By: James Kofi Afedo (Former BBC Correspondent, Ghana)
“Life brings us awesome joy and uncontrollable pain.
Life makes us smile to life and encourages us to smile at death.
Life brings to us the most warm of people and tells us to take heart when it takes them away.
Life we cannot understand but bask in its transient embrace; even as it sweeps its little sweetness off our fragile feet.
Life tells us to live it well and good so when we are cruelly reminded it’s not ours, our good works remain in the hearts and minds of those whose very lives we touched and passed through.”
The above poetic quote from my friend Kwame Gyan perfectly describes the great calamity that has befallen us! A tragedy of monumental proportions….that’s how I call this. I have never experienced anything like it before. It is piercingly painful. This thing called death! You have unleashed your cruelty one again, by pulling out the root of our house – ‘Afeke’. That is the meaning of Komla’s middle name. Indeed, a mighty oak has been uprooted, and there would never be a replacement till eternity.
KD, I kept asking God so many questions since Saturday. Why? How could this be? Why you? Why now? How could death be so cruel? My heart is heavy. My eyes are painful after the tons of tears that have flown out of it. The shock is unimaginable. The pain is unbearable. The loss is irreplaceable.
KD, I still can’t believe you are out of this world. You are gone forever, till eternity. No, it cannot be true, I keep telling myself each minute. Wake up KD. The assignment is not finished. God please have mercy on us!
My Saturday morning on 18th January, 2014 started on a usual note. I went for our Morning Glory prayer session at Action Chapel Judea Temple, in Dansoman. It was day 13 of our 14-day Fasting and Prayers. I felt a bit of tiredness after the service, and decided to sleep. I woke up at 12:30pm. I drove to Awoshie to meet my personal banker to pick up my new cheque book and ATM card. On my way back, I felt my car’s brakes were making too much noise; so I stopped over at a mechanic’s to get it fixed. While John (the Mechanic) was trying to sort out the problem with my car brakes, I logged onto facebook and twitter for a brief catch up on what was trending. Incidentally, the first post I read was that of my friend Nana Boakye-Yiadom of Citi FM saying “Shocked is even an understatement! RIP Komla.” I thought it was a joke. But that immediately sent shivers down my spine and I started trembling. Then, I scrolled up and down and saw similar posts, with most people expressing shock, while others writing “it cannot be true”; “this is not true”, and so on. As the minutes passed, more and more of such messages started pouring in.
I called your mobile phone, and it went straight to voicemail. I called our (you and I) mentor Ben Dotse Malor, who was also not sure what was happening, and said he was making calls around to verify, but pointed me to your best friend Herbert Mensah’s coded post on facebook. Then I called one of your friend closest pals at the BBC in London Audrey Brown. Her response to my question was unusually vague, and that got me even more worried.
Akwesi’s phone also failed to work. I called up another close mate of yours here in Ghana and my personal boss, Charles Mensah or ‘Agyeiwaa’ as you call each other and asked if he has heard anything about you. He was not able to give me any good response except to say that he was at your Daddy’s house and he would call me later. At this point, I was almost passing out. I called up your house in London, and this time, an unknown voice answered. As a result of the shock, I could not speak to the person, because I did not know what to ask.
But the confirmation from our brother Stan Dogbe tore my heart into piece. KD, I don’t remember crying like this in the last fifteen years of my life. I have been crying and thinking since Saturday. Even in church on Sunday, I could not help but soak my handkerchief in tears about your painful departure.
Not even a hit or a goodbye KD. Why now?
I still remember my first day at work with the Super Morning Show team. Our first interaction was inspiring. I also remember the discussions at our daily review meetings as we plan for the next show. You made every aspect of the job easy. As the Assistant Producer to Stan Dogbe then, all we had to do was to discuss the rough idea, get the guests into the studio, and you start flying at your own altitude. You were a master of your own art. For you, every show was an opportunity to push the barriers and set the big news agenda for the day. I looked forward to every day as I stay behind you in the studio to help deliver the best Morning Show to our listeners. Those were the defining moments of my life.
I also remember when you were leaving for the BBC, we discussed how that was going to be the beginning of the Global Agenda. Even as we both moved out of Joy FM, you have continued to Mentor me till Saturday January 18, 2014. I remember that call you made to me from London to ask if I was interested in helping some of your colleagues (Audrey Brown and Nick Erickson) who were coming to Ghana to produce a news programme called ‘Generation Next’. That was the beginning of many more opportunities in my life.
I also remember the discussion we had at that pub close to the Holborn Tube station in London about the fantastic developments happening with you at the BBC and how you were on your way to hosting the World Today programme. We also talked about TV, and your preparation for more academic study. We have talked regularly about the Big Agenda for Ghana and how we should be preparing for that.
Only last Friday, I was planning sending you an email during the weekend about my new project aimed at improving the standards of journalism in Ghana, and the role I would like you to play in it. That email was also going to inform you of my decision to start the study of Law this year. I never imagined that my mail would have arrived in your inbox without a response.
Even in my continuous shock and self-denial, I have one assurance, that you have lived your life to the fullest. The Global Agenda has been achieved. You have travelled to many countries, covered many big events, interviewed billionaires, millionaires, global superstars, world leaders, and many more.
Within seven short years, you became the best brand Ambassador for Ghana and Africa. You have achieved what no African journalist has ever got close to yet. You experienced a meteoric rise into global stardom. I so wished you would live a little longer. I was so looking forward to your first book that captures your fascinating life story. In fact, I was expecting you to star in some Oscar winning Hollywood Movies in the next few years.
KD, you have promised Ghanaians on numerous occasions that you will be back in due course. Could that have been a warning to us that you would not return alive? Your corpse is not what we were expecting. It is hard to fathom why you had to go at this time.
In whose care have you left your lovely Elinam, Elorm, and Emefa? Who could fill the huge gulf you have left in their lives, Komla? This is why it is difficult to believe what seemed at first like a hoax but now beginning to sink in painfully as the truth.
Well, you have been a great fighter all your life KD. You have triumphed over many adversities and miseries. If you had the opportunity, you would have triumphed over this one too. Even as I continue to sob, I have one assurance, that you have lived your life well. You have made a mark. That an African man, educated in Africa, can become a greater broadcaster and presenter on the BBC World Service than even a native English speaker is a wonder to many around the world. Although we are greatly pained, I am sure you are smiling wherever you are, very fulfilled that you have done your bit.
KD, I have missed you. I missed our firm and brotherly hugs. I missed our beer moments. I missed our high level discussions about life and politics in Ghana. I have missed your insightful stories about the most exciting interviews you have conducted. The thought of not seeing you again, makes me sick.
But I promise to make your spirit proud for as long as I have life in me as one of the numerous young men you have personally mentored.
Komla, may your gentle soul rest peacefully in the Lord till we meet again. Xedenyuiee! Dzudzor le nutifafa me!!!