Eulogy to Wofa Yaw Guggie Frederick Guggisberg Ofori-Atta Asante
By Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo
My favourite amongst my mother, Yeboakua’s siblings, political mentor, wonderful, invaluable companion – that was my uncle, Wofa Yaw Guggie, Frederick Guggisberg Ofori-Atta Asante. The myriad of paternal brothers and sisters of my mother – legend has it that their great father, the redoubtable Kojo Dua, Fredua Agyemang, the illustrious Okyenhene, Nana Ofori Atta I, passed the century mark in the number of his offspring – were a constant presence in my father’s house during my childhood.
I got to know best, then, the older uncles and aunts, i.e. some of those who were either her seniors or contemporaries – William, Aaron, Kwasi Amoako-Atta, Kuntunkununku (Teacher Joe), Owusu Akyem, Kwadwo Birikorang, Yaw Boakye, Kwaku Atta, H.K Akyeampong, Yaw Takyi, A.A Ampofo (Kofi Charlie), Bernard Fredua, Bosomprah, Okuus, Kwame Danquah, Afriyie, Victoria, Abena Gyankroma, Regina, Taataa, Adwoa Akoto, Abena Akoto, Emily, and, of course, her two full-blooded siblings, Susanna Akosua Buor Gyankroma and O.P, Ofori Panin.
I did not see much of Wofa Yaw Guggie in my early days, but, in my twenties, we were brought together by our common love of football, and by our mutual friendship with the first Director of Sports of Ghana, the celebrated Ohene Djan. Football was a lifelong passion for him. I still do not know whether he played in his youth, but his knowledge of the game was deep and instinctual. And football was, essentially, about Asante Kotoko, and the series of legendary players that that greatest of Ghanaian football clubs has produced through the ages – the non-pareil James Adjei, C.K Gyamfi, Asebi Boakye, Opoku Mensah, Kwao Baffoe, Baba Yara, Dogo Moro, Mohammed Salisu, Wilberforce Kojo Mfum, Kwame Adarkwa, Osei Kofi, Francis Kumi, Kofi Badu, Kyenkyenhene, et al. They were the subject of interminable discussions between us over the years. I will miss those conversations.
But, above all, it was our joint commitment to politics and public service that cemented our relationship. Initially, when I decided to enter into Akyem Abuakwa politics, I was the protégé of his older brother, Kwaku Atta, who had been active in politics since the days of the UGCC as a young aide to Grandpa Danquah, and who opened many doors for me in Okyeman, which was to be the base for my political career. After his unfortunate death, Yaw Guggie took full control of my fledgling political career. It was the best decision I took.
A trades union organiser in his youth, he worked closely with the charismatic, dynamic, eloquent trades union leader, John Tettehgah, the first Secretary-General of the Trades Union Congress of independent Ghana. The insights he gained into political organisation and messaging came to stand me in good stead. He was a warm, generous, colourful companion, with a mischievous sense of humour. We enjoyed each other’s company, which made working together joyous and memorable. We went together to a funeral at Banso, his hometown, when a young woman at the microphone heralded my arrival with the words, “Nana yɛ ma wo akwaaba. Ye nim wo fri tete”. Yaw Guggisberg immediately seized on it, and the words became the slogan of my successful campaign for the presidential candidature of the New Patriotic Party in the post-Kufuor era in 2007. That was Wofa Yaw Guggie.
He recognised that any political project, no matter how noble, needed to be properly grounded in practical organisational roots, if it was to have any chance of success. Wholly devoted to Danquah’s political project of development in freedom – he never hid his admiration for the Ghanaian colossus and for his equally formidable brother, Nana Ofori Atta I, his own father – he was meticulous in his scrutiny of the intricacies of political mobilisation. There was no greater statistician of politics than Yaw Guggisberg. He spent endless nights behind his computer, compiling and analysing polling station data of all the elections we participated in, so that the data could drive our policies and responses. He was a very modern politician.
His efforts in helping to build the New Patriotic Party, the most recent incarnation of the Danquah-Dombo-Busia political tradition, of which he was a committed activist, were given appropriate acknowledgement when he was elected as the representative of the Eastern Region in the Council of State in President John Agyekum Kufuor’s time. He was very proud of that honour, which he fully deserved. He was, by any standard, a Ghanaian patriot of the first rank.
His drive, sense of organisation, attention to detail and excellent judgement justified the prophetic decision of his father to name him after his great friend, the outstanding Governor of colonial Gold Coast, Sir Frederick Gordon Guggisberg, whose relationship with Nana Ofori Atta I was one of the dominant features of the public life of the Gold Coast in the first three (3) decades of the 20th century. For him, progress was concrete, not just a concept. There are many parts of Akyem Abuakwa which have light and water because of Yaw Guggisberg, just as there are many people who got jobs because of his work as a trades unionist.
His joy and pride at my emphatic election as President of the Republic in 2016 knew no bounds. Unfortunately, tragically, old age and increasing infirmity made it difficult for him to enjoy the experience to the extent both of us would have wished. His death is one of the saddest aspects of my presidency. But, I know that he will relate with unabashed glee to Grandpa Danquah the news that, despite the calumny and abuse, his political project is very much alive and on course. I have lost a great teacher, the companionship of an excellent human being, and the affection of a most beloved uncle.
Wofa Yaw Guggie, God bless you and thank you for everything.
May your soul rest and abide in perfect peace in the bosom of the Almighty until we meet again on the Last Day of the Resurrection. Amen!
The author is the President of the Republic of Ghana