Prime News Ghana

Tribute to a fine gentleman; Prof Kwesi Botchwey

By primenewsghana
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Dr Kwesi Botchwey was one fine gentleman I never met.

Yet, he occupied pride of place in my heart as a politician.

I got to know him very early in my life as a little boy through the power of television.

In those days during the Jerry Rawlings PNDC era, I recall that two people usually had the privilege of addressing the whole nation, not necessarily by law, but by default, on TV annually.

These two were Jerry Rawlings himself and Dr Kwesi Botchwey.

READ ALSO: Former Finance Minister Kwesi Botchwey dies at 78

Rawlings, as a head of state, always attended the anniversary of the 31st December Revolution where he stood at attention in his military fatigues and took the national salute from all the various groups taking part in the march pass.

It was a beautiful panoply of colours and flags with security personnel usually dominating.

Jerry would then address the troops and the colours at the Independence Square on that day, usually marking the end of that year's anniversary celebration of the 31st December Revolution of the Provisional National Defence Council.

Though it was a military junta, it had some civilian members. The nine-member group was chaired by Flt.Lt. Jerry John Rawlings.

Then on the night of 1st January, the new year, the head of state would formally address the entire nation via, what was then called, GBC-TV ( now GTV).

His address was carried live by GBC Radio One and Two. It would later be reported by the then few newspapers owned by the state: The People's Daily Graphic, The Ghanaian Times, The Mirror and The Weekly Spectator. The Ghana News Agency, a wireless service owned by the state, would inform the external world of developments in Ghana.

Days after the head of state's address, Dr Kwesi Botchwey would also address the nation. It was a different kind of address. It was usually a long speech called the "borjet." I didn't understand a thing of it as a 12, 13, or even 15-year-old secondary school boy. But it was a fixture on my dad's calendar and since I used to watch tv news with him every night, I was compelled to watch Dr Botchwey and his budget.

Oh, how I hated it! I recall that before the budget was read, traders, including fuel station operators, would hoard their wares expecting new prices to be announced so that they would also take advantage of the new prices though their wares were usually old stock which had nothing to do with the new prices.

Dr Botchwey, who was then known as the PNDC Secretary for Finance and Economic Planning, would talk and talk and talk. Sometimes, I would be snoring by the time he was done.

Thankfully, my dad would get up from his seat and say good night to me. I would then turn off the TV set and amble (or saunter, should I say?) almost half asleep to my room.

I never understood Dr Botchwey and whatever he said and did then. All I knew was that a day after reading his long speech on tv, prices of goods always went up.

They never came down. In fact, l knew the various PNDC secretaries but didn't know what their functions were. My favourites among them were the Regional Secretaries.

I saw them at 6th March anniversaries and pupils and students usually went to the Residences for refreshments after march pass on 6th March anniversary celebrations.

So I liked the regional secretaries since I saw what they did----fed me and other kids on 6th March. Since I lived in Sunyani and Kumasi in those days, I vividly recall my encounters with Lt. Col. Alex Antwi and Lt. Col. Osei-Wusu, then Brong Ahafo Regional Secretary and Ashanti Regional Secretary respectively at their official residences, beautiful places I admired so much then.

But Dr Botchwey, oh my God, I saw him as doing nothing but making annual long speeches which resulted in price hikes. I remember the day when Dr Botchwey resigned from government (NDC) saying that he had "missed academic life" and wanted to return to it. Once again, I watched it on TV with my dad, whose reaction was "oh, why?". Mine was "good riddance! He can go to the moon." But I dared not say it louder. In retrospect, I sometimes wonder why my father, a soldier not a trader, was so concerned about Kwesi Botchwey and his "borjets."

Anyway, as I went further academically, I realised the importance of Dr Botchwey and his long speeches. But it was too late for me. He had then left Ghana for Canada after resigning from government. My admiration for him grew more when I later learnt that he had actually trained as a lawyer but went into finance by happenstance.

I admired him so much for the fact that he was able to handle so excellently a discipline for which he was not academically trained. I read about him and the likes of Prof John Evans Atta Mills (of blessed memory), Prof. Tawiah Modibo Ocran, a Supreme Court judge (of blessed memory), Prof. Samuel Kofi Date-Bah, a retired Supreme Court judge and one of the finest legal brains in the world, and Mr Tsatsu Tsikata as contemporaries at the University of Ghana's then Faculty of Law.

I wondered what a menagerie of scholars once populated that faculty as students. My admiration grew for Dr Botchwey. So when he eventually returned home, I felt, hoped and believed that I would one day meet him and take just one photo shot with him. Just one as a memento. But poor me, it was never to be. Hmmmm.

Rest thee well, fare thee well, Dr Kwesi Botchwey, a fine finance minister, a lawyer, a politician and above all, a perfect gentleman.

This is my recollection of a man I never met in person but admired so much. So please, overlook or correct my lapses, if any. Thanks.


By: Nana Kwaku Kumi