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Opinions of Thursday, 29 April 2010

Columnist: Awuni, Manasseh Azure

A Critique by an Avid Reader

Ato Kwamena Dadzie’s Writings: A Critique by an Avid Reader

He is a hunted hunter, an often criticized critic. Though some of us have had a couple of rejoinders to our articles, Ato Kwamena Dadzie receives more than just rejoinders. On many (I nearly used several) occasions, he himself has become the subject of attack from people who think Ato oversteps his boundaries and has remained a restless torn in their flesh.

Some months ago Ato Kwamena Dadzie was at the receiving end. One Prince Kumah could not understand why Ato Kwamena Dadzie would not rest until he heard that there was a ministerial reshuffle in which one name did not resurface - Zita. The words were as poisonous as hemlock and if they were to be uttered, it would only take Dutch courage spit out that venom. “Ato Kwamena Dadzie, Grow up or shut up!” was the title of his article.

“I want you to know that, no individual has monopoly over foul language,” he warns, and goes ahead to commit worse of the “crime” he accuses Ato of committing. The last time I checked, the anti and pro-Ato Kwamena Dadzie comments were competing. This reminded me of a popular army officer who was posted to Operation Gongong in Kete-Krachi in the mid-1990s after the Guinea Fowl War. “Owo mpo wo ne dofo” was his nick name, meaning even the snake has its lover. But is Ato Kwamena Dadzie really a venomous snake as his critics say he is?
He is a daredevil. He musters a lot of courage (may be etew courage). He is also a good writer! Even those who are implacably opposed to Usain Bolt must not fail to acknowledge his speed. His article I have read and enjoyed most was “Kofi Boakye in a Limbo: Let Him Stay there.” The “learned” man, despite the up and downs in the cocaine saga had graduated from the Ghana Law School with what would have countless clients queuing for his service in court. After that strongly worded article Ato was brave enough to challenge him to meet him in court. Ato used his words advisedly and did not sound offensive though the content was bitingly critical. I admired his courage and waited for headlines such as “Ato Kwamena Dadzie Dragged to Court” or “At Last, Ato Humbled” but they never came.

But I have my own reservations about Ato Kwamena Dadzie. In a piece titled “Huhuu-hu Doesn’t Do Me Hu”, Ato spoke strongly against those who insulted him because of his looks. I sympathized with him. And so did a good number of readers.

It wasn’t long when an untouchable former tin god in the Osu Castle was invited by the malevolent witch doctors to account for some of the coins that that passed through his hands when he was the second most important personality of the land aside Kufuor. Then there was this mob, made up of fat bellied former ministers of state and some youth who didn’t know where their next meal would come from, who thronged the BNI. Ato wrote a piece titled: “NPP storms BNI: The height of irresponsibility” on June 3, 2009. It was in that article that Ato did the polar opposite of what he had abhorred in a previous article.
He writes: “Kwadwo Mpiani is nicknamed the ‘headmaster’. That name, which he seldom objects to, has as much to do with the shape of his head as with how he ran roughshod over almost every minister in the Kufuor administration.”
Fortunately, there were people who had read what Ato had condemned and therefore expressed their surprises, through the comments they left on Ato’s blog. Here are a couple of the unedited comments.

20. TOJO: 03 Jun 2009 | 08:00 AM

“I remember i posted a comment here to encourage to ignore people who insult u cos of your looks. but now i am a bit taken aback as it seems to ME that u r doing the same to the former chief of staff. why should it be ok for u to insult somebody based on his looks when just days ago u were preaching against it?”
Ato's Response
“All I said in that piece, actually, was that anyone can insult me all they want. And I haven't insulted Mr. Mpiani here. I am just stating a fact! In any case, my head is no better than his”
Another one writes:
03 Jun 2009 | 05:12 AM
“Any writer is supposed to be a thinker. You dont write out of sheer emotion, fustration or desperation. Ato,you dont ever write anything without first making silly jokes about people. Is your head any nicer than Mpiani's?. The man used to powerful and is being called to answer questions and so what?. Were we all not in this country when Tsatsu was made a hero? I guess you had run out of ink then. Thank God you can only deceive your insignificant gang of sycophants. Your haste to speak without consideration will be your downfall”
Ato's Response

“Behind my favourite "trotro" is an inscription: "The downfall of a man is not the end of his life". So you go and write out of whatever you want to write out of whiles I become the architect of my downfall.”

Does Ato’ really mean to become the architect of his downfall? Our old sages say what will eventually kill a man first breaks sticks into his ears.
Ato can never write to please everyone. It is hypocrites who live that way, but they end up pleasing nobody. Besides, he can choose who to criticize and no one must dictate who or what to criticize. In the words of Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafo: “…the greatest test of democracy is to tolerate opinions that we hate to hear. Criticism is criticism and no one must define what others must say, so far as they do not act illegally.” Ato can therefore write what he chooses to write, but he must not insult elderly people like Kojo Mpiani and say he is stating a fact.
Besides the fact that public office holders are people we must hold in high esteem, they are also human beings who are entitled to be treated with respect and dignity. To insult a man who is old enough to be your father just because he is a public office holder is an irresponsible use of the freedom of speech. It is not part of our cultural values and in as much as my big brother Ato Kwamena Dadzie would like to be humorous, he should put himself in the shoes of the children of such officials, if not they themselves.
Ato writes well and criticizes constructively but if he changes his choice of words, he will be one of the finest writers we upcoming journalists will look up to.
When I started, I was writing just like anyhow until Gifty Anti of GTV drew my attention to it. She had just finished hosting the Breakfast Show and had found my article titled: “Nudists in Town” in one of the papers she had reviewed that morning and decided to read it. I was by then doing my internship at GTV and as soon as she entered the news room she said she had a problem with me. According to her what I had written was a good piece but the diction was too harsh. I tried to defend myself but when she read one of such offensive lines aloud, everybody present exclaimed, “Aba! Azure, this is too bad.” Though I wrote it, how she read it made it sound to offensive to the ear and it was as if I was hearing it for the first time.
I felt very bad the whole day, but that rebuke has shaped my writing a great deal. I had to rewrite the same article and published it (on myjoynline.com, ghanaweb.com etc) recently under the heading “A dress code for my future wife.” The message was the same but the insulting tone had changed. I received a lot of favourable responses and a few “dishing” as usual.
To my senior brother Ato Kwamena Dadzie, I say it is not too late to change. Even though I may not be worthy enough to advise you, I think all of us are still students. Fort is said that he who stops learning has never been a student.
You tell the truth and the truth itself is very bitter. To again tell the truth in bitter language is tantamount to serving an unpalatable meal in a chamber pot.
Long live Ato and all writers.

Credit: Manasseh Azure Awuni [www.maxighana.com] Email: azureachebe2@yahoo.com
The writer is the SRC President of the Ghana Institute of Journalism and Press and Information Secretary of the Northern Students’ Union (NSU). To read more of his works visit www.maxighana.com.