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Opinions of Thursday, 3 September 2015

Columnist: Daily Guide Network

The presidential 'nuamic' bus

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As the fourth estate of the realm, the public expect the media to play their watchdog role

They should do this with a high sense of responsibility without infringing on the rights of individuals and society in general

Preamble – Code of Ethics

Of Ghana Journalists Association

SAMUEL NUAMAH, the Ghanaian Times presidential correspondent lost his life at the age of 37, in a motor accident, after covering a presidential assignment at Ho in the Volta Region.

At the one – week celebration, the President John Dramani Mahama, signed the book of condolence and stated thus: “Samuel, I’m so gutted by your death. Six years of dedicated service with my office and it all ends in such a waste of life. Fare thee well. Rest in peace”

There is no doubt that the message was well-intended, and on the face of it, aptly summed up the somber mood of the occasion. For the message as a eulogy, it was laudatory; for it as a valediction, it was compassionate and for it as a philosophical treatise, it was sagacious. But why ‘waste of life’? Perhaps because, the meaningful life the Almighty destined Nuamah to lead is going to be wasted, now that he is no more. It may be like calling someone an ‘English teacher’ and a ‘teacher of English’. In the first instance, is the teacher coming from England or is he someone from somewhere else who teaches English? Perhaps we may have to seal the debate – the grammatical implications and interpretations notwithstanding.

In addition to the presidential entourage which also included Honourable Ekow Spio – Garbrah, the Minister of Trade and Industries at the ceremony, there was also a delegation of the minority party, which included Nana Akomea, Director of Communications of NPP, and Emmanuel Agyarko, Member of Parliament for Ayawaso West – Wuogon. There were members of the Presidential Press Corps; also present were the management and staff of the New Times Corporation and there were other journalists, and rank and file mourners.

The circumstances leading to the death of Samuel Nuamah have generated deep controversies. Until this doleful episode, many Ghanaians had assumed that the Presidential Press staffers, being close to the Presidency enjoyed many of the freebies and wherewithals that go with the Executive (President’s) Office. The expectations –great expectations one could call them—included one that would suggest that the Presidential Press would have a reliable vehicle to convey them on official assignments. It is hard to believe that, among the Presidential fleet of vehicles, there is not a single one for the Presidential Press Corp – to the extent that while the President and his men would ‘cruise’ and ‘whizz’ past the terrain in V8 Land cruisers, Ford, Mercedes Benz, the journalists would only have some wretched rickety vehicle rented or hired for them.

Concerned journalists are demanding an independent investigation into the tragedy. This call becomes imperative in the wake of the observation by Mrs May Obiri Yeboah, the Executive Director of the Road Safety Commission that the bus hired for the journalists was ‘not road – worthy’. The hired bus, we are told, was taken from the accident scene without police investigation. Let the reverse of the story be told.

Mr Affail Monney, the President of the Ghana Journalists Association, without a known qualification in vehicular engineering, has concluded that the accident – vehicle was in good condition. Did he arrive at that conclusion only because that was not the first time the presidency had done business with that particular vehicle rental company?

And Affail Monney doubted the claim by a member of the Association of which he was President, Napoleon Ato Kittoe, that Ato’s observation was not the truth because he was asleep in the vehicle, particularly at the time of the accident. Regional Executives of the GJA accused Affail – Monney of “criss – crossing the corridors of power for embellished answers rather than ascertaining the truth from those who were involved in the accident” he must have found the statement of Julius Debrah the Chief of Staff more credible. And neither Affail Monney nor Julius Debrah was on the trip, let alone, in the vehicle. The statement signed on behalf of the executives by Kingsley E. Hope, Alice Tettey, Maxwell Kudabor, Dotsey Korbla Aklorbotu, David Yarbi Tetteh, Victor Kwawukume and Dominic Hlordzi was emphatic “what the GJA president failed to notice is that Wisdom Awuku ( a Presidential Staffer)…. comfortably seated in a 4×4 V8 vehicle… with his questionable attitude towards the media was not one of the passengers on board the vehicle ; so how come he took the words of Awuku as the measure of truth?”

The President of GJA, Affail – Monney, had since rendered an apology for his statement. Ghanaians are yet to see what specifically Affail –Monney said by way of apology. Will it not be proper to defer all comments about the accident till after an investigation had been done and reported. Nothing has as yet been heard from Stan Dogbey for allegedly seizing and destroying a voice recorder belonging to a GBC reporter.

The executives advise Stan Dogbey in these simple words; “… we want to say that he may be a presidential staffer today, but he should remember that power is not absolute and as the Igbos say, ‘a bird that flies off the earth and lands on an anthill is still on the ground”. One would pray that Stan Dogbey takes the advice from his colleagues in good faith, instead of reading meanings into the words.

What the presidency must note is that it is not only the journalists body (the Ghana Journalists Association) that is making the demand for an enquiry. The family of Samuel Nuamah would appreciate this, we hope. Concerned Ghanaians are also demanding the same. It will also be helpful for the President and all the big men in the Executive to answer intriguing questions. We do not want to indulge in wild speculations. The death of President John Evans Atta Mills is still fresh in our minds – especially the weird circumstances under which he died. We do not want to speculate into the realm of absurdities. We do not want to be reminded of the story of ‘Dracula’ by the English Author, Bram Stoker adapted from the Reign of a Vampire (1456 – 1462) in which the wicked nobleman – Count Dracula (Vlad Tepes) of Transylvania in Romania, impaled his victims and dipped chunks of bread into buckets of their blood and ate them. Vlad Tepes sought to avenge his father’s (Dracula’s) murder by inviting his country’s noblemen and impaling all of them after they had had lunch with him. And he again invited the poor, beggars and riff-raffs of his kingdom to a dinner, after which he set fire to the place, burning all of them. No, let us forget all these stories—they are too horrific in this century, and, certainly, in this beautiful country, called Ghana.

It may appear appropriate to suggest that the President may have to rely on local journalists for press coverage when he tours the various regions, instead of transporting the journalists from Accra. The Government may have to purchase a bus for the presidential press corps – perhaps labelled as SAMUEL NUAMAH BUS.

John Donne wrote “No man is an island, Entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less. As well as if a Promontory were, As well as if a manor of thine own Or of thine friend’s were. Each man’s death diminishes me, For I am involved in mankind. Therefore send not to know For whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee”.

The French Revolution (1789) revealed the existence of three estates: the clergy, the aristocracy, and the rest. Things have changed now. The first estate has its fair share of the national cake; the second estate has its; and so has the third. Why do we deny the fourth—whether they have arrogated that position to themselves or not?

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