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Prof Kofi Abotsi; the rebel who loves law

Professor Kofi Abotsi relaxed in the sofa, his slim fit suit clutched his mildly moulded muscles highlighting his trendiness and treadmill-ness.

The professor who teaches the finer things of law also had a spot for the finer things of life.

He had used his determination and talent like a stain-remover to wipe off every dross of poverty he had become unrecognizable to his grassroots.

Every dross.

But on one of his legs, there is a scar that wouldn’t go, etched into his skin was the day his own poor father hurled a log at him in a fury set within the context of poverty.

A tattoo by misadventure, perhaps. And that scar, an old closed wound, was an eye-opener into the life of Prof. Kofi Abotsi as he featured on Drive Time’s Personality Profile with Lexis Bill.

He grew up in Chorkor, a densely-populated fishing community by the coast and a small hushed synonym for poverty. By age four, together with his father and stepmother, he lived close to a popular drinking spot called Santana.

His father from Anlo in the Volta region had parted ways with his mother, from Assin in the Central region. And so, his father was saddled with how to raise a son with his Togolese wife in Chorkor.  “I had a difficult relationship with my father”

His father, a prototype of scream and spank African parenting, used force. His dad was a police officer. “So that probably makes some sense,” he leveraged humour to explain his beating as his father tried policing at home.

“There were certain traces of abuses,” Abotsi employed euphemism.

And then moments later sympathise with his father’s methods. “Back in the day, let’s be honest the upbringing of children particularly from the standpoint of parents, they were quite physical. These were treated as discipline.”

And then withdraw his sympathy. “[The abuse] was hard even by the standard of those days. It was beyond a little hard.”

Almost finally, Prof. Abotsi would later take some blame for the beatings. “In being fair to my late father, I think there was a certain rebellious part of me”, he remembered his chore-dodgyness.

But still, I struggled to shake-off the ill-feeling his father’s cancerous abuse  

“Psychologist advise that do not treat a child in a way that would make him wonder if it is he that you hate or it is the behaviour. It is important to distinguish between the behaviour and the person who is responsible for that behaviour.”

But his father, out of the earshot of the psychological voices of time, would scar his son’s leg, his brain, and his own parental legacy in the eyes of 12-years old Abotsi.

“If there is something I learnt from my father, it is how not to be a parent.”

Many years have gone by. Many. And thanks to the re-appearance of his mother who as a teacher valued education, Kofi Abotsi would receive a lifeline to his school and go on to St-Augustine’s College in the Central region.

He read science, a synonym in the simplistic 80’s for a brilliant student. But too voracious for knowledge, Abotsi would read more – walk through the lives of the independence heroes – the Big Six.

And that was when the rebel wanted law. He entered the law faculty of the University of Ghana after St. Augustine’s College and later obtained an LLM at the prestigious Harvard Law School in the US. And although he would leave all these universities, he has stayed in faculty, lecturing law at the GIMPA, becoming a dean there from 2014 to 2018 and moving on to UPSA where he has been the Dean of the Law school since March 2020.

More than 15 years since he was called to the bar, Abotsi has added two more academic honours, led two university departments of law and runs a law firm, Axis Legal Solicitors, specializing in corporate and commercial law, legal asset management, oil and gas debt management and recovery.

The boy from Chokor who sold ice cream at Kwashieman and escaped a hard home by sneaking out to watch Chinese movies is now accomplished.

His age has afforded him a new seat in life, called the benefit of hindsight and he now looks back at the past with a better appreciation of his struggles.

“If I had a cosy upbringing, I would not have turned out very well,” he saw the value of those “dark” episodes of his life and how it pushed him to be self-dependent.” It positioned me better to take advantage of opportunities”, he confessed.

“Classroom was a chore for me,” the professor would say jaw-droppingly and explain how he transitioned from seeing the class this way to his present view that it is exciting. In class, ideas clash, the mind of the teacher is stimulated by students as he stimulates theirs.

And in another confession, the professor now a father can now better appreciate the inadequacies and failings of his police father – and forgive him, seeing that in his own fatherhood experiences, he has not been far from making mistakes too.

His father was “a man who wanted to make something of a child but probably got it wrong,” he shared a tempered view. And he was proud that in his understandable dislike for his dad, he did not turn his back on him when the pensioned police officer of pain developed brain ailments.

“I took care of him until he died,” he said, revealing a place of some healing and closure between a father and his son.

During the interview, Prof. Abotsi would often use words like ‘probably, possibly, from another standpoint’. Words that were careful not to show certainty about everything. That cautiousness of academics in sound too final.

He sees life like a driver with several views – rearview and sidemirrors. And at this stage of his life teaching law as a profession, and shaping political discussions as a hobby, he would not rule out swapping these two things – doing politics as a profession and teaching law as a hobby.

“I may have to become a bit more active,” he hinted at a new path in politics. He would look back at his own life and how so easily he could have fallen through the cracks had it not been his mother who reached out when his father pulled out.

Abotsi would worry about how the country’s democratic political development is not delivering the goods of socio-economic rights.

His face flushed the frustration but his stable mind pointed to the problem. It is the absence of safety nets for many Ghanaians, Prof. Abotsi summarized his assesment.

In Ghana, if you are poor, you will die, he said. And that perhaps the only time during the interview that he said something with a firmer certainty, knowing that this was almost the story of his life.

Source: Ghana News

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