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Theodosia Okoh-As Mahama robs her to honour Mills -OB Amoah says decision is ‘national embarrassment’

The decision by the John Dramani Mahama-led National Democratic Congress government to rob the renowned Madam Theodosia Okoh of the honour conferred on her by the previous Kufuour-led New Patriotic Party government, in naming the national hockey pitch after her, has incurred the wrath of many well-meaning Ghanaians, including the 91-year old woman herself.

Madam Theodosia yesterday said even if the NDC government reversed the decision, she would no longer want her name to be associated with the hockey pitch she helped to construct for the nation.

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On November 27, 2004, the Kufuor-led NPP government re-named certain sporting facilities and events after distinguished sports men and women in recognition of their contribution to the development of sports in the country.

Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, then the Minister of Tourism and Modernisation of the Capital City, disclosed at the time that “the national hockey pitch will now be called ‘Theodosia Okoh Hockey Pitch’. But, the NDC government has now renamed the “Theodosia Okoh Hockey Pitch” the “John Evans Atta-Mills Hockey Stadium.”

The decision, which has been described as “a national embarrassment” by Osei Bonsu Amoah, a former deputy minister for Youth and Sports, was spearheaded by Alfred Oko Vanderpuye, Mayor of Accra, whose assembly passed a resolution to effect the change of name at an emergency meeting.

Mr Amoah, who is also the MP for Akuapem South, and some senior journalists, including Kweku Baako Jnr, Editor-in-Chief of the New Crusading Guide, and Kwami Sefa Kayi, host of Peace FM’s ‘Kokrokoo’ morning show, have condemned the decision, describing it as spite on the face of the woman who designed the Ghana National Flag.

Apart from designing the national flag, Mrs Theodosia Okoh is also known to have contributed immensely to the development of hockey in the country, especially for the construction of the national hockey pitch that was named after her, having played the game herself and also served in various capacities as administrator.

Mrs Okoh played with the old Achimotans and held many responsible positions, such as the Deputy Chairman for the National Hockey Association. She was also the Junior Red Cross Director. Using her position as Chairman of the Hockey Association, she fought to ensure that the only hockey pitch near the Tema Station in Accra was maintained and not replaced by any building.

Though the late President John Evans Atta Mills also contributed to the development of hockey, as a player and sports administrator, many people, including Kweku Baako Jnr, insist Mrs Okoh did more in promoting the game than the late president.

Resolution to take away Theodosia’s honour

The resolution to take Mr Okoh’s honour away and confer it on the late President Mills, as read by the Mayor of Accra, Alfred Vanderpuije, cited “the immeasurable contributions made by the former president towards the development of sports in Accra in particular and the country as a whole.”

It added: “The professor provided personal resources in the provision of sports infrastructure and also promoted the growth of lesser-known sports. As an active sportsman, the late Professor liked sports and he keenly participated in various sporting activities. Notably, he played for the national hockey team, swam for University Of Ghana, played cricket for Achimota School team and was a member of the Veteran Hockey Team.”

The resolution also praised the former president for spearheading the construction of the Accra ultra-modern international astro turf hockey stadium.

Theodosia fumes at decision

But, the 91-year old woman is fuming at the decision by the National Democratic Congress government to rename the National Hockey Pitch after the late President John Evans Atta-Mills.

In an exclusive interview with Peace Fm’s Kwami Sefa Kayi yesterday, the visibly disturbed woman explained that she acquired the land for the hockey pitch during the era of Dr Kwame Nkrumah and developed it into a hockey pitch for use by all Ghanaians.

She explained that at the time she was developing the hockey pitch, the late President was perhaps in “Sign 3” (Standard Three) and wondered why the NDC government could ever think of taking such a decision against her.

“When Mills was alive why didn’t he also construct a hockey pitch in his home town?” she asked, adding: “I’m not happy at this development at all. When he [Professor Mills] was alive, he knew I developed the hockey pitch and it was named after me. Why would officials now want to name it after him?” she wondered.

OB Amoah Wants Mahama to reverse decision

According to Mr Amoah, the Mayor of Accra does not have “the moral and legal authority to be naming and re-naming sports facilities in the city.” He has, therefore, called on President John Dramani Mahama to call Alfred Okoh Vanderpuye to order, and immediately reverse the decision to rename the “Theodosia Okoh Hockey Pitch” as the “John Evans Atta-Mills Hockey Stadium.”

“The AMA does not have any moral or legal authority to name sports facilities. This renowned woman was honoured in 2004, and after nine years Alfred Okoh Vanderpuye holds an emergency assembly meeting and all he could do was to take away that honour from such a patriotic lady. This decision is a national embarrassment and sets a bad precedent for the country. They did the same thing to Ohene Djan and now they are doing it again to Madam Theodosia who is even still alive,” the Akuapem South MP lamented.

Joe Aggrey says decision is illegal

Joe Aggrey, retired sports journalist and former Deputy Minister for Youth and Sports, has described as ‘illegal and dishonourable’ the unilateral decision by the AMA to rename the Theodosia Okoh Hockey Stadium after late President John Evans Atta Mills.

“While we all agree to honour the memory of the late President who was a great sportsman, the hockey facility has already been named after another legend, Mrs Theodosia Okoh, as part of a decision to rename all national sports edifices after illustrious former sportsmen and sportswomen. Therefore, to change the name of an edifice which has already been named is not only disrespectful but dishonourable to Mrs Okoh who is alive,” Mr Aggrey said yesterday.

The former deputy minister explained that the decision to name the hockey facility after Mrs Okoh was taken in 2004 after careful deliberations and consultations by a competent group of people who formed a committee set up by the government.

“Her role in the development of Ghana hockey, where she was even nicknamed Joan d’Arc of Ghana hockey, is equally recognisable. She was not the only one who had a sports facility named after her. There is the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi, Robert Mensah Sports Stadium in Cape Coast, the Azumah Nelson Sports Complex in Kaneshie and several others. The decision by the AMA certainly demeans whatever role Mrs Okoh played for Ghana hockey and knowing the late President, I think he would not have approved of such an action,” Mr Aggrey lamented.

Kwami Sefa Kayi launches crusade against decision

Renowned broadcaster and one of the most influential radio personalities in Ghana, Kwami Sefa-Kayi, has expressed a vehement opposition to the decision, saying those behind are not being fair to the woman and the nation. He insists the original name given to the Hockey Pitch should be maintained in honour of Madam Theodosia, the woman he describes as one of the virtuous daughters of this nation.

Protesting the change of name, host of Peace FM’s ‘Kokrokoo’ morning show stated yesterday: “Let me state here that my fight continues; if I will win, I don’t know; but Madam Theodosia Okoh gave us our national flag; she played hockey; she chaired the National Hockey Association. Don’t change the name; I beg. It is not fair. She is alive and very well and it is just not fair to do this at all. We should not change the name. Madam Theodosia Okoh Hockey Pitch should be maintained.”

The Woman Theodosia Okoh

Mrs Theodosia Okoh was born to Rev. & Mrs. Asihene at Asante Effiduase. She attended school at Asante Effiduase and later Basel Mission Girls School at Agogo. She later became a teacher and taught briefly at Kukurantumi and later took an examination in Arts which gradually led her into her career. Like the popular saying ‘practice makes man perfect’, she perfected herself through the teaching and practicing of Arts, and the encouragement she received from the Department of Social Welfare through the production of teaching of aids for nursery schools.

She rose to be among the best artist and designer when in 1955 the challenge was thrown to her to develop a flag for Ghana. She was able to do this, guided by the words of Philip Gbeho, the composer of the national anthem.

She received an award from ECRAG in 1993 for “Special Honours for the Design of the National Flag”. She believes in families a lot and is also a firm believer in hard work and exemplary life. Her watch words are doing things in perfection and in a manner that would reap benefits in the future.

Source: By thestatesmanonline.com



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