An entrepreneur and Executive Chairman of the Dara Salaam Group, Alhaji Yusif Ibrahim, says he has long forgiven former President Jerry John Rawlings under whose administration his $5 million hotel was demolished.
Speaking about the issue publicly for the first time in nearly 20 years in an interview on Good Evening Ghana, a television show which was played at the launch of his autobiography, the business magnate stated that he had forgiven the former President for his wrongs against him.
“I’m not angry with Rawlings. I’m never angry with anybody. I know that whatever happens to me is determined by God, or God says it will happen. So I don’t have anything against Rawlings. I’ve no choice but to forgive him; the Quran says we should forgive and forget,” he stated.
The entrepreneur launched his 200-page autobiography, entitled Paradise is unpaved, at the Marriott Hotel in Accra last Saturday.
The book chronicles his life’s journey and legacy from a humble beginning to the owner of a conglomerate.
It recounts how Alhaji Yusif grew up in an urban slum but by dint of hard work and diligence rose to become a millionaire with multimillion dollar businesses that include real estate and the food sector.
The book also gives an insight into how he strived with nothing from Kumasi Zongo, earning him the nickname, “Zongo Boy,” to become a multi-sectoral businessman.
On Monday, April 12, 1999, while on a routine early morning walk, Alhaji Ibrahim received the disturbing news that his almost-completed ultramodern hotel, furnished and fitted with air conditioners, television sets, refrigerators, among other valuables, was being razed to the ground by some military men based on the suspicion that Alhaji was in bed with Sir Sam Jonah, considered as an “enemy of the state” at the time.
Alhaji Ibrahim later took the matter to court and was subsequently awarded a GH¢6.13 million judgement debt which was paid by the Prof. J. E. A. Mills administration in 2009.
Alhaji Ibrahim stated that he was persuaded by friends and family to publish the book for posterity.
He added that the book was also to give hope to the teeming youth from the Zongo communities whose background should never be a hindrance to the heights that they could attain.
He stressed that “Paradise is not paved. It is full of potholes but with determination and resolution you can definitely achieve whatever you want.”
ChaptersThe autobiography has been structured into eight chapters, with each chapter talking about a specific incident that occurred during the Zongo Boy’s journey to the top of the food chain.The chapters are Kumasi Zongo Childhood; Education; Entrepreneurship Journey; My Journey and Politics; Business Lessons; Philanthropy; Honours, and Personal Life.
Chapter Four of the book “My Journey and Politics” has a sub-heading “The Pier Hotel”, which gives readers a vivid account of how Alhaji’s Pier Hotel has demolished allegedly on the orders of the then President Rawlings.
While reviewing some portions of the autobiography, an economist and friend of the author, Mr Kwame Pianim, paid glowing tribute to Alhaji Ibrahim, describing him as a man whose friendship transcended tribe, religion and politics.
Mr Pianim, while touching on the Pier Hotel Saga, said: “Even though they preach that the private sector is the engine of growth, most of our governments are more disruptive of the private sector than they have been creators of the private sector and we are hoping that we learn from the past.”
A former Council of State member, Nana Prah Agyinsaim, Professor S. N. Wood, Dr Kwame Amuah, Dr Sam Jonah and Lawyer Tsatsu Tsikata all eulogised Alhaji Ibrahim, describing him as a good friend who stood beside his friends at the expense of his family and business.
Some of the guests who graced the event included former Chief of Staff, Mr Kwadwo Mpianim; a former Finance Minister, Professor Kwesi Botchwey; a former Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Collins Dauda; the Minister of Zongo Development and Inner Cities, Dr Mustapha Hamid, and the family of Alhaji Ibrahim.
Others were the Senior Minister, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo; son of Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote, Mr Mohammed Sanni Dangote, and a former Finance Minister, Mr Kwame Peprah.
The first two copies of the book were auctioned for $20,000. Proceeds from the auction will be donated to Focus Hospital, an orthopaedic health facility, and the Pediatric Oncology Unit of the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital.