namely to always carry the ubiquitous 12 to 16 digit calculator, an essential tool for coping with the daily changing forex rates.

Together with his then 'Man Friday' now turned his personal attorney, Francis Tachie-Menson, we pursued several businesses individually and jointly culminating in our version of the one stop solution to all business problems which we named as PACIFIC HEIGHTS. Don’t ask me how we came by the name, but Peter’s love for exotic, seemingly fun-filled islands led him to try his hand at running a bar & restaurant on a remote Greek Island.

Peter’s love for public service was manifested in his many years of service to the Association of Ghana Industries (AGI) and to his combined interest led to him serving in the unlikely position of Deputy Minister for Trade & Industry under Jerry John Rawlings from 1998-2000

Unlikely because Peter, a man who lived his convictions, carried out what seemed a  foolhardy ‘hare-Kari' act of calling a press conference at the now Golden Tulip three days after the 1992 elections to condemn the poll as a sham.

In 1994, our common determination to test the realities of the Constitution of Ghana was to ensure that RADIO EYE would become manifest when he successfully and seamlessly imported the essential transmitter in his hand luggage on one of the numerous sojourns  abroad at a time when even a rotary dial telephone had to be declared to the Frequency Board.  I can publicly acknowledge this immense but ‘subversive’ contribution because my dear honourable is beyond prosecution.

Just as well, because doing so earlier would have deprived the people of Abetifi and Ghana of his skills and talents as an NPP Member of Parliament for 8 years from 2008 till his untimely death.

Over the past five years, we developed a routine of meeting at least 2x a week at my house. Chats intended to be short courtesy calls would usually last for 3-4 hours, followed by 1-2 hours ‘seeing of sessions'. At many of these sessions, the lovely  Jemima, his lovely new wife, sat smilingly and patiently through our analyses and solutions to everyone and all of Ghana’s and the world’s problems.

And then there was Ernest, Peter’s very loyal and ever optimistic political aide and Happy. Executive Assistant; Gifty, the face of his latest venture to sell holiday flats in Dubai; and last but not least  Peter Tambilla II, his Parliamentary Researcher. These and many many others in Peter’s coterie of an inner team are all as gutted and sick as parrots as I am.

Anybody who got to know Peter, however briefly, knew that he was a ‘talkative; He could hold court for hours regaling whoever cared to listen with tales of his philosophy and life. The remarkable thing was that he never spoke maliciously about anyone but was rather generous and optimistic about the potential and good intents of every human he encountered.

Peter the ‘talkative’ took to IT and social media like a duck to water, his trademark were the ear phones and the myriad of the latest Apple devices.  This is what allowed Peter to communicate with me on the day of his death when he sent a whatsupp message that read “I have been admitted at 37. They say I have had a heart attack and I am under observation pending release”

The message was so casual that we carried on for a few minutes more. Because I assumed he would be absolutely fine.  A few hours later my inner sense told me that my honourable Akonta was holding court when he should have been isolated and ensconced in the IC unit or operating ward.

I sent a whatsupp message “Please get some rest and I will come see you when you are discharged'' Five minutes later, Francis rang to announce “Peter is gone”

I was horrified to find out that Peter had been holding court for several hours surrounded by those who loved him best. AT one level it was good they were there. But at a more serious level, they should have been in a waiting area whilst he was resting and recuperating in isolation.

I blame Peter’s untimely death on the total breakdown and non-functionality of the Emergency Services in Ghana. I say breakdown instead of absence, because everything else, we have beautifully crafted laws which simply gather dust for lack of implementation.

Desperate to find an explanation for Peter’s senseless death, I turned to Google for answers to whether we had policies and standards for emergencies. I was not disappointed… I came across a document titled POLICY AND GUIDELINES FOR HOSPITAL ACCIDENT AND EMERGENCY SERVICES IN GHANA, produced in 2011 by a high powered body of the best brains in our health system.

Five years on, the fine words have not been translated into deeds, even at 37, supposedly the second highest public health facility in the country, and under the discipline of our military and Command of the President of Ghana.

To me, Honourable Peter Wiafe Pepera's death was as needless as it was eminently avoidable. It happened not because those who handled him on that fateful date did not know what to do, but because they simply neglected what the good book has set out in clear language.

Akonta Honourable Peter Wiafe Pepera's life has had to take an early bath because he has been sent off from this world ahead of the end of the game of life. Let us honour his immense contribution to public service by taking steps to actualise the fine words of the policy.

Over to you Akoras Segbefia & Bampoe,