How Anumnyam is striving to preserve our nation's history

Anumnyam Anumnyam Anumnyam Anumnyam

Tue, 25 Jan 2022 Source: Isaac Ato Mensah

Anumnyam Anumnyam, formerly known as Nii Anum Telfer, a 71-year-old poet and art lover, has made history by discovering and compiling primary source records on the peri-independence years of Ghana accumulated by his grandfather - hidden in plain sight in his home.

I first met Anumnyam when as a radio station manager, I arranged an interview for him at Radio Latenu 96.1MHz in 2017, in order to publicise "Olewu", his book on leadership.

Olewu is a children’s story book approved by the Ministry of Education’s erstwhile Curriculum Research and Development Division, for moral guidance and is suitable for primary and secondary/technical school students.

On that occasion, Anumnyam also performed for our listeners his work “Poems with Music from Africa”.

Hence when I entered his home last Saturday evening, near the Osu royal mausoleum, the darkness of the compound, the foliage and old Osu Ringway Estates architecture provided a hallowed moment pregnant with expectation.

“I have discovered my late grandfather’s archives and I want to publish them,” he revealed.

My Google drive and email are already almost full due partly to some of Anumnyam’s personal intellectual property materials which I have been storing since 2017.

But when he opened his laptop and revealed the massive amount of latest source materials on his grandfather - John Buckman, I responded, “Not just one book, but several books”.

This amazing treasure trove of materials on Ghana’s peri-independence years is so large that in 1996, Anumnyam took huge files to the University of Ghana and donated them to the Institute of African Studies (IAS) - his alma mater, fearing he might expire without the relevant national institutions having access to them.

For several months there was no acknowledgement.

“I alerted them and they replied,” he said, very charitably.

Anumnyam delivered to the IAS the “Journal of the Gold Coast Agricultural and Commercial Society”, and “Minutes of the Eastern Province House of Chiefs”.

He also wrote to the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board about 10 years ago asking for help in locating Buckman’s artwork that may be available outside Ghana; a formal response is still pending.

The failure to acknowledge official correspondence appears to be a regular feature of ghanaian public institutions and it must change.

He completed the O-Level at Adisadel in 1970 and Sixth Form at Oda Secondary School in 1972, and spent a year at the Ghana Institute of Languages from 1972-73.

Anumnyam proceeded to the University of Ghana in 1976 where he read for a bachelor’s degree in Drama and Theatre.

“The only History I studied for grades was at Adisadel and Oda,” he told me over the telephone Sunday morning following the previous night’s meeting. “But I wanted to make history”.

In fulfilling that desire, he worked with Ghanaba, the illustrious Divine Drummer, on several projects.

He also worked with Professor Atukwei Okai to establish the Ghana Association of Writers/Pan African Writers Association (PAWA House).

But it was in 1985, that is, 15 years after Anumyam told his mother about his career choice of becoming a historian, that sheer happenstance led him to discover his maternal grandfather, John Buckman’s archives at VicIvan House, Castle Road, Adabraka, Accra.

On that fateful rainy day, when Anumnyam entered VicIvan House, something led him to John Buckman’s room where he saw some old files.

As he was poring through them, a strong wind gust suddenly broke an old wooden window, whereupon a voice in a neighbouring house exclaimed that the late John Buckman’s spirit had come to the house.

The conjunction of the eerie feeling and words of that male voice, inspired Anumnyam to painstakingly collect the material, believing that he was on to something of great importance.

It took him several years to read and arrange the material according to thematic areas.

Fast forward to recent times, he purchased a laptop computer and scanner, and taught himself typing.

He has to date put a significant portion of the material in digital format.

John Buckman MBE (1897- 1966), was a mechanical engineer, contractor, artist and Gold Coast grandee, who became substantive Secretary to the Eastern Province House of Chiefs.

Buckman later acted as Secretary to the Joint Province House of Chiefs comprising the Eastern, Western and Central Regions of the Gold Coast Colony/Ghana.

Anumnyam’s compilation of Buckman’s archive covers politics, governance, mining, sports administration, education, colonialism, art, government protocol, lands, media/journalism, prominent personalities, state garden parties, photography, and much more.

His laptop’s desktop is filled with folders hidden within folders.

“I don’t even know where to start,” he often said when a topic came up for discussion.

There is a letter dated 27 January 1951 headed “The Daily Graphic’s Stadium Fund” which states that “The Daily Graphic is organising a boxing tournament to help the Gold Coast Sports Council raise the £12,000 they still need before work can be commenced on the new sports stadium on Rowe Road Accra”.

The logo was an image of legendary featherweight boxing champion Roy Ankrah in the trademark “Aboy” haircut of those days.

Other documents provide evidence that the then incumbent CPP raised funds through advertisements to celebrate Ghana’s first independence anniversary in 1958.

There is also an invitation to unveil a statue of Kwame Nkrumah at (Old) Parliament House in 1958, by the Chief Justice, just one year after independence.

Several files indicate that Nana Sir Ofori Atta, the late Okyenhene, wrote to Buckman, asking for advice on educational policy. He also received invitations from President Kwame Nkrumah.

In short, these materials are less about Buckman and more about Ghana/Gold Coast history; Anumnyam’s role, though vital and important, is only incidental to it.

Publishing Anumnyan’s compilation of Buckman’s archives is urgently needed as a necessary bulwark against what my mentor describes as “our legion of wannabes; Barrators, Hypocrites, Counsellors of Fraud, and yes - Sorcerers, Flatterers, Simoniacs and Thieves.”

Anumnyam, Ayekoo!

Columnist: Isaac Ato Mensah