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Opinions Fri, 7 Oct 2011

It Really Takes a Few Wise Men and Women

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

As one who spent a considerable amount of my childhood being a regular patient at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital (Kyebi and Anyinam as well), I quite vividly appreciate the yeomanry sacrifices of physicians like Dr. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng vis-à-vis the construction and operation of the National Cardiothoracic Center (GNCC). But that it would almost exclusively take the efforts of private citizens to bring this vital project to fruition before the government of the so-called National Democratic Congress (NDC) stepped in to help, tells the global community more about the caliber of what passes for executive leadership in Ghana these days (See “A Few Idiots Like Me Must Die for Ghana – Frimpong-Boateng” Ghanaweb.com 9/19/11).

Anyway, it is also significant to observe here that another “sacrificial name” that is routinely lost in the discursive hubbub of Korle-Bu and the development of healthcare, in general, in Ghana is that of Dr. Mustapha, the Russian-trained neurosurgeon and longtime personal physician of this writer and his maternal aunt, Pastor Mary Baaduaa Sintim, who for more than two decades served the entire West African sub-region as the sole expert and practitioner of his medical sub-discipline.

The last time that I heard about the now-late Dr. Mustapha, a misunderstanding between him and the Rawlings government, the same National Democratic Congress (NDC) involved in the Frimpong-Boateng national contretemps, had reportedly culminated with Dr. Mustapha being summarily fired from Korle-Bu and evicted from his government-owned bungalow on the campus of Ghana’s foremost civilian hospital, as well as having his property and other personal belongings strewn down the street. In other words, as a crowning reward for having been a selfless and patriotic Ghanaian neurosurgeon for decades, Dr. Mustapha would be publicly and nationally humiliated beyond recovery, rendered homeless and a virtual pariah in the very country to which he had devoted most of his 70, or so, years to serving indefatigably without asking to be accorded any special status. Today, like Dr. J. B. Danquah, no significant monument or even an annual professional award bears the name and/or likeness of Dr. Mustapha.

I suppose the preceding at once gross and pathological exhibition of collective national ingratitude was what Dr. Frimpong-Boateng alluded to when he sarcastically opined that “A few idiots like me [i.e. the speaker] must be willing to die for Ghana to fittingly assume its rank among the comity of civilized nations.” God willing, as he would have been the first to say, I intend to write a comprehensive biography of Dr. Mustapha, the man who staunchly stood by Korle-Bu and Ghana when the proverbial bottom gapingly appeared to have fallen off. For Dr. Frimpong-Boateng, my only criticism is the same one that I unreservedly offered when he rather ill-advisedly decided to join some sixteen other candidates in 2007 to contest the presidency on the ticket of the New Patriotic Party (NPP). And on the latter score, I can readily vouch that Dr. Mustapha would never have committed such an egregious error in judgment. Granted the fact that he reserved every democratic right to contest the presidency on the ticket of the NPP, or any other political party, for that matter, still, in opting to become blatantly and publicly partisan and ideological, needless to say, Dr. Frimpong-Boateng ineluctably compromised a significant modicum of his professional integrity, regardless of whether he personally felt that his deeply partisan proclivities would not significantly mediate – or interfere with – his long-sworn Hippocratic Oath as a cardiologist.

Interestingly, in the heat of Election 2008, a good friend of mine, who is an avid patron of the Ghanaweb.com website, phoned me to report that Dr. Frimpong-Boateng had written a note in the Ghanaweb.com chat-room calling on Nana Akufo-Addo to come out and openly denounce something unflattering that I had allegedly written about the founder of the National Cardiothoracic Center. Perhaps somebody ought to have apprised Dr. Frimpong-Boateng of the fact that Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., is a fiercely independent writer who takes no marching orders from any political and/or ideological personality or quarter.

I am also enthused to learn that Dr. Frimpong-Boateng had been partly inspired by the pioneering efforts of Dr. Charles Easmon, the great Sierra Leonean-Ghanaian surgeon and pathologist and founder of the Ghana Medical School, who for a long time was a virtual institution all by himself at Ghana’s flagship medical center, Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital. I personally had the privilege to tutor a young Easmon-trained mortuary attendant when I served as an “A”-Level National Service Teacher at the Osu Presbyterian Secondary School (SENDO) during the early 1980s.

Ultimately, what makes the Frimpong-Boateng episode, or summary dismissal from his largely titular post as Honorary Director of the National Cardiothoracic Center by President John Evans Atta-Mills significant, is the fact that it strikingly underscores the remarkably long way ahead of Ghanaian political culture in the era of democratic maturity.

*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (iUniverse.com, 2005). E-mail: okoampaahoofe@optimum.net. ###
Columnist: Okoampa-Ahoofe, Kwame