A tribute to a dear brother, Breda Atta-Quayson.

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· And the roots of Education Matters column.

As I remember it, one of the first articles I published in the Daily Graphic was in the early 1998. It was a tribute to my late headmaster, Joseph W. Abruquah of Mfantsipim School, Cape Coast. In those days, the raw articles were copied on floppy disks which were carried to the editorial department. Here I first met the award winning journalist, George Sydney Abugri, the Graphic staff writer who wrote the humorous news essays under the column, “Letter to Jomo”. It was through him that I directed some articles to be published subsequently.

Love of Journalism, Jazz music and Fashion

Later in August 2007, I had submitted an article titled, “Dr Kwame Nkrumah: The rising phoenix” for publication, when I got a telephone call from Breda, then the Daily Graphic’s Deputy Editor. He said, “Anis, you won’t believe it, I’m reading out loud your article on Nkrumah in the editorial department; the phrases and sentences are so lyrical.” We arranged to meet thereafter, and we bonded like natural born brothers. Our souls simply latched on to each other.

We seemed to have the same artistic tastes: love of Journalism, and the writing and reading of Literature, History, Biographies, etc; and also especially a fondness of orchestral Jazz music and cinema. We’d call each other often and discuss the books on our reading lists. I remember him once calling me excitedly to tell me about a book he had discovered about the historical Jesus written by a certain Josephus. At another time he invited me to his home at SSNIT flats, Dansoman – in the company of his dear wife, Auntie Abigail Bonsu. We talked and laughed at length listening to a music video – in surround sound – of the last performance of Michael Jackson.

Breda loved fashion, and would often send me pictures of himself in a swaggering array of colorful shirts and gold chains, and brag about his Tardi (Takoradi) tastes.

breda
Breda Atta-Quayson

The roots of “Education Matters”

In 2009, he asked me to write some articles for the Daily Graphic to welcome the United States president, Barack Obama, to Ghana. That request resulted in two articles titled, “Pearls of wisdom from Barack Obama: A prelude to his historic visit to Ghana”, published July 6, 2009; and, “Fired up, ready for Ghana: Obama follows W.E.B. DuBois and Dr. Kwame Nkrumah”, July 9, 2009.

He was disheartened that people did not read as much as they should to learn from history. Education meant so much to him that he encouraged me to write a column to inform and inspire the nation and the youth.  Initially I called the column “Youth Leadership Forum”. That was an attempt to showcase the works and ideas of various students I taught in Ghana.

He called me in to the editorial office thereafter and introduced me formally to the Editor, Mr Ransford Tetteh. At that very same meeting, in the editor’s office, he snapped a picture of me which is now used in the “Education Matters” logo.

He then took me to the managing director’s wing, where I met Mr Ibrahim Mohammed Awal. The support was so keen that as I write this tribute – out of the 270 odd articles published in the Graphic since 1998 – over 200 of them appeared under the banner of “Education Matters”. When I set out to write a new title or read a previously published piece, I remember him. And teaching both students and teachers across the length and breadth of this country, using such titles as teaching and learning materials, I appreciate his motivation and especially his wisdom.

I remember how Breda would call me sometimes to remind me of a deadline or to seek clarity on a point or two, or suggest a suitable picture to match the topic. When he retired from the Daily Graphic, he started sending me biblical quotes to guide my life onward. I owe him so much, and miss him dearly.

The hoops of steel

William Shakespeare wrote, “Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried, Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel.” In that vein, I recall a trip that I took with the brilliant legal mind, Ghana’s former Attorney General and Minister of Justice, and later Minister of Foreign Affairs (in the Dr K.A. Busia government) Mr Victor Owusu. We were en route from Accra to Kumasi, but before reaching Nkawkaw, he had instructed the driver to veer off into the Kwahu hills to visit his friend, Mr W.A. Wiafe, the iconic businessman.

Approaching Mr Wiafe’s estate, Mr Owusu shared this gem. He said, “We may be born naturally with brothers and sisters; but in your own life, God – in His infinite grace – allows you to hand pick other brothers and sisters according to your own tastes and desires.”

A true friend challenges and inspires you. A good friend is someone who believes in you so much that you find it easy to believe in your own self. They bring a fresh sizzling energy to your soul. They arrive in your life and make such an impact that you can hardly remember what your life would be without them. They change your life forever

In Breda, I found my second self; he will remain a brother forever. I thank God for his life.

(Email: anishaffar@gmail.com)

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