I did not know him close enough except for the brief encounter in 2003 when he won the Journalist of the Year Award.
As sponsors of that coveted Award, I stood in at the time for my employer, Unilever, to ensure the promised local and international prize components were fully redeemed. Since then, I followed Komla Dumor’s career progress with much admiration.
So when late that Saturday a friend texted to inform me of Komla’s sudden and shocking demise, I blamed it on the profession he loved most. In my mind, he had met his death on assignment perhaps in Somalia, Central Africa Republic or South Sudan. He was too full of life and too energetic to have dropped dead instantly.
The demise of a young person is always painful, a tragedy, in fact. And so is the departure of Komla. So far, the overwhelming tributes from near and far suggest the painful loss not only to his family but to everyone who came to know him. Coupled with the pain, his career path is a lesson which can pass for a case study.
As an employee first of Multimedia and then of BBC, he drew attention to the employers of choice that exist in the media industry. Having started his career with Multimedia equipped with a voice as good as gold, they gave him the training, the support and latitude to prove himself. With time, Komla proved that when given the opportunity and the environment to thrive, employees get motivated to do well. Indeed, at a point, it was widely speculated that he was the highest paid journalist or presenter in Ghana.
Multimedia gave him the necessary skills and equipped him with the tools to shine. He showed that he worked for an organisation that respected its employees and treated all as equals, trading on first name terms. Openness and team work was a visible part of the team Multimedia which, within 10 years, had given an employee who was willing to better himself, a world stage.
No wonder BBC, one of the world’s enviable media organisations “poached” him and gave him opportunities to further prove himself as any good employer will do with its young stars. Komla did not disappoint. In fact, he soared through the toughest assignments with professionalism and excellence, a towering media figure, until he passed on nearly a fortnight ago.
Yes, Komla was a window, through which one was able to gauge media institutions and their impact on the growth of individuals and journalism as a profession.
In the process, he left no one in doubt that to succeed in the media it paid to love what one did. His sterling qualities were many. He had passion for his job and remained focused telling it as it was and effectively applying the balancing scale. Komla came through as a professional with his own mind and went into every assignment thoroughly prepared. He came across as credible and authoritative. No wonder he carried his listeners or viewers along.
As he progressed and remained on that steady path, he made sure he did not leave the young up-and-coming journalists behind. From tributes that have been shared publicly, he was genuine to a fault and was ready to show some of them the road to success, giving advice and direction where necessary. How many people would be that selfless in their professional approach and volunteer to coach and mentor the young ones out of their own volition? They come in drops.
Yet, Komla was in touch with them albeit by phone, text or e-mail, as one gathers from some of the tributes coming through. He encouraged them in their toughest assignments; urging them to believe in themselves. He was ready to share his experiences and made himself available to assist even from a distance. Indeed, such are the true qualities of a leader.
He worked tirelessly with an infectious smile and his thunderous voice focused on the continent of Africa and gave Africa a hearing. He brought a different perspective to reporting on Africa, a continent of possibilities. He gave viewers nothing but the whole truth after thorough research and consultations.
Komla Dumor’s truncated rich media life has left a trail of valuable lessons. His career path and what he stood for could be summed up by the refrain in Heather Small’s awesome song entitled “Proud”. The refrain in the song asks: “what have you done today to make you feel proud”. With each passing day, Komla did not only share with the world what insights he had proudly assembled by way of information and education, but he made the world also feel proud about the knowledge he shared.
As we mourn him today, there are many lessons that the “Boss Player” has left behind for those he mentored and those he was looking forward to coach and counsel. Like Heather Small, Komla would perhaps have asked his mentees – “what have you done to be proud of?”
Komla stood tall in his career and at the time he was proving to the world that life indeed begins at 40, death snatched him away. The promising star has failed to shine but the world has not stopped beaming the luminous life he shared. A professional media gem, may Komla’s soul find eternal rest.