By Justice Abeeku Newton-Offei
Ghanaian journalist Komla Dumor died suddenly in his London home on on Saturday, January 18
after a cardiac arrest. Credit: BBC
• God has been very good to me.
• Last year I experienced a lot of illness.
• My BP nearly gave me a stroke but I trod on.
• Waking up at 2am and heading to work. Exhausted sometimes…aching in my body and soul…
• Mentally and emotionally drained, but I kept going.
• I smiled for the camera…
• I volunteered for extra shifts…
• I showed respect to my colleagues from directors to security guards…
• I took a lot of jealousy driven vicious insults and
• Backstabbing from petty people without reply…
• I remain silent in my personal strife and misery…
• I kept smiling and pushing on to present better and
• To engage with my audience and increase my following…
• Long days and frustrating times but I kept going…
• Through the west gate mall coverage through the Mandela funeral…
• Even when illness had me collapsing, I delivered…
• Today my boss, the Head of Television called me for a one minute meeting…he said komla we have decided to make you the anchor presenter for our coverage of the World Cup in Brazil…we shook hands and I left.
• I looked to the sky and said thank you Lord for reminding that you are on my side…
• The enemy will be scattered. Selah! Selah! Praise Him…tomorrow is another day.
Above are the contents of a note supposedly written by the late Komla Dumor to a friend in which he talked about the level of stress his work schedule was putting on him, and also, the excessive racists slur he suffered at the hands of his co-workers at BBC.
Now, I lived and worked in Britain (Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire) for several years in the 90s and I never got used to the British system even though I had a good job with equally good salary. This was because, no matter how hard I tried to be conscientious in my approach to things at my place of work and discharged my duties with religious diligence, I never was in the good books of my white British bosses.
As an African, all the odds were against me since I happen to be the only colored person in the workforce of over one thousand people. And because I was very much aware of the fact that the odds were against me, I always made the conscious effort to work myself to the limit of my capability just to be accepted.
And while I kept overworking myself to be accepted, my white British co-workers lazied about but they never received any reprimand from the supervisors. This always made me mad and I was always picking heated quarrels with both my extremely biased supervisors and damn lazy co-workers.
And what made the matter worse was the fact that most of my British co-workers could hardly write their very own names, let alone express themselves in English. They were virtually illiterate but had the audacity to laugh when they saw me reading a newspaper because they thought I had no capacity to read and understand what was written in there.
So, for example, whenever we were having a tea break and they engaged me in a conversation, I would intentionally use gargantuan grammar and they will turn round and say “But how can you come here from Africa and speak our language (English) so well?” They simply couldn’t even come to terms with the simple fact that I was a highly educated fellow.
I used to do a two-week shift at my place of work where I had to wake up at dawn for two straight weeks and then change to the afternoon shift. That kind of work schedule took a great toll on me by way of always disturbing my sleep pattern and I was often not in good mood.
Again, there is this enticing scheme in Britain where workers are virtually pressured to work themselves to death; and what they do is, if let’s say, you are paid £20 per hour on a normal day of work, you are given £40 per hour on public holidays, which makes it damn appetizing and much difficult to reject.
So in the end, those of us that have traveled to Britain in search of a better life are always caught in this enticing web and we end up working our butts off throughout the year! In addition to this was the issue of the hostile British weather coupled with equally unwelcoming and highly self-centered British people.
So I woke up one day and simply decided to return home and continue with life irrespective of the cost since no matter how hard I tried, I still couldn’t get used to the British way of life. When I told my friends who had been there for over 20 years, they were surprised because of the comforts of Britain: no power outages or water crisis, no accommodation problems, food was cheap etc. My friends thought there was something wrong with me.
In the end, I packed and headed back home to Ghana. I won’t say I’m rich now, but, I can say with all confidence and with much reverence to the Almighty God that I’m relatively comfortable. As a matter of fact, I had the opportunity to travel to America last year, with a working visa, but I never bothered to embark on that trip.
Now, I have decided to give this personal account of an experience I had to go through during my days in Britain, and the nauseating level of racist slur I had to contend with to let our youth who are under the illusion that, unless they secure visas and get out of our shores, life cannot be worth living. Our thieving leaders must also stop the plundering of state coffers and come up with innovative policy alternatives to lessen the socio-economic woes of ordinary citizens.
So, after reading that personal account of what Komla had to go through at BBC by way of racist slurs and a draining work schedule, I think he should have either quit the job or been a little bit assertive when it became clear to him that those excessively demanding working hours being piled on him were affecting his health.
I’m really angered by the death of Komla Dumor because he was an exceptional human being who could have even become the president of Ghana in future. This was a young man who was offered a ministerial position by John Agyekum Kufuor but respectfully turned down the offer on the grounds that he didn’t think he was that mature enough for the job of a minister of state — a level of humility that is in sharp contrast to what we have today in government, where babies with metallic teeth and crooked caustic tongues are in power.
Indeed, the loss of Komla is such a great tragedy which I believe his family, particularly his wife and young children, and our nation will find extremely difficult to deal with for a long time.
Fare thee well, Komla; you are indeed a great son of mother Ghana who lived life to the fullest, and may the Almighty God keep you safe in His bosom till we all meet again someday.