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Opinions of Friday, 14 May 2021

Columnist: Nana Quame Owusu-Nti

This republic called Ghana: Where every institution think of themselves so powerful

Ghana is all we have so let's strive to make it better Ghana is all we have so let's strive to make it better

This republic called Ghana... no one seems to be concerned that the said place where the journalist took pictures is supposed to be a national security zone. Assuming there weren’t any signage that prohibit the taking of pictures there, is it not in our own interest to prioritize the protection and security of such zones?

When, especially, ours is a country where people cannot be easily identified and if care isn’t taken, anyone can just barge into a facility and cause harm before we could say, Jack!

Suffice it to say, the journalist lied to the security officials in the first place, claiming he had an appointment with someone, which turns out to be untrue. Unless we wanna say that because he’s a journalist, lying his way into a national security area is allowed. The journalist “claims” some of the pictures he took might have included other structures or items, but no one sees that to be disturbing...

Although the journalist wasn’t on assignment, he saw the need to forward all the pictures and videos to a colleague in the studio... to what end?

Interestingly, whiles the said journalist was in the custody of national security, the security were making plans to kidnap the colleague who the pictures and videos were forwarded to... through a chat which is being suggested to us now, to have come not from the journalist, but the security.

How smart on the part of security conscious people!!!

And he got slapped, kicked, punched, and beaten mercilessly every where he was taken, even in the open... even to the point where he collapsed (partially) but thankfully, and by the mercies and protection from God, besides the internal pains, which is very difficult to ascertain, he came out unscathed, at least, not with any cuts, swellings, fractures, not a red eye from the heavy slap he is supposed to have received from the back.

Yes, it’s without doubt that the colleagues who saw him in real time, are not medical experts, but with such manhandling and physical abuse, he was observed to be in good “shape”, just a little disoriented, as claimed by one of his superiors.

In fact, when asked if something had happened to him, after his release, he is said to have suggested that he was very ok, just a little traumatized, upon which his superiors suggested he went home to shower and take some rest. Not a whisper, either remote or real, of what might have ensued as has been “packaged” and sold to us day(s) after.

How strange and convenient that a superior who says he was not privy to any of the physical abuse allegations being levelled against officers of the national security, all of a sudden gets so worked up and angry, yelling through the roof and claiming, “how could you manhandle a journalist for just taking pictures?” How could they have beaten Caleb, kicked and slapped him even when he’s in cuffs? How could you say, you’re appalled at the way they beat him? Didn’t this superior just confirm right before making these allegations, that nothing like that was reported to them on the very day?

And even when he was there with some other colleagues they never witnessed anything suggesting that such narrative had happened to the journalist? Why all of a sudden this has become the narrative, needs further interrogation.

And, was the tribal card being played here? The way the journalist was stressing and emphasizing the names of those officers he alleges were torturing him, I knew something was up in the air... and BOOM!!! There he goes with the tribal thing... assuming without admitting the officers asked where the journalist works and subsequently, where he’s from, what will make him think that “if I say I am a voltarian, they will “beat me more?”

Why would they do that? What will be their motivation to do so? Was he detained for lying to a public officer and secretly taking pictures of a national security premises, or because of his person and their hatred for him?
Is this another way to court sympathy and heighten public anger against those officials? Is he by this telling us that the beatings minimized because he said he was from Cape Coast? Because once again, an unknown and unidentifiable officer retorted that “we cape coasters aren’t like that ooo.” What has your tribe got to do with your work and engagement with National Security? How ridiculous and preposterous!

Oh, he even showed his ID as a journalist... fair for identification purposes but I don’t wanna believe for a microsecond that it is suggestive of the fact that, that should have settled the matter, or led the security officials to deal with him differently from how they would any other citizen who had trespassed their mandate or what they are allowed to do... on a National Security property.

Do you have an idea what that portends for us as a country if people are allowed to use National Security premises as thoroughfare and take pictures and recordings just because they have ID’s or because they belong to an “untouchable” profession?

What are ID’s after all... are they not one of the easiest things one can come by without breaking a sweat? How many stories haven’t we heard of people, usually criminals, holding fake ID’s including passports, and parading themselves as people they are not? By the way, which “serious” criminal commits a crime or before doing so, presents legit credentials or identification without disguising themselves?

Those who do not have ID’s engage in impersonating others. Just ask our MP’s, Ministers, Artistes, creative arts industry players, and a host of others, if they have not been impersonated before? So please, showing an ID because you’re a journalist should not be a passport for one to be treated differently from the rest of us, should we fall foul to laws or conventions... and before you tell me conventions aren’t laws, remember that even the greatest nations on earth like the UK and USA we are quick to compare ourselves to, have a plethora of conventions that they live by.

But in all honesty, irrespective of whose argument is gaining currency or makes good sense, regardless of who wants to achieve what motive, or what agenda is put in motion, two things are very clear which ought not be disregarded, misconstrued, misconceived, twisted, or obfuscated.

1.Journalists should know that notwithstanding their work being very critical and pivotal to our development as a nation, there are equally other important agencies, sectors, institutions, etc. through which’s work we can all build the nation we crave for. As such, we must all respect the rules of engagement, and even where we aren’t sure, apply discretion, finesse, and common sense, not to always see our profession as the only one that can engage in whatever we deem necessary to achieve an end; not to dabble in sensationalism and “gotcha” kinda moments.

And most importantly, when we fault we should be willing to accept and apologize unreservedly, and not try to justify our acts and seek public sympathy by trumpeting what wrong the other “person” agency, or institution might have committed whiles responding or reacting to us.

2.It is totally uncalled for, needless, and shameful, to say the least, for 21st century law enforcement officials and agencies to engage in such alleged “brutalities” even if someone has committed a heinous crime. They could have still managed to elicit any information they wanted, without having to put up a scene as they are being accused of. If it is training and retooling of some of their “primitive” tactics that they need to do, that must be done quick and fast! Ghana is beyond this and any such act that casts a slur on our governance and democratization should not be countenanced, but be rejected with the speed of light!

Again, it is high time the National Security outfit, if they do not have any better communication outfit to attend to issues of national interest, must as a matter of urgency, restructure that outfit and employ communication professionals to manage their communication, especially, in matters that are of concern to the citizenry.

And ensure that they offer some explanations to the public, so as to ease pressure on governments, who then have to rely on its communicators to try to explain things thus, taking the stress, burden, and sometimes blame from the national security outfit unto the government. Should they be required to account for their own deeds and face the pressure, I believe they will act in moderation and be measured when they engage in such acts.

Let’s always remember that in all that we do, the interest of Ghana should be our priority. No organization should see themselves as “think gods” who ought to be obeyed and feared because what they say is sacrosanct. Nor, any institution should think of themselves so powerful that they can subject everyone to submission and fear even if it means dehumanizing and subjecting people to unfair treatment, even if they’ve gone contrary to our laws.

Let’s inculcate the attitude of Ghana first; let’s learn to live to make Ghana better and not our personal parochial interest and self aggrandizement; let’s learn to know, respect and live within our limits and above all, never forget that no one amongst us, irrespective of our profession, status, or privilege, is above the laws and regulations. We have a country to build, and it will take none other but ourselves to build that. Yen ara y’asaase ni...!!!

Nothing can be attempted if all objections must be overcome first.

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