Tribute to the man who introduced me to sports journalism in 1961 at the Daily Graphic. He will be buried this weekend at Akropong Akuapem, his home town.
By Ken Bediako
Nana. J. K. Addo-Twum was easily Ghana’s top horse racing tipster. Affectionately called Dan Rana in horse racing circles, Nana was so fond of horse racing that he could even identify the horses by name blindfolded.
He made horse racing part of himself like breathing and the Accra Turf Club was his second home.
As Sports Editor of the Daily Graphic in the 60s, his masterpiece analysis and expert tips in the Graphic on Saturdays boosted circulation of the newspaper regarded by punters as the Bible of horse racing.
I was privileged to work directly under him for nearly 12 years. He taught me page planning and his amazing love for horse racing never ceased to amaze me.
It took me quite a while to get used to happenings at the Accra Race Course. It’s quite exciting to see gaily dressed jockeys on equally well-decorated heavily built horses, competing for the fastest like what happens in men and women’s track events. The only difference is that the horse racing is anti-clockwise. It’s nice to see the horses bunched together at top speed but skilfully not crossing each other’s path. Horse racing pundits say jockeys play a great role in delicately whipping the horses to obey their commands to run as fast as possible. I understand a bad or inexperienced jockey could be thrown down by an enraged horse for improper riding.
The Race Course is a veritable gambling place where punters can see at close range in just a matter of minutes, whether their bets are successful or going the wrong way. Dividends are declared immediately after each race and payment effected quickly so one could bet again in the next event. Very brisk arrangement I tell you.
The irony was that despite all his celebrated accurate tips that won some tidy cash for many punters, Nana Addo-Twum hardly put in a bet. His notion was that animals can be unpredictable. He would say in his impeccable Akuapem Twi “Aboa no yamu kaw no a wonnhu” loosely translated “you can never tell when the horse has a sudden stomach ache or not.”
Nana Addo-Twum had a quiet demeanour and wouldn’t even try to hurt a fly. He took me as his younger brother and sent me on a lot of assorted errands, especially to buy his favourite meat pie at YMCA headquarters then located on High Street, adjacent to the Accra Community Centre and Ice cream at RAD, near Opera Square.
I was also sent regularly to the Accra Stadium office of sports director Ohene Djan for stories and articles he regularly wrote for the Daily Graphic. In his office, Ohene Djan was almost always in the company of sports icons like C.K. Gyamfi, Aggrey Fynn, Baba Yara, Roy Ankrah, J.S. Wontumi, E.C. Nyarko, Mrs Theodosia Okoh, D.G Hathiramani and co. Due to the constant contacts with these sports legends I was eventually privileged to become their close friend.
One day Addo-Twum sent me to Kingsway Stores on Nkrumah Avenue, to buy sanitary pads for him.
The two sales girls at Kingsway started giggling when I asked for the stuff. I was a bit puzzled by their behaviour but I kept cool. It was nicely parcelled for me and the girls continued giggling as I left. I kept wondering what the matter could be.
I did not know what it was but I imagined it was some sort of protective material for active sportsmen like shin guard since Nana Addo-Twum used to play football quite often.
It was two years later, at age 23, that I got to know why the ladies were so amused about my purchase of sanitary pads and I said to myself “small boys are young indeed.” I will never forget this Kingsway Stores experience.
Nana’s craze for horse racing turned out to be a blessing in disguise to me because he gave me the opportunity to cover almost all the remaining sports disciplines and enabled me to learn so fast the nuances in sports journalism. I was privileged to cover major athletics events like the Ghana-Nigeria championships in Ibadan that gave me my first experience travelling by air.
I also covered the 1963 Afcon (Kumasi group), the Floyd Robertson Sugar Ramos world featherweight boxing title fight, Muhammad Ali’s1964 tour of Ghana, flew to Germany in 1966 for a four-week educational tour that gave me the opportunity to watch the great Bayern Munich F.C. in action for the first time.
Sports in Ghana was national priority those days and I soon became relatively popular in sporting circles.
Apart from covering numerous national football league matches at some regional centres on Sundays, I was in Sudan for Afcon 1970 where Ghana narrowly lost the cup to the host country and the Black Stars later deported for flimsy reasons by the newly installed Military Government 1970 also saw me accompanying Hearts of Oak on a three-week tour of England before attending my first Olympic Games in Munich 1972 all this courtesy of Nana Addo-Twum who gave me the freedom to grow rapidly in my chosen profession.
When Nana was promoted Production Manager in the mid-70s, then later Editor, he ensured maximum coverage for sports activities. I was in Los Angeles for the WBC featherweight boxing title fight between David Kotey Poison and Reuben Olivares in 1975 and also the 1976 Montreal Olympics, boycotted at the last minute by some African and Caribbean countries.
Nana Addo-Twum loved sports and games very well. He played football and table tennis for leisure. He owned a non-league club, Great Readers based in Accra. In addition, he was assisted by co-worker sports enthusiasts like Lee Accorley, Nii Bannerman and Uncle Robert Markin, to organise a fully company sponsored departmental football team for the Daily Graphic that played for fun in some regional capitals on Saturdays.
He was quite affable and showed absolute respect to both junior and senior staff who will all remember him as Dan Rana the legendary horse racing tipster. He was among the group of down to earth senior officers who freely mixed with all to make the editorial office of the Daily Graphic a really congenial atmosphere for everybody to give of their best to maintain the reputation of the Daily Graphic as the best newspaper in the country.
The only occasion, I recall, he might have lost his temper was during a heated discussion at an editorial conference when he was the Editor and I made what he considered to be a harsh comment, “Shut up, I was here when you were brought from school”, he screamed amidst teasing laughter at the conference.
May his soul rest in perfect peace.
Cheers everybody and keep loving sports.