Africa has lost a voice – Komla Dumor is gone

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 January 2014

Komla1“God has been very good to me. Last year I experienced a lot of illness; my blood pressure nearly gave me a stroke, but I trod on; waking up at 2am and heading to work – exhausted sometimes, aching in my body and soul, mentally and emotionally drained. But I kept going. I smiled for the camera. I volunteered for extra shifts.

“I showed respect to my colleagues – from directors to the security guards. I took a lot of jealousy-driven vicious insults and backstabbing from petty people without reply. I remain silent in my personal strife and misery.

“I kept smiling and pushing on to present better and to engage with my audience and increase my following – long days and frustrating times. But I kept going; through the West Gate mall coverage, through the Mandela funeral – even when illness had me collapsing I delivered.

“Today, my boss – the head of television, called me for a 1 minute meeting. He said; ‘Komla, we have decided to make you the anchor presenter for our coverage of the World Cup in Brazil’. We shook hands and I left. I looked to the sky and said: thank you Lord for reminding me that you are on my side – the enemy will be scattered..Selah! Selah! Praise Him..tomorrow is another day.”

Those were the chilling and pungent words of Komla, who sadly passed away, just hours after sending that message to a friend and former colleague. Was that a cry for help from Komla? What lessons can we all learn from Komla’s Book of Life?

This is how the BBC reported the news of his death yesterday:  

BBC TV presenter Komla Dumor has died suddenly at his home in London at the age of 41, it has been announced.

Ghanaian born Dumor was a presenter for BBC World News and its Focus on Africa programme.

One of Ghana’s best-known journalists, he joined the BBC as a radio broadcaster in 2007 after a decade of journalism in Ghana.

Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama said on Twitter that his country had lost one of its finest ambassadors.

BBC Global News Director Peter Horrocks called Dumor a leading light of African journalism who would be deeply missed.

He was “committed to telling the story of Africa as it really is,” Mr Horrocks said in a statement.

“Africa’s energy and enthusiasm seemed to shine through every story Komla told”.

“Komla’s many friends and colleagues across Africa and the world will be as devastated as we are by this shocking news.”

The BBC understands he had suffered a heart attack.

Komla Dumor featured in New African magazine’s November 2013 list of 100 most influential Africans. It said he had “established himself as one of the emerging African faces of global broadcasting”, who had “considerable influence on how the continent is covered”.

komla2James Harding, BBC Director of News and Current Affairs, spoke of Komla Dumor’s “singular role in transforming the coverage of Africa”. “He brought a depth of understanding, a great deal of courage, a joyous charm and boundless charisma to his work,” Mr Harding said.

Komla Dumor was born on 3 October 1972 in Accra, Ghana.

He graduated with a BA in Sociology and Psychology from the University of Ghana, and a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard University.

He won the Ghana Journalist of the Year award in 2003 and joined the BBC four years later.

From then until 2009 he hosted Network Africa for BBC World Service radio, before joining The World Today programme.

komlaIn 2009 Komla Dumor became the first host of Africa Business Report on BBC World News. He was a regular presenter of Focus on Africa and had fronted the programme the day before he died.

He travelled across Africa, meeting the continent’s top entrepreneurs and reporting on the latest business trends around the continent.

He interviewed a number of high-profile guests including Bill Gates and Kofi Annan.

Last month, he covered the funeral of former South African President, Nelson Mandela, whom he described as “one of the greatest figures of modern history”.

He anchored live coverage of major events including the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the funeral of Kim Jong-il, the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, the Norway shootings and the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

In his review of 2013, published last month, Dumor said the passing of Mandela was “one of the moments that will stay with me”.

“Covering the funeral for me will always be a special moment. I will look back on it with a sense of sadness. But also with gratitude. I feel lucky to have been a witness to that part of the Mandela story.”

Meeting Komla Dumor for the first time in Ghana in 2007, BBC chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet said she had noticed how young Ghanaian journalists looked up to him.

He never flinched from asking tough questions, but also loved to share a laugh, she says.

She adds that Komla Dumor had many loves including football, his faith, his family: “He always said ‘I just love talking with people’.”

komla with Mo Ibrahim two months ago.Note from the Sierra Leone Telegraph:

The tragic death of Komla has once again opened up a debate about African professionals’ attitudes to the world of work, in an ever increasing competition for excellence, and the need for maintaining work life balance. (Photo: Komla and Mo Ibrahim).

Komla gave more than his best performance to the BBC and his audience. But sadly he did not listen to nature’s warning of impending tragedy.

Learning to be aware of one’s physical and emotional limitations is a pre-requisite for longevity and the fulfilment of career ambitions.

Learning to say ‘NO’ when the bosses, our employers and those with whom we work, try to push us to the edge, is fundamental to achieving work, life and emotional balance.

We can all take a leaf from Komla’s book of life. Let us learn the lessons he has left us:

“God has been very good to me. Last year I experienced a lot of illness; my blood pressure nearly gave me a stroke, but I trod on, waking up at 2am and heading to work; exhausted sometimes, aching in my body and soul, mentally and emotionally drained. But I kept going. I smiled for the camera. I volunteered for extra shifts.

“I showed respect to my colleagues from directors to the security guards. I took a lot of jealousy- driven vicious insults and backstabbing from petty people without reply. I remain silent in my personal strife and misery.

“I kept smiling and pushing on to present better and to engage with my audience and increase my following – long days and frustrating times. But I kept going; through the West Gate mall coverage, through the Mandela funeral – even when illness had me collapsing I delivered.

“Today my boss – the head of television, called me for a 1 minute meeting. He said; ‘Komla we have decided to make you the anchor presenter for our coverage of the World Cup in Brazil’. We shook hands and I left. I looked to the sky and said: thank you Lord for reminding me that you are on my side -the enemy will be scattered..Selah! Selah! Praise Him..tomorrow is another day.”

The last words of Komla, sent to a friend before passing away yesterday. Komla was crying out for HELP. As a ‘Best Practice’ employer, was the BBC aware of his suffering?

Komla – may your soul rest in perfect peace. We shall all take a leaf from your book of life. Sleep well my brother.