Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Komla Dumor: A Death That Took Our Nights Away, A Death Most Likely To Inherit The Bruce Lee Theories

The Late Komla Afeke Dumor

I lay on my back throughout the ghostly night that followed Komla Dumor’s sudden death. The few moments of sleep were interrupted now and then by thoughts about him. Those thoughts were chilled by a strange dry-season rain that had taken a Savannah-enclosed Bolga by surprise, hours before news of his death streamed through the cold air.

At the time we all had forgotten that we were mortals, Death reminded us that his greatest joy is to rob us of the very prized possessions we are too helpless to replace. He reminded us that the Earth is a free orchard into which he sneaks and prowls only for the good, ripe fruits. So, good ripe fruits, beware: our sourly performed funerals are Death’s hourly craved banquets. Our tears are the water he drinks even when he is not thirsty. I am not sure he really was thirsty when he took away a rare star and the hope of the masses in his prime and innocence that Saturday. I am not sure. 

My child’s mother saw my eyes opened in the direction of the roof each time she turned in her sleep, a sleeping suckling by her side. Each time she caught me eyes-opened, I blinked in the dim light. That posture was unusual…and she might ask why at daybreak. 

I sealed my mouth from telling her that it still was all about Komla Dumor. I had returned home the previous night and walked into the room talking to a media colleague in Accra (TV3’s Godfred Tanam) on the phone about Komla and, after hanging up and lowering my bag in an old sofa, told her, solemnly: “We lost a great journalist, in London, today.” 

I was not surprised that she already knew because, surprisingly, she monitors every news story― something most women justifiably are too busy for― but she will hoard the information for future reference. She did not look much bothered when she said she had heard about it on her favourite channel― TV3. Yes, TV3. I guess the reasons she prefers TV3 to the Metro TV I work for and supports Chelsea against my favourite, Manchester United, under the same roof are pretty the same. 

I was sure she did not know much about Komla that previous night. Otherwise, she equally would have felt much about the gross loss. So, to disclose that my wakeful night still was about somebody she knew too little about was needless. She would not grasp how much the man was worth. She and I belong to two different worlds of profession. She writes on the board with chalk; I write on paper― and at times on the air― with ink.

Distant friends would tell me later that they had similar sleepless nights because of the man. There is an animal whose full length is only known when it is dead. I think it is the frog or so. Similarly, it was only after Komla Dumor died that the world realised how much he was connected to people and how big a fish he was in the ocean of knowledge and well-baked impact…so much so that our nights were taken off like blankets in a cold, and heavy eyes were robbed of a well-deserved sleep! He is, no doubt, the second journalist in Africa to be so widely mourned after Nigeria’s Dele Giwa was killed in a time-bomb explosion that tore him apart from belly down at his home in 1986. 

Like Bruce Lee, John F. Kennedy, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley and Dele Giwa, theories highly are likely to trail and spread like the Champions League confetti around the cause of Komla Dumor’s death till this world is flipped away like an eventful chapter at Jesus’ Second Coming. Those theories he is very likely to inherit. Curses of stardom and theories of legends who die young.

I had long chats on the phone with media colleagues in Nairobi, Accra and Lagos hours after Komla was reported dead. One suspicion initially ran through the conversations. Foul Play. It was the echoes of those chats that drowned me the following night. Lying on my back, I shut my eyes awake. I was a strained rope between sleep and ‘Komla Dumor’ in a tug of war. What took Komla Dumor away? I pondered. It was so baffling a moment that I could find only one word to describe the world that night. Scary. A scary purgatory in the guise of a paradise.

Before the sun was out of bed, I reached for my stylus and grabbed a stray sheet of paper to sketch the departed icon. There are so many yet-to-be-answered questions in Africa. That, perhaps, explains why the continent’s map in itself looks like a question mark with Madagascar as a bottom dot. It is the more reason I put Komla’s picture in the question-mark map of Africa, surrounded by a cross-section of the varied masses he touched. 

Thoughts were interrupted severally by sleep and were resumed recurrently. If journalism had been my major calling, Komla’s death could have led me into a career suicide by now. I mean: what more could a journalist, who began life among the plagues-laden African race, ask for than the pace, the grace and the space that won Komla a singular nomination for “the face” of his continent? Many are too distraught to talk about the shock for now, sickened by his death, walking around with heavy thoughts about the nothingness in the possessions that give us temporary pleasure, not sure what they will become even after a recovery from this draining tragedy.

His departure, like a sudden eclipse of a bright sun, switched off the light on the solitary paths of many passengers on a trip to the future. For many mere mortals hit by his demise like a flaming spear, life has been reduced to a slippery ground they must tread with caution― tasteless, not worth living and no longer worth the struggles.

As I continued to erase and sketch, I pondered over many things. He is said to have announced his looming departure via comments he posted online about the goings-on at his workplace. Those comments were as good as unnoticed… until the worst was allowed to happen. In his chosen career, he became a nominee for the Face of Africa and for Africa he died. At the prime of his mission, he spilled over with humility, beamed with innocence, resonated eloquence and radiated brilliance. 

A calm giant he was. And even in his height, he ensured his weight did not trespass to dislodge any underling. If his online closing comments are anything to go by, the question will be: who or what could have been so cruel to good-natured materials to have robbed the world of such a rare genius? And if it was stress― an ever-elusive, most-wanted, smart criminal widely accused of tunefully luring scores of diligent journalists into early grave― the questions again are: who failed to manage things well for him and was stress a factual factor in his case?

By the time I was done with the sketch at dawn, I could conclude that the best tribute we could give him, perhaps, is not just to get to the bottom of what plucked him away so young from among us but also to project this continent as a serious one, a forward-looking one― one that he had wished to see: an unadulterated Africa, a proud guest anywhere and worth coming to.

His final-days hints should leave us with no other job than to uncover any link between the reported dislike he endured and the death he finally suffered. His achievements should inspire us to rebrand Africa into an enduring legacy worth passing on to the waiting generations. That is the surest way all of us, including Komla himself, can be at rest. That is one good way he will be remembered every moment as the Face of Africa and the Voice of Africa.

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