If I would not be (mis)taken for exaggeration, I would have said that almost every blessed day I get no less than two people asking me the same questions I have been asked repeatedly.
“Are you NAM1? Is he your brother?” people whom I never knew before would just ask me on my first time meeting them. On January 23, 2019, I passed through the domestic terminal of the Kotoka International Airport [KIA] as I checked in for a flight en route Tamale in the Northern Region. One of the security personnel at the check-in point signaled that I dropped in a bowl my cell phones, wallet and such belongings for screening. I obliged.
Then, a man of about 38 years old – being one of the security officials – would engage me even after they were done searching me.
“Are you NAM1?” he asked.
“No, boss,” I replied him.
“Wow! Do you relate him? Your surname is even Mensah?” he probed further.
I had told him that the Chief Executive Officer of the gold dealership firm, Menzgold, Nana Appiah Mensah [popularly known as NAM1] was not somebody I had ever met before let alone being my relative.
Then, again, jokingly, he said with a bit of seriousness in his voice that if I had landed from an international flight at the KIA, he would have arrested me because – for him – I was NAM1. Can you imagine?
To my surprise, on my second time using the domestic terminal at the KIA for another trip to Tamale, an official at the airline Passion Air – a lady – said to me she found it difficult asking me on my first flight if I were NAM1. I was not surprised. As I have alluded to, I get this kind of question and interrogation daily. On this same second time of going to Tamale, on my return to Accra, another official at Passion Air’s desk at the Tamale Airport named Prince Curls Wilson said to me he wanted to ask me a question, after he had checked my pass.
“Sir, sorry oo, I wanted to ask you something on the last time you used the [Tamale] Airport but I could not gather the courage to do so. Please, are you NAM1 or do you relate him?”
Mr. Wilson would later tell me that NAM1 used to travel to Tamale which got him a bit closer to him [NAM1]. They share a kind of working relations. Yet, seeing me, he could not differentiate between his friend and me.
In May 2019, I went to the then Accra Polytechnic now Accra Technical University’s printing pool. I was there to print a manuscript. Following the numerous questions on my resemblance with NAM1, I now would walk carrying my 3FM/TV3 ID card on me and, indeed, I had it when I went to the Accra Technical University that day.
“Hey! Who are those owned by NAM1? Come for your money oo he is here at long last,” a lady – whose printing shop I had entered – shouted so loud that I thought she spoke through a megaphone. This was a young lady I never knew before.
That took me about two minutes virtually begging the lady that I am not the Menzgold CEO and that she was putting my life in danger considering that hundreds of students were around.
Dear NAM1, if I mean to recount every single encounter I have had with Ghanaians mistaking me for you, I guess I would need a full month to do so. Several times, I have been warned and admonished by friends to be careful – especially when in town – so people do not pounce on me. Hence, my carrying of my workplace’s ID card in my pocket even to church, at times.
Of a truth, at a point in time, the pressure of a possible attack on me was so much that I thought of reporting myself to the police so – perhaps – they issued a disclaimer on my behalf.
On Wednesday, July 17, 2019, a group calling itself Aggrieved Customers of Menzgold held a press conference. They had one main thing to say, they need their locked-up investments refunded to them.
“We want to hear from NAM1, we have supported him all this while and it is time we hear from him…we want to demand from the CID that we want to meet Nana Appiah Mensah in person. Wherever he is, he needs to address us as leaders of Menzgold customers.
“If it is not a deliberate attempt on the part of the government to shield and protect Nana Appiah Mensah to loot and create and share our investments, then this is the time that the government should be transparent…and let us know what is happening with our investments,” the customers fumed as reported by the starrfm.com.gh.
‘My brother, NAM1,’ I must say it is refreshing seeing you return to Ghana. Good name, the old adage says, is better than riches and for that you must endeavour to save yourself the tag of defrauding your clients. Ironically, I also get people asking me the question, “So, when are you paying your clients?”
We understand that you won your case in Dubai. That is fine. I would entreat you to, as a matter of urgency, pay your clients with whatever money you got from Dubai. Even if it means selling some properties you have to add up to the settlement of your debt, I think it will go a long way to clear your name.
The good news, however, is that some of your clients still believe Menzgold was and is never a Ponzi scheme. They rather say, it is government who is to blame for their woes. This suggests that you have an appreciable level of sympathy and trust from a section of the public. If you are able to defray your debt, I think, history will remember you as the man who supposedly fell from grace to grass and rose up again with the growing speed of the Chinese bamboo tree.
And when this happens, you would not only save yourself but people like me. In my neighbourhood – somewhere in Accra – a woman who sells foodstuffs now looks at me with the corners of her eyes whenever I go to buy from her.
NAM1, when the Ghana Police Service declared you wanted and the media splashed your photos, this woman had a copy of an edition of the Daily Graphic at her shop. You were on the front page of the paper and she asked me why I was all over even in the newspapers. Fortunately, she could not read the Daily Graphic so she did not understand what the issue was. But, sadly, after probably watching the Akan-speaking television stations, she now [till date] says I am the one in the news and that people need their monies.
It has been but God’s grace that I am not hurt by any of your aggrieved customers in your long absence. The ball is fully in your court now and Operation Calm Hearts must begin now!
By Solomon Mensah
The writer is a broadcast journalist with Media General (TV3/3FM). Views expressed here are solely his and do not, in anyway, reflect the editorial policy of his organisation.