My great mentor in broadcasting Komla Dumor died on Saturday the 18th of January 2014.
This Sunday night as I prepare to host the Citi Breakfast Show tomorrow morning, I feel grateful to have been born in your time, and deeply blessed to have been mentored by you.
I had been listening to you on Joy FM actively since the late 1990s.
Sometime in 2003 as JCR S of Legon Hall of The University of Ghana, I invited you through an email to moderate a forum involving the leading politicians of the day to which you promptly obliged. That was my first face to face meeting with you.
I still remember your courteous reply to my uncertain email request.
I remember your comment when I welcomed you to the senior common room for the event, and your asking about “P24” or P14 the room you used to lodge in, telling me about your pride at being a “Legonite.”
At the time, you were at the peak of your powers. You had just won the GJA journalist of the year award for your excellent work on SSNIT amid no small controversy.
Your deep baritone was the gold standard in radio voice.
Your large confident frame, disarming smile and genuine humility worked to make you the ultimate radio personality, THE BOSS PLAYER!
Listening to you and Stan Dogbe on the newspaper review was quite an experience.
You asked the hard questions, played the right music, said the funniest things and seemed to be enjoying every bit of it as you did.
You were everything the young broadcaster I was, wanted to be.
Less than two years after that, I found myself thrown in at the deep end, hosting the Citi Breakfast Show from December 4, 2004.
You defined what modern morning radio ought to be and in jumping at the opportunity Citi FM offered me that December…. I secretly pictured myself walking in the wake of the glory you had brought to our practice.
My difficulty as a 23-year-old host of a morning talk program was monumental. Here I was competing against you very guy I wanted to listen to each morning.
It was a no contest!
But you made it easy for me. You used to tell Sammens that you thought I was really good. And when I heard those words from your lips myself, I could scarcely believe my ears.
A year later when you started with the BBC, you activity encouraged me to enter the 1st ever BBC Africa radio awards which you hosted at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi.
There is a lot to learn from the power of your example and the poignancy of your story but as I reflect on your legacy, I have picked 5 unforgettable treasures you taught me.
1) LOVE YOUR LISTENERS GENUINELY
I saw how you pushed the wheelbarrows to solicit that Angolan slum dweller interview, and rip off your shirt amidst jubilant Ghanaian fans in South Africa to reveal your Ghana Black Stars jersey.
I’ve heard you laugh at the jokes of your callers on countless occasions and connect with them so deeply I thought they were your blood relatives.
You had special nicknames you shared with different listeners and colleagues alike and when you first appeared on my show some years ago, you recounted anecdotes with Martin from Dansoman and laughed with callers who shared very personal stories with you.
You showed me the importance of connecting with and loving your listeners deeply and genuinely.
2) DONT BE AFRIAD TO KEEP IT REAL (even if it means being vulnerable)
I still remember like yesterday how you broke the story of the May 9, 2000 stadium disaster and wept on air while reporting it live.
Few men actually cry while working, and to do that on air while covering a live event showed a side of you that is so rare among us journalists and presenters.
I learnt from you that being yourself is always a plus and never a minus when it comes to radio.
You kept it real all the time… Whether it was in recounting a ‘tooli’ on air or in humorously mentioning the name of the now departed ‘Gakpe’ on air.
Sometime in 2007 or 2008, you called my office at around 5:45 am to specifically request that I wish your daughter a “Happy Birthday from Daddy.”
I felt the poignancy in your voice and learnt an important lesson that day.
There must be no shame in showing love to those you’ve been blessed with.
3) NEVER FORGET YOUR ROOTS
I remember your BBC story that took you back to your boys secondary school in northern Nigeria… Your pilgrimage back to your very desk in that old classroom and your reunion with some of your former teachers.
You never stop talking about your humble beginnings. On the back of a scooter: Mobitel Traffic Watch, and you’ve not been too ashamed to tell the world of your failed bid to become a medical doctor.
You are one of the few people if not the only person I know who is know equally loved and claimed by both Ghanaians and Nigerians alike.
4) KEEP ON WALKING
Your anecdote about the security man at the BBC North America Bureau, who mistook you for the delivery man, continues to inspire me.
You heard the prejudice in his question and understood the deeply provoking nature of his retort, but you simply kept on walking.
You defeated your doubters with dignity and overcame your enemies through excellence.
I remember how you were hounded by some politicians for your insistence in asking the right questions and staying with a story through to its very end.
It gained you enemies of various kinds landed you in court and restricted your personal ease in many ways but you kept on walking.
But even your fiercest critics admit that you were the epitome of excellence in whatever you did wherever you found yourself.
From Joy to Harvard to the BBC Africa to the World Service, you’ve kept on walking with dignity.
5) LEADERSHIP IS NOT A POSITION. IT’S A CALLING
Our politics has produced many winners but not enough leaders the thoughtful,Umair Haque stated.
If there was ever evidence that leadership is not about position or title, it was you..
The impact of your work and the strength of your example is beyond what many politician could dare dream of.
You were our ambassador without the kente, the Foreign Minister without the frills, the Plenipotentiary without the pleasantries and the brand ambassador without the budget.
In living out your calling, you inspired us to become better version of ourselves.
You attained heights in journalism and broadcasting at the global stage that many of us thought was hitherto impossible.
In living out your calling you’ve done what few leaders ever manage to do- inspire the next generation to believe that we can do much more.
And like Christ I can hear you say, greater works than these shall ye also do.
And so tonight as I go to bed, I pray for you.
That God will look on you with kindness and remember your labour of love to your clan, your country and your continent.
May I borrow the words of the Chorus of R Kelly’s Soldier’s Heart to say:
“You stood on the front-lines
You led the way out of the darkness.
We didn’t go astray.
You were ready to die for our sake,
and that takes a soldier’s heart.”
Your sudden and shocking death has taken us through a maelstrom of emotions, a flood of questions and sober realizations. About the transience of life, the pain of mortality and the frailty of the human soul.
But even in death, you shine my dear big brother.
I mourn your passing, but I celebrate your passion
I regret your demise, but rejoice in your excellence
I weep at your secret pains, but bask in your trailblazing glory.
You were a man among men.
Your little brother Bernard.
By: Bernard Avle/citifmonline.com/Ghana