“Eno are you seeing my six pack?!”
Baafuor would work out 3 seconds and harass everyone into telling him he had made progress. He would tuck in his belly and immediately wanted to be complimented. He loved compliments and equally loved complimenting as well.
“You are beautiful. I will tell you this every time so when you get older and a boy tries to “run” you with those words, tell him you know, because your brother tells you all the time”. He had no idea at the time, but he built my self-confidence at a very early age.
I grew up in a very large but close-knit family of 8. Five brothers, our parents and I. Baafuor was the firstborn. In many ways, he was just like our father. Incredibly smart, a great leader, extremely outgoing, down to earth and had lots and lots of friends. He was fun!
Baafuor was no saint. He never considered himself one. He owned up to all his vices and would openly share these terrible yet funny stories from his past with anyone who would listen. And trust me, most of them were terrible.
Growing up on Legon campus, everyone knew my big brothers for alllll the wrong reasons so it was remarkable seeing their transformation as they grew older.
Between Baafuor and I was a 13 year age gap. Anytime I would tell him off when I was upset about something he would say
“Eno I’m 13 years older than you, do you hear me?!”
I heard that probably all my life. Some days, I would even say it with him and we would both end up laughing. He was so easy to get along with. In the eyes of other people( women especially), he was a “player” of some sort. He was very confident and always knew the right things to say. He would turn around and tell me
“This is how men are, so don’t let any of them deceive you”
Throughout his life, he had several nicknames. He got his nickname “Ojo” in Achimota School because apparently he looked exactly like an old student who had the same nickname. This nickname would even get more popular than his actual name and stick with him for years. His University days brought even more variations to this nickname.
“RAS OJO DENGE”
After University, he left the country to pursue his Masters and returned to work at the bank. I still haven’t met anyone who enjoyed work as much as he did. He would go to work religiously and party just as hard every single weekend.
Popular doesn’t even begin to describe what Baafuor was. He had friends from all walks of life. Everyone knew him. You meet him one minute and you’re buddies. That’s how easy he was to get along with. He was generous to a fault, maybe one of the most generous people I’ve ever met. I remember back in Holy Child, he would visit whenever my parents couldn’t make it and he would have lots of provisions. You know back then, it was such a big deal having your chop box filled. He really was like a second dad. When I got to the University, he would visit with Chinese for my roommates and I. He would take care of my hair monthly and give me additional pocket money to what my dad had already given. I even had my first clubbing experience with him and his girlfriend. We had such a fun night. He loved to dance and have a good time!
In 2010, he met someone, fell deeply in love and within 6 months, had already decided he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. Yes, he was MADLY in love. In fact, in all the years I had known him, I had never seen him act this way with anyone so we were all happy for him but slightly concerned he was moving too fast. A year after marriage, he had the most adorable twins; Maame and Papa. He loved those kids to bits.
In a space of two years, certain extremely shocking events unfolded in that marriage that I would rather not delve into to protect the privacy of his ex-wife especially since she’s not alive to defend herself (she passed away a year after he died). After sharing these events with the family and seeing how broken he was, our dad asked that he move back home to heal and eventually get his own place while they started the process of divorce and custody of the kids. His health had also deteriorated as he had high blood pressure and had gotten hospitalised a few times due to these issues he was having to deal with. As easy as it is for anyone reading to think we took our brother’s side, just know that you don’t know the full story and the only good thing to come out of this tragic union was their adorable kids. What I took away from it was to truly know people before committing to spending the rest of your life with them. But can you ever really know someone entirely?
On the 1st of June 2015, I had a few rounds to do so I decided to pass by his office at the bank. I enjoyed going there because he would always fuss over me. He would take me round to meet his colleagues, we would chat in his office about the most random things and I got to see how he related to clients. People really loved him there. That day, he was very frustrated about some issues in his personal life which he shared with me. I told him not to worry, said a few words of encouragement and left. I had no idea that would be the last time I would see him. Most days he would set off from work very early and I never got to see him in the evenings because I was in the main house. Turns out that week, he had started working out again and let me just say that his workout sessions were so intense, I vowed never to join him again.
On the 3rd of June 2015, we all had dinner ie my mom, my uncle and cousin who were visiting from the US, my younger brothers (Nana & OD) and my big brother KT. Baafuor had stopped eating in the evenings in his attempt to control his weight so it wasn’t odd that he hadn’t joined us. He had returned home from work, changed into his workout clothes and left to go jogging around the neighbourhood. We had no clue since we were inside. This day happened to be the same day Ghana experienced unprecedented flooding in Accra. At this time, the heavy rains hadn’t yet begun, it was drizzling. I still have no idea why he decided it was a good idea to go work out. He managed to get back home just as it started to pour.
We were all still seated inside and chatting away. Suddenly, the security man frantically banged the door yelling! It was barely audible as the rain was battering the roof and windows. One of my brothers dashed to the door to find out what the commotion was about.
“Mr Baafuor has fallen down! Mr Baafuor has fallen down!”
What does he mean by that? I thought.
Before I could even gather my thoughts, everyone was running behind the security. Nothing could’ve prepared us for what we were about to go through.
There, lying flat on the ground, face up was Baafuor’s body drenched in rain. My heart was pounding and I remember screaming
“Baafuor no! Baafuor no! Baafuor no!”
We got close to him confused as to what exactly to do in that moment. Rain was pouring heavily on us and we couldn’t even feel it. We pulled on his clothes, desperately smacking him to wake up. My mom and I were screaming and crying. My brothers and uncle were calling out his name. We were all in despair! Deep down, we knew there was a high possibility he was already gone but no one wanted to give up just yet.
We decided to lift him up and boy was he heavy! We carefully moved through the compound which was starting to flood a bit. We placed him in the car with one of his sneakers falling off in the process. I thought about putting it back on his foot but there really wasn’t time for all that. We dashed to Yeboah Hospital which was just a few minutes away from our home.
We arrived at the hospital, got out of the car and yelled for a stretcher to be brought out. The nurses stood at the entrance refusing to step out in the rain. We were fuming! A wheel chair was brought to the entrance and we had to go get it ourselves , placed him on it and wheeled him into the hospital. A doctor came to the waiting area where we stood and checked his eyes and pulse.
“I think you have to take him to 37 immediately. I will arrange for an ambulance to send him there.”
After a few minutes, an ambulance was brought to the entrance and he was wheeled into it. We drove behind it all the way to 37. Accra was flooded at this point and there was traffic everywhere. We were all quiet in the car, silently praying and still hoping for the best. I was wondering why the doctor hadn’t said much but I consoled myself with positive thoughts
“After all, he wasn’t pronounced dead, so he could still be alive”
We finally arrived at 37 Hospital. If we thought the nurses at Yeboah Hospital were terrible, the worst was yet to come. We wheeled him to the so called Emergency Unit and it was a complete joke in there! No one and I mean not a single soul attended to us. We were ignored for over 30 minutes or more with health workers passing us by even as we called them to have a look at him. Finally , we managed to get one of the staff (still not sure if he was a doctor or a nurse) to have a look at him.
“Have you signed in?”
“Signed in? Please this is an emergency! Our brother has passed out!”
“Well you have to sign before you’re attended to”
No one even knew where this “signing” was done or what the rules were. What did it matter in this moment?!
“Anyway, what’s wrong with him?”
We begun narrating the story while he took his mini torchlight out of his pocket to examine Baafuor’s eye. He had a look and ..
“Ah but this man is dead. Take him away, we don’t have space in our mortuary.”
I spaced out a bit. The words kept ringing in my head and then suddenly the wailing began. We all broke down and WAILED! The fact that this was how his death was announced.
He was taken to Korle-Bu to try and work out the mortuary space there. We knew a couple of my dad’s old friends there who would be able to help with that. The rest of us went back home. That was the longest, quietest car ride ever. I still don’t remember who was driving or which of my brothers went to Korle-Bu because it was all a blur. I was confused . I questioned God. I was upset and I was numb. I didn’t understand why and how something this tragic could happen and just a year after Papa had died.
The days that followed seemed like a repeat of Papa’s death. Friends, family, neighbours coming in to express their condolences. Coffin selection, planning of the funeral, tears, calls from sympathisers, the sound of constant wailing every single day leading up to the funeral. We had pastors coming in to pray with us with a few taking advantage of the situation to create even more fear in us.
One of the things I had vowed not to put myself through was the dressing up of the “body”. During Papa’s funeral, we had gone with the undertaker to the funeral home. We were all seated in the little chapel in there except my mom (she was asked not to come because traditionally it wasn’t allowed). The undertaker came into the chapel to call us into the room where Papa’s lifeless body lay….
He proceeded to dress him up. By dressing, I mean squeezing water out of his limbs, putting cotton wool in his eyelids, padding his body with newspapers and a whole lot of things that I would rather not get in to. We were told that traditionally the kids had to watch this and no one was allowed to cry. I had to leave the room several times to cry until I finally decided I couldn’t watch anymore and left to the chapel. These are images etched in my memory and is truly the worst experience of my life. So as you can imagine, once it was time for Baafuor’s, I told them I would rather not.
Baafuor was brought to the house at 5am where close family got to see him. After the wailing was over, he was sent to the church for the funeral service. Papa was a public figure, so the crowd at his funeral was expected. However, Baafuor wasn’t, so I was shocked to see the entire church filled to capacity with people sitting under tents outside filling up all the compound space. Nothing but genuine love. After a very sorrowful funeral service, we left for the cemetery. After his burial, the graveyard worker assigned to dig up sand to properly cover the coffin begun digging and then stopped when he saw Baafuor’s image in the funeral booklet someone was holding.
“Ah is this the man I just buried?”
“Yes” I turned around and answered.
He broke down and wept. Then narrated a story of how Baafuor had helped him out in the past by giving him some money. I wasn’t surprised because that’s typical Baafuor. He helped complete strangers all the time. Baafuor was loved because he truly loved people. He is one of the few people you meet and never forget.
After his death, it took me a long while to even go to certain parts of the house especially where we found him. There were days I thought I was over it but his presence was so strong that I felt him everywhere. His death is still inexplicable and some days I believe we should’ve gone to therapy to get through it as a family but we did the typical African thing and just wallowed in it till it was over. No wonder it has taken me over a year to write this.
Baafuor’s life was cut short but in some ways, he lived a full life. He gave as much as he could. He loved hard, he worked hard, he left an impression on anyone he came into contact with and he was a ball of positivity. I will miss that loud infectious laughter and how he loved to drive with loud music blasting through the speakers while he danced. Some days he would arrive at his destination and make sure he was done dancing to a song before he turned off his engine.
Baafuor, how I wish your kids got to experience your awesomeness. Five years on and we are still grieving your loss. I do hope this is the beginning of some much-needed healing.
Happy Birthday Ojo. Rest well with Papa. I’ll always love you.