Alhaji Aliu Mahama: An Epitome Of Friendliness, Simplicity And Courtesy
By Kwamena Essilfie Adjaye
My phone rang in the afternoon of August 20 this year. I answered and it was Alhaji Aliu Mahama, who promptly thanked me for the Eid wish I’d sent to him, apologized for not reacting to previous ones for a number of years, and wondered how I was doing – “My brother, how are you?” I said I was fine, better after a period of ill-health. I asked about his health. He said he was also fine, just the usual ailments. And then he said “You know, my brother, we haven’t met since 2008. I’ll call you one day when I’m in Accra so we can meet.” The whole conversation was characteristic of Alhaji Aliu: friendly, simple and courteous. But as fate would have it, it would be our last interaction.
How did Alhaji Aliu become “my brother”? When Mr. J. A. Kufuor selected him to be his running-mate in 2000 I thought there was something familiar about his name and face – but I couldn’t readily remember. Then close to 1 pm one day in early January 2001 while in the waiting room at the State House Alhaji Aliu walked in, started greeting and when he got to me he said, “How are you, Sir, the president is aware you’re here, he’ll see you soon. Sir, do you remember me, I used to come for the meetings in the GHA board room.” I couldn’t remember. Alhaji said goodbye and moved on to the next person. What struck me was how friendly, simple and courteous Alhaji Aliu Mahama, the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana, was.
I couldn’t meet President J. A. Kufuor that first day. That evening a road contractor called me from Wa and when I related to him that Alhaji Aliu Mahama had made reference to the meetings in the GHA board room he reminded me that Alhaji had attended those meetings of the Association of Road Contractors (ASROC) in the GHA board room from 1998 to 2000 in his capacity as the Northern Regional Chairman of ASROC. I was the national consultant of ASROC and those meetings were called at my behest. “Ah, Alhaji, the chairman of Lidra Ltd.,” I remarked! “No wonder he is familiar and he knows me,” I added!
The next day I was in the president’s waiting room, coincidentally again at close to 1 pm, and again Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama came through the waiting room and went round greeting, and when he got to me he chuckled and said he realized I couldn’t remember him the previous day! I laughed in reaction and asked if he would be coming back to the office straight from the mosque. When he said “Yes” I proposed that I could meet him upon his return, and he agreed. Once again I was impressed by how friendly, simple and courteous he was.
About an hour later when I took the seat in Alhaji Aliu’s office he said “How’s your brother?” “Ah, Alhaji, do you know my brother,” I asked. “Yes Sir,” he replied, to which I promptly said “Alhaji, you’re my Vice President, you mustn’t address me that way.” He chuckled and said “OK.” “Alhaji, which brother,” I asked? “Robert,” he responded. “Ah, how do you know him,” I asked? “He was one year my senior at Tech and we used to take the bus to Tamale and Yendi in the ‘60s when your father was District Education Officer.” “Ah, Alhaji, so all those times you came for the meetings from 1998 to 2000 you knew who I was?” “Yes,” he said. As I laughed he said “And I hope your father, Mr. Adjaye, is still alive.” When I said “Yes” Alhaji added that “He must be really old now,” to which I said “Yes, in his late ‘80s.” “Oh, extend my heartfelt greetings to Mr. Adjaye,” Alhaji said. “Tell your father I’m the son of his close friend, the Zongo Chief of Yendi,” Alhaji continued. Then Alhaji said “You know, for a time your father was the only person who had a personal car in Yendi.” “And we young men used to watch and admire him drive around.” I tested Alhaji: he got the make, model and colour of the car right! Before I could catch my breath he added that “You know, your father did so much for education in the Salaga, Yendi and Tamale districts that we from those areas and the north as a whole owe him a great debt of gratitude.” “There are many northerners who but for the schools your father made sure were built wouldn’t have attended school when they did.” “Mr. Adjaye, for what your father did for us you, your brother Robert and other siblings are Dagombas. You’re my brother.” The genuineness and warmth with which Alhaji Aliu made those remarks were touching. That’s how and when he made me his brother!
Alhaji Aliu Mahama thus showed that he had incredible memory for people and things and was appreciative of what others did.
In early January 2002 after my father died my brother Joseph and I went to his office to announce to him properly with a calabash and cola nuts. He was busy so we left the items and message with Mr. Joe Issakar, his secretary, who confirmed a day later that the items and message had been given to Alhaji Aliu Mahama. The Yaa Na Yakubu Andani sent a big delegation to the funeral. The Mion Lana Alhassan Ziblim came even though he’d sent a delegation – which caused consternation among the delegation – because, as he said when he greeted me, “Mr. Adjaye was my personal friend. We used to drink pito together. I had to come myself.”
But Alhaji Aliu Mahama didn’t come to the funeral and no one represented him! On account of this disappointment for over a year I couldn’t bring myself to meet Alhaji Aliu personally. Three times during that period Alhaji Aliu met my brother Robert at functions and commented that he hadn’t met me for a while. Finally in May 2003 I accompanied Mr. O. B. Amoah, his assistant, to the Vice President’s office to watch a UEFA champions’ league semi-final match. Mr. Issakar said, “Your friend is in” so I went into Alhaji Aliu’s office. He greeted me by saying “My brother, we haven’t met for a long time, and I’ve sent messages through your brother Robert.” I reacted by saying I was really disappointed in him for not having attended, or had a representative attend my father’s funeral, after all the nice things he’d said about my father. I continued by telling him that the Yaa Na had sent a delegation, his younger brother the Tampion Lana (who had told me that it was my father who encouraged him to become a teacher) had sent a delegation, the Mion Lana had sent a delegation, and then attended himself, President Kufuor who didn’t know my father personally like he did, had sent a delegation, …. Alhaji Aliu stopped me, embraced me, saying, “My brother, I’m sorry, please forgive me, I was busy out of the country and I asked someone to represent me, but clearly he didn’t.” It was a genuine apology, which I accepted promptly. I said, “OK, you’re forgiven. Now let me watch football.” Alhaji and I laughed. “Watch it in my office,” Alhaji insisted. But since he said he wouldn’t be watching himself, I went to the assistant’s office to watch it.
Whenever Alhaji Aliu Mahama and I met and exchanged greetings in a very friendly manner and bantered, some people would wonder why we carried on that way. We did so, because Alhaji Aliu Mahama and I were brothers!
Alhaji Aliu Mahama was really shaken by the assassination of Yaa Na Yakubu Andani and others, and the strife that ensued. After a visit with Alhaji Aliu Mahama in early April 2002, Mion Lana told me that “Your brother is crying a lot.” Alhaji was distraught for a while. Thereafter, try as he did to contribute towards it, he didn’t live to see peace return to his beloved Dagbon.
Alhaji Aliu Mahama served President J. A. Kufuor very well as an able and dependable Vice President.
Alhaji Aliu Mahama served his nation Ghana very well in many other capacities.
Alhaji Aliu Mahama showed us all that private as well as public service could be conducted with friendliness, simplicity and courtesy. We must emulate him in these respects.
Alhaji Aliu Mahama, an epitome of friendliness, simplicity and courtesy. May Allah, the compassionate and merciful, grant you eternal rest, my brother!
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