It started off with a short email message from my brother. 'Have got details of Eddie's uncle in Ghana,' it said, and gave a telephone number. 'Uncle's name is Mr Osei Tutu Prempeh, and he says he knew of Jimmy Moxon. He was Attorney-General of Ghana, so treat with due respect.'
This was enough for me. One of my aims of visiting Ghana is to find out about Jimmy Moxon, the only white man ever to be made a genuine African chief; as the Moxon clan isn't exactly extensive there's a marginal possibility that Jimmy and I are related in some utterly distant manner, but even without such a tenuous link, his story is worth investigation. But irrespective of my mission, one of the best things about travelling is meeting the locals, and what better way than to be introduced to the uncle of a friend of my brother's? So clutching a Ghana Telecom phone card in my slightly shaking palm, I dialled the number I'd been given from one of the sweatboxes in Kumasi's telecom centre.
'Oh, hello there,' I said in the obsequious accent my telephone phobia forces me to adopt when phoning complete strangers. 'Is that the house of Mr Osei Tutu Prempeh?'
'Yes, it is,' said a female voice at the other end.
'Um, you don't know me,' I continued, 'but my name is Mark Moxon and I'm rather hoping that Mr Prempeh's nephew Kwesi has talked to him about me. I'm visiting Ghana for a couple of months, and I'd very much like to say hello.'
'Ah, certainly, just hold on for a minute Mr Moxon,' she said. 'Let me get Uncle OT for you.'
After a pause, Mr Prempeh came on the line.' Hello, Mr Moxon?' he said.
'Hello, Mr Prempeh,' I said. 'How are you?'
'Very well,' he replied. 'So you are in Ghana and you are looking for information on Jimmy Moxon?'
'I sure am,' I said.
'Where are you?' he asked.
'I am in Kumasi,' I said, 'but I'm hoping to come down to Accra in the next few days.'
'Then you must come to see us,' he said, and with that I entered the world of the Prempehs. What a world it would turn out to be.
From Bus to Back Seat
The moment I arrived in Accra, I was whisked off and mollycoddled in a way I haven't seen since my days of staying with millionaire ex-pats in Spain. If there's one thing about Africa it's that when you have something, you make sure you hold onto it, and from the moment I stepped off the Kumasi STC bus in Accra, I left the world of the dishevelled backpacker and entered the world of the global statesman, even though I didn't know it at the time. All I had in my head was the title 'Attorney-General' as I dialled Mr Prempeh's house from Accra State Transport station, the nerves of the lone traveller in a strange country fluttering in my stomach.
When Mr Prempeh came to the phone I offered to take a taxi to his house, but the tone in his voice implied that he'd much rather send his driver to pick me up; as I had no idea where anything was in Accra, this sounded just fine and dandy to me, especially after the tropical plastic seats of the public bus. I waited in the bus terminal, watching Ghanaian television and savouring the still-novel pleasure of being able to understand what the newsreader was saying, and half an hour later three men walked up to me, the one at the front offering me his hand with a beaming smile.
'Mr Moxon?' he said. 'I am Osei Tutu Prempeh. Welcome to Accra.'
'Hello Mr Prempeh,' I said, 'I'm delighted to be here,' and with the formalities over we walked over to his Range Rover, his driver carrying my luggage. Mr Prempeh and I sat in the back seats while the driver eased us into the chaotic Accran traffic that had delayed my bus, and the air conditioning got to work on evaporating the stickiness on the back of my shirt and trousers, making me shiver slightly, a rather pleasant feeling after the city heat. While I settled in for the ride we made polite small talk, and I explained all about my trip through Africa and my interest in Jimmy Moxon. Mr Prempeh is a slightly rounded man, sporting a short, white, moustache-free beard that conspires with his closely cropped haircut to give his face a particularly friendly air, and he sat back in his seat and talked in his Ghanaian accent about the BBC, his nephew and the traffic in Accra. The conversation was polite, reserved and formal, so I got my excuses in early.
'I have to apologise for the state of my wardrobe,' I said, thinking of my crinkled linen trousers mustering in the bottom of my backpack, and the stretched T-shirt that had started out black, but which was now more the colour of café au lait. 'I've been travelling for over two months through the desert, and these are my only smart clothes.' And they were; I was wearing a crinkle-free shirt, cunningly coloured with a brown checker pattern to disguise the dirt that no doubt hid under the design, and grey polyester trousers, bought for their ability to survive the harshest packing regime without creasing. These were my best border-crossing clothes; I hoped they would do.
'Ha!' laughed Mr Prempeh. 'Of course, I understand, it is not easy to travel like you are. You have to travel light; there is no need to apologise.'
I sighed my relief. Perhaps I was going to be able to remain a traveller in the land of the air-conditioned Range Rover.
It wasn't long before we arrived at Mr Prempeh's house, deep in the affluent suburbs of the Airport Residential Area. Accra is evidently still at the developmental stage where it is a positive bonus to be within hailing distance of the airport, and there is an obvious difference between the sprawling chaos of central Accra and the wide boulevards of the airport surrounds, where large houses stand back from the street, guarded by night watchmen and menacing dogs. As the gates swung open to the Prempeh house, I noticed rolls of evil-looking razor wire along the tops of the surrounding walls; obviously nobody in this neighbourhood takes any chances with their property.
And who can blame them? Accra might be one of the safer African capitals, at least compared to places like Lagos and Dakar, but you don't risk everything for want of adequate security. Mr Prempeh was quite adamant; Accra was no place for me to go walking round on my own, and while I was here my security was his concern. I nodded my approval, trying to hide the fact that I was champing at the bit to head off into Accra in my crinkled trousers and sweat-stained bush hat. 'Ah well, when in Rome,' I thought, and prepared to be a dutiful guest.
Walking through the front door was like walking into a box of chocolates. A large dresser separating the lounge from the dining room was packed to the gills with brass pots, cups, jugs and scales, cut glass, white ceramic figures and china plates that made it look like the land of milk and honey. The light in the middle of the ceiling was a glass chandelier of brass and frosted glass, reflecting light off the polished tiled-wood ceiling and onto rows of photos of Mr and Mrs Prempeh and family, propped up above the curtain rails around the inside of the room.
A hi-fi drooled out intensely easy-listening Muzak in the background, and dotted round the room I could see five, maybe six fluffy teddy bears, along with a huge foot-and-a-half high teddy bear card on the table, proclaiming, 'To a special couple, Merry Christmas.' And sitting on the couch, beaming her welcoming and larger-than-life smile, was Mrs Prempeh.
'Hello Mr Moxon,' she said. 'Please come in.'
And so we chatted while I drank the customary glass of water before moving onto the equally customary soft drink (or, in my case, a beer, to help me slip into cocktail-party mode; thankfully Mrs Prempeh also had a beer, so I wasn't making a faux pas as I might have been had I asked for a beer in a Muslim household). We talked about families, girlfriends, travelling and so on, and when they found out that I was born on a Saturday, they christened me Kwame; everyone in Ghana is very aware of which day of the week they were born on, and they get a specific name depending on that day. The Saturday name is Kwame, so I became Kwame Mark. Soon enough, though, we got to the subject that other travellers in Ghana had warned me would crop up sooner or later.
'So, Mark, I have one question for you that I hope you don't mind me asking,' said Mrs Prempeh.
'Not at all,' I said. 'Fire away.'
'Are you a Christian?' she asked.
Uh-oh, I thought, what's the best answer here? In some countries it's a legal obligation for citizens to believe in God – it doesn't matter which god, just as long as you believe in one of them – and if you turn up as a visitor and say you're an atheist or an agnostic, then this is often interpreted as meaning you are a communist; it's not a particularly recommended move. I don't think it's quite as formal in Ghana, but given the massive influence of Jesus on the shop-naming industry and the ubiquitous use of the phrase 'God willing' among Ghanaians, I reckon it's a safe bet to assume that atheists and agnostics are regarded as pretty strange beasts. I decided to play it cool.
'I was baptised into the Church of England,' I said, truthfully. 'And I pray every now and then – probably not as much as I should, but I definitely pray.' After all, I thought, I'd spent most of the journey from Ouaga to Kumasi praying for a smooth ride and no accidents, and I reckoned that should count for something.
'That is good,' said Mrs Prempeh, satisfied. 'If you let Jesus into your life then he rewards you so much, and it's so important to pray. I have a prayer book I can give you to help with your praying; I'll look for it later.'
'You're too kind,' I said, bowling myself over with accuracy. 'Thank you.' And that, it seemed, was that.
It also turned out that Mr Prempeh hadn't been the Attorney-General of Ghana, he'd been the Auditor-General of Ghana, which made me much more comfortable; I've never really been into law but I can understand numbers and accounting, and I have a much better idea of what an Auditor-General does than an Attorney-General. Accounts need auditing, whether you're a small company or a government, and the Auditor-General is basically in charge of auditing Ghana's public accounts, but as I was to discover, that only scratches the surface of Mr Prempeh's life story.
I wasn't prepared for the extent of Mr Prempeh's achievements, or for the amazing modesty he constantly displays. Over the course of my visit I've managed to prise the details of his exploits out of him, but I've had to ask the right questions; some people who have achieved a lot in life take no more than a gentle prod before they launch into long, pompous speeches about the dizzy heights they've reached and just how important they are, but Mr Prempeh has been, from the start, a congenial host who doesn't let on about anything unless I ask him about it. The fact that everyone in the house, from house maid to family, calls him 'Daddy' only made my discoveries of his past all the more amazing.
Born in Kumasi on , Osei Tutu Prempeh got an A-level in Science in 1954 with the intention of joining the medical profession; back in 1954 most people didn't take A-levels, let alone those in Africa, so this was no mean feat in itself. However what he calls his 'burning desire to serve my country and be of service to mankind' persuaded him to join the Audit Department, who were looking for promising young men to join its ranks, so in he signed up with the colonial civil service and started to climb the ladder to the top.
In the professional auditing exams the 24-year-old Osei Tutu Prempeh came top in the entire country, gaining him the official title of Auditor, from which he progressed over the next 28-and-a-half years through Senior Auditor, Principal Auditor, Assistant Director, Director of Audit and Deputy Auditor-General to reach the top as Auditor-General in . Ascending the ranks in the Ghanaian Audit Department isn't easy; every year there are confidential assessments on all staff in the service, and when vacancies appear the best candidates are picked depending on these assessments, so when Mr Prempeh says 'I worked my way up' he means it quite literally. While working at the Audit Department Mr Prempeh attended various courses in accounting and auditing, including a year's course at Strathclyde University, and numerous courses in Miami. Given his performance in the Auditor exams, it's not surprising that his rise through the ranks was one of the fastest ever within the service. Of course, he deflects all this with typical modesty.
'I got there by God's grace,' he says, 'and hard work and a lot of sacrifice. I've spent a lot of time being lonely in hotels, away from my wife – I remember one time when the woman at immigration took my passport and looked through it, and she said: "Mr Prempeh, does your wife ever see you?" "Well, we talk on the telephone a lot," I said, but the point was well made.'
Getting to the top might take a lot of hard work, but staying there is even tougher. The responsibility is huge; in the National Audit Office had 1510 staff, with the Auditor-General being in charge of all of them, and the main responsibility of the department (and hence the Auditor-General) is, according to the Ghanaian constitution, to audit and report on 'the public accounts of Ghana and of all public offices, including the courts, the central and local government administration, of the Universities and public institutions of like nature, [and] of any public corporation or other body or organisation established by an Act of Parliament.' This essentially means compiling 14 annual reports for the Ghana government covering audits of all public ministries, departments, agencies and institutes, as well as all private companies with government investment; that's an awful lot of auditing.
It's even more impressive when you consider that when Mr Prempeh became Auditor-General in 1990, audit reports on the public accounts of Ghana were ten years behind schedule. Imagine that; the accounts of an entire country hadn't been audited for the last ten years, something that is practically unheard of in the West. As a non-political post, the Auditor-General is independent of the often tumultuous political process, which meant that Mr Prempeh was able to criticise the government in his reports; this could be regarded as a dangerous occupation in Africa, but it seemed to work.
'I was tough on the government,' says Mr Prempeh, 'but the truth and objectivity of my reports won through.'
It's probably this objectivity, plus the fact that he was called on by the government to serve on no less than 11 committees and commissions (receiving letters of commendation for all of them) that helped push Osei Tutu Prempeh from the civil service in Ghana onto the international stage.
The United Nations
So far I'd been impressed enough with meeting the retired Auditor-General of Ghana, but over dinner on my first night in Ghana, I was bowled over. It turned out in casual conversation that not only had Mr Prempeh been Ghana's Auditor-General from 1990 to his retirement in 2001, but he also served on the United Nations' Board of Auditors from to , the longest-serving individual since its inception in 1948.
Not only that, he chaired the three-person board for five of those years, which meant that he was effectively the man in charge of UN auditing during that time. The Board of Auditors comprises three Auditors-General (or equivalents) from member countries, and the auditing of all UN activities, programmes and funds across the world gets split between these three people, with the chairman managing the process. It's a hell of a responsibility, but one at which Mr Prempeh obviously excelled.
I say this not because I know anything about international auditing, but because the United Nations voted on it. Every three years the General Assembly votes on whether it is satisfied with the performance of each of the three members of the Board of Auditors. If any aren't satisfactory then they are replaced by someone from another country, but in his ten years of being Auditor-General of Ghana, Mr Prempeh was voted to remain as a member of the UN Board of Auditors three times on the trot, more than anyone else in the history of the organisation; Colombia holds the record for the longest term for a country, but Mr Prempeh holds the individual record, and when he retired, Ghana handed over its mandate to South Africa. In layman's terms, this means that the United Nations thinks Osei Prempeh is a top-class auditor.
Just to add to the titles, Mr Prempeh was also a member and, for part of the time, the Vice-Chairman of the UN Panel of External Auditors, the Specialised Agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency, the mouthful that comprises auditors from all round the UN, including places like the World Health Organisation, the World Food Organisation, UNESCO and so on. And to cap it all, he was personally invited by Sir John Bourn, the Auditor-General of the UK, to join him together with the Auditor-General of France to serve on a pilot advisory scheme to the World Bank – the Multilateral Audit Advisory Group – which proved so successful that all three were made full consultants to the World Bank in .
His standing in the UN was so highly rated that when he suggested that the 40th session of the UN Panel of External Auditors, the Specialised Agencies and the International Atomic Energy Agency should be held in Accra in , the panel members unanimously agreed.
'You are young and adventurous, Mark, and Africa doesn't hold any fears for you,' said Mr Prempeh. 'It's a different story for a panel of auditors, working from offices in New York, but they all said it was a great idea. This was the first time the session had been held in Africa, and it was a tremendous success, one of the best ever. The Auditors from the UK, Canada, France, the Philippines, Switzerland, Germany and South Africa all attended – plus Ghana, of course – and it was very memorable. They all came round my house and had a great time!'
As a result of his work, in Mr Prempeh was given a Millennium Excellence Award for being an 'Outstanding Statesman', an award from the nation that was presented by the President. I ended up holding the award back in the Prempeh home; it wasn't some wimpy gold-painted plastic trophy, but a classy-looking glass, wood and granite monster that weighed a ton. He also received a medal; quite right, too.
But out of all his achievements, Mr Prempeh is most proud of one that probably only means a lot to those who know the details about governmental auditing. It certainly sounds impressive.
'I am most proud of what I managed to do for my country, internally, along with enhancing the image of Ghana on the international stage' he says. 'My work brought about enhanced transparency and accountability in the finances in the country, and this helped to get financing in from bodies like the World Bank. To culminate it all I was able to get a bill of mine passed by the government as Act 584, which incorporated the Audit Office's role in the constitution, and extended the reports for which the service is responsible to include forensic, environmental and comprehensive auditing. So I managed to update the mandates for Ghana's audit service to be up there with those of other countries, and the act became law on . I retired in but stopped working in , as I had six months' leave to take, so this is my legacy.'
And as if to rub it in, for the year ending 2001 his department was voted the 'Best Auditor-General Service in Africa'; the award was collected by his successor, but it referred to the work done by the department under Mr Prempeh. That's not bad for a self-made man.
A Right Royal Welcome
It was after a day of driving round the suburbs of Accra, with me effectively interviewing Mr Prempeh while trying not to slip too much into the traditional journalist-interviewee mode, that we settled down to a cup of tea to unwind in the tropical heat. The air conditioning was on and Mr Prempeh had peeled off his shirt to reveal a classic 'man relaxing in his own house' white vest underneath, and we were talking about his travels around the globe as an employee of the UN.
'So, how many languages do you speak apart from English?' I asked.
'Ooh, a tiny bit of Italian,' he said, 'and some French, but it needs a lot of work. But that's about it.'
'Though you speak Ga as well,' I said, referring to the local language used mainly in the area round Accra.
'Yes,' he said, 'and I speak Twi too, as I am originally from Kumasi, and that is what they speak there.'
'Ah, Kumasi,' I said, 'the home of the Ashanti tribe.'
'Yes,' said Mr Prempeh. 'Did you know I am a member of the Ashanti Royal Family?'
'You are?' I said, genuinely impressed.
'My grandfather was King Prempeh I,' he said, and my jaw dropped open. King Prempeh I is a legend in Ghana; he was exiled by the British in 1900 when the Ashanti rebellion was finally put down, and after initially being sent to Cape Coast he was exiled to Sierra Leone. However the Ashanti faithful were so keen to visit their king to pay homage that they walked all the way along the coasts of Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia to get to Sierra Leone, so the British finally moved him and his entourage to the Seychelles, where they stayed until the British let them return in 1924.
'My father could speak the language of the Seychelles,' says Mr Prempeh. 'He was born there, while in exile.'
The bloodline of the Ashanti royal family runs through the maternal side, so the eldest son of the king's sister becomes the next king. If the bloodline had run through the paternal side, then Mr Prempeh's brother would be king; as it is, it makes him the second cousin of the late King Otumfuo Opoku Ware II, which is pretty impressive in anyone's book. My genealogy isn't good enough to work out his relationship to the current king, King Osei Tutu II, but I would think that the king's uncle is Mr Prempeh's second cousin. Or something like that, anyway.
'I have the name of two Asantehenes combined,' says Mr Prempeh, the Asantehene being the name for the king of the Ashantis. 'The first king of Ashanti was King Osei Tutu – he became king when the Golden Stool came down from the heavens – and King Prempeh I was my grandfather. My daughter's name – Nana Afua Kobi Serwa Ampim Prempeh – is the same as that of the Queen Mother, bar the Prempeh part, so she really loves her. Names are important; all my children have royal names.'
And so I found out that not only have I been staying in the house of the retired Auditor-General of Ghana, I've also been staying in the house of the longest-serving member of the United Nations Board of Auditors, who also happens to be a member of the Ashanti Royal Family. As Godfrey, Mr Prempeh's current chauffeur, said to me when we got chatting in Mr Prempeh's Range Rover, 'He's a very great man.' You're not wrong there, Godfrey.
Conversations with Daddy
Mr Prempeh and I have spent a lot of time talking, mainly because the Range Rover has developed some problems and his concerned advice is that I shouldn't go into Accra without a guide at the very least, as some of the capital's taxi drivers and touts are less than scrupulous and might try to harass me. I've heard that Accra is one of the safest capitals in West Africa, but local knowledge is always worth taking and I'm not going to argue with my host, so I've accepted that the best thing to do is to wait for the Range Rover to be fixed, and then we can see Accra properly. In the meantime I've been spending my days lounging round the house, writing, reading and slipping into the relaxed lifestyle of the retired elder statesman. I figure that it's good for me; after multiple illnesses on the way to Accra, recuperation is the key, and the Prempehs are certainly feeding me well and looking after me in fine style.
The day starts off with Mr Prempeh's daily routine, which I've been only too happy to join.
'I have a morning ritual,' explained Mr Prempeh on my first morning in his house. 'I make myself a cup of tea and eat some fresh fruit out on the veranda, as we are now. Then I mix some bird seed with a little rice, like this, and then go outside into the garden. Here, come with me.'
I followed, dutifully, as we wandered out onto the front drive and into the shadow of one of the magnificent palm trees towering over the drive.
'I love my trees,' said Mr Prempeh, 'and I often pray under this one.' Saying this, Mr Prempeh closed his eyes and muttered some words under his breath, followed by 'Amen'. Turning to me, he winked. 'By the time you leave us, Mark, you will be a devout Christian.'
I smiled, wondering if even the miracle worker Himself could work a miracle that formidable, and then watched fascinated as Mr Prempeh re-enacted the parable of the sower in his front drive.
'First of all I call the birds with a whistle, and they respond. Then I throw the seed in the same places every day,' he said as he scattered the seed on the stony ground of the drive. 'And every day the birds eat the seeds in the order I throw them. It's incredible.'
We settled back down on the veranda, where Mr Prempeh started brewing the tea.
'The tea is all part of the ritual,' he said. 'I can't cook at all, but I can make tea, so that's my job: I make tea.'
Pouring three cups of tea, he added unsweetened condensed milk and sugar, as is the Ghanaian way.
'I make my wife a cup of tea every morning and bring it to her personally,' he explained. 'She likes that. And then I settle down to watch the birds come to eat the seed. I love it when they all flutter up into the air and slowly settle down again, every time someone moves. They're mainly bush doves; they have the shape of a dove, but have a grey-purple colour, not white, and there are some smaller, red birds too.'
And saying that, the birds landed on the Prempeh's drive, 30 or 40 bush doves pecking at the seeds and jumping at any sign of activity. Slowly they pecked their way along the drive, past the gleaming Range Rover that Godfrey had just finished polishing, and round to the door of Lady Pam's Salon, the popular hairdressing and stylist business that Mrs Prempeh runs from the corner of the Prempeh compound.
'We have another business too,' said Mr Prempeh, following my gaze. 'There is my wife's salon, and we also have a business that hires out everything you need for a party – tables, chairs, lights, cutlery and so on – and it's all stored round the back of the house. When I designed the house, I didn't just plan for places like the prayer room, the video room, the dining room and so on, I donated a corner of the compound to my wife's business. It's important to have different ways of supporting yourself; nothing is ever certain, and it's only by God's grace that we are here.'
'So how did you meet your wife, Mr Prempeh?' I asked.
'How did I meet my wife?' he smiled. 'I will do a deal with you; if you first tell me how you met your girlfriend, I will tell you how I met my wife.'
'OK, it's a deal,' I said, and went on to explain my side of the bargain, trying to avoid getting too dewy-eyed with homesickness (though not entirely succeeding).
Then Mr Prempeh launched into his story. He lost his first wife in childbirth, during the birth of their fifth child (the child survived), and this obviously blew a hole in his life. Some time afterwards he had to go to school to pick up his children, but he arrived a little early and the school hadn't yet closed, so he parked the car and sat in it, quietly waiting.
'Then a girlfriend of mine – just a friend, you understand – came walking by, and she said: "Hey OT" – I am Osei Tutu, you see, which becomes OT – "Hey OT, why are you sitting there in the car all quiet?" So I said to her: "Have you not heard of my circumstances?" and she said: "No", so I told her.
'A short while later the same friend came round to visit me and happened to bring another friend with her, as this friend of hers had lost her husband also. Now when you have lost someone you don't want to think about anyone else, but when I met this woman my heart started going boom-boom! boom-boom! and I thought: "What is happening here?" Soon afterwards she became my wife.
'God works in mysterious ways: I was sad from my loss and she was sad from her loss, but together we are happy.'
It's Mrs Prempeh (or 'Mammy', as everyone calls her) who's responsible for the cuddly toys throughout the house ('My wife,' sighs Mr Prempeh, raising his eyes to the heavens while being obviously touched by the soppiness of the whole thing). Together they have seven children; there are the five children from Mr Prempeh's previous marriage, and together Mammy and Daddy have had three children (though tragically one of them died). Most of the children are living abroad, but the house is far from empty; their daughter Nana Kobi still lives at home when she's not at university in England, friends and relatives are always popping round, and on top of this there are the staff, from the house help to the chauffeur to the watchman.
But that's not all. Mr Prempeh was very keen to show me round the gardens, and round the back of the house, past a rusting car, are, surprisingly, poultry batteries for up to 300 birds.
'There is just one white turkey here at the moment,' said Mr Prempeh, pointing at the solitary bird ducking under the low-hanging lights that, one hopes, keep chickens happy in cages like this. 'We also have a live sheep over there, but the main thing is I like to grow plants that give you something you can eat. So I have a coconut tree in the front, as well as palm trees, paw-paw trees, oranges, plantains, mangoes and pears, and I just love to eat their fruit fresh from the tree.'
As we climbed onto the top of the house to survey the grounds from above, I could hear the yapping guard dogs out the back, and a solitary cat wandered by, mewing nervously round the grounds. I asked if Mr Prempeh had any other cats; I'm rather fond of them, and most of the cats I've seen in the Sahel have been scraggly little things, but this one looked well fed.
'We used to have four,' he said, 'but the neighbours eat cats and three of them have gone. They set traps for them using meat and lines, and they catch them and eat them. So now he is the only one left, and he is a bit lonely.
'Anyway, here is the roof, where I go walking every morning. My wife and I used to go for a walk along the road and back every morning, but since the President moved in round the corner, there are too many fast-driving commuters on the road and it's not safe. So now Mammy takes the drive and I take the roof, and we walk up and down for 20 minutes to get our exercise.'
The morning routine also includes meditation and prayer, in the special prayer room opposite Mr Prempeh's bedroom, and a session catching up on the news on CNN and the BBC.
'I never travel anywhere without my short-wave radio and my Bible,' Mr Prempeh told me. 'Then I am never short of a companion.'
I asked Mr Prempeh what his memories of travelling were, and he went through a whole lifetime's travels, covering more countries than I could place on the map; his work has taken him to a lot of Europe, Africa and North America, plus far-flung places like China, Japan, Russia, Brazil, Chile, Israel, Cyprus, Syria, Mexico, Jamaica, Antigua, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and more. But one thing really sticks in his mind from his travels.
'The view from the plane is incredible,' he recalls. 'When you settle into your seat and the sun rises slowly over the horizon, it's just amazing. The colours are stunning, just beautiful, all orange and red. It's unbelievable.'
This sort of memory has obviously been earned. Hard work is a central theme of Mr Prempeh's story, and it's evident from the friendly advice he hands out.
'My advice to you, Mark, is "all-out",' he said to me as we sat down in the garden with a beer one evening. 'Whatever you do in life, go all-out and put your best efforts in.'
'What, like no pain, no gain?' I asked.
'Exactly,' said Mr Prempeh. 'That is it. When you write your book, Mark, perhaps you will write a chapter about me, and put that in.'
Sure thing, Mr Prempeh. There you go.