Se eye ndzeye pa enum yi a, na eye barima (Gather the five virtues, then you are a man). --Fante tribal proverb
I. ENYIMNYAM (DIGNITY)
"Once my father did something that quite shocked me." Kofi Annan is talking. He is nestled in the back of a royal-blue Mercedes, part of a six-car motorcade flying along the streets of Accra, Ghana. Air conditioning purrs inside the car. Outside, motorcycle outriders scream past, inches from the doors, sirens singing as they race ahead. Annan shakes his head and gives the tiniest of sighs. "I asked them to skip the outriders. I asked for a nice, low-key day out." A grin. The streets are lined with men and women who become ecstatic as the cars breeze by. Their heads flop back, their eyes sparkle and their arms shoot up into the air. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is also in town this weekend. Local gossips say he has driven across the desert in a motorcade of 420 cars--a romantic, incredible tale in this poor country. Perhaps, Annan wonders, the crowds think this motorcade is Gaddafi's? "Father," they shout as the cars pass. "Father!" They recognize Annan. A nice, low-key day out.
"I was a kid," Annan continues in his quiet voice, decorated with a lively British accent. "I witnessed a scene in my father's office once which shocked me a bit. He was looking over a set of accounts. He had a question or something, so he called one of the junior managers, and of course the fellow came rushing right in. But the fellow was smoking. And he put the cigarette--still lit--into his pants pocket because my father didn't smoke and didn't approve of people who did. And he stood there as he talked to my father, with his pocket burning, obviously in some distress. And finally he finished the business and walked out. And I was really shocked. And I said to my father quite angrily, 'Why did you do that to him? You made him put his cigarette in his pocket.' And my father looked at me and really gave me a lecture. He said, 'I did not. There was an ashtray here; he could have used that. He could have excused himself and gone and thrown it out. He could have continued smoking. He put the cigarette in his pocket. He need not have done that.' My father looked at me and said, 'Today you saw something you should never do. Don't crawl.'"
In Ghana, Annan's father is still revered. His name was Henry Reginald Annan--the first and middle names were a legacy of British colonialism, when ambitious Africans named their children as if they were bound for Oxford. Annan happens to be a sturdy Scottish name, and from time to time business associates believed that H.R. Annan was a Highlander--until they met him. In fact, Henry Reginald Annan was a noble of the Fante tribe. He was possessed of a legendary personal reserve. His son recalls seeing him steam up only once or twice--including the day of the cigarette lecture. "He was a man who was very centered, very secure," Kofi says. "His intuitive dignity was almost innate."