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General News of Friday, 20 August 2010

Source: Awuni, Manasseh Azure

Adjase-Kodjo is the GJA Journalists of the Year!

Henking Adjase-Kodjo is the GJA Journalists of the Year!

On Saturday August 21, 2010, the boy from Bongo will have yet another opportunity to cure the remnants of his childhood kwashiorkor and immunize his future children against the protein deficiency disease. Yes, if kwashiorkor grabs you and you survive to tell your story, you’ll agree with me that poverty is concrete noun, and not an abstract noun as your English teacher told you. And if someone sends you Antoa to curse you and says, “Let him die”, it is not as painful as when he says, “Let him be poor.” But thank God, those days are gone and your boy can now dine with the big men, and Saturday is another such occasion!

The venue will be the Banquet Hall of the State House, where Ghana’s most noble and ignoble men will converge to award Stars of the Order of the Volta and Stars of Order of the Vulture. The Ghana Journalists’ Association (GJA) awards are here and it will be interesting to see the men who buy ink in barrels gather to take stock of themselves and honour outstanding performances. There will be more than enough to quaff and munch and yours truly has started fasting for the day. This will be my third consecutive GJA Awards Night since, by God’s abounding grace, I moved from the peninsular district of Kete-Krachi to Accra, thanks to the Ghana Institute of Journalism. I’m in the process of becoming a member of the GJA and next year, hey, I’ll ride a donkey from here to Bongo if, or rather when, I pick one or more of the award next year.

After the northern journalists’ awards recently, I wrote a news commentary extolling the virtues of some journalists from the savanna regions who have over the years made northerners proud. I named names such as George Sydney Abugri and Anas Aremeyaw Anas among others, and a few minutes after the news commentary was aired on GBC Radio, one of the veterans in GBC Radio Newsroom saw me and called me. He looked very serious and I wondered whether I had defamed someone in the


“Do you know of Razak El-Alawa?” he asked me when I followed him to the newsroom. I scratched my head and my mind travelled many centuries back. I had actually not met the man before, and apart from a few articles I had read in the Daily Graphic with that byline, how was a 1985-born supposed to know about him? But fortunately I remembered while sipping a bottle of alvaro at the previous GJA awards night, I saw that name repeat itself twice in the colourful brochure that carried a full list of Ghanaian journalists’ hall of fame. The man is the only three-time winner of that award, followed by Kwaku Sakyi Addo and…
“So why did you not add his name. As for George Sydney Abugri, Anas Aremeyaw Anas and those you mentioned in the commentary, when did they come? If you like, sit down and I can give you names of northern Journalists … ”

I told him that I knew Anas was from Bimbilla and Afroman Sydney Abugri was from Bawku but had no faintest idea which part of the planet Alhaji Razak was hatched. And what about the name Razak? Well, we cannot conclude that because Albert Abongo is the MP for Bongo, Kanda Bongo Man is also from Bongo.
“I should have researched further,” I admitted and that ended the argument. The man in question is not a northerner, but ask me his interest and I’ll tell you that he is proud of journalism of his days and cannot afford to hear “amateur journalists” taking credit leaving his diligent companions of yesteryears. And I must admit that it is at such occasions as the GJA awards that one meets the great writers our history.

This year’s GJA awards promises to be great. Recently I heard the GJA President, Mr. Ransford Tetteh, saying he was happy about the keen interest shown in the awards. This, to him, has confirmed that the men and women behind the keyboards and microphones have developed faith in the GJA. It is good when the competition is patronized. But I think Mr. Tetteh and his men should concern themselves with the quality of the entries and not just the quantity. They say this year has the greatest number of entries.

The Ghana Institute of Journalism’s library may not be more spacious than a big lotto kiosk, but it is home to some of the best books on journalism and communication one can ever find on Odomankoma’s planet. And one of such books I paid a penalty for returning it late is the Best Newspaper Writing published by the Poynter Institute of the USA. The book is published annually and it contains the winning and shortlisted stories of the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) annual media awards. When I compare those stories to newspaper stories that win awards here, I feel we’re still many miles away from modernity. A few newspaper writings such as our columnists (the Alomeles, Akordors, Abugris, and the Kwaku Sakyi-Addos are men of their own classes) and stories of Anas and a few can match the best anywhere. But we still have a long way to go in print journalism.

The electronic media seem to be doing better. Joy FM and Citi FM are Great. Unique FM’s Perspectives and Radio Ghana’s Ghana Today are news programmes that seem to make up for the-minister-said stories replete in their major bulletins. Metro TV seem to have enough time for their news and they carry good stories. TV3 have the best news ideas, than any media house in Ghana but they scratch the surface of the stories. Perhaps, they need to be reminded that how fast you do something will be forgotten but how well you do it will forever be remembered. GTV parades the best reporters in Ghana but their “output” is a subject of my subsequent write-ups. I sometimes wonder whether the prime time is for News or advertisement. The only station with nationwide coverage! They, too, must be reminded that the size of an animal does not matter; what matters is the taste in its soup.

Nevertheless, Saturday is going to be a great day! And the big question is who will wear the coveted crown of the GJA Journalist of the Year?
To me, the GJA Journalist of the Year should go to Mr. Henking Adjase-Kodjo! And I don’t want anybody to ask me who the hell he is, because his journalistic credentials may not fill an A4 sheet of paper. I mean Verdana font type. Font size 32. Bold. Justified! Sorry, Henking, I didn’t mean it.
Certainly, Henkings name will not be mentioned at the GJA awards. He’ll not be nominated, let alone win an award. But to the people of Odumase-Krobo in the Lower Manya Krobo of the Eastern Region, especially the current, past and future students of the Odumase Presbyterian JHS, Henking is not only the Journalist of the Year for the year under review but forever. He is their hero. He is their saviour. He has demonstrated that with the stroke of the pen, the journalist is an architect of change and development. His parents must be proud of him and so will his community. Henking has demonstrated the naked truth in my mentor Chinua Achebe’s saying, that the cock belongs to one person but its crow is the asset of the entire village. And this week that we’re about to witness the Ghanaian journalists day of honor, I don’t think there is an individual who’s worthier of my praise than Henking.
Now, the news in details, credit to GBC’s Mercy Sowah. That woman and her voice! Only God knows the number of admirers out there who tell me they feel GBC Radio news doesn’t end when she’s reading. That’s another subject for another day.
The year was 2009. Henking was a still in GIJ. He was our Clerk of the SRC General Assembly. The best we’ve had so far, and they will ever have. He was in his final year and they were on their monotonous academic writing they call thesis. Final exams were near. And a referral in one subject meant that you’ll not graduate, thanks to gatekeeper Ms. Avordeda. Familiar name, GIJ alumni?
But despite the stress of having to meet all his responsibilities in GIJ, Henking Adjase-Kodjo found time to do a series of stories on the miserable state of affairs of the Odumase Presby JHS. Seven stories in all, on the same subject! The school was built in 1888 and had not seen any renovation after 121 years of existence. So what happened? In 2008, part of the building collapsed and killed a 13-year old pupil and injured three other pupils. The rest of the building became a death trap, but the teachers and pupils had no option. So they risked their lives in there. The district assembly was too poor to help. NADMO, according to the headmaster of the school, did not pay heed to them when the school authorities reported their plight to them. The headmaster also explained that they had appealed to Ghana Cement Company Ltd (our own GHACEM) but nothing came out of it. And the central government? The Jubilee House was a priority!
But when Henking took his pen and wrote a touching story ,which presented the views of all interest groups of the school, and the Daily Graphic carried it in its May 7, 2009, edition of and there was change. Zain Ghana was touched by the story and today, the school has a new six-unit classroom block, a staff common room, a well-stocked library and a computer laboratory with internet facilities. The pupils also have new furniture. Pupils of the school now have ceiling fans above their heads, refrigerators to supply them with cold water and instead of stinky KVIPS, they can now sit on WCs and do their own thing, thanks to Zain. And thanks to Daily Graphic for carrying the story.
But the hero himself is 27 year-old Henking Adjase-Kodjo.
When last year the National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS) organized the students’ award and there was a category for Best Student Journalist, Henking was the one I tipped to win. I had presented materials from print, radio, TV and the numerous articles on the internet some people claim are “masterpieces” but the impact of Henking’s story was enormous and I confessed to him. So on that night as I sat through the well-attended NUGS Awards Night in the auditorium of Zenith College, I had only hopes for winning the Best Student Writer category because I knew Henking was in the race and since NUGS is about education, he was sure to pick it up the award for the Best Student Journalist. It was a well-attended programme, with the descendants of Eve attending in their numbers. They scooped the well-polished yam mounds on the chests and as they cat walked, they (I mean the yam mounds) vibrated provokingly. You couldn’t look away because they were everywhere. And the word “beautiful” is an understatement. Indeed, heaven will be boring! And hell?
But the night turned out to be one of the most horrific nights in my life. I didn’t get the award for the best student writer and didn’t win the best student journalist, either. So who do you think won the best student journalist award?
No! Not as you think.
Henking didn’t win. It was awarded to an Akan newscaster based in Kumasi. And I cannot hide my disdain for most of these local language newscasters anywhere. Before this guy came to pick up his award, he gave a “free-style” of the comedy they mistake for news casting and the whole hall thundered with rapturous applause. It was only then that I realized that Henking and I were too noble for those things they called awards. Where ignorance is bliss… One of the panelists who did the selection later told me that after the panel had all agreed to award some of us, the NUGS executive went and sat somewhere and came out with a different list, saying the “Council of Elders” of NUGS had the final say as to who won what.
It was therefore no wonder that after the “newscaster’s” praise had subsided, a loud voice pierced through the auditorium like a spear, “SAKAWA AWARDS.” And guess who owned that voice? It was our own Nana Darkwa Baafi, JJ Rawling’s good friend. But he was 101% right on this occasion. Like a Liverpool fan, he didn’t walk alone.
But on the day of his congregation the Ghana Institute of Journalism honoured Henking. He was adjudged the Most Inspiring Student and a citation was read for him. What about GJA?
But on Saturday night if what happened in 2007 should happen again, I’ll have a say in who becomes the GJA journalist of the year. I still remember that night very vividly, as vividly as the day I broke my code. I mean the day you broke your virginity, your dignity.
The GJA Vice President, Mr. Roland Affail Monney was asked to come and declare the Journalist of the Year. And he obliged. Spotting a neat, dark suit, he daintily mounted the podium and the whole State Banquet Hall died. The public address system used was very lousy but on this occasion, his voice seemed to reach every corner of the hall even if the microphone was taken away from him. The clink of the glasses could be heard far away as worshipers of booze decided to respect the silence and momentarily placed them on the tables. Nigerians have a proverb that: “When a soup is unpalatable, and the paste of the pounded yam that goes with it is not smooth, that is the time to know a man who loves to eat pounded yam.” But I say that it is when there is excess booze at a state function that we know true “boozemen.” But on this occasion, everybody respected the silence and the sound of Mr. Affail Monney’s voice rang out like the St. Michael’s Catholic Church bell in Kete-Krachi. He spoke for some time. And we listened, like a spellbinding sermon of salvation delivered to people about to face firing squad. Then he dropped the cluster bombshell! No journalist had written anything sensible enough to be named GJA Journalist of the Year.
The news was that there was no news! Period.
But this year, when such a thing should repeat itself, I will rise up and shout at the GJA officers like the way Representative Joe Wilson shouted at Obama.
“You lie! The GJA Journalist of Year is Mr. Henking Adjase-Kodjo, a freelancer for the Daily Graphic. Hurray!” The only difference will be that I won’t go back to apologise as Rep. Joe Wilson did.

Long live journalism.

Long live Ghanaian journalists who exercise our press freedom responsibly.
Credit: Manasseh Azure Awuni [] Email: Writer is a young freelance journalist based in Accra, Ghana. To read more of his writing, visit: