The frosty claws of death have struck Ghana, our beloved country, again. On 3rd August 2022, our nation lost a retired politician and consummate statesman, Harona Esseku, whose eventful and impactful life had transformatively touched many within and outside our borders.
The great New Patriotic Party (NPP) has, by his passing, lost a courageous founding father and a formidable former Chairman.
On my part, I have lost a father, Worshipful Brother, friend, mentor, constructive critic and cheerleader. As a literature student, I almost always find my words with minimal effort.
However, I admit that words are scarce in times like these. Nonetheless, I will write this tribute. The reason is that, like many other Ghanaians, I owe a great deal of unpaid debt to Chairman Esseku, a respected statesman.
Chairman Esseku always believed that Ghana would thrive with purposeful leadership, particularly at the grassroots.
It explains why he, in his most active years in service to our country and party, spent time and effort discovering many leadership talents and worked tirelessly to hone them to attain their full potential.
I say this without fear of contradiction, because I am a living product of his teachings. But, the testimony above is not as straightforward. I will explain. In so doing, let me first rely on the most significant authority, The Bible.
It is written in James, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” To a considerable extent, these words of The Good Book capture how my life has been shaped, through many challenges and lessons, since I decided in 2004 to contest for public office.
SHATTERED DREAMS: THE PAIN OF HEARTBREAK
Initially, I was not too fond of Chairman Esseku because he did everything possible, or so I thought, to kill my nascent political dreams even before they could grow and blossom. I was in my mid-20s but yet a burgeoning business magnate. And, keen to serve the people of Ghana, I saw the NPP brand of politics as the right vehicle, jumping onto it with big dreams.
Soon, I took part in the NPP Parliamentary Primary Elections in Effutu in 2004, confident of a resounding victory. As it turned out, I won the NPP ticket at that Primary Election, but I was unjustly denied a spot on the ballot.
Many in the high echelons of the party felt I was “too young and inexperienced.” They preferred a “more mature hand, not a novice”. Of course, I disagreed with those views with everything within my bones, and my loyal supporters stood resolutely behind me.
As the campaign to block me from contesting in the 2004 Parliamentary Election as the NPP candidate picked up some pace, the situation threatened to tear down the fabric of the party in Effutu.
“No Afenyo-Markin, No Vote,” screamed the relentless chants representing the widespread voices of dissent in Winneba. Despite the snowballing crisis, I was in no doubt that I could lead the party to victory in December that year. However, as it turned out, my dreams soon collapsed.
While preparing to leave Effutu for Accra to file my nomination papers at the Electoral Commission (EC), I received an invitation to head to the Castle, Osu, then the seat of Government. I was needed at the Presidency for talks to help resolve the Effutu conundrum.
As an obedient party member, I honoured the invitation. I attended the meeting, hoping for an outcome vindicating my right to lead the NPP into that year’s parliamentary election in Effutu. However, it was not to be.
After every argument was made against my candidature and every fitting rebuttal given at that poignant meeting, the message from the party authorities was that I should not file my nomination forms.
I did not prepare for that outcome. It broke my heart in a truly devastating way. And, quickly, the usually reliable defences and floodgates around my tear glands failed.
They failed for the very first time in many years. And, soon, the restless dams of tears that had welled in my two eyes burst with uncontrollable rage akin to those of marauding Caribbean floods.
It was a sorrowful sight. Only the hard floors of the former slave Castle, which know too well the history, language and deep secrets inherent in every drop of tear that ever fell in that sprawling colonial edifice since the days of slavery, can best interpret the depths of the pain that forced the way I openly expressed my emotions that day.
With a heavy heart, I wept and wept. Indeed, I cried hysterically, like a baby. All this time, Chairman Esseku and other party officials who attended the meeting looked on keenly as I prayed to President Kufuor to intervene and ensure I was given the Effutu ticket. However, the decision had already been made, and I would be nowhere on the 2004 ballot paper. I blamed Chairman Esseku.
THE SEARCH FOR ANSWERS
“Should I quit?” I asked myself many times, feeling I had been given a raw deal. This question partly reflected the anger among my supporters. In truth, I had every reason to quit, or so was the advice from various minds. They were equally shattered. They wanted me to believe that the outcome meant I did not belong to the elephant family. They told me that I might fit the bill elsewhere. They wanted me to try my luck elsewhere and to show that I could deliver the seat.
However, like the Baobab tree, I stood firm, unmoved by the noisome threats of a side wind. Thus, after deep reflection and being guided by the counsel of others, I chose not to experiment anywhere else. As it turned out, I threw my support firmly behind the preferred candidate during the campaign, and the NPP won the Effutu seat at the end of the polls. The victory was sweet, but the entire episode was bitter and hardened my feelings towards Chairman Esseku, although he later played a central part in healing the cracks in the party in Effutu.
But my disappointment did not last long. Soon, Chairman Esseku became a friend, mentor, and father. It all started after he had invited me to his Kanda home. I was initially hesitant, but I eventually visited him. After a long conversation, he gave me a ‘strange book’ to read. And when I could not make sense of the book after spending many days trying, I went back to him, seeking guidance.
The search for direction and explanation soon transformed into something else. It drew me closer to the man I had loathed so much. In my subsequent meetings with him, I found him to be a calm father figure, an intelligent politician, a kind soul and a man with the magic to spot and nurture an emerging business magnate into a discerning and clever political leader.
THE RISE OF A FATHER-SON RELATIONSHIP
These findings produced an inevitable result. My initial anger quickly evaporated. And soon, I was almost always in Chairman Esseku’s home, serving him in diverse ways and using the opportunity to learn the rarest secrets on how to build great political success. He taught me the fine details of being “a politician with an enviable code.” He also showed me the doors to Masonry and led my young hands into its hallowed chambers. Indeed, he laboured day and night to teach me that “all squares and perpendiculars are perfect points to know a brother.”
He did not end there. He ensured that I immersed myself in the brotherhood and rose quickly through the ranks, on merit, to take a seat in the “East”. As a wise writer, H.L. Haywood, once wrote: “As the centre of gravity is to the earth, and all things thereon, so is the East to a Masonic Lodge; the Master sits there, the representative of a complete humanity; the Blazing Star shines there, the mystic “G” at the centre of the rays; it is the bourne, the goal, the ultimate destination, towards which the whole Craft moves.”
Indeed, Chairman Esseku fought many battles behind the scenes and at various fora to ensure no detractors stood in my way –– whether in business or politics. Like the Shepherd, he held my hand and walked me through the often-vicious valleys of business and politics. He taught me the values of loyalty and cautioned me to stay off the wild fields of betrayal.
Without taking any credit from my parents and all those who at various stages of my life laboured for my growth and successes over the years, Chairman Esseku almost single-handedly crafted, planned and laid virtually every brick forming the foundations of the modest political and business success I am today. In other words, I am what I am today primarily because of him.
THE BIRTH OF VICTORY
In 2011, the time and effort he invested in me paid off. I was elected as the Parliamentary Candidate at the NPP’s primary elections held in Winneba that year, bagging 209 votes to overpower my challenger’s 34 votes. This was after I had lost the 2008 Primary Election by the narrowest of margins ––– one vote.
In my speech on that day of victory in 2011, I thanked God and my supporters for being given the privilege of leading the NPP into the 2012 elections. “This victory is a [signal] … for the party’s success in the constituency in the 2012 general elections,” I predicted. “It is …when we combine our forces and work hard that we can defeat the NDC,” I added.
And, withhard work, living by the words of wisdom curled from my conversations with Chairman Esseku, and gliding on the steadfast support of the masses within and outside the NPP in Effutu, I led our party to recapture the Effutu seat in December 2012. I have since retained the seat in two subsequent elections. In my current term, I have risen ––– among other things ––– to the high office of Deputy Majority Leader in our Parliament. In attaining these humbling feats, I have drawn a lot of guidance, strength and tenacity from Chairman Esseku –– a man I call “MY GODFATHER” –– and what he stood for.
Along the way, and at almost every turn, Chairman Esseku was there to listen to my difficulties and offered his insightful perspectives on the challenges I faced. He was a remarkably reliable hand and mind and hardly ever missed the mark.
Thanks to Chairman Esseku, my “perseverance [since 2004] finished its work”. And today, I can say with all humility that I am “mature and complete, lacking nothing.” Nevertheless, like all politicians, and indeed like all humans, Chairman Esseku was not infallible. He made some mistakes and miscalculations along the way. However, it is not those mistakes, costly as some have been, that define such a giant of a man. Like a zealous religious fanatic, he was loyal until the very end. Indeed, he bled NPP until he ascended to his maker.
Although I am pained by your loss, I will draw inspiration from the wise words of Thornton Wilder, a thinker who once wrote: “The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude.” Accordingly, I will not mourn your passing. Instead, we will celebrate your extraordinary and fulfilling life in service of our nation and party. In doing so, we are also fortified by Leonardo da Vinci who once said: “As a day well spent brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death.”
A PROMISE TO A WORSHIPFUL BROTHER
In your memory, Chairman Esseku, I will continue to serve the people of Ghana on the strengths of the values you taught me. In doing so, I will continue to draw valuable lessons from your apparent missteps to lighten the risk of repeating any on the road you have left me on. As I continue this journey, without you by my side, I will, like St Francis of Assisi, beseech our maker, praying:
LORD, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Worshipful Brother Esseku, the living words of the foregoing prayer will light all my paths in service of your memory, our party and our country.
To conclude, let me quote Mae West, who once wrote: “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” Chairman Esseku, you epitomised the very essence of these words! What a patriot! What a soul! What a devoted mentor. What a colossus of excellent Ghanaian statesmanship!
May God bless your memory. May God bless your dreams for a young mentee now leading from the front in our Parliament. May He bless the hopes of the Central Region, which region gifted you to our country. And, with more electoral glories in the years and decades ahead, may He crown the toils and efforts of the party you never abandoned. And, till we meet and break bread again, Chairman Esseku, do forever Rest in Perfect Peace.
Worshipful Brother HaronaEsseku, I wish you well in all endeavours as may be assigned in the Lodge above by the Great Architect of the Universe.
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