The passing of the former Security Czar, Mr. Kojo Tsikata, last Saturday gripped national attention. The event marks the end of a significant, troubling and still secretive era in Ghana’s political history.
Tsikata and his boss, Jerry Rawlings, who passed exactly a year this month, were an inseperable duo in the minds of the Ghanaian public. That Rawlings will rule Ghana that long(the longest in Ghana’s history) must be necessarily tied to the intrusive surveillance, intelligence and information gathering infrastructure that Mr. Tsikata helmed.
Some of us literally grew up in the Rawlings era. Tsikata loomed large in that mix and we heard bone-chilling rumours about him. Without a doubt the public image about him was of a reticent, reclusive and shadowy securocrat who wielded immense life and death powers in the Republic.
This elusive phantom image is embellished by Awoornor’s description in his controversial “Ghana Revolution” of Tsikata’s apparent torture at the hands of Acheampong’s intelligence leading to his head swelling to the size of a basketball. His adventures in the Congo, Angola and Cuba add intricate layers to his complex impenetrable life which is made the more tantalizingly irritatingly opaque because he became a very present(though contradictorily absent) public figure for close to two decades. The question must be put then a la the Great Ivan Van Sertima : just who was Mr. Kojo Tsikata?
Eric Atta-Sonno, who I have described as one of the most prolific non-scholar book writers of our times, broached this enigma of Kojo T in a recent facebook post. His lament is that like Rawlings, Tsikata leaves us with no memoirs. In a sense a massive library has been “burnt”; a big loss to reflective minds in this our Republic. In his physical absence, we are left at best with the possibilities of a biography.
I have however want to add to the reflections on biographies and autobiographies that seem to be constantly left out in the discussions. To undertake any of these genres is time-consuming, mind exacting, income guzzling, physically demanding and sources intensive enterprise. We forget or more to point, do not care to take into account the sheer PAIN it takes to write a good book. This is something we need to underline. Many things must underpin such a task to make it possible. One is the presence and availability of documents. Who is interested in our archives in Gh? They are rotting away. Even if a subject of an autobiography wants to use a writer(like the Great Malcolm X did with the Great Alex Harley) it will involve mind boggling hours of personal interviews over a long period for example. And talking to the subject’s peers which means even knowing who to talk to and having the clout to be entertained and a formidable repository of relevant knowledge to triangulate all the information.
I remember chancing on the biography of the controversial J. Edgar Hoover(he was director of the FBI for 48 years; yes) at the Nation of Islam outlet on the Castle Road here in a Accra in my youth. In a sense Hoover can be said to be Tsikata’s opposite number for they were both securocrats and appeared almost inscrutable. It took five years for Summers to write that 583 pager.
Well we want autobiographies and biographies. But penning these is no cake walk in this our wretched town. Any such work in Ghana is the product of heroic undertaking and indeed any serious book written in Ghana.
Credit : Dr Lloyd Amoah of UG