Now praise we great and famous men,
The fathers named in story;
And praise the Lord who now as then
Reveals in man his glory.
Praise we the wise and brave and strong,
Who graced their generation;
Who helped the right, and fought the wrong
And made our folk a nation. -MHB 896
When I gained admission to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in 1982, I was so eager to catch a glimpse of the intellectual legend, Professor Francis Allotey, to satisfy my curiosity that I had seen such an academic icon in flesh and blood. Most of the first year students were very curious to see Prof. Allotey because we had heard many fascinating stories about this intelligent Professor of Mathematics and Science who had achieved so much local and international recognition for his outstanding intellectual work.
The farthest we could go in catching a glimpse of Professor Francis Allotey was when we saw his car passed by us on our way to the lecture halls. I left KNUST without satisfying my curiosity of seeing Prof. Francis Allotey but I continued to show interest in any kind of news around this legendary Mathematician/Scientist.
When my wife, Hannah, and I started the building of a strong mining advocacy organisation with other people, we were connected to people of local and global stature who shared the belief of contributing to building a peaceful world where the rights of poor and marginalised people would be respected. We were connected to the renowned Swedish scientist, Professor Karl-Erik Ericsson (Nana Edu II), who is a long-time friend of Professor Allottey, and a sub-Chief of Professor Allotey’s indigenous community through our advocacy work. That marked the beginning of a long-standing friendship of my family with Professor Karl-Erik Ericsson and Professor F.K.A Allotey. Through our association with Professor Karl-Erik Ericsson and Professor Allotey, we were connected to many top-notch scientists who shared a common objective that science should be used to promote peace and development and not war.
As our friendship grew stronger, the late Professor Allotey sometimes called to check on us and when he did so, it reminded me of my student days at KNUST when all my efforts to see the renowned Professor Allotey failed.
The puzzle was that the closer we were to the late Professor Allotey, the greater the difficulty in understanding him. Though he had complex national and global responsibilities and many obligations to fulfill, his life was amazingly simple. Our generation of students on campus then, mystified the late Professor Allotey but his humility and openness puzzle anyone who gets close to him. It defies comprehension for a human being to accomplish many outstanding academic works; participate in complex national and global professional networks; manage difficult obligations and responsibilities; keep a strong link with his roots and achieve so many feats in a lifetime.
Professor Allotey was a balanced knowledgeable nationalist who was able to connect his international stature to his humble indigenous heritage. This is rare because many accomplished internationally recognised African intellectuals easily become disconnected from their indigenous roots. His belief in the future generation committed him to mentor many young scientists including my son, Kojo Owusu-Koranteng, who was privileged to be mentored by such a great intellectual from high school to the medical school.
When I requested Professor Allotey to write the foreword to my autobiography titled, “Paying my Debt,” he graciously agreed with the statement that he shared the same philosophy that whatever he had done in his life amounted to paying his debt to his nation. I was very anxious to read his foreword to my autobiography and I was overjoyed when he informed me that he would complete the foreword on his return from a trip outside Ghana. Whilst I looked forward to the return of Professor Allotey from his trip abroad with great expectation and anxiety for the finalisation of the foreword to my autobiography to satisfy my curiosity of what my great friend will write about me, I received the shocking news of the death of my friend and mentor, Professor Allotey, from my son Kojo. He died on 2nd November, 2017. Dryden was right in saying that, “All human beings are subject to decay and when fate summons, monarchs must obey.”
The late Professor Allotey used his intellectual endowment to serve his God, his nation, his indigenous community and the earth that hosted him for 85 years. Undoubtedly, he has paid his due in a grand way and we wish him “Ayekoo” and a peaceful rest with God.
We agree with Shakespeare that “His life was gentle, and the elements mixed so well in him that nature might stand up and say to all the world, This was a man.”
By Daniel OWUSU-KORANTENG