kofi annan's father was a stickler for time -- 2/18/19

Today's selection -- from Kofi Annan by Stanley Meisler. Kofi Atta Annan, the former secretary general of the United Nations, grew up in Ghana. His father was a Fante nobleman who worked as an executive for the United Africa Company, chairman of the Ghana International Bank, and governor of Ashanti Province:

"Henry Reginald Annan was actually a Fante nobleman who could trace his lineage to chiefs. ... The Fante, a coastal tribe, had sided with the British in the nineteenth-century wars against the Ashanti that ended with the annexation of the Gold Coast as a British colony. Henry was an executive of the United Africa Company, the African subsidiary of the Anglo-Dutch corporation Unilever, and his main responsibility was the purchase of cocoa for export. The Gold Coast was then the largest producer of cocoa in the world and, by African standards, rich because of it. After his retirement, Henry served as chairman of the Ghana International Bank and other government agencies and won election as governor of Ashanti Province. ...

"Kofi's younger brother, Kobina, now the Ghanian ambassador to Morocco, describes his father as 'strict, a stickler for time, and stoic.' In one searing incident, while Kofi visited his father's office, a junior manager was summoned to discuss some accounts. The young man arrived hurriedly with a cigarette in his hand. Aware that his boss frowned on smoking, he thrust the lit cigarette into his pants pocket. With his pocket burning, he answered Henry Reginald's questions in obvious discomfort.

Kofi Annan

"After he left, a shocked Kofi asked his father why he had forced the young man into such an unfortunate posi­tion. His father lectured that he had not forced the young man to do anything. He could have extinguished the cigarette in an ashtray or kept on smoking. 'Today you saw something you should never do,' his father told Kofi. 'Don't crawl.'

"Henry Reginald had no patience for those who failed to show up for events on time. 'Those of us who didn't know time got a lit­tle heat from him,' says Kobina. As a leader of the Freemasons, Henry Reginald once organized a social event at the Kumasi lodge. Five minutes after the scheduled time for the party, he closed the doors, shutting out all latecomers. As governor, Kobina recalls, Henry Reginald called off his cocktail parties if the bulk of the guests failed to show up half an hour after the scheduled time. 'Those who voted for you would not like that at all,' says Kobina. 'But he was not a politician.' "


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Stanley Meisler


Kofi Annan: A Man of Peace in a World of War


John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


Copyright 2007 by Stanley Meisler


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