Ajax Bukana and Louis Armstrong in Ghana, 1956.
His name was Ajax Bukana, a great Nigerian comedian, who naturalized as Ghanaian during Kwame Nkrumah’s era. When I was young, my father, J.N.K Savage, who was then a journalist at Guinea Press, now The Ghanaian Times, told me much about some of his colleagues, including Ajax Bukana, Kofi Badu, and Willie Donkor.
I grew up to see Mr. Willie Donkor, as the editor of ‘Weekly Spectator,’ Mr. Kofi Badu, as the Managing Director of The Daily Graphic and Ajax Bukana, as my neighbour at Dansoman Estates, near Gbegbesee-Agege, when I was living with my mother. Ajax Bukana, whose real name was James Kehinde Ajayi, was appointed Ghana’s state comedian by Kwame Nkrumah. Ajax entertained much head of states and personalities from all walks of life, including the African-America musician, Louis Armstrong (Satchmo) at the State House.
Apart from his experience as a comedian, Mr. Bukana was a talented musician who played Octobass with famous musicians, including Bobby Benson in Nigeria, before settling in Ghana. In the early eighties, I had the opportunity to visit Ajax’ family in Lagos, Nigeria, with his elder son Kwamena Ajayi Ajax. Mr. Bukana married a Sierra Leonean from the Scott family, who eventually also became a Ghanaian citizen.
In 1985, while working in Freetown, I took the opportunity to visit Ajax wife’s brother, Mr. Scott, who was then the Principal-Director of Immigration in Freetown. I remember among all the head of states after Kwame Nkrumah, Mr. Bukana was very close to Ex-president John Jerry Rawlings. On many occasion, his friend (Rawlings) advised him to retire, but Ajax’ strength, despite his ripe age wouldn’t allow him to retire.
Finally, Mr. Bukana retired and Rawlings presented to him a beautiful stool. The proud Mr.Bukana quickly called me to his house to see his gift from Rawlings. Many times we easily forget people that put happiness in our lives, but that shouldn’t be. I was very glad to watch a program recently in Ghana about Bob Cole, also a comedian and musician.
After a short illness on February 28, 2006, Mr. Bukana died at his residence at Agege, a suburb of Accra at the age of 89. His wife also deceased a couple of years ago.