The British High Commissioner to Ghana, Jon Benjamin, has exhausted his time as UK’s representative to Ghana and our sister nations (he’s also ambassador to Togo and the Republic of Benin.)
Benjamin, an outspoken, uncompromising and often controversial personality, is going back home to London after serving his three-year term.
In many ways, Jon Benjamin is far from your average diplomat. His most distinguishing attribute from his colleagues, of course, is his constant use of Twitter, and his willingness to engage anyone and everyone who wants to cross his path on there. As forthright as he is, a few brushes with controversy was always a guaranteed outcome.
Benjamin has opinions on a wide range of issues, both those personally dear to him and those of importance to Ghanaians, and he never hesitated to share them online or in any of the press interviews he gave during his time here. Football and religion are just two of those, but politics and topical social issues were not never far behind.
For a diplomat willing to engage in daily Twitter conversations, you cannot do better than the avid West Ham fan.
Benjamin has, by all accounts, been a very effective diplomat during his three years in Ghana. But no diplomat is really remembered by the common folk after they leave due to the deals they struck or how well they related to the elite; what would make the holder of a generic position like a diplomat be memorable to the masses is what they are able to do outside their official role, and that’s where Benjamin excels.
As Jon Benjamin prepares to leave Ghana, Ghana Celebrities.Com has had a sitdown with the loquacious yet extremely eloquent diplomat. GC TV’s Nana Abena Adarkwa (Mrs) conducted the interview with GhanaCelebrities.Com‘s Managing Editor Godwin Nii-Armah Okine directing proceedings.
The GC TV team arrived at the British High Commission right on time and were directed to the conference room for the interview to set up, after undergoing all security screenings, of course. The High Commissioner arrived right on time for the interview to begin.
A smaller man than you would expect, nondescript except for his greasy hair and light skin, it’s not until Benjamin opens his mouth before one realises he’s far from ordinary.
Formal, yet effusive, he speaks in a clear voice, never a misplaced word or phrase. One gets the impression of a brain that’s quick enough to keep up with his eagerness to engage in conversation.
We asked our readers, prior to this interview, to send us their most urgent questions for the High Commissioner. A combination of those, plus some we wanted to ask, were put to Benjamin for him to give his thoughts.
As the High Commissioner, questions about the visa application process is pretty much expected. Benjamin enunciates clearly the requirements needed for one’s visitor visa to be approved.
He also took great pains to make it clear that the process applies to everyone. It’s a position he has had to repeat ad nauseam, but no one seems to believe him. To demonstrate it, he revealed that his Chilean wife had to undergo the same process as everyone else to get a visa for their return to the UK. He spent quite some money on it as well.
On the question of visa quotas, Benjamin categorically denied any such system being in place.
We proceeded to ask other important questions regarding his stay here, lessons learnt, friends and enemies made. Benjamin did not shy away from defending his opinions about the Ghana Football Association’s negligence of grassroots football and alleged corruption, which had earned him some colourful retorts from Sani Dara, the PRO of the GFA.
Benjamin decried the common practice of attacking the personality of someone raising an issue rather than responding to the issue itself.
“This attack dog mentality demeans Ghana, demeans journalism in Ghana.” he said, recollecting when Dara described him as ‘stupendously ignorant’.
The interview, which runs for about half an hour, covered other issues including the Black Stars 2018 World Cup prospects, the infamous Mahama ‘harmattan’ tweet, why there’s no refund of the visa application fee, and most importantly, whether he’ll miss Ghana or not when he leaves.
The interview came to a harmonious end with the High Commissioner trying out his Twi, to express his tremendous love for the country. “Me d0 Ghana paa”, he said, or at least tried to say.
Check out the full interview below…