- My Ghanaian Odyssey by Agyeman-Duah, Baffour
My Ghanaian Odyssey is the autobiography of Baffour Agyeman-Duah, a former senior special adviser to the United Nations mission in Liberia and the UN senior governance adviser in Tanzania. A preface, by Cyril Kofie Daddieh, professor of African studies at Miami University of Oxford, Ohio, offers two identical life stories, intertwined because Daddieh was “destined, like Baffour, for the [Roman Catholic] seminary. Our paths might have crossed and our friendship might have blossomed much sooner,” if Daddieh had not attended a local secondary school instead, thanks to his older brother, who bought books for him to attend the secondary school as an alternative to a seminary (p. ix). Daddieh adds a similar anecdote of a life’s coincidence: “Like the author, I was sent from my village, at an early age to live with Teacher (he happens to be an older brother) in Half Assini, only five kilometers away.” Daddieh could not stay away from his mother, whose last child he was, but he praises Agyeman-Duah: “It is a testament to Baffour’s commitment and intestinal fortitude that he was able to get his mother to release him to go and live so far away from home and with a ‘total stranger’” (pp. ix–x). The preface provides a useful summary: “Besides helping readers to stroll down memory lane by recalling individuals and events with which they can identify, Baffour’s personal life journey is commendable for many other compelling reasons” (p. x). He adds that the contents of the book, particularly part one, which deals with the author’s personal realm, make it “both readable and irresistible, a true page-turner” (p. x).
My Ghanaian Odyssey is divided into eight numbered chapters, grouped into two parts. Part one, subtitled “The Personal Realm,” consists of chapters 1, “Early Days”; 2, “Long Walk to School”; 3, “In and Out of the Wilderness”; and 4, “From Cape Coast to Athens and Denver.” Part two consists of chapters 5, “On the Terrain of Democracy”; 6, “An Afternoon with President Rawlings”; 7, “Dancing with President Kufuor”; and 8, “Eyewitness to Elections.” There follows an unnumbered “Conclusion.” Also, the book has an acknowledgments section, a preface, an introduction, a bibliography, and an index.
The book tells a lot about the author and his odysseys, including his birth and earliest activities and culminating in lifelong events. The author had an ordinary childhood, and his earliest education took place in Ghana, up to his first degree, earned at the University of Cape Coast. He matriculated in October 1973, with Atlantic Hall as his dormitory. His “time at Cape Coast … was split between academic work and service in promoting [End Page 136] youth leadership” (p. 99). General I. K. Acheampong was then ruling Ghana, and students were protesting his regime, with student leaders like Cann Tamakloe and T. N. Ward Brew instigating the unrest. He himself, in April 1974, joined the ranks of the local chapter of the National Union of Ghana Students.
Agyeman-Duah’s youth activities led to his unanimous election at the 1975 annual congress of the Pax Romana at the University of Ghana. He led the way for the formation of the Catholic Youth Organization, the Young Christian Students, Pax Romana, and the Young Christian Workers, with Fosuaba Mensah Banahene elected to serve as secretary. In the aftermath, the Ghana National Catholic Youth Council was created; its formal inauguration, in July 1976, took place at a chapel of Opoku Ware Secondary School at Kumasi, Ghana, with Catholic Bishop Peter Akwasi Sarpong cutting short his participation in a Vatican conference to return home to lead the ceremony. In the same year, Agyeman-Duah graduated from the university. He then had many choices to make. After receiving admission and a tuition scholarship from Ohio University in Athens, he interviewed with professors Paul A. V. Ansah and Yaw Twumasi of the University of Ghana’s School of Communications Studies, which offered him admission also. He chose to enter Ohio University and bought his airplane ticket with funds from a...