AWAKE, OUR SOULS! AWAY, OUR FEARS
What shall I write to please the soul of a man who wrote all his life? What shall I say to poetic enough to a soul of a poet whose work transcends many barriers and in many languages? I can but offer a sincere tribute to the soul of “he who, with calm undaunted will, ne’er counts the battle lost, but, though defeated battle still. He joins the scared host” (Samuel Longfellow, 1819-92).
Professor, death cannot defeat the valiant. Great men never die. Their work matches on. Been a ‘John’ puts Professor Atukwei Okai in the league of great men who were and are called ‘John’. Professor was never defeated. In the early battles of his life principally in education and work, Professor bore in his strides the Ga antecedents of ‘hewah’ and ‘hekah’ literally translated as ‘courage’ and a ‘fighting’ spirit.
Professor, your great poem ‘Logorligi Logarithms’ placed you far higher among your peers and established your authority. It became a locus classicus in the field of African poetry. Your dazzling voice and the rhythmic flow of the lyrics in your recitals brought smiles and joy to the angriest person who does not even understood the Ga dialect.
For many, your poems shall continue to be the ringing bell of a son who truly loved his labour. One thing that gave me joy was the knowledge that you attended Accra High School, an ardent GaDangbe advocate and a scholar. It reminds me so much of the great works of Dr. Nii Armah Josiah-Aryeh also of blessed memory who attended Accra High School and was a foremost GaDangbe advocate. Again like Dr. Josiah-Aryeh you both worked in the University of Ghana echoing the age old saying “Ga mei a shikpon, Ga mei a no ni” to wit “the Ga lands belongs to the Ga people”.
The Ga people by their origin and location in Accra were and continue to be highly respected. Professor, your education, contribution to national development and academia re-echoes the humility and selflessness of the Ga people. You were content with what you had. You yearned for equal development for your people than grabbing wealth with your feet and arms like others did in public office.
Professor, it was all white at your funeral signifying; victory, joy, peace and fulfilment. This is the promise of our ancestors. You have become an ancestor whose words and life on earth has become a reference to many generations particularly your family, students, and the GaDangbe people.
Professor Atukwei Okai fell sick like all mortals. His mortality became weak but his soul remained strong as His maker gaveth. He lived seventy seven years, a sign of longevity and a fulfilment of scripture which gave man seventy years on earth.
To live is good but to die from this wicked world is divine because in death we who have faith in God will see God as the good book promises us. I am confident our good old Professor has seen God and happily rejoicing with the angels and all departed faithful.
As Professor Atukwei Okai return to his Maker and as we journey on in this life, may the song in the second, third and sixth stanzas of Frances Ridley Havergal, 1836-79 echo:
“Take my hands and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.
Take my voice, and let me sing
Always, only for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.
Take my love; my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store.
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee”.
Professor Atukwei Okai, fare thee well!
Professor Atukwei Okai, rest in perfect peace!!
Professor Atukwei Okai, wo odjogbann!!!