It was in the year 2006. Then a primary-five pupil, I had just returned from school when a heard a voice on radio announcing his bow-out from the United Nations.
I barely had any knowledge about national affairs, let alone world affairs. But the voice I heard piqued my interest. I sat. I listened. I was attentive. I left with an impression.
That was Kofi Annan, now of blessed memory, speaking.
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I had never paid attention to this man’s works, but I knew immediately that that voice was not ordinary. There was something striking about the man behind the voice – a uniqueness I’ve since come to realise.
So last Saturday, August 18, 2018, when news broke that Kofi Annan has passed on, I quickly reflected on his parting words on that fateful day, 12-years-ago.
“Dear friends and colleagues, saying goodbye is never easy,” Kofi Annan emotionally started.
“I have spent most of my life working with the United Nations, I feel it is my home. I can think of no other job in the world that would have been so rewarding. I have met many wonderful people around the way and I have made many friends. It has been an extraordinary privilege to serve as Secretary-General in these last 10 years.
“I believe we can all feel proud if what we have achieved together in that time to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges.”
But even if the introduction to that speech was emotional, it was nothing compared to his philosophical, calculated conclusion.
Kofi Annan ended his parting speech with the sentence: “…As we begin the next face of our lives, I will still be with you in spirit. I have often said that you can take the man out of the UN, but you can’t take the UN out of the man.”
Right over there is the man I’m talking about. His passion and professionalism to duty were simply unmatched and, for 80 years, he made sure that his life was always on the line for others.
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Having stepped down from his post as UN Secretary General in 2006 (he held this position from 1996), Kofi Annan continued to work towards uniting the world and bring equity to less-developed countries.
This is a man who grew up in a wealthy family – his grandfathers were traditional leaders, while his father became a provincial governor during the British regime – yet he refused to sit home and relax on his laurels.
By the age of 24, Kofi Annan was already working with the UN, and continued to do so until his final days on earth.
Now, that’s 56 years of his life spent fixing what he did not break. He sacrificed the better part of his life resolving conflicts he did not create; healing wounds he did not inflict; showering blessings upon people he did not curse; and shinning lights upon nations he did not darken.
There is a lot to say about Kofi Annan which have not been documented or even trumpeted enough. Back in Ghana, he may not have seemed to be involved that much in local politics, but those who knew him very well know the underlining roles he always played to ensure sustainable peace in the country.
Kofi Annan was so selfless that his goodwill earned him “enemies” in the West. For kicking against the US’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, there was a reported scheme to tarnish his image after the "oil for food scandal".
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Yet, he remained resolute and fought for universal liberation. In the face of criticism and pressure whiles serving as UN Secretary-General, Annan always had his philosophical head up.
In one of his memorable interviews with the BBC, he was asked how he deals with the pressure that comes his way. Kofi looked the presenter in the face and gave a reply that typified his resilience and fortitude.
"I used to say the letters SG do not stand for secretary-general, they stand for scapegoat," he said.
This is the grandfather, father, uncle, friend and brother that we mourn today. The tributes from far and near indicate the impact that Kofi Annan had on the world.
“…As we begin the next face of our lives, I will still be with you in spirit” – these were Kofi Annan’s last words to us when he was departing as UN General Secretary.
On our part, we say thank you sir, for putting Ghana on the map.
We say thank you for fighting for an equitable universe.
We say thank you for standing up for freedom, justice and elevation.
We say thank you for being the perfect role model for this generation.
Rest well, Kofi Annan.