Ghana: Tribute to the Memory of Honourable John Akparibo Ndebugre

by the Old Students’ Union of Navrongo Secondary School (NABIA)

NABIA received the tragic news of the passing of our colleague, brother, friend and fellow Nabia, Honourable John AkpariboNdebugre with utter shock and disbelief. It was sudden. Nabia did not know that he was unwell so we could not visit him. After a couple of hours of cross-checking, the sad news began to sink in – Senior Nde, the pace setter, the no nonsense man, a fighter against any type of injustice and for probity and accountability was indeed no more.

Senior Nde entered Navrongo Secondary School, NAVASCO, on 24th September 1965 with Folio Number 559: that is to say, he was the 559th student to be admitted into the school. He was assigned to Republic House and then to Volta House when it was created.

Senior Nde was a vibrant member of NABIA, the Old Student’s Association. A few years ago, he chaired a three-member committee to review the constitution of our Old Students Union. He also attended most of our reunion meetings, mixing and taking pictures with Nabia old and young and offering useful advice.

Nde, you made it a habit to look for your classmates anytime you were on the move from Zebilla, crisscrossing the country down south. Exactly a year ago, you particularly looked for your classmates and study partner, Sibdow Malik Mumuni (folio 525), whom you had not seen for over 50 years since 1970. Long before technical and vocational courses were introduced across schools in Ghana his year-group, the 1965 intake, was the pioneer group used to introduce the modern school curricula into Navasco.

They were the pioneers who started accounting, commercial, vocational and technical drawing courses in Navasco and thus broke the monotony of straightjacket Arts & Science subjects in Ghanaian secondary schools.

Navasco was one of four select schools to introduce modern mathematics in the Joint Schools Project (JSP), and to move away from what was called Additional General Science to pure science subjects of Physics, Chemistry and Biology in the Ghanaian school curriculum. In all these academic trials with new curricula senior Ndebugre performed excellently. Senior Nde is credited as the one who blazed the trail in good academic performance in the history of Navasco.

This performance was rare in the country at the time and it sent a signal to other secondary schools in Ghana that there was a center of academic excellence up there in Navrongo. Southern Ghanaian students and parents took notice and began to apply to attend Navasco, including sixth-form courses.

This is how our former Headmaster, Colin Macdonald, recalled his academic performance: “Up till 1970, our best aggregate at the West Africa Exams Council results had normally been between 10 and 20, until the 1970 results arrived – and there was John Ndebugre with an aggregate of 5 staring at me. We continued to get aggregates of 5 for 1971, 1972 and 1973. Finally, in 1974, a student also got an aggregate of 5, but it was made up of 9 Grade 1s and a 3. As 10 was the maximum number of subjects a student was allowed to offer, this result was almost the best one theoretically possible.” Headmaster Macdonald was so excited by the school’s performance pioneered by Nde that he did not stop there.

He went to the West African Exams Council (WAEC) office in Accra and asked if he could look through their archives to find out if any previous result as good as this had ever been issued. He was given a set of huge ledgers, one for each year going back to the foundation of the Exams Council in 1962. He looked through them but could not find any comparable result.

The former Headmaster, a Scot, said that: “… . reading out the WAEC results to the school assembly in 1974 is the highlight of my entire teaching career. Navasco can be proud that one of its alumni has not only the best West African School Certificate (WASC) result ever issued by the WAEC, but that no result like it will ever be issued again.” JOHN AKPARIBO NDEBUGRE WAS THE TRAIL BLAZER FOR HIGH ACADEMIC STANDARDS IN NAVASCO. Back in 1969-70, senior Nde and his classmates – Abdul Rahman HarrunaAttah (of the Accra Mail), Hon Cletus Avoka (MP, Zebilla) and others – started and published a monthly student’s newsletter, The SEARCHLIGHT.

Nde was the Editor and the newsletter was so popular among students that it motivated the juniors to also start a second newsletter, The COMMET. Such were the nascent leadership traits and skills that we learnt in Navasco: a vibrant, intellectual and democratic culture.

No one could fail to take notice of Nde, not because of his towering figure but because of his intelligence and out-spoken nature. Nde always spoke his mind no matter who it would hurt. In his own words: “Some type of persons are considered to be stubborn … and the stubbornness is connected with standing on your principle. If you think that something is wrong, it is wrong.

It doesn’t matter who says it is right!” No wonder that John Nde, a student leader in UST, Kumasi, was at the very frontline, during Ghanaian student protests against the military government in 1977-78. In 1982, in the historical early days of the Provisional National Defence Council, (PNDC) your Nabia colleagues, aware of your dynamism and the contribution you could make, decided to invite you from Nigeria to help in the revolution. There was not less than ten NABIA among the “revolutionaries” in high decision-making positions in the early days of the PNDC rule.

You contributed to the PNDC first as Regional Secretary for Northern Region and later as Upper Regional Secretary and subsequently Upper East Regional Secretary when the region was divided into Upper East and Upper West in 1983. You were appointed Secretary for Agriculture before being moved into the seat of government, Castle Osu, to oversee a number of key departments.

When the old system bounced back to take control of JJ Rawlings, your comrades who engineered your coming into the PNDC Government were dislodged into exile. You were left alone yet you stood your principles and could not be corrupted or compromised. You eventually resigned from the Government but you continued with progressive politics. Senior Nde, the KUST trained chemical engineer, also later trained and practiced as lawyer after leaving the PNDC regime.

This marks him out as a versatile brilliant intellectual capable of undertaking studies in any field. He also became the Member of Parliament for the Zebilla Constituency on the ticket of the People’s National Convention in the Fourth Parliament of the fourth Republic of Ghana. In the words of one of your close Nabia comrades, you were “a larger-than-life character, strong willed, and never shy to be controversial if (you) considered it necessary in pursuit of a goal.

There are times when words fail us when we want to express our feelings adequately about some event or news and this is definitely one such … ” Some say that “most of the ‘hard boys’ [in Ghanaian politics] were nurtured by Navasco”. You were one of those enigmatic cases of Navasco’s products … ” NABIA will miss you and your wise counsel to the service of our Alma Mater, NAVASCO. REST IN PERFECT PEACE NABIA NDE


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