A crown for the valiant
To wearied ones rest,
God shall be all, and in all ever blest
It is an honour to pay this tribute to Robert Ataa Okai Clottey whom I would venture to describe quite aptly, as a man of different parts, a father and devoted husband, an accountant, cultural exponent, leader of community organisations, teacher and latterly a man of the cloth.
At several points and in several ways he touched the lives of people around him and I pay this tribute in sadness because the several discussions that we had about life and its complexities will now remain unfinished and unexplained.
Ataa Okai like me, lived on Bruce Road, James Town British Accra and though our formative years were similar he was a contemporary of my older brothers.
I was aware that he had completed his secondary school education at Accra Academy, the School associated with ‘real men’ and that he had worked in the Ministries in Accra for a while before coming to this country. I found out only recently that he had at one time in his life been very passionate about politics and that he had been actively involved in the formation of the Ga Shifimo Kpee as a young boy – this for those who do not know it, was the tribal protest movement that agitated against CPP the ruling party of Ghana and this now explains his passion about Gadangme issues.
I missed attending his wedding because I had just arrived in the UK and was on my way to Manchester at the time. As fate would have it, I later reconnected with him through Ataa Nortei. When we decided to set up in business 26 years ago, without hesitation, it was to him that we turned for our accounting services, a service that he undertook with diligence until the end. He also connected with me in the formation of Gadangme Nikasemo Asafo, an organisation that he served in several roles and subsequently as the first Chairman of Gadangme Foundation and later on as its treasurer.
He was conservative through and through and held a deep distrust of new forms of doing things but rather chose to hold fast on to his principles that were forged and steeped in tradition. Though he beat me to the use of mobile phones, his preference was the continued use of his calculator over a computer and remained so to the end. We would often argue about the adjustments that I wanted made to my accounts and as a concession he would allow only tens of pounds when I requested the high hundreds as allowances against tax.
He was a man who at all times sought to establish principles of the measured manner by which things must be accomplished. He was totally contemptuous of those who promoted different agendas within community organisations, and it was these principles that also made him a well rounded person optimistic, confident and comfortable. He would immerse himself in the leadership of community associations and indeed he held and served in several key positions.. I remember his dragging me to several Rotary Club meetings on a golf course in Dulwich were he served as the President. This was a lily white organisation of business people, and despite him being the only black member, he was very comfortable in the leading role. He did the same for an association of accountants in central London when others would have shied from that responsibility. He was very much ensconced within the Black Contractors Association, a group made of up mainly African Caribbean business people. I am sure that he served on several other institutions and supported various causes and almost always certainly, confident enough to take up leadership roles where ever he went.
Ataa Okai was at heart a family man who ensured that during the many years that he worked from home, his clients would not intrude on his private life with his family; the boundaries were kept based on mutual respect. It was heart warming and refreshing to hear him talk with great pride about the achievements of his children. The last time I saw him was a week before that fateful day, he told me about Ophelia’s determination to be a finance person to take over his business and how Michael was doing in his course on actuarial studies, Isabella is a scientist and Evelyn is studying English and her dream of becoming a writer.
But I never realised the depth of his passion for religion till I saw him about two months ago. He was proudly wearing his dog collar and a broad smile that lit up his whole face when I questioned him as I always did, about his search for spiritual development and fulfilment. He said his journey had led him to find this fulfilment in a charismatic environment. I then remembered our argument on witchcraft, princes and principalities and the forces of evil, things that I do not believe in and how he had waxed lyrical on these forces in that discussion.
Ataa Okai, as a diligent counsellor, I am certain that you would have provided comfort to a lot of your parishioners; I am sad because I never had the opportunity to call you Osofo for long.
Though we all grieve now, we trust that with time we will overcome our grief. We believe that you have been called to a higher order and take comfort in our belief that you are at rest in the bosom of your Lord that you served.
Ataa Okai, you will be missed by the many people whose lives you have touched in a positive way – may you rest in eternal peace in the Lord.
Ataa Okai, Yaa wo ojogban