Komla’s passing reveals the death of social etiquette

In the sober hours of January 18th, social media ignited with news that acclaimed news anchor, Komla Dumor, was dead. Initially, I thought it was a rumor but as Facebook evolved into a virtual tombstone, I knew it had to be true. The reaction was swift. Ghanaians around the globe responded with sympathetic posts and tear-jerking hashtags. But gradually, the tenor of grief turned sour.

We replaced our polite ‘rest in peace’ platitudes with blatant questions about the cause of death and what he could have done differently. We could not believe that a seemingly healthy 41-year-old could die of cardiac arrest so we dissected his diet and his personal life and drew cringe-worthy conclusions. First, we accused the BBC. The job was overwhelming. Zigzagging from Marrakech to Soweto reporting on Africa was too much for one person… Then, we turned on him and chided him for the very reasons we admired him. He worked too hard; he was too ambitious, this is what happens when young people chase money…

The level of insensitivity peaked when someone in Komla’s inner circle leaked a personal message that detailed the complex dynamics of his job and his alarming blood pressure level. In minutes, what was supposed to be a heart-to-heart between trusted friends became fodder for Facebook pundits. On a day that the Dumor family must have been feeling most vulnerable, our lack of empathy was at an all time high. In another insensitive moment, a Ghanaian woman published pictures of the deceased’s children accompanied by a post calling on all wives to see Komla’s death as a wakeup call to purchase blood pressure machines. She opined that women who did not monitor their husbands’ blood pressure would have to assume responsibility if their husbands died. Her tactless rant ended with unsettling insinuations about Komla’s widow. The last I checked, the post had nearly 200 ‘likes’.

Not to be outdone, a group called the Young Liberals Party of Ghana sent an opinion piece to ghanaweb.com entitled “Dumor is dead and so?” The distasteful heading was matched by a poorly written article urging Ghanaians to focus on political issues instead of mourning Komla. After reading that piece and various Facebook posts, I have to ask, what happened to basic etiquette? What ever happened to being respectful of the dead and their families? Social media has given us an unfettered platform to share our thoughts, but increasingly, it has become a tool to tear people down when they are at their lowest. So as a grieving family prepares to bury a beloved father and son, I do not question what Komla could have done differently, instead, I wonder what I could have done differently.

I did not know Komla but, I knew his voice. It was compelling and convincing. From my TV, I got to know his smile - it beamed of promise. His friends speak of his infectious humor and his heartwarming charm. At the same time, he was a driven individual who anchored his talent in hard work. For that, he was rewarded with an unprecedented promotion from Ghana’s Joyfm to the BBC where his knack for connecting with people resurrected fledging shows like ‘Africa Business Report’ and ‘Focus on Africa’. Last year, rumors swelled that he had been called to join President Mahama’s government but that gathered no steam. In his circle, we heard whispers of presidential ambitions. After all, with his international acclaim, a win was inevitable… The thought of what such a talented and accomplished man could have been is what makes Komla’s death heart breaking.

He was well-groomed, well-spoken and committed to telling positive stories about Africa. I was proud of him, but, I never told him. We had enough mutual friends that I could have easily sent him a personal email with the simple words: “I am so proud of you!” But, I didn’t – he’s too big to be reading emails from fans, I thought. Boy was I wrong. The last message Komla posted on twitter were “thanks v v much that’s v kind of you”. It was to a fan. Now I wish I had not admired him from a distance.

For me, Komla’s sudden death will always be a somber reminder to reach out to people I admire and encourage them with edifying words - they may not be around tomorrow.

Dear Komla,

I am soo proud of you.



76 thoughts on “Komla’s passing reveals the death of social etiquette

  1. Amma your commentary gives us much food for thought. Indeed freedom of speech in its various forms, also on social media networks has taken a different turn. Welcome to the cruelty people can inflict either deliberately or otherwise, that is the true picture of the world we live in. It take posts like yours to tug us back into ‘finnesse’. That was a great piece. Thank you!

  2. Spot on, Amma. You know my thoughts on this topic. You know, also, how proud I am of you. Keep on blazing the trail, my friend. Blessings.

  3. This is a wake up call to the way social media is being used, just because we all have opinions does not mean we can go ahead and give it without considering how the next person is going to take it. Its becoming increasingly appalling at some of the things people can write on social media simply because they have access to the Internet and have the right to voice their opinion We must remember our rights to speak ends where another person’s rights begins. Thank you Amma!

    • It is a wake up call indeed. We live in an ‘instant’ world and because of that we don’t think before we type. Driven by that instant mode, I sometimes have to catch myself and reword a post. Thank you for ur note

  4. it doesn’t take much to own and operate a device that enables a person vomit whatever is in their pedestrian mind online…

  5. Amma - I don’t know you but you have hit the nail on the head. We just don’t like to see people shine for too long. I wish you enormous success in everything you do and I will look for your posts now. I like the way it made me think, its engaging and very well put. Well done -my new found shero. Lily

    • Lily, I hope you keep coming back. Don’t forget to also share your candid thoughts whether you agree with me or it. It is the only way i can get better

      • lily, we dont like to see people rise above us and also we have the ability to create stories and mystery out of nothing and it really does not matter who we hurt in the process. a little thought and putting ourselves in someone’s shoes will help a lot of people.

  6. Excellent blog. Worthy tribute. Lets learn to tell people when they do well and semonstrate the responsiblities wrought on by freedom of speech. Thank you.

  7. Dear Amma,

    Thank you for saying what I did not have the guts to say or maybe i didnt because I wouldn’t have responded with such calm and politeness. We need more people like you to calm our hot heads.

    Some people lack tact. I hope to meet Komla’s widow (Kwansema) one day to give her a nice warm hug. I will give her one for you too.


  8. I knew komla well….and his wife too. I agree with you. I will also say that I know the person or at least one of the people who disclosed the personal info that komla had shared with them about some of his health issues and can also say that the person did not mean any harm. It was his immediate reaction to something he could not understand. Unfortunately people just ran with it and gave different interpretations to it. My view is that people talk too much and you would cringe at the things that people have not had the courage to say publicly! What we have to understand is that people either die of something or nothing. People who have never smoked die of lung cancer…etc so my heart is still broken and why he died won’t make me feel any better. He was a great guy and just like the rest of us he was human. I don’t care if he was ambitious, or was chasing money, or ill. He shouldn’t have died and his family sure don’t deserve this.

    • Baaba, Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Your post makes me feel for Komla’s family but also for his friend who inadvertently shared the post. He must be torn apart with guilt. I believe you when you say he meant no harm, tell him not to dwell on it. I am sure Komla has forgiven him. I hope in the coming weeks and years, we all remember Komla for the good that he did.

  9. Amma… Great piece. You succinctly conveyed the thoughts of many well mannered people . I am proud of you and I admire the wisdom and tact with which you approached this issue. Beyond the sky should be your limit. God bless you!

  10. Extraordinary ! Your words have perfectly clothed the emotions that most of us have had in regard to those distasteful posts written about Komla’s passing. Thank you Amma. Komla would have been proud to have you as his friend.

  11. Like you, I was close enough to know Komla but never did. Your words speak for quite a number of us, thanks for taking the time to write (and rewrite - smile). First time on ur blog, first time reading your writing, and certainly not the last.

  12. I am proud of you, Amma. I, usually, would have read quietly and ‘let it pass’ without comment but your well-thought-out, well-written food for thought struck a chord with me. Proud daughter of our Motherland, keep on making us proud. May Komla’s passing spur us all on to reach greater heights in our various fields of endeavour. Brilliant piece, Amma; And an equally enchanting smile!

  13. Amma, well done for a lovely and well expressed article. People seem to think that we will live forever and yet, people have been dying since creation. Some die this way and others another. It is good to look after your health but, in my experience, I have not seen that it guarantees anything. It is human for us to aspire to live as long as we can but we tend to miss the legacy that Komla left for us: To do the very best we can in life. To achieve as much as we possibly can with our lives and thank God for granting us life.

  14. Good one Amma.

    He was a dear and good friend and we all have to accept that Komla, like Madiba, has become public property. He has become a role model for people on the globe. And by having become that there will be rumour mongers and plain assholes who talk through their asses where their only brain cells are located.

    Like us all Komla had his weaker side, but his “power” was greater than 99% of us all.

    Komla my dear friend R.I.P!

    Loved you and still love you!

  15. Very well written piece. I too was his admirer from a distance and wish I’d reached out to say how proud I was and how much he inspired me. But I’m taking cue from your article and hence why I am commenting to commend you on this well written piece . Kudos!

  16. Great post. We must learn to rediscover our sensitive especially when dealing with people facing difficult times. It’s too late for your message to reach Komla now.

  17. Thank you very much, Amazing Amma. I remember how I got into a rather nasty argument with one of those ‘wise, know-it-all’ people who seemed to know even better than God as regards Komla’s death. You have said what I didn’t quite have the words nor the finesse to say. I celebrate your skill.

  18. I am so happy you captured my very sentiments. I was also one of those few who felt my comments wouldn’t mean anything to him so I always admired him from a distance. Now my perception has changed completely. Well done Amma!

  19. You are so right Amma. There you go saying it all. Very tactful and so well mannered. I hope this teaches us all a big lesson that we appreciate those who have raised the banner of Ghana high and be very sensitive to people as well. Komla is gone and so painful. We ask so many questions……if only that could bring him back. The question now is what are we doing with our lives? Are we impacting lives? May The Lord help us! No one knows when. Great Piece Amma. Remain blessed! And oh I am very proud of you.

  20. I’m still tripping over the woman and her blood pressure campaign! Grief and shock manifest themselves in different ways, but as you say, we must still remember respect for the dead and their loved ones while we grieve. You already know I’m proud of you. I’ll just see myself out of the echo chamber now.

  21. Amma,

    A well written piece. However, aside the unfortunate article from the “Young Liberals Party of Ghana”. I beg to differ with your opinion.

    I was fortunate to have met Komla and though I cannot go as far as to say that I knew him very well, I am sure that as a journalist, he would have been appalled if we did not question his sudden death. After all, he was the very one travelling world asking those difficult questions of others. It is only proper that when someone we care about and respect so much dies, we question the causes and see if lessons can be learned.

    It is has nothing do with jealousy or seeking ill of anyone. Any death at age 41 raises eyebrows and though we are mere mortals and as a Christian I believe only God can determine whether we live or die, he has also given us the opportunity to have physicians and health professionals on earth to guide us through our well-being. Komla shared his health concerns on facebook as if he wanted us to be aware of his ailments so please bear with us if we analyse these after his sudden demise.

    He was a journalist who would have tasked himself to find the answers to help Ghanaians understand things if anyone else had died under same circumstances as he did.

    May his soul rest in peace but let also learn from all that we can do to avoid some of his concerns.

    • @Lyssiemay, You make a fair point but when raising questions, we have to bear in mind the timing and the avenue. I believe that the accusatory and unempathetic posts were distasteful, especially hours after his death. I don’t remember Komla publishing a post about his health, I believe someone else did, but I am open to correction. When tragedy befalls another, we tend to forget the good they did and zoom in on their weaknesses. Komla like all of us had his flaws but, he made an entire continent proud and I wanted to draw attention to that.

  22. Hi Amma,

    I have heard much about you and I am glad a friend sent me this link. An extremely well written piece. I hope to be able to catch up on most of your articles. I wish you the courage and strength to keep writing.

  23. Hi Amma, Very Good piece; Superbly wriiten ( and succinct.too). Your call for social etiquette & decorum is well noted .But perhaps the biggest ‘call to action’ is in the admonition contained in your last paragraph. Let’s celebrate /encourage each other more.

    Will be checking in on your page from time to time ( got the link from a friend yesterday).

    Keep reppin GH & Africa

  24. Amma….very well written piece. Thanks for capturing our sentiments in your piece. Like wise i could have shared a kind word of encouragement on Komla’s page while he was alive, but never did. I join you in saying, (albeit too late) Komla, i am proud of you! May the Lord guide you on your journey to heaven and keep you close to Him forever.

    I am proud of you Amma. Take care…..

  25. Amma, this is a great piece. I love the fact that you take time to reply every mail. It makes some of us feel closer to you guys and learn from. KOMLA is proud of you and I am too.

  26. Well said Amma, “Social media has given us an unfettered platform to share our thoughts, but increasingly, it has become a tool to tear people down when they are at their lowest. “

  27. Well said Amma and thank you. Funny enough, Komla and I became good friends because when I first moved back to Ghana I insisted on meeting him. He’d inspired me from his seat behind the microphone on the Super Morning Show. Thank you for standing up for him and his family here. And in the spirit of edification… I am really proud of you. Ayekoo!!

    • @Irma. I miss you very much. Thank you for your uplifting words. Losing a friend like him can’t be easy. I hope his work inspires Ghanaians and Africans to be as bold as he was.

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