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Opinions of Thursday, 5 September 2013

Columnist: Ali-Masmadi Jehu-Appiah

Twenty years of insightful service to Ghana and Africa!

I have been meaning to do my own reflections of the 20th anniversary of the Insight Newspaper, but I kept postponing it, as each time I tried to put my ideas together, so many things race to the fore, competing for priority. It is a duty I felt for myself as a special salute of my personal respect for a living hero of mine, Mr. Kwesi Pratt, Jnr.

We speak a lot on the phone, but our email exchanges have virtually been one way traffic. Kwesi hardly responds. I hardly complain. Knowing his tight schedules, I keep sending my articles, news and views. I know he reads and uses them because the articles get published, the views are later discussed on phone.

I could therefore not believe what I was seeing when I saw a message from my old Comrade in my e-mail, inviting me to write something in connection with the 20th Anniversary of the Insight Newspaper. It was an honour I could not refuse. The only problem was that I got the message so late, at 2.07am, just when I was getting ready to go to bed! Tired and sleepy.

Kwesi's message was very clear. It simply read:

"Massa, could you please send us a message on the 20th anniversary of the insight by tomorrow? It is urgent. Best wishes

Sent from Huawei Mobile"

Before tomorrow? I understood immediately there was a deadline involved. Who am I to disappoint Kwesi Pratt, Jnr.? If there is any Ghanaian who needs encouragement for the indefatigable and thankless job he has been doing for our motherland, that is the man! That is how I sat up and started writing straight-away!

It is not an accident that the Insight Newspaper is as old as our democracy. You can say it was the midwife that helped in no small way in its delivery. This fact has been acknowledged by all manner of people including former President Jerry John Rawlings, the late President Professor John Evans Atta-Mills, as well as Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo. Those who want to know more about the yeoman's role played by Mr. Pratt in bringing about the current democratic dispensation we are all enjoying today must take their time to read the statement read by Nana Akufo-Addo, at the press conference he organized announcing his candidature for the 'flag-bearership' of the NPP. As the former Chairperson of the Human Rights Monitoring Committee of the PPDD, when the Weekly Insight was conceived, I saw its humble beginnings on a daily basis. And I have been following its progress so closely that it is even difficult to know what to say. There will be not enough time and space to tell a story of twenty years!

How do you begin and where do you end? Perhaps there is one thing that the reader may benefit from reading this congratulatory message. It is why the word "Insight" became the name of the Newspaper. Originally, Kwesi had thought of calling the paper, "The Militant". I liked it. It was straight to the point. It tells clearly what he wanted to do with it. The seventeenth time Mr. Pratt was arrested under the PNDC regime, I was with him. We were four people. It was my first arrest. So, I must know how militant he was!

But a conversation I had had with the late S. S. Barfour-Awuah told me that it would not be necessary for the paper to be called "The Militant". There were a lot of people at his "Bottom Tree" residence in Dansoman, when he took his time to spell out the brave and courageous role Mr. Pratt had played to help usher in Ghana's democratic constitution. It was an unusual focus, but I learnt a lot.

Even though there were a lot of things he said that I knew already, one particular subject he dwelt on that struck me most and stayed with me for a long time was on the analysis of the uncanny insight of Mr. Pratt. He actually said those who refuse his advice often do so at their own peril! And he gave several examples. He mentioned a string of things Mr. Pratt had said which many people did not take seriously, but in which he was finally proved to be right. It was simply amazing.

I was stunned. I was awed. It was mind-boggling! There were so many to recount here, but I remember Mr. Bafour-Awuah pointing out after the NPP decided to boycott Parliament to become the famous "Opposition outside Parliament", that if they had listened to the call for the boycott of the 1992 elections, spearheaded by Kwesi, they would not have helped in legitimizing the (P)NDC regime only to write "The Stolen Verdict'.

I was unsure of how Kwesi was going to take my suggestion to drop "The Militant" and accept to call his paper "The Weekly Insight", but I was convinced that his reputation as a militant was already so well known. What was not well-known was the fact that he was also a man of extraordinary insight. I made my case timidly, not willing to offend him.

Mr. Kwesi Pratt's other virtue is that he is a man who listens. He learns every day from all manner of people, from University professors to kayayei, from old people as well as children. It was not difficult to get him to see my point of view. And that is how the Insight Newspaper got its name. I am extraordinarily happy to note through the years, that the Insight Newspaper of the Militant Publications has been very faithful to its name.

For twenty years, the Newspaper has been delivering insights on all manner of subjects. If Nana Konadu had known this about the Insight, she would have avoided her needless humiliation at the NDC Congress in Sunyani. If Nana Akufo-Addo had known this about the Insight, he would not have bothered to petition the Supreme Court. It is important that this aspect of the insight is highlighted for the benefit of the nation's progress.

It is with unrestrained joy and admiration that I salute the Insight at twenty, and the work of an insightful militant!