The other day I read about the institution of an inaugural memorial lecture in honour of the late Kojo Bentsi-Enchill.
I cannot claim to have known him better than others or to have been closer to him than most. Neither did I work at Bentsi-Enchill, Letsa & Ankomah (BELA), the pre-eminent law firm that he founded. Yet, he remains for me a figure whose words and deeds towards me, will inspire me forever.
Impressed by what I had heard about him, I invited Mr. Bentsi-Enchill, as a panellist on my radio show in the year 2000. I had not by then started my law studies. He had a fatherly disposition and answered every question with equanimity.
Our paths did not cross for another three years or so until I, together with Esine Okudzeto, who was one year ahead of me, went to his law firm to seek sponsorship to enable us to represent the University of Ghana, Legon at a moot court competition in Cameroun. Kimathi Kuenyehia, who was mates with Esine, and who was originally billed to be her teammate, had pulled out of the event, for personal reasons.
He recommended me as his replacement. Mr. Bentsi-Enchill kindly gave us a donation.
In 2005, (I graduated in 2004) Anas Aremeyaw Anas accompanied me to the Great Hall to receive the Bentsi-Enchill Prize for being adjudged the Best Graduating Student in Law at the University of Ghana, Legon. The prize certificate came with a cash cheque, issued by Mr. Bentsi-Enchill. As he would explain to me, years later, the prize was in honour of his late father.
Upon my call to the Bar in 2006, I nearly went to work at BELA. Ace Anan Ankomah, a partner at the firm, with whom I used to have ear-jarring debates about whether his Mfantsipim or my Achimota was better, had offered me an opportunity. However, when my former law lecturer, Mr. Fui Tsikata, gave me a position at Reindorf Chambers, his University of Oxford credentials, his manifest brilliance in class and a significantly higher salary, got me to opt for Reindorf.
In 2013, as a Master of Laws (LL.M.) student at Harvard Law School, I was overcome with pride, when a librarian at the Langdell Hall announced that students could conduct research on the laws of Ghana using the Data Center database, Mr. Bentsi-Enchill’s brainchild.
On my return to Ghana, I got into the habit of regularly publishing articles on corporate governance, in the Daily Graphic, with the intention of sharing my newly acquired knowledge with policymakers, lawyers and the public.
In 2015, at an event organised by the Ghana Bar Association at the La Palm Royal Beach Hotel, I made sure to attend a session where Mr. Bentsi-Enchill delivered a paper. He spotted me sometime after his lecture and said, “Youngman, I have been reading your articles in the Daily Graphic. Stop by the office on Friday and let’s have a discussion.”
This invitation marked the beginning of a new relationship with a man I admired greatly. At that first meeting, we mainly discussed company law reform in Ghana. He wanted to introduce me to Mr. Seth Asante, a partner at the firm. I informed him that I already knew Mr. Asante and that he had taught me Company Law at the Ghana School of Law. He insisted but when we got to his office, Mr. Asante was not there.
I later sent Mr. Bentsi-Enchill, an academic article by Professor S.K. Date-Bah, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court of Ghana, on company law reform. I had discovered it at Harvard for my LL.M. paper. In reply, he sent me an article by Prof. L.C.B. Gower.
He told me about an aspiration that had ended in disappointment. He wanted me to be involved in legal education in Ghana and got me to perform a few assignments in that direction. He also wanted me to help to craft world-class examination questions for Company Law, but we did not commence that exercise.
He gave me nagging rights to push him to complete certain written assignments. I tried but I could not master the habit of simply referring to him as Kojo, although he always insisted on it. In writing this piece I have looked at some of the emails we exchanged, and I cannot help but wonder why he was so friendly towards me.
He also telephoned or sent an email to express his displeasure whenever I was unable to perform some of the academic assignments that he made sure were sent my way.
One day he looked me in the eye and declared, “You are pregnant with another Bentsi-Enchill (law firm). The problem is that you don’t know how to birth it.” He proceeded to tell me what to do in that direction and surprised me when he said, “If all that does not result in what I envisage, I will reimburse you from my own pocket.”
He seemed to have more faith in me than I had in myself. On another occasion, he tried to send some foreign clients my way because he was “conflicted.”
At the launch of my book, “Corporate Governance: The Boardroom, The Bottom Line & Beyond,” he gave a kind speech in which he christened me, “Professor,” for taking a difficult subject and making it as simple as possible.
There once lived a man, far greater than me, who made me feel important and who freely gave me the blueprint for the possible next chapter. May his life inspire the present and future generations. RIP, Kojo!