“People know your name, not your story. They’ve heard what you’ve done, but don’t understand what you’ve been through. So take their opinions of you with a grain of salt. In the end, it’s not what others think, it’s what you think about yourself that truly counts. Sometimes you have to do exactly what’s right for you, not what’s best for everyone else.”
That’s a quote Bright Ernest Akomea, a national security operative mocked by a section of Ghanaians earlier this month following his appearance before the Commission of Inquiry tasked with investigating the violence which marred January’s Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election, takes solace in.
‘Double’, as Akomea has been popularly known since his Senior High School days, has no more business with said Commission. However, in the court of public opinion, he’s still very much in the dock, facing charges of illiteracy and inadequacy with respect to his being drafted into the National Security setup. Needless to say, Double opting to speak the popular local tongue Twi instead of the Queen’s language when given the platform didn’t help matters — but he’s accepting no blame for it.
“English is not our language,” he tells Daily Mail GH, in defence of the choice he made a day prior. “When you go to Togo they speak the local languages more than French; same applies to Germany and even the UAE, among other countries.”
And he has more to say: “Whatever people are saying out there does not affect me. When you’re before a judge or speaking in public, you have to communicate in a language you’ve got command over so that you’re not floored by technicalities or the terminology of the setting in which you find yourself. I was once a technical student; the judges also speak their language. I decided to speak my own language, of which I’m proud, so I can be more comfortable before the Commission.
“One doesn’t need a Master’s Degree to pick up intelligence. Even illiterates can do same, depending on where they are. In the National Security setup, we have all sort of persons: carpenters, commercial drivers, journalists, prostitutes, etc. Do you think Anas Aremeyaw Anas [Ghana’s celebrated undercover reporter] only uses graduates to carry out his investigations?”
Responding to his own query in the negative, Double continues with another rhetorical question:
“So where you fit best is where you’re placed. I’m not worried at all by what is going on. If one is illiterate, it doesn’t mean he is not wise. Consider affluent Ghanaian entrepreneur Osei Kwame Despite and the sheer number of people he is employing. Instead of laughing at me, I think people should channel that energy into projecting our own local languages,” Akomea further argues.
Make no mistake; Double is no illiterate. Currently pursuing a course in Management at Knutsford University College for his Bachelor’s Degree, he has already acquired an Advanced Security Certificate. And even before that, as implied earlier, Double obtained technical qualifications, having studied auto mechanics at the Abetifi Technical School.
Back to his present and much-maligned occupation as a national security operative, though, Double explains that his training was received in phases and he only restricted himself to mentioning the first phase when testifying before the Commission.
“I said I had three weeks training at Asutsuare and that is true. But it is not just that. I’ve also had a month and two weeks’ training in South Africa and we’re off to Hungary soon for another session,” he clarifies.
Calm and composed on a leather sofa, Double fidgets with his phones as his GoTa whispers some instructions faintly at the background. He smiles through it all and chirps: “I love my job, you know. I almost enlisted in the Ghana Army in 2001 but my father, a retired officer, stopped me due to his own experiences in the military.”
Double’s father was a victim of the coups in the 80s and had to seek refuge in neighbouring Togo. He enjoyed no bonding with his dad until about two decades later. That was the genesis of his business ties with the tiny French-speaking country when Double started importing goods from Togo to Ghana to sell, culminating in two mobile phone shops at Nkrumah Circle – ‘Double’s Phones’.
The father of five – three boys and two girls – loves to frequent the gymnasium and plays football as a hobby, but he had to put the latter on hold as a result of a life-threatening injury he sustained while working for the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
Double fell from an electricity pole in a bid to host a party flag ahead of a visit by then-candidate Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in 2012, fracturing thigh and hip bones. He spent a year-and-a-half at the 37 Military Hospital and another year walking with the aid of crutches. He concedes indebtedness to party stalwart Frances Essiam – then NPP parliamentary candidate and now CEO of Ghana Cylinder Manufacturing Company – who had to provide personal property as collateral to secure a loan for his surgery.
“During my ordeal, she told me she’ll make sure I walk again so I shouldn’t worry. She used her car and documents covering real estate she owned to raise money for my surgery. Essiam means a lot to me, for all she’s done, and I’ve even named my youngest child in her honour. I’m most grateful to her and others who came to my aid in those difficult times,” Double says.
Married for 11 years, Double stresses that he’s very caring and responsible, contrary to what outsiders assume.
“When you are a body-builder, people think you’re rowdy. But if you have a family the perception is different. I don’t use my muscular advantage to bully people. I don’t fight. It’s a matter of exercising to keep fit. You see, it’s nice to dress with such physique and I always want to look healthy. Mind you, my job also demands that I must look this fit and be intelligent as well. I’m very peaceful and those around me know that I always want to settle instead of fight.”
He also singled out the current national organiser of the Danquah-Busia-Dombo tradition, Sammy Awuku, who has stood by him throughout and now. “He’s a great leader and I salute him for being there for the youth,” Double noted.
He has been accused of being a member of the notorious pro-New Patriotic Party (NPP) vigilante group, the Invincible Forces, but Double insists it is a figment of the imagination of those who merely want to mar his reputation.
“They don’t know my story,” he borrows from the quote at the outset of this article.
“I think people just want to tarnish my image, but they are rather making me popular. In my life I’ve never joined any vigilante group, as I was a member of the party long before all these latter-day ‘forces’ sprung.
“I have a clean heart. I’m humble and never rude to people. Those are the qualities that keep me going. I’m not moved by the numerous allegations against me. I remain focused to deliver. I’m unshaken and, someday, critics will have to swallow their words.”
Double supports the call by President Akufo-Addo for the dissolution of the different vigilante groups mainly affiliated to the ruling party and the National Democratic Congress (NDC), the main opposition party. Once a consultant to a private security firm, Double’s dream is to be in charge of one of the State security agencies.
“That’s my noble dream – to become head of security in this country. I want to be part of the hierarchy and it will be the prerogative of the president — whoever he is — when the time comes.”
Until then, Double remains steady and not wobbled, even if temporarily troubled.
By K.N.S Mensah, Daily Mail GH