Lawyer Sam Okudzeto’s voice was shrill, pitchy, almost effeminate.
But his gestures were forceful and often passionate – reminders of the diminishing embers of the heydays of the man born 22 years before Ghana attained independence.
In his new book ‘SAM. A Life of Service to God and Country’, Uncle Sam – 82years – sat on the cover with a frame of exalted steel.
His frailty temporarily disappearing as his moral strength and a deep spirituality shone through, propping him up in a way his bones cannot do.
Sit-in host of Joy News PM: Express, Malik Abass Daabu sat with him in his home to do a tedious job of squeezing 369 pages in a 45-minute show.
He didn’t succeed – needless to say.
The theme through his 29,192 days here appears to be a lack of a grand plan or ambition. A certain take-it-one-day-at-a-time mentality which post-modern motivational speakers would shun like a plague.
But that’s what he appeared to have done. He never dreamed about law. He was advised to do it as a way to stay on the university campus in the UK in 1956.
He didn’t plan to do politics. He just did the right thing at the time by joining a consultative assembly to draft a new constitution in 1969 after he was elected as the youth representative.
He rejected a scholarship from a socialist union after they gave him a join-us conditionality for a tuition-free education. Old Sam did not see why merit should bow to convenience.
Leaders in military regimes of Acheampong and Rawlings begged and begged and begged him to join that facade nobility of ‘rebuilding’ the country sold to citizens after military take-overs.
And these little dots of doing what is right only because it is right has been the crux of his contribution to his country.
Minutes into the interview, he would reveal another strand of his decorated fabric of his public life. An intimidating power to forgive his enemies.
It was almost agape-like. Colonel IK Acheampong jailed him but Sam took care of his daughter Nana Serwaa Acheampong after the military leader was shot dead in 1979.
“When Acheampong was executed, I cried…”, the tips of his fingers clinched at the memory.
“Why did they kill him? He did not kill anyone. They should have allowed him to be alive to see the change that has come.”
He taught Nana Serwaa at the Law School, roped her in in his chambers and gave her a strong footing in the profession of that black and white cloak basically a copycat of a crow.
“When I saw his daughter, I thought that this is my child…and I still regard her as my child”, the great grandfather cherished.
Nana Serwaa Acheampong has pointed out, Uncle Sam treats memories of that horrific time in jail as part of his collection of humorous jokes. But that is because perhaps, success makes set-backs sound silly.
“People tell me, ‘Oh but the man hurt you. He locked you up’ and I say so what?”, the preacher man at Ridge Church dashed into the Bible to pull out a portion of the Lord’s prayer that hammered on forgiveness.
The senior legal practitioner said he saw the killing of Col. Afrifa coming as he saw the coming of his own arrest at the airport after the Busia government was overthrown in 1972. This premonition, he said was a spirit of prophecy that has lurked throughout his life.
After watching Gold Coast become Ghana and Nkrumah’s seat move to Akufo-Addo, the former president of the Ghana Bar Association refused to give in to the easy cynicism of the Ghana’s wasted years.
After watching six Presidents and Heads of State, the council of state member dared to believe one more time.
“Nana Addo is my hope now. This is our last chance. If this one fails, we are doomed”, the 82-year old expressed hope while 28year olds today prefer despair.
His hope bore an innocence of children yet the vitality of experience. Of course, Ghana can make it. Of course, Ghana has made mistakes and he found no difficulty in pointing out a recent mistake – President John Mahama.
Fresh energy pumped through him as the man with rarified moral standing took a sweatless swipe at the swindlings Ghana saw under President Mahama.
That government “I thought that we have dragged the country to its lowest ebb”, he said of the Mahama government.
The 4×4 wheel drives dashed to chiefs when hospitals needed less to run. “That is not good governance”, he said at a time when School Feeding Programme suffered, nurses remained unemployed.
He called the Mahama government’s unmitigated borrowing “senseless” and he called the Minority’s attack on the Finance minister over the $2.25bn bond a “stupidity” unneeded in serious times.
In his book, Uncle Sam, one of his father’s 55 children, looked back at his 55years standing at the bar and his 46 years tieing of the knot.
He praised Prisicilla, the defensive midfielder at home that allowed this striker to roam free to score goals for his country. From a pack of 55 children, from the pain of politics, from the practice of the law, ‘it all comes down to love’ Bebe Winans once sang.