Kofi Issah – Navasco Leaders
Let me attempt to continue from where Senior Nabias Alabs and Folio 48 left off. My narration will touch on the leaders specifically the Senior Prefects for now and in later write ups on leaders on the student representative council, food committee, dining hall committee and others.
Leadership and how it was exhibited caught my attention and those of my mates who were obsessed with drawing circles around prefects who were bullies, prefects who had POP on their mouths, and prefects who were outright braggarts but had little substance. Not to be left out were the various class or house representatives to committees like the Student Representative Council who instead of serving the student body grew up to be professional litigants.
Let us take a look at the leadership situation of our senior prefects without going through all the theories of leadership that we have read ad nauseam without practicing. We arrived in Navasco in 1976 when Ambrose Dery was senior Prefect and had to our benefit the history about Anaba, Issaku Salia, and Chris Odiase as past senior prefects. We were told nobody could get the ball past Anaba when he played as a central defender for the school football team, Odiase we hear was mostly a bully (his main target being senior Lumumbatic), Salia it is claimed was hardly seen so was the “Mempeasem” type of Senior Prefect.
In form one in 1976 I had to come face to face with the SP who stayed in one of the cubicles of the newly opened Ferguson House. It was not pleasant as I had disturbed the peace by singing aloud one of the latest hits of “Sensational Horns” (the school band) behind the SPs cubicle window and in the process creating “noise’. A form two boy was sent to warn me but I shouted “Go away form one and two no difference so you cannot order me to do anything”. This answer attracted a slap from him Wham and I saw stars. The Tamale Moshie Zongo bad boy in me got my blood hot and sooner than later my catapult was out of my pocket doing its work. The form two boy retreated with a cut to the head swearing to beat the pulp out of me. All shouts for me to stop went unheeded until the SP came out of this room and someone announced loudly that the SP was approaching and if I did not stop he would sack me from the school.
I stopped and immediately started weeping fearing I would be sacked after spending only four weeks in school. I was not sacked but the SP calmly told me he wanted me to be his friend and the rest is now history.
So SP Ambrose was the first one I encountered and one day when he spoke in the dining hall it was like a sermon on the mount and served as the topic for discussion among the form one students for the whole term. SP Ambrose also amazed us when after completion we found him teaching the sixth formers and remarked that that he was so exceptional that he was allowed to teach his immediate juniors. At that time we had no way of assessing his leadership skills but several years down the line we all agree he was the best SP we ever met during our stay in Navasco.
Next after Ambrose came Clement Bugase (a gentle man with his equally gentle assistant Kofi Braimah). The gossip among us was that he was generally a consensus builder who was even sympathetic to us whenever he found us punished to carry out work which was in those days known as “project” or super project. If you dodged project or super project you eventually were sent for canes on Monday and a probation or “blue” book as your companion until you reformed.
“Bend down, stretch your waist, don’t waste my time” was the popular refrain of Old Macdonald as he administered the canes in accordance with laws of motion (Newton’s second law of motion). Still on punishment the “blue benches” (are they still in existence) was the court where sentences were handed out by the prefects to all students on punishment. Bugase and his group of prefects made us understand that we were being punished to reform us and not to destroy us. A useful lesson most of us remember to this date.
In 1978/79 it was the turn of “Big Tu” (SP Adamu Bature) and his assistant Nabia Baba Imoro. Bature was and still the most charismatic of all the SPs we have known and a great mathematician and footballer. His reign was good but was eventually marred by the Ghana Education Council vote of thanks fiasco at the assembly hall. It was after that Charlie Konds and Augustus Atibila run riot with their bombastic speeches whenever they were called upon to give the vote of thanks on behalf of the student body.
The era of the three senior prefects arrived in 1979. Nabia Cambodia was senior Prefect, Abanga as deputy senior prefect, and Abuga Pele as assistant senior prefect. Till date I do not know what went into this selection process but I think it worked. Cambodia was hardly seen except on the basketball court where his trade mark “afro hair” announced him as a terror basketball player for the school. He talked little (not these days when with age and constant nagging from teachers of the GES he is forced to talk and talk and talk) and delegated mostly to Abanga and Pele who kept an eye on fellow prefects and prevented the ‘boxing tournaments” of previous years. These boxing tournaments involved the great Simple Ayamga, Bob Nyalatus, Bayiwase and their attendant supporters. They were usually bloody and to have a feel of them just imagine Simple beating one Bapuntiere and in the process modifying his dental formula. When asked, Simple retorted he was using Bapuntiere for practice in order to face Nyalatus and co in the eventual bouts.
I will call the Cambodia era one of decentralization of power. The SRC was given more responsibility, a food committee was formed out of the “gomorrow” dining hall committee. Other mushroom associations and committees sprung up mainly to fight social causes. To crown it all the leadership did a splendid job at the 20th anniversary of Navasco and the annual speech and prize giving day in 1980. This year marked the departure of Old Macdonald from the school and to his next posting in Lesotho.
Mohammed Tanko was SP and Adazu was DSP (I cannot however remember the ASP but I believe there was one) in 1980/81. Tanko was on the quiet with Adazu being noisy and having running battles with the form five students (of which I was one). Adazu as DSP dominated this era through some “draconian” rules to enforce discipline (the departure of Old Macdonald saw a decline in many things including discipline). The construction of the “Adazu highway” from Volta house to the dining hall was unique for I was one of its foremost “road engineers” carrying gravel to pave it as a form of punishment for riots in the hall. This riot was led by our mate Owusu who had earlier on been pummeled into submission by Adazu when a fight broke out at the blue benches. At supper that day Owusu put off the lights and using that as a signal all sorts of “logs of yam” were directed at the prefects high table and Adazu “chested” one of the logs. On came the lights and those of us found with yam in our hands were quickly arranged to work on the highway the next day. The building of the highway was an eye opener for us not to cross any SP and for that matter Adazu again.
Hmmmmm. 1981/82 was an era. Revolution, turmoil and stories fit for Kumawood movies. The first time in more than five years that a sitting Senior Prefect was relieved from his post. Why he was removed was the subject of rumours but one credible version was that the SP (was he called Muzhik or something I cannot remember) was a “Russian” (meaning he attended form one to five elsewhere and only came to Navasco for sixth form) and so was not the favourite of his fellow prefects and set up to fail. How he got chosen we do not know but insiders claimed he was a compromise candidate in order to keep some “revolutionary” aspirants at bay (remember this was the early days of the 1981 revolution).
This period saw a transformation for the worst in the fortunes of the school. The student Defense Committee (SDC) modeled on the Workers Defence Committees of the revolution had taken over the leadership of the school. The SP and prefects alike were relegated to the background and the teacher population was quaking in fear lest they be reported to be enemies of the revolution. It was a matter of time for the weakened SP to be dispatched from leadership with the baton being handed over to Big Joe the athlete. So ended 1981/82 with two senior prefects and lots of confusion and like earlier mentioned an apparent beginning of the end for the school (I am sure other will fill us in with how Aggrey, Adanzi –Kanga, and Katumi turned things round and made the school great again).
Obiba J. K, Obiba , Obiba were the shouts/chants which ushered John Kuseh into office as Senior Prefect with Ford Kamel as his assistant after his victory at the polls to serve for the period 1982/83. In my memory it was the second time we were allowed to vote for prefects (or was it a revival from earlier practices. The older Nabia might correct me on this). Prior to the polls all the junior students became power brokers and prospective SPs started ‘respecting’ them because the power of the thumb was becoming apparent to all. Come and see “bribery and corruption” and vote buying. In those days it was limited to the prospective candidate sending his supporters to “sweet mother” bar (the cadet instructors wife) and buying them waakye and meat which was an enticing alternative from eating the “sakora” rice or rice with “gasoline’ in the dining hall.
The campaigns were interesting and so was the presentation of manifestoes. There were four aspirants for the position of SP. The first despite smoking a large roll of wee still got stage fright during the presentation of his manifesto and started talking gibberish and promising rice and beans with fish four times a week. Away, away the audience chanted and he disappeared to nurse his disappointment probably blaming it on the dosage of the wee or some supernatural forces lurking around the Macdonald hall.
Aspirant number two was a ladies man and had almost the whole of Slessor house as his support base. How politically suicidal can one be when in a voter population of over a thousand this aspirant placed his bet on the 90 girls from Slessor and a few nit wits who wielded no clout in the school. No wonder he got less than 90 votes.
Enter aspirant number three during the presentation of manifestoes at the assembly hall spewing a lot of revolutionary rhetoric which even the great Commandante (Fidel Castro) will not dare utter. This aspirant was full of the revolutionary spirit of the times and his words sent chills down the spines of many students and teachers alike (who will want to spend a night in Navrongo police Cells like the former headmaster Mr. Thomas Adjei?) as anybody could labeled as an enemy of the revolution and dealt with. The ever alert student body (trust navascans) did not ask him any question during question time and cheered him louder than other candidates handing him a pyrrhic victory before the polls. At the polls he was taught a lesson “we no go sit down make you cheat us every day” and so our revolutionary friend was left with a paltry 200 and something votes (a good showing by any standards and possibly from students whose fathers had been labeled as “kulaks” and could be reported to the citizens vetting committees).
And so it came to pass that the “French boy from Paga” carried the day and the bachelor class (Gold) eventually produced an SP after many failed attempts over the years. How Obiba John Kuseh performed will be narrated by others in subsequent stories?). So we survived the revolution in 1982/83 with Kuseh and Ford as leaders and also marking the first time since 1976 that a dining hall prefect was not removed from office for malfeasance.
Over the years stories have shown each of these senior prefects has made an impact in one way or the other in the public services of Ghana and maybe the hypothesis that being a senior prefect in school prepares you for greater things in future can be true. I may be wrong but Rudolf Kantum, Alhassan Azong, George Wak and their predecessors can answer that question for us.