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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

Ghana: The Auditor-General

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.'

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.

Prempeh Towers

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.

The Auditor-General

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.

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.

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.

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.