Former President John Rawlings has paid a glowing tribute to the late renowned Ghanaian poet, Professor Atukwei Okai, saying he was “synonymous with everything literary in our part of the world.”
“His ubiquitous and effervescent presence over several decades at myriad national, local and even smaller events left a memorable mark on many, especially the youth, most of whom have now grown into their 40s, 50s and 60s,” noted Mr Rawlings.
He added: “Atukwei Okai was a man whose life was dedicated to the literary enrichment of not only Ghanaians but Africans. A man in whose dictionary, mediocrity didn’t exist. He was a man whose writings were as dynamic and animated as his oral presentations.”
Professor Okai passed on in Accra, aged 77 on July 14 at the Korlebu teaching hospital and his final funeral rite is underway at the International Conference Centre (ICC).
Below is the full tribute
Atukwei Okai’s impact on the Ghanaian literary climate was and will remain phenomenal. As a poet, academic and culturist, Atukwei Okai rose above it all, perching at a dizzying height, dictating the pace as he chose fit.
The name Atukwei Okai was synonymous with everything literary in our part of the world. His ubiquitous and effervescent presence over several decades at myriad national, local and even smaller events left a memorable mark on many, especially the youth, most of whom have now grown into their 40s, 50s and 60s.
Atukwei strove for excellence and that is clearly patented in his biography – the adolescent Ga boy from ‘Gambaga’ was daring enough to become the youngest member of the Ghana Association of Writers at the age of 16.
Having read widely and with a great appreciation of the spirituality of language, Atukwei was not intimidated by the Queen’s English. He took advantage of the vast literary skills he had acquired through reading to write and impart his knowledge through written and performance poetry not only in English but also in Ga, his mother tongue. He was not afraid to create words to exact the necessary attention to his works.
So, from radio and television to the stage and at national ceremonies and major international platforms, tall, lanky Atukwei Okai floated his poetry in a humorous fashion to send a serious message. He carved his path along his own Lorgorligi logarithm.
Atukwei Okai was a perfectionist and a stickler for what was right. He lived by the highest standards and that shone during his short stint as Greater Accra Regional Secretary in 1982, when the Greater Accra region was carved out of the Eastern Region under Greater Accra Region Law (PNDCL 26) in July 1982.
It was six long months for Atukwei. He made his presence felt in more ways than one and his prim and proper ways were never in short supply. But my friend Atukwei was cast more to practise politics through his literary works. He impacted more on society through poetry and his roles at the Ghana Association of Writers and later the Pan-African Writers Association.
Tall, simple and confident, Atukwei sold a brand of poetry skill that will be difficult to emulate.
My family fondly remembers him for all the days he came visiting, showing interest in each member’s welfare. He was a warm personality behind that firm and striking posture.
Atukwei Okai was a man whose life was dedicated to the literary enrichment of not only Ghanaians but Africans. A man in whose dictionary, mediocrity didn’t exist. He was a man whose writings were as dynamic and animated as his oral presentations.
Atukwei, on behalf of Nana and our adult children, Zanetor, Yaa Asantewaa, Amina and Kimathi, I bid you farewell. Your eulogies are in all your written and unwritten works that have been recorded for posterity.
Rest in perfect peace.