And his poem, ‘The Road Not Taken’, Robert Frost said that the persona after examining two parallel roads that divulged into a wood, decided to take the one less travelled by. He concludes the poem with the statement that the road which he chose from that junction made the difference in his life. This makes me believe that in this world, the kind of road one travels by determines the final destination – whether good or bad – that a person would get to.
The whole world is currently mourning the death of one man who is said to be ‘The Greatest’. The death of the legendary boxer who passed on this weekend shook the whole world not because he once was a heavy weight champion in the division but simply because of what he used the achievement to do in society.
He sought to ensure that he would use his position to change the cycle and thinking of men especially towards the black race which he proudly belonged.
From his humble home in Louisville, Cassius Clay as he was known until his conversion to Islam, Muhammad Ali reached out to the world.
He stunned the powers that be like a bee not only with his swift punches in the ring that tamed roaring champions of the time, but also with words and quotes and speeches to tell the world that the black race is far better than it was perceived.
After conquering the fear of flying in an aircraft, Muhammad Ali finally flew to nations in all continents of the world to preach his message of freedom for the race with great talents. ‘I am America, I am the part you won’t recognize.
But get used to me—black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me,’ he once told his former slave masters. On the occasion of his death, every continent or nation including Ghana has one fond memory or the other of Muhammad Ali.
Ali’s visit to the emerging black independent state of Ghana in 1964 was one which we still cherish as a people. Pictures of him in traditional kente cloth while in Ghana started flooding the internet following the news that he after 32 years surrendered to the Parkinson’s disease.
The Ghanaian press, then largely an extension of Nkrumah’s propaganda machinery, had hyped Ali’s coming to frenzied proportions. It was built up as ‘the ring poet is coming to town’.
Persons who took active part in his visit started narrating to the younger generation how Ali never discriminated against anyone during his visit. “Who’s the King?” Ali was said to have asked a crowd that gathered to see him during his visit.
The crowd responded that “You are!” the people responded. “Okay,” Ali said, “let me through then,” and the crowd parted immediately letting his move through.
At the palace of Otumfuo Sir Agyemang Prempeh II, Ali became the toast of the people of Kumasi and Ashanti Kingdom. While in the heart of Ashanti, he visited the Okomfo Anokye sword. History says the sword was planted there by the Ashanti High Priest himself and that the day anyone is able to remove the sword, the Ashanti kingdom will fall apart. Armed with this knowledge, of course Ali gave it a try. But after about five minutes, even this 6ft3, 212 pound heavyweight champion of the world could not break the spirit of Ashanti. He was also said to have gone to a local barber in Kumasi, one Agya Ntana in Bompata near the SIC Bank, to have his hair barbered. An image of him and the late barber is still kept in the house till date.
His visit to the great Ashanti Kingdom ended on high note when 40,000 people witnessed a sparring match where Rahman and Ali demonstrated how Muhammad had defeated Liston a few months before. The ‘King of Ashanti’ donated a Kente cloth to the ‘King of the world’ as a memorial.
In an article published upon the death of Ali, Joy FM’s Assisting Sports Editor, Gary Al Smith writes that the Ghanaian media which had said movie star Genie Kelly’s visit the previous January was the biggest celebrity event Ghana had experienced, had no choice than to revise their notes by the time Ali left Ghana. From an American athlete, Ali became a global athlete and a global hero, especially for the Black race.
Obama meets Muhammad Ali
It is therefore not surprising that the most powerful Blackman in our time and United States President, Barrack Obama would write the following tribute about Muhammad Ali.
“He wasn’t perfect, of course. For all his magic in the ring, he could be careless with his words, and full of contradictions as his faith evolved. But his wonderful, infectious, even innocent spirit ultimately won him more fans than foes—maybe because in him, we hoped to see something of ourselves. Later, as his physical powers ebbed, he became an even more powerful force for peace and reconciliation around the world. We saw a man who said he was so mean he’d make medicine sick reveal a soft spot, visiting children with illness and disability around the world, telling them they, too, could become the greatest. We watched a hero light a torch, and fight his greatest fight of all on the world stage once again; a battle against the disease that ravaged his body, but couldn’t take the spark from his eyes.
“Muhammad Ali shook up the world. And the world is better for it. We are all better for it. Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family, and we pray that the greatest fighter of them all finally rests in peace,” Obama who said he kept a pair of his gloves of ‘The Greatest’ in his private study at the Oval office in the White House wrote. The feat attained by the boxer who retired in 1981 is worth celebrating, hence it is no surprising that former champions of the sport and celebrated musician, would want to carry his coffin
Message to the funeral organisers
It is an undeniable fact that the funeral of the man who once said only two persons in this world should wake him up when he sleep – his fans and the press – would be attended by men of high repute. Every shot from the cameras of journalists at the event counts. Given the opportunity, I wish to however make a humble plea. I call on the organisers to include one person from Ghana in the itinerary of the day. He deserves to be part of the occasion not because he hails from the land outside of America where Ali visited after becoming a world champion but because he shares the same or similar story as the dead legend. The African Mayweather as he calls himself hails from Bukom, an old settlement in Ghana’s capital, Accra. He has risen to be loved and written about by most media men in Ghana.
Born Isaac Braimah Kamoko, Bukom Banku as he is known in the local media terrain enjoys perhaps same amount of strength as Muhammad Ali was in his hay days. Unlike Ali, Bukom Banku has minimal oratory skills. His minimal achievements on the local scene has made him visit several local heroes who hold him in high esteem because of how he could break through the ranks with little formal education. Coming through at a time when Ghana lacked a world champion in the game of boxing, many thought he was just the man to once again place the black star on the boxing map of the world.
Banku in his hay days
Many expected Bukom Banku to like Ali did bring Boxing from the back and last inner pages of newspapers to the front pages in the country. Armed with this expectation, members of the inky fraternity ensured that he was always written about. He was never denied the microphones and the cameras as well.
However, instead of taking advantage of the press attention given him to develop his talent and learn more on how to use the opportunities given him to improve the lots of his people and also shape the society to suit himself, Bukom Banku has simply schemed the tide against himself. Today, he is threading the part of other fallen heroes in the game. He has been at the centre of one controversial issue or the other with the latest being photos of him allegedly fumbling the breasts of teen girls. Muhammad Ali chose to keep his blackness and projected it to the entire world but over here, our ‘fallen hero’ is now bleaching his skin. He says he is doing so in the hope of becoming Ghana’s Ambassador to Germany someday.
As if that is not enough, Bukom Banku in a video that has gone viral on social media danced in public half naked. But for the intervention of one young guy, he would have exposed his manhood to the public all in the name of shaming a certain political opponent. He has simply thrown caution to the wind and made us all lose the hope we once had in him.
Learning common sense from carrying a coffin
On the occasion of the departure of a legend of the same enterprise he has found himself in, I humbly plead on behalf of the faint hearted persons from Ghana that Bukom Banku be allowed to carry the coffin of the legendary boxer. Despite accepting that success is never sexually transmitted, it is my hope that Bukom Banku after seeing and learning from other persons of greater repute in the game of boxing and sports in general, would learn the art of conducting yourself as a sportsman and celebrity. He would after touching the coffin of a legend also know that man never is thereby behaving like a matured person. Bukom Banku ought to see a brighter light than what he is used to in Bukom to know that he has more miles to conquer in his life walk. He has got to learn from the great heroes who fell off the ladder and learn to put his acts right.
In all sincerity, Banku ought to be advised to return from the road he has taken and take a right path which would make the difference for him someday. I do not seek to be a prophet of doom, but can easily predict that the road on which he is travelling currently would never lead him to a desired destination. Ghana awaits him to bring glory home not shame.
Nana Kwaku Nti