Interviewing Johnson Asiedu Nketia is like having a buffet at any 5-star facility. Juicy, not in just one or two places but several – you would be so spoilt for choice of gripping headlines.
I felt sorry for Bola Ray.
He was going to do a historic interview like a crash course – short and speedy. He would be talking to and listening to a man whose life is riddled with controversy like Joseph’s coat of many colours and whose piercing, saucy, jabbing outburst literally funds and fuels the life of private newspapers in Ghana.
The General Secretary of the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) walked into the studio for an epic interview on Joy FM’s Personality profile with Bola Ray. He was in a suit which he struggled to fully fit in.
Johnson Asiedu Nketia is the physical manifestation of President Mahama’s now memorable quip – the meat is down to the bones.
He wasn’t wearing his characteristic ‘batakari’. His reason? – he was coming from a cabinet meeting; and in that single sentence perhaps revealed – the dress code for cabinet meeting.
Let the humuor begin.
A General is born
He was born at a time when meat, bones and choice food are the accompaniment of a Christian celebration – 24th December 1956 at Seikwa in the Brong Ahafo Region.
His mother, over 90-years is still alive. And you can be sure she keeps healthy by staying away from the vituperative yelling on radio and keeping what may likely be a ‘hear no evil’ National Health Insurance card.
Schooling like an undercover agent
“From P1 to Form 4, I was always almost the first two or three in class. You saw people far far less brilliant continuing. I still felt my future was in education”
Education tasted sweeter than his Uncle’s cocoa beans and the prospect of inheriting a magnificent stretch of golden pods was as unappealing as begging Jesus Christ to descend the cross.
His family’s call was for him to give up on education and inherit the cocoa farm but at 14, Nketia in the absence of stringent child labour laws, carried his cross – tapping and distilling palm wine, doing petty trading, pushing trucks, going underground to raise money and pay for his education just to defy his family’s quest to deny him education.
He used 9 cedis earned from his menial jobs to buy forms in “absolute secrecy”. And he sat the exams with three of his teachers. Two failed, one passed, he said, giggling in the same mocking excitement, the opposition NPP has had to endure when they lost to his party.
Asiedu Nketia is simply brilliant.
But this reality would have been a hypothesis had it not been for Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s free compulsory education policy forcibly implemented by a group of cadres called Young Pioneers. They saw him loitering around and threatened to prosecute his rich, cocoa farmer-uncle if he didn’t send a young Nketia to school
“That’s why I am grateful to Kwame Nkrumah”, he said of the country’s first president.
His C.V shows a courageous leap from Form 4 to University of Ghana Business School.
He wrote his GCE O’ and A’ levels at home and passed with distinction. He beat the village boys at Seikwa, the town boys, the city chaps at the University of Ghana Business School and left a record score at a stock exchange exams.
By the way, people re-sit exams because they failed. Not Asiedu Nketia.
In place of a dead student, some teachers drafted him to re-sit exams he had already passed a couple of years ago because the Presbyterian local school was eager to maintain 100% distinction.
And Asiedu Nketia did not disappoint.
He remembered how he topped four streams – T1 to T4, when the whole school sat for an exam on a new syllabus, Modern Mathematics, at St. Jospeh’s Teacher Training College, Bechem .
His angry seniors made him kneel down, carrying stones in his hands as punishment for trouncing them in the maths exams until someone gave them some much-needed wisdom.
“Ah? What do you think you are doing with this guy? We are learning maths for only one year to write our exams. If you are lucky to have a gem like this, won’t you recruit him to help us?”
You can see why they failed that math exams.
They readily agreed with this advice so that a diminutive, branded too young to teach, gathered seniors 10 years older, possibly 10 times bigger but sadly 10 times less brilliant than him as he schooled them in modern mathematics.
Johnson Asiedu Nketia graduated as the best student in the 1978 St. Joseph’s class. It was another record at the time.
The Movie: ‘Asiedu Nketia in love Part 1 &2 ‘
At GNAT meeting, the female teachers liked gossiping about this young, lanky, handsome, bright village guy who was winning everything including a dancing competition in Seikwa.
Aseidu Nketia giggled helplessly when Bola Ray asked about his first proposal.
“Hmmm, he sighed contemplatively”.
The first time or the [time I proposed to ] my wife” he sought clarification from Bola Ray, that showed a potentially dark cardboard of romantic escapades.
He disputes this. “I had only two [girls] before my wife. I was a very good guy oo”, he said.
Love happened during a sports festival. He was drafted to announce results because he spoke well.
And you know women always love men behind the microphone?
His wife was a platonic friend who also taught dressmaking at Seikwa. He shepherded her into his house when she got stranded after the sporting activities.
Enter the bachelor boy’s house or endure a 8-miles walk to her house. She took the former.
Aseidu Nketia mildly called it an invitation; fighting off unsuccessful attempts at suppressing the implication of the invitation.
“You and I were not there’ – but suffice it to say she left his home without any bruises. And her dress had the same neatly ironed look as she ‘entered the net’ – an account according to my imagination.
The rest of the story has been reserved for their Golden jubilee celebrations.
‘How I entered politics’
After teaching for four years, he felt stuck in the village Seketia Presby Primary. The bachelor had to beg farmers to give him foodstuffs because there was no market in the village.
Until fate struck.
Because of a raging, bitter, divisive chieftaincy dispute, an underutilized young teacher bachelor was called back to his village to help run development in his village, Seikwa.
“Those days the communities were run by town development communities with the village chief being the chairperson. Half of the town felt the village chief should not be chairman, another half was against it. There was confusion”
He headed a neutral committee voted into office by the entire village.
“I became the defacto ruler of my town [at 21]”, he said. And he gained “more revolutionary powers” when a Rawlings revolution turned his committee into Peoples Defence Committee.
Asiedu Nketia succeeded in diverting the people’s attention from petty politics to development – a feat currently deeply needed today.
Asiedu Nketia contested the 1988 Wenchi District Assembly elections, won and was later nominated to the National Consultative Assembly set up to draw up the 1992 constitution.
Asiedu Nketia walked around Accra unacclaimed. It is unlikely he can walk around like that today.
Before Ghana entered constitutional rule in 1993, a crucial decision awaited Asiedu Nketia. A different choice would have blown him out of national political memory.
There were several juicy corporate benefits from very top brokerage firms who wanted his services after he passed a newly introduced stock exchange course. “I was adjudged the best in all the modules and the best since the course was started in Ghana. All the new brokerage firms were looking for me; offering to double my pay, triple my pay. If i had any loan facility they were prepared to pay it off, give me housing”
A sought-after Asiedu Nketia had to choose between a village clamouring for him to stand as MP and an offer to join corporate Ghana.
But the village offer beat the business offer.
Asiedu Nketia retreated into very familiar grounds to serve his people as MP in the 1993 parliament.
He spent 12 years in Parliament. Served on several several committees of parliament including, Appointments Committee, Finance Committee, Public Accounts Committee, Chairman Mines and Energy Committee, Minority spokesperson on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs,
He stepped down graciously in 2004 because he wanted to join his wife in Canada. But that travel was not meant to be after his party’s rank and file mounted pressure on him to take up the position of General Secretary of the NDC. At the party’s delegate congress in December, 2005, he won by almost 80% of the votes to become the 3rd General Secretary of the NDC. At a re-election contest held in Tamale in January 2010, he was delivered a 93% vote of confidence.
Asiedu Nketia has clashed with his party’s founder Jerry John Rawlings, sued a private newspaper, Daily Guide Ghc 250,000 and capped it with a ‘Kwasea be nti’ [because of fool] comment.
His ‘any fools can go to court’ sourly irked the opposition NPP when they decided to contest the announcement declaring President Mahama as president. He blocked an NPP nomination of Honorable Osei Kufuor as a minister under Kufuor’s administration.
But the sharp-tongued NDC General Secretary feels no ill-feelings towards anybody, especially NPP bigwigs.
“In fact I have many many friends in NPP. And Nana Addo if you ask him, every funeral Nana Addo has, I attend. Addo Kufuor is my very good friend. Osafo Maafo very very good friend. I feel very much at home the NPP leaders.”
Asiedu Nketia’s greatest fear
His greatest fear also unconsciously revealed his greatest love, his tenderest heart, and his softest spot.
“I fear to create a bad record for my children. I don’t want to leave a bad record which my children will not be proud of”.
He has a thick-skin for any insult, any jab even unfair. But his humorous outlook disintegrates into a vengeful quest for justice when anybody alleges criminality against him. He would move heaven and earth to clear his name for the sake of his children.
For a man who said “I never thought for once that I would be a politician”, Johnson Aseidu Nketia has become the grand choir master of an NDC orchestra taught to sing ‘from victory onto victory’ as he has masterminded two great, historic electoral victories.
“I want to leave this world better than I found it”. Underline the word ‘better’. It is a politically charged word in Ghana politics. And in that single sentence, Asiedu Nketia unconsciously suggests, the NDC will be in power until death sends him over to the non-political side life of life – eternity.
General Mosquito as he is also called, holds none of the swag of a successful man or the pretenses of riches. His life encapsulates what you could call the catapult theory of success which is this
“You can go farthest in life, if you dig deeper into yourself, nestled in serving your community as a stone is nestled in the elastic patch of a catapult until destiny finds the best moment to unleash you into the spotlight of success.”