Tribute: Mesmerized at first sight, distressed at last sight

A Tribute to Justina Dzifa Akator by Kofy Yeboah (GJA General Secretary)

It was in February 2017. I had left home very early, anxious to have my first lecture in a new career nurtured by passion.
It was even an exhilarating experience to teach the Pioneer Class in Level 300, and in that class, I met a lady who mesmerised me.
On the first day, in the introductory lecture, I found something special about Justina Dzifa Akator – eloquence, assertiveness, frankness, passion and ambition.

Those are attributes I look for in my students to drive my own passion of helping them to actualize their dreams in life.
After her self-introduction, I said to the class: “Dzifa has mesmerised me”.

The class went gay thereafter with some members of the class firing potshots of mischief at me.
I loved every bit of the atmosphere; it was a good ice-breaker for me, and I latched onto it gleefully.
From that day, ‘mesmerise’ became a mantra addressed to Dzifa and I, and like honey poured on the tongue, I did not spew it.
Dzifa was academically good; at least, making a Second Class (Upper Division) corroborates my assessment.
She was an active student and well-known on the campus of Wisconsin International University College, Ghana.
But a nagging health condition that sent her to the theatre table kept her mute for sometime.

Some of her friends spoke about how she had dreaded having the surgery, and, oh my God, that surgery!
Dzifa did not look good after the surgery but armed with a strong desire to make it in life and smiling face, she fought hard to overcome her troubles.
One of the many conversations we had was about politics; she was really deep into it and she expressed her political views intensely on her social media platforms.

Sometimes, the discussion was about her communication style and approach and she would often take lesson notes with gratitude.
Other times, the discussion was about ‘slowing down’ because, as I often explained, the beneficiaries of the cause she vehemently and earnestly pursued, did not know her; they may not remember her in their glory, and they may not even care about her.

She slowed down, indeed. But when politics seizes a man’s heart and mind, words may not suffice for liberation.
After completing school in December 2018, Dzifa was due to do national service in August 2019, about eight months later.
One day, she sought audience with me in school and requested to work at the Ghana International Press Centre (GIPC), the Head Office of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), as she waited for her national service posting.

I told her the GJA, as a non-profit organization, did not have the financial wherewithal to pay her, even if it was allowance.
I thought my response was discouraging enough to make her begin to walk away and, probably, look elsewhere.
But Dzifa was not ruffled in the least; she told me all she needed was something to do while waiting for the national service posting.
I saw passion in her eyes; I felt it in her voice; and I could not stand in its way. When passion knocks, doors must open!
I discussed her request with the GJA President. He gave the go ahead and I invited Dzifa to begin work.

With the approval of other national executive members, she would be paid monthly allowance equivalent to the prevailing national service allowance.
Her excitement knew no bounds upon hearing the news, and that arrangement continued until she started her national service when she was put on the revised national service allowance.

Within the short time of her engagement, Dzifa proved to be extremely reliable and committed to work.
As a trained secretary, she brought positive change to the secretarial activities of the GJA, and in the office of the General Secretary, she became a strong pillar of support.

With her death, the GJA has lost a valuable asset, and the organization she brought to the secretarial activities of the GJA will remain a poignant memory of her valuable services.

Dzifa had challenges with her health, something I suspect was connected to the surgery she had while in school.
Oftentimes, she complained of pains in her legs which made walking very difficult.
Although she tried to cover things up with her smile, I always saw the pain, even in her glittering eyes.
We had many conversations about her health, including my advice to her to go for a medical examination.
In one of those conversations, Dzifa told me how she found out a drug administered to her during the surgery two years ago was expired.
I felt so cold momentarily.

I also felt so sad and alarmed that nothing was done in the circumstances – no action against the pharmacy that sold the drug and the hospital that administered the drug.

In spite of all these challenges, and although Dzifa lived at Oyarifa, off the Adentan-Aburi Road, she often left the office very late, even when she was given leave, because she wanted to get a job done.
As a result, she always got home late, after 9pm.

After alighting at a bus stop on the main road, she relied on ‘Okada’ to take her home because, at that time, taxis don’t ply the route and even if they do, she couldn’t afford their services.
On two or three occasions, the ‘Okada’ riders crashed her on the rough road and that may have worsened her already bad health condition.
Dzifa really suffered in life. She did her best to make it in life but Life was so cruel, denying her the enjoyment of the fruits of her labour.
Even before breathing her last, she fought hard to resist the invitation to the land beyond but Life, again, failed to redeem her from the clutches of Death.

When news of her passing was broken to me in the morning of Friday, April 17, 2020, I was totally broken.
I’ve been asking so many questions since then: Did something go wrong with the surgery? Did the expired drug cause any problems? Did the ‘Okada’ crashes compound her condition? Did the politicians she ‘fought’ for know her condition? And did they offer any help? Did she know about her numbered days, hence her desire to stay late at the office and get a job done?

Obviously, there are too many questions than answers.
Three years ago, when I left home very early and met Dzifa for the first time, she mesmerized me.
Today, as I leave home very early to see her for the last time, I am totally distressed.
But I know the good Lord has already ushered you into eternal rest where there’s no more pain and sorrow.
Fare thee well, good servant.

By Kofi Yeboah – GJA General Secretary 

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