We gather here this morning at this solemn service to mark the life and times of one of the most remarkable people this nation had the blessing of calling a daughter. We look back with fond memories and a deep sense of appreciation for all that she has done for her motherland.
Many great men and women have straddled the soils of our land and upon transition into the afterlife, have laid where our mother and grandmother lies today. Their caskets have often been draped in the Red Gold, Green and Black of our national flag. We have honoured our heroes because of one significant contribution or the other to our national life. The inevitability of death has once again called on us to do same for the woman who lies in the same position other great men and women have laid.
On this occasion, however, we celebrate her not for her contribution in one field of endeavour, but her work in diverse fields all of which have resulted in monumental benefits for the broad masses of our people.
Madam Theodosia Okoh’s journey to eternal rest begins today, but the journey to imprint her legacy and place spans decades. Nearly a century old, she was renowned for her enthusiastic efforts in the development of sports in Ghana, especially Hockey. She is credited together with others for developing that sports into a national game.
She was also famed for her incredible talent as an artist and has many works to show for this talent.
It was through the exploitation and expression of this amazing artistic mind that she made her most telling and enduring contribution yet to the advancement of our national cause. Entering a national competition to craft a symbol that will give us a unique identity as a people just before independence, she came out with our now famous flag with Red, Gold, Green and the ever present black star, which won her the competition.
Her genius ensured that even as we tore down the barrier of colonial domination through the symbolic lowering of the Union Jack of Britain on that fateful night of March 5, 1957, we were in a position to instantly hoist our flag; a befitting symbol of our freedom and liberty.
Among all the giants of our country’s history she stands out as the one individual whose life’s work defined our identity as a people. Her casket is draped today in her life’s work; the unique and ubiquitous Ghana flag. The one unmistakable symbol of our national identity. Perhaps no single individual deserves to have his/her casket draped in this flag more than Madam Theodosia Okoh, the giver of our national identity.
Not only did this flag bestow on all of us a proud identity, it provided inspiration to many other countries on our continent and beyond whose flags mimic the Red, Gold and Green she chose to symbolise what we stand for as a people.
The most remarkable feature of this flag is not just the colours and how they are beautifully combined for effect, but the story that those colours tell about us as a people. Through sheer hard work and dedication she tells our unique story to all nations around the world. Through this flag we gain instant recognition anywhere on this globe.
When we call ourselves Ghanaians, what separates us from the rest of the peoples of the earth among others is this one flag created by this extraordinary woman.
In the twilight of her years, she demonstrated a streak of genius when speaking out against an unfortunate mix up that would have resulted in a grave injustice. She defended her place in history by kicking against efforts to rename the National Hockey pitch which had been named after her in recognition of her contribution to the sport of hockey.
This courageous step, earned her even more admiration by many of today’s youth who despite having read about her contributions to national development in history books had not encountered her yet.
I am gratified that I was able to set right what would have been an unforgivable show of national ingratitude. That regrettable episode drove home forcefully, the need to honour our heroes whilst they live not when they have left us. That incident brought me closer to her than ever before. I became one of her sons.
I am also gratified that the Government of former President Jerry John Rawlings’ recognised her with a State honour.
As we part ways with our mother and grandmother on this solemn occasion, let the lessons of her unyielding desire to work for her nation on many fronts guide how we recommit ourselves to the national course.
Fare thee well Mrs Theodosia Salome Abena Kumea Okoh, Ghana will always remain grateful to you.
May the Lord give you peaceful rest till we meet again.
Source: President John Dramani Mahama
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