Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie is affectionately known by many names. To the public, he was Sir John, but to others, he was Wofa, General, Kwadwo and Commander. Without a doubt, Sir John was very popular in Ghana. Like most things in life, popularity is more complicated than it looks. Some people are popular because they are likable —their peers like them, trust them, and want to be around them. Others are popular because they gain status in society and use their power to influence others in a positive way. To me, Sir John’s popularity was a combination of both his immense likability and his positivity.
Sir John was special because he always made the people around him feel special, recognized, and appreciated. When you were in his presence, he never focused 0n himself, his problems or his achievements; instead, he projected empathy and optimism.
These are some of the traits that made Sir John so special to all of us. But more importantly, he had other unique qualities: a great wit, traditional knowledge and wisdom, and mastery of the Akan language. Sir John was a great listener, and a skilled communicator. He had a way about him that comforted the marginalized and at once charmed and tamed his foes. His charisma allowed him to connect with ordinary folks. That he was revered by the downtrodden is an understatement. Sir John loved the proverbial man on the street because he never outgrew his working class roots. He also loved the spotlight, but never monopolized it. Sir John was our friend, our uncle, and our brother. It was easy for us to welcome him into our living rooms, whether in person or on the television or radio.
Notwithstanding these unique qualities, I believe that there was something else that made Sir John special: his kindness, loyalty, and authenticity. As the Chairman of NPP Canada, I had the unique opportunity to know Sir John at both a personal and professional level. Sir John loved Canada and frequently visited Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver. Sir John’s contributions to NPP Canada cannot be overemphasized. He helped our branch to organize many successful fund raising events, and in 2018, he even braved horrendous weather to fly to Canada to supervise our Branch elections.
Sir John’s last visit to Canada was in October 2019 when he visited Vancouver, British Columbia. I arranged for Sir John and his team to meet the leadership of the Faculty of Forestry at the University of British Columbia (UBC). He was excited about forging a partnership with the University and engaging in a knowledge sharing arrangement between the Forestry Commission and the University. He was so impressed with Vancouver’s urban forestry program that he planned to visit again.
At a personal level, I appreciated Sir John’s authenticity. There was nothing fake about him. He was sincere, open-minded, and had unique problem solving skills. Though some of his approaches were unorthodox, funny and at times spontaneous, they had one thing in common: Sir John was always looking for ways to make others happy and to live in the moment. I will never forget meeting up with him in Hamburg, Germany in 2010 at Npp International Conference. In typical Sir John fashion, he could not go without his fufuo and waakye. So, we drove around Hamburg to find a Ghanaian restaurant to buy jollof rice and waakye for him. When we arrived at his hotel, however, he was sharing jokes so animatedly that he forgot his food in the car. The next day, Sir John told me to fetch his waakye for him right away because he had planned to eat it for breakfast. Sir John loved Ghana and the culture that he carried with him wherever he went.
Sir John was extremely loyal to his friends. It was clear that when Sir John was in your corner, he was there for the long haul. He was also kind and cared about his friends, family, and communities. Before his untimely demise, Sir John asked me to help him to get medical supplies for a hospital project in his hometown. He told me that folks in his hometown needed a modern medical centre with essential amenities to help to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. He worked tirelessly on this project and was on the verge of arranging the first shipment to Ghana when he passed. It is sad that Sir John did not live to accomplish that goal.
He was a wonderful father to his children and uncle to my children. He laid a strong foundation for all of us and showed us how to love, live, laugh and to enjoy life in the present. His beautiful spirit will live on through his children and all of us whom he touched in his own special way.
I knew that he was sick, but I also knew that as a soldier, he would fight to complete his unfinished business. I knew that his love for the NPP would motivate him to fight to lead us in the coming election. I knew that he believed in the Ghana project and would fight to play his role in enhance our democracy. What I did not know was that when death came calling, not even the love of a nation could stop it.
Today I am deeply saddened by his passing, but I have hope in knowing that he rests peacefully in the bosom of his Creator. I know that the soul of the universe will continue to conspire to make his dreams come true. I also take comfort in the knowledge that he will always be with us in our hearts. Kwadwo, General, Wofa, Sir Johh, NPP Canada will always be grateful to you for your service. I will miss the way you made me laugh and challenged me. Until we meet again, rest in peace my dear friend.
Kwame Abrefah, Chairman, NPP Canada