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Opinions of Thursday, 17 December 2015

Columnist: Africanus Owusu-Ansah

Excellence Awards, excellently bestowed

“As we celebrate the achievements of Ghanaians, we should

Remember that we owe to ourselves and posterity the prize

of dignity and self-control. In diversity, we celebrate the

outstanding achievements our sons and daughters,

brothers and sisters have accomplished over the years .”

His Royal Majesty Otumfuo Osei Tutu II – Asantehene.

FRIDAY, 11th December, 2015 night had the tell-tale signs of being colourful, resplendent and memorable. The Great Hall of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology had been bedecked with the beautiful pictures of the awardees, and it was a joyous occasion for meeting friends and colleagues who had been selected to receive Ghana’s highest and most distinguished prize honours (respectfully NOT: Ghana’s most distinguished and highest prize honour). The Millennium Awards night was an occasion so grand and people’s appetites were so whetted to relish that they were ready to forget the waiting time from 5pm to 8pm for the start.

Meanwhile, just that morning, the pedestrian walk-bridge had been inaugurated at ‘Tech-Junction’ to allow the free flow of traffic in that area, such that on that historic day, there was no hold-up.

Ambassador Ashim Morton, the Chairman of the Millennium Excellence Award and His Excellency James Victor Gbeho, the President, on behalf of the MEA and in their own right had placed on record their deep sense of gratitude for the unstinted support and cooperation of all stakeholders, laureates and all who had dedicated themselves to better the country.

Dr. Ellen Hagan, a member of the Board of Governors noted that the theme for this year’s event, ‘Re-positioning Africa: New Values, New Strategies’ “challenges all Africans to re-look at what we hold dear as a continent and work at making Africa an attractive place for the rest of the world in terms of infrastructural development, economic empowerment, personal development, science and technological advancement”.

Former President, Jerry John Rawlings, in his speech, insinuated the reason for his lateness, being the wait he had to endure for the Chairperson, Mrs Cecilia Johnson, who represented President John Dramani Mahama. Rawlings, the Apostle of probity and accountability could not understand the current interest in money-cracy and the upsurge of corruption in the land. ‘Who born dog? ’ His regime, PNDC would not have tolerated such anti-people attitude and behaviour. He is now emasculated, and there is little he can do besides throwing in a criticism here and there. Of course, Rawlings’s speech appeared to lean more on ‘terrorism’ and ‘freedom fighting’, by Palestinians rather than the theme of the occasion.

Otumfuo was forthright in his concise submission. He emphasized patriotism – love for country; and reiterated his resolve to eschew multiple sale of land to prospective buyers within his Kingdom. To him, politics should take only three months; the remaining period of the 4-year mandate should be used for development.

The awardees included Professor Francis Nii Yartey of the School of Performing Arts, a choreographer par excellence; petite Martha Bissah, the 18 – year old gold medalist at the Youth Olympics held in Nanjing, China, in 2014; Emmanuel Ofori – Ababio, the motivational speaker whose NGO is concerned with getting basic health to the underprivileged, like schools in villages, the rural communities and orphanages; Seth Osafo, the Legal Advisor at the United Nations Office of the United Nations Convention on Climate Change Secretariat; Dr. Samuel Dapaah and Professor Seth Kofi Akyea Danso, for their contribution to agricultural development; Mrs. Serwaa Quaynor for her role in the control of autism; Professor Victor P.Y. Gadzekpo for the contribution of the Determination of Selectivity Co-efficient in Mathematics; Moses Baiden, the proprietor of Margins Group of Companies; Dr. Joseph Bediako Asare who as Ghana’s Chief Psychiatrist saw to the improvement in the psychiatric services and facilities; Professor Kwaku Ohene-Frimpong for his contribution to the cure of sickle cell disease; Dr. David and Brenda Mensah for their work in alleviating poverty, especially in the northern part of Ghana through their NGO called Northern Empowerment Association.

James Ebo Whyte was given the award for his distinction as a motivational speaker. For 18 years, he has spoken to the nation through ‘Food for Thought’, the bi-weekly programme on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show. With 20 plays to his credit, including Unhappy Wives, Confused Husbands, Terms of Divorce and Caught in the Act, he has made a great mark in the literary field. When asked what was his greatest play, he cunningly responded that it was the one he was yet to write.

Professor Kofi Anyidoho’s award really delights me, because we both entered the University of Ghana together. When he was reading William Shakespeare, Chaucer, Soltaire and the giants of Literature in English, I was reading Alexander Pushkin, Nikolai Gogol, Ivan Turgenev, Vladimir Mayakovsky, as well as Leo Tolstoy (author of ‘War and Peace’, ‘Anna Karenina’ and ‘The Kingdom of God is Within You’) and other great Russian writers.

Dr Osei Kwame Despite, the unassuming man from Wiamoase was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. When he was deported, like millions others from Nigeria, he came home with a Trident cassette player and a chain-saw machine. The chain-saw machine got destroyed by a falling tree on his first outing as a timber contractor. He resumed his petty-trading, then branched into radio, establishing Peace FM in 1999, an Akan radio station. So successful has the station been that he has been encouraged to establish a TV station, called UTV, with programmes in Akan. Of course, if you are an entrepreneur and you have the support of Kwami Sefa-Kayi, you are bound to succeed. Like King Midas of Greek mythology, anything Despite touches turns into gold. He has established such companies as Neat Foods (makers of fufu, banku, abenkwan, koko); U2 Company (iodated salt production); and many establishments are, one can guess, in the offing. But like King Midas, there could be a river called Pictolus for him to wash off any spell that would turn his food and drinks into gold. The nation should be proud of this man!

The most controversial awardee at the night was Anas Aremeyaw Anas. One could praise him for his exposes on cocoa smuggling; the revelations on the Children’s homes; the rotten flour used to make biscuits, the fake doctors in a country outside Ghana, BUT certainly not the ‘Judges and Corruption.’ The methodology used is challenged by a section of critical minds, not least Martin Amidu (the Citizen Vigilante), Ndebugri, Nkrabea Effah-Dartey and Egbert Faibille. Perhaps, they are the odd ones out. They ask: Why should anyone go to a judge’s house and introduce himself as a relation of a victim in prison or cells and seek the judge’s assistance only to turn round with scenes captured furtively and call this ‘investigative journalism? Article 12 of the Code of Ethics of Ghana Journalists Association says: “A journalist shall obtain information, photographs and illustrations only by straightforward means”. Of course, in that same article, it says “The use of other means can be justified only by overriding considerations of the public interest”. And Anas’s award was for ‘Democratic Governance’. Giving a balance in the corruption among the Executive and the Legislature?

At the Awards Night, when the name ‘Anas’ was called, three persons with beads covering their faces and caps on their heads emerged to collect ‘their’ award, in the fashion of the ‘Three Musketeers’ (Les Trois Mousquetaires) as characterized by Alexandre Dumas. They received a standing ovation—but not all persons present stood up!

While the Three Musketeers were giggling all the way to receive their award, twenty – plus judges and magistrates were languishing in their homes, painfully, some having been denied their end of service benefits—after being tricked, lured, trapped to sell their dignity for yams, and other pittance. Some think this is a typical example of man’s cruelty to man.

There is bile in every tasty meat, it is said in Twi, and Ghanaians had their day, which was colourfully rounded off with a dinner dance at Manhyia Palace the following Saturday

Africanus Owusu-Ansah