“I fall asleep in the full and certain hope that my slumber shall not be broken; and that, though I be all-forgetting, yet I shall not be all-forgotten, but continue that life in the thoughts and deeds of those I have loved.” — Samuel Butler
Though death is an inevitability, we somehow never prepare for it or get used to it. It has been a struggle putting together a tribute for our father, brother, mentor and professional colleague who has gone ahead to the other side. Yes, he may not be physically present with us, but if you look around at the media landscape, you will realise that Alhaji Kofi Mensah, Dean of the Obuasi Press Corps lives. Yes indeed, he lives in the many lives that he touched. He lives in the many young journalists that he mentored as Dean of the Obuasi Press Corps. That is our comfort. Though pained that we will no longer see the ever-smiling face of our colleague, we are comforted that his legacy continues.
For those who are not familiar with the Obuasi Press Corps, this is an “unofficial” grouping of journalists in Obuasi. Established in the very late 1990s, the group was led by its first Dean, the late Samuel Ennin who was then the News Editor of newly established Shaft FM. Other members of the group were: the late Collins Agyekum Gyasi (Correspondent of the Daily Graphic), the late Alhaji Kofi Mensah (PRO of the Ghana Education Service and correspondent of the Ghana News Agency) and later Danso Abeam (correspondent of the oldest newspaper in Ashanti, Pioneer). Other young journalists were later added to the group (the late Francis Kwaku Boateng, Thomas Quarcoo, Richard Ellimah, Joseph Amoako Darkwah, aka DJ Amouz, etc. The Press Corps became a formidable group and subsequently influenced a number of policies in the Municipality, became a mouthpiece for journalists and served as a vehicle for engagement with key actors in the governance space of Obuasi. For instance, there were regular engagements between the Press Corps and the Ghana Police Service as well as the management of Ashanti Goldfields Corporation (now AngloGold Ashanti) to discuss issues of mutual interest.
When Samuel Ennin left Obuasi to join Ashh FM in Kumasi, the lot then fell on the late Alhaji Kofi Mensah who became the Dean of the Obuasi Press Corps. Alhaji or Dean as he was popularly called ushered the Press Corps into a different era.
It was during his early days as Dean that the idea of formalising the Press Corps became topical. He commissioned Dr Thomas Quaicoo (now in Canada) and Richard Ellimah to draft a new constitution for approval. This had become necessary because Obuasi had seen the proliferation of diverse media. Meetings of the Press Corps were conducted in the living room of Alhaji’s bungalow at Bidieso, causing much inconvenience to his family. So committed was he to ensuring the Press Corps got registered that he instructed Dr Thomas Quarcoo to begin engagements with the Ghana Journalists Association on the possibility of making the Press Corps an affiliate of the GJA.
Alhaji mentored many young journalists who worked with various media houses. He never at any point used his position to intimidate any young journalist. He rather became a pillar of support, a professional anchor and an unofficial teacher. His calm but stern demeanour made it easy for these young journalists to be around him. His humility was unmatched. Never one to demand recognition, Alhaji travelled to attend workshops and other programmes with young journalists around the country.
If there is one person who has contributed immensely to the expansion of the frontiers of press freedom in Obuasi, then it is Alhaji. He personally intervened on countless occasions to free young journalists who had confrontations with political leaders of the Municipality. Typical of him, Alhaji avoided the limelight. But there was so much he did behind the scenes. He engaged in quiet diplomacy to resolve many problems.
We can recount how he worked very hard to free the late Albert Nana Asante who had been arrested on the orders of the brother of a parliamentary candidate for circulating a newspaper with an alleged defamatory matter. The Press Corps under Alhaji swung into action. He instructed Richard Ellimah as the Secretary to draft a press statement, which was then approved and circulated to the media on the evening of the arrest. The release reminded the Police that laws on criminal libel had been expunged from our statutes in 2001 so there was no legal basis for our colleague Albert to be arrested. Always reluctant to speak on radio, Alhaji rather encouraged other members of the Press Corps to speak out. These efforts yielded results as Albert was released unconditionally. If today, journalists in Obuasi freely express their opinion without the fear of getting arrested, Alhaji in part made it possible.
To us, Alhaji was a friend, father and mentor. As an experienced journalist of repute, Alhaji had so much to give. We prayed that upon his retirement from the Ghana Education Service he would stay much longer to keep mentoring the young journalists in Obuasi and beyond who desperately need mentoring. But God had other plans. We cannot question God. We can only show appreciation for giving us this priceless jewel for the time we spent with him.
Our only regret is that the Press Corps is still not registered or affiliated with GJA. The current leadership will work to ensure that it happens, as a memorial to Alhaji. Dean, you are gone, but not from our memories.
Rest well, with the other gallant soldiers of press freedom in Obuasi. Inform Samuel Ennin, Collins Agyekum Gyasi, Francis Kwaku Boateng and Albert Nana Asante that the torch they lit some years ago is still burning. We will surely keep it burning!