Were I to make a wish list of the most distinguished Ghanaian statesmen and politicians that I would like to meet, Mr. Akenten Appiah-Menka would definitely top the list. On occasion, I have regretted the fact that throughout my 5-year stay in Oseikrom (Asantemanso), I never got the chance to meet the man. Back then, of course, I did not know about his sterling Abuakwa State College profile, both as a graduate of the erstwhile prestigious mini-academy and subsequently as a magnanimous philanthropist who would help to keep the great flame of Okyeman alive.

Interestingly, though, this article is neither about Okyeman nor even ABUSCO. It is squarely about this bona fide citizen of Great Asante whose statesman’s shrewdness transcends ethnicity and/or ethnic affiliation. But that the man is a principled and intelligent Ghanaian who minces absolutely no words in letting on his thoughts and feelings about the state of our beloved nation and its relationship to the major players vis-à-vis its destiny, is what makes Mr. Appiah-Menka the respectable statesman of legendary status that he has made of himself.

And on the foregoing note, one is vividly reminded of those “vuvuzela” P/NDC days when Mr. Rawlings luridly and insolently presumed to vacuously instruct Ghanaians not to purchase any of the odoriferous and salvific “APINO” soaps. Those were economically dire times when most Ghanaians were in dire straits. Interestingly, back then, almost none of his recklessly blind disciples and lackeys had bothered to ask the Dzelukope toughie precisely what he intended to offer them as a viable alternative to our good, old “APINO” soap. Or maybe they had bothered, except that these toadies were either too star-struck and/or intimidated to tell Bloody Jerry to go to Hell, where a bully pulpit, I am certain, had been prepared for him by Patriarch Lucifer.

Anyway, recently, an article culled from the Daily Graphic appeared on the website of PeaceFmOnline.com. It was sensationally captioned “‘Two of NPP’s Five Candidates are not Marketable.’” As usual, the article was accompanied by a portrait of the good, old statesman in a black-and-white Kente cloth. That the man often speaks in riddles appears to have contributed in no small measure to his calm and staying power in our national media spotlight. Nevertheless, I am quite certain of there being far more to the man and what he symbolically and charismatically represents.

And so when Mr. Akenten Appiah-Menka calls a reporter from the Daily Graphic to his Kumasi residence and hints that of the five candidates vying for the flagbearership of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), two are decidedly remaindered goods that absolutely no credible customers are apt to purchase either now or ever, the “APINO” soap manufacturer and salesman ought to know precisely what he is talking about. But that this wise man of the New Patriotic Party wouldn’t let on in stark terms exactly who these two grossly unmarketable candidates are is, needless to say, a stroke of genius that definitely adds to the leaden heft of his charm. In sum, he grabs your rapt attention, forces you to listen and then towards the climax of it all, he simply and tersely opines: “You know them and they also know themselves and so there is no need for me to mention names.”

Actually, the foregoing statement makes one feel almost as if, indeed, the Graphic reporter who sat down with the man invited her-/himself into the residence of our distinguished cultural custodian.

At any rate, as I stated at the beginning of this one-way conversation, I pretty much regret not having gotten to know Mr. Akenten Appiah-Menka while I lived in Kumasi for a half-decade. I did not mention the fact that his towering significance, for me, converged at Anokyekrom of the Ghana National Cultural Center. I often prefer to call the latter The Kyerematen House. For directly or obliquely, Anokyekrom immensely and seminally contributed to my development as a poet. It also apprised me of the epic significance of Akan culture within the global scheme of affairs, thereby remarkably making me the inexpressibly proud Ghanaian of Akan heredity and heritage that I am today.

Well, I regret not having gotten to know the man because Mr. Appiah-Menka either sponsored or owned a traditional choral dance troupe that regularly performed under the “Big Shed” (Apatakesie Ase) at Anokyekrom. My imagination, though, seems to be perennially fixated on this young woman-child who led the group in its charming and spirited performances. And here I must confess that I always had the feeling that somehow, perhaps a decade or two thence, this charming young woman-child would pair up with me and together shall we “Adowa”-wiggle our way till kingdom come. I was then, of course, a child myself, a teen still struggling to feel and assert my manhood.

Anyway, I went over the list of the five vetted candidates vying for the NPP presidential nomination for Election 2012 and concluded that a few significant features readily marked off the “unmarketable two.” I actually thought the “Black List” ought to contain the names of three candidates. But, of course, the latter is my own tentative opinion. Tentative because the third candidate, given time, even as Mr. Appiah-Menkah suggested in his Graphic interview, could remarkably redeem himself. In any parliamentary democracy, for starters, a dark horse is obviously one who has no parliamentary experience, either at the local and/or national level(s). For such a candidate, it is only sheer chutzpah, verging on outright arrogance, which is the prime propellant. This is what Mr. Shakespeare called “Vaulting Ambition.”

Another striking feature of the dark-horse candidate is the inordinate penchant for harping on personal academic and/or professional credentials and achievements, and also loudly claiming to be the star/hero or credit-holder of a landmark or pioneering feat, often credentials and achievements that are more of a figment of the salutary imagination than reality.

Anyway, there is a quite interesting edge to this story. Recently, I met a matronly Kumasi woman who, as has quite often been the case, happened to know my uncle “Mr. Who-Be-You?” This chance-meeting itself was far less remarkable than what transpired during our conversation which was on the subject of ethnic cleavages, at least as it is widely perceived among the ranks of the New Patriotic Party membership. Suddenly, the woman who hailed from Kotei, a village near the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, sarcastically asked, “So where does this Appiah-Menka man stand on the Akufo-Addo and Kyerematen issue?” I tersely offered, “As far as I can recall, the last time that the Okyenhene [Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori-Panyin II] drew up an honorary list of illustrious sons and daughters of Akyem-Abuakwa, it was Mr. Appiah-Menka’s name that topped the list.

Suddenly, almost seeming to half-sneer and choked at my remark, the Kotei woman picked up what looked like a bag of groceries in a blue polythene bag and hurried away.

Author: By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI) and the author of 21 books, including “Selected Political Writings” (Atumpan Publications/Lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: okoampaahoofe@optimum.net.

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