Site is under maintenance mode. Please wait few min!
Archive

May 2010

Browsing

After their surprise performance at the African Cup of Nations in January, I vowed that I will never underestimate the Black Stars again. This was after they had forced me to eat tray upon tray of some pretty unpalatable humble pies. The taste still lingers on my emotional palates.

With the World Cup in South Africa just a few days away, I haven’t been able to muster sufficient confidence to go all out in rooting for the Black Stars.

Michael Essien can’t play because of a broken limb.

Old man Stephen Appiah, is surprisingly in the squad even though he played for only 90 minutes in the whole of the just-ended season.

Veteran, Richard Kingson, who has been warming the benches at Wigan (didn’t play for the club the whole of last season) is going to South Africa and he’s supposed to be the nation’s safest pair of goalkeeping hands.

Defender, John Mensah, doesn’t appear to have fully recovered from a niggling injury.

And to cap it all, there are doubts about team harmony after Laryea Kingston’s alleged bust-up with Coach Rajevac following the decision to drop him from the squad.

The team, however, has a fair sprinkling of youthful and skillful but inexperienced players whose only strong point is an unalloyed ambition to beat the world.

That’s good. Very good. But it’s not enough.

The team we are sending to South Africa may only be able to beat Australia. But they can’t beat Germany and they will definitely struggle against Serbia.

This is the World Cup. It’s not the African Cup of Nations where an ill-prepared Black Stars triumphed over even worse underperformers like Burkina Faso and Angola to make it to the finals.

So I am sorry but I am left with no choice than to break the vow I made in January. I can confidently say that I have no confidence whatsoever in this World Cup squad that Milovan Rajevac has named. It’s not his fault, is it? The problem is that we don’t have a team.

The one we sent to Germany was better and even so, they couldn’t even make it beyond the second round. Sad to say but this one will not make it past the first. I will wager my meagre June salary on that.

Who is up for a bet?

After years of proclaiming to the world that we are the most “peace loving” people on earth, we have ‘successfully’ produced our own batch of refugees. News reports suggest that hundreds of Ghanaians fleeing tribal strife in the northern territories are being housed in refugee camps in Togo.

It’s a big shame, isn’t it?

Thankfully, though, after several years of hosting Togolese refugees in Ghana, it seems the government of Togo is more than willing to return the favour.

First, it’s quite sad that the sad episode of our refugee movements only came to our attention through the BBC.

We are here in Ghana and the news passed us by, went to London before finally getting piped back to our bosoms through the BBC. Even government officials were unaware of the refugee movements. That’s what you get when your intelligence agency delights in acting all stupid, scaring iced block sellers to death – like they did last week at the BNI offices.

Instead of bowing their heads in shame for their shortcomings (failing to restore law and order to the strife-prone communities and being unaware of the refugee movements) government officials are rather blaming the BBC for exaggerating the refugee numbers.

The BBC reported that there were about 3000 of them. But information minister, John Tia challenges that.
“The figures they are mentioning around are alarming and that is not true because the [population of the two communities] is not up to 2000,” Mr. Tia said. “My checks with the Northern Regional Security Command and the Regional Minister do not indicate that the people are more than 2000 so how could we be having 3,500 from Ghana to Togo?”

Mr. Tia was speaking on a holiday so let’s just assume that his grey matter took a walk on the day. Let’s forgive him.

But government’s tango with the UN refugee agency and the Togolese authorities over the number of Ghanaian refugee in Togo points to one of the causes of the backwardness in our society – dwelling needlessly on trivialities!

The question is does it matter the number of refugees?

Even if there are six Ghanaians seeking sanctuary in unstable Togo of all places, it should give government cause for concern. Now is not the time to argue over the inconsequential. This sort of shameful, inexplicable denial makes a laughing stock of our nation. The earlier it stops the better.

After meeting with Togolese officials in Accra, government has announced plans to quickly bring back the refugees. Why the rush? Obviously, government feels embarrassed and it seems the administration would want the issue swept under the carpet as soon as possible.

But the people fled their communities for a reason. They didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to take a hike to Togo with their mattresses and TV sets on their heads. They’ve had enough of the senseless violence and they feel the only way for them to live in peace and tranquility – even if without dignity – is to become refugees. Until the violence stops it wouldn’t make sense for government to encourage or gently prod the refugees to return to their communities.

I heard the deputy information minister, Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa, saying that government believes it’s better for the refugees to be on our side of the border than on the Togolese side.

Really?

The refugees will most probably not agree with him. If he went to Togo and told them that they’d pelt him with balls of kenkey – or whatever they are being fed with by the Togolese authorities.

It’s better for the refugees to be where they feel safe. And if it’s in Togo, so be it. Instead of taking panic decisions, government should carefully think things through and it would come to the realization that this is perhaps a great opportunity to finally resolve the conflicts that have sent our compatriots scurrying into foreign territories for refuge.

It’s hard to tell how they are going to do it, but we pay the likes of John Tia and Martin Amidu to come up with creative solutions to our problems. It could be suggested that, perhaps, the images of their brethren, sisters, wives, daughters and sons struggling to get by in squalid conditions in a refugee camp will help knock some sense into the heads of those who don’t think twice before reaching for their bows and arrows.

It’s been ten wonderful days of learning. I’ve learnt a great deal about Germany and its rich history, its politics, its people and their cultures. And I have also learnt so much about the countries of the 14 other bloggers I came to Berlin with. I now know about the struggles, triumphs and aspirations of people in some of the areas I used to consider as far off places.

Now, thanks to my interactions with fellow bloggers from Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain I feel a certain connection in my heart to each of the countries whose bloggers, writers and journalists participated in this programme.

I have also learnt a great deal about free speech and democracy.

On my first day in Berlin I had a discussion with Andrew Loh, a soft-spoken gentleman from Singapore. That interaction got me thinking about the relationship between freedom and development.

Singapore is fairly developed but its people yearn for freedom. Ghana is nowhere near developed but we have freedom many in Singapore wouldn’t mind dying for.

As the days went by, I often heard my new friend from Azerbaijan, Nigar Fatali, say: “I feel like I’m coming from a village”. She said this to express her frustration at the lack of democracy and free speech in her country, usually after others – like the gentleman from Nigeria, Aliyu Tilde – have relayed how free the press in their countries were.

Nigar, though, is a brave young woman and she soldiers on in a battle to win freedom for herself and for her people. Never mind the fact that she gets arrested every now and then.

Fighting in the same corner as Nigar, but from a different country, is Eman Al-Nafjan, a smart, well-read Saudi Arabian woman, who speaks with an American accent but can’t drive a car. She’s never bothered to learn to take control of the steering wheel because in her country it’s an abomination for women to drive. I have known all along about the restrictions imposed on women in Saudi Arabia but meeting Eman put a beautiful face to the victims of this gross travesty. Through it all, Eman doesn’t seem broken and she is doing her best to expand the frontiers of freedom for Saudi women. She really impressed me so.

And then there is Mahmoud Salem from Egypt. He calls himself the Sand Monkey. Witty and charming, the liberal Egyptian laughs at what he rightfully considers to be the senseless authoritarianism of the leaders of his country. His blog gets shut down quite often but he never gives up. At 29, Mahmood knows that he has several years of battle ahead of him. And he’s ready. He impressed me with the depth and width of his knowledge base.

If it hadn’t been for this programme, I would have had to travel to Azerbaijan through Egypt to Singapore, China, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to learn what I have learnt over the past ten days in Berlin. It’s been a reflective experience which has only filled me with a renewed resolve to continue what Kwaku Sakyi-Addo asked my journalism class to do about 12 years ago – “shake the basket”.

That’s what Mahmood, Nigar, Andrew and Eman are doing in their respective countries – sometimes at the peril of their lives. If in their struggles for freedom they are brave enough to stick their necks out in their oppressive states, what is to stop me from shaking the basket in Ghana where the motto is “freedom and justice”?

For me that is the summary of how my ten days in Berlin have impacted my life. The message is simple: don’t give up the fight because there are several others who have it worse than you do. The task is to contribute in anyway possible towards the transformation of our country into a modern, just, equitable society. Now, I am even more determined to tell those who threaten me to shove it where the sun doesn’t shine. If Mahmood can do it in Egypt, I should be able to do it in Ghana.

And for making all this possible, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the German Foreign Ministry and German Embassy in Accra for bringing me to Berlin.

I thank the people in Berlin – Lisa, Lucien and Deniz – who made my stay in this beautiful city such a pleasure. And I thank the people of Berlin for keeping their city in such magnificent shape. But for the weather (which no Berliner can control), I thoroughly enjoyed everything this city offered me – from the very efficient rail transport service to the Philharmonic Orchestra and even the asparagus, which was practically in every meal I ate. I have fallen in love with Berlin and as I prepare to fly out, I am saying to myself: “Ich komme wieder”. I will be back – to know and enjoy her even more.

By PHILLIP NYAKPO

Is it possible that the word "flag-bearer" is used more often in Ghana than in any other country on this planet? Very possible, I think, because Ghana’s steady diet of bland politics will be incomplete without it.

But it is also possible that word might soon become less attractive, thanks to the NPP’s Kwame Pianim. Declaring an unequivocal support for Professor Frimpong Boateng as presidential candidate of the NPP, he said “We are not looking for a flag-bearer, any idiot can hold the flag.” And then he added: “we need a leader”.

One of the definitions of "flag-bearer" is a person "who carries a flag, especially at a ceremony"

So, what is Kwame Pianim saying? That there is a bunch of idiots out there who call themselves politicians and have the guts to want to become president? To put it in perspective, Mr Pianim himself once coveted the presidency and was swiftly disqualified. Now, he is putting his weight behind one man for that prize, against the interests of people like Nana Akufo-Addo, Apostle Konduah, Isaac Osei and Alan Kyerematen. These people and their supporters will sure have to stand up for their own cause, before they are made to look utterly useless.

It has to be understood that Mr Pianim was speaking on a strictly partisan platform. But he has a point that reaches farther than his preferred candidate and party. The state of the nation and the crushing poverty of many of its people will strongly suggest that there hasn’t been a lot of good leaders for the country, if any. After all, environment at any given place is a demonstration of the prevailing quality of leadership.

When I lived and worked in Takoradi for many years as a journalist, I dreaded the thought of visiting Accra. Chocked, dirty, smelly, chaotic. You’ll hardly see a city so haphazard, and unplanned, just like some teenager’s pregnancy.

Back then, a government ministry was set up for the “modernisation of the capital”. Can’t tell whatever happened to that modernisation initiative. That was under one government. Another government has come, and Accra, the symbol of the nation’s status has not changed for the better.

I had the misfortune of visiting Accra recently, and after complaining so much, an older and wiser friend of mine comforted me. He patted my shoulder and said “Listen, the real name for Accra is I CRY.”

And my beloved Takoradi, the new so-called oil city? Well, the area around Market Circle stank, it stank really bad. The only place that stank more was Korle-Gonor. There, I saw for the first time, raw human faeces being dumped into the beautiful Atlantic Ocean. I was with my wife, who is not a Ghanaian, and in whose country such a practice will not even be contemplated.

It was as if we are a people so dirty and reckless that we throw our own stinking waste into the open sea. This, when we have a state organisation called the Environmental Protection Agency. “Mbelle sem”, is the special Takoradi Fanti phrase we use to describe things as ludicrous and offensive as this.

Yes, I was so ashamed, and I want to hope that my shame is shared by all these flag-bearers. And if there are leaders out there, let them also share my burden of shame, and let such shame move them to find a better way of disposing human waste.

The larger, but subtle point in Kwame Pianim’s outburst is that the quality of leadership in Ghana and across the entire continent of Africa is appalling.

Back in Takoradi recently, I met three traditional chiefs at a hotel, where they were attending one of those meaningless conferences. All three recognised me because I used to be fairly well known in that community.

They smiled at me, but I wasn’t enthused. I rather questioned them vigorously. "Why do you Nananom sit around and allow the city to smell so much? There are plastic bags everywhere, and the gutters are full to the brim, why?" I asked.

"Oh, hmm, you see," said one of them, "that is why we are attending this oil conference. When the oil money comes, Sekondi-Takoradi will be transformed."

After hearing this, I knew it was time to walk away, without looking disrespectful. But in my mind, I thought "who on earth needs oil money to keep their environment clean?"

So much for the expected oil revenue, but if revenue from gold, cocoa and timber does not help a group of people to keep their beautiful country clean, why would oil money, with its own numerous problems? Maybe, this is just what you get, when you have “idiots” for leaders.


Phillip Nyakpo is a very good friend of mine. I started my radio journalism career working with him at Skyy Power FM in Takoradi. He taught me a lot. He is currently based in Australia (he couldn’t take the crap anymore) and he just recently created his own space in the Ghanaian blogosphere. I recommend that you check out his site at www.nyakpo.com. He is very creative, clear and concise in his writing and thinking. I’m sure you would thoroughly enjoy his writings.

After a few days of weakness, I am feeling much better now.

It wasn’t malaria after all and I don’t need ‘coartem’. The expert in tropical diseases was right. It was the cold temperatures that shook my bones a little and made me feel sick. Now, I know what it really means to be “under the weather”. After taking a few capsules of aspirin and vitamin ‘C’, I can say that I am as fit as a fiddle.

But I have a problem. I need some food.

That’s not to say that my German hosts have been starving me. Far from it. I’ve been served with some of the best cuisines this country has to offer – and they have mostly been three course meals with a couple of buffets thrown in for good measure.

Since I am all in favour inter-cultural exchange, getting to know other people and all, I have eaten every meal I’ve been served with relish. Some have been so sumptuous my taste buds couldn’t help but ask for more. But others have not been so kind to my African palate.

It just occurred to me, however, that I have been chewing on too many plants and leaves. And suddenly, I get the feeling that if I don’t replace the leaves with a heavy bowl of ‘fufu’ and ‘aponkye nkrakraa’, I will turn into a goat.

Initially, I thought I’d turn into a German goat. But I’ve just learnt that I don’t have the necessary immigration clearance and so even if I turn into a goat, I’d still be a Ghanaian goat, stranded in Berlin and chewing on asparagus, instead of ‘Acheampong’ leaves. That would be terrible – even for the goat.

The thought of it is making me sick all over again. This time, I don’t need an expert in tropical diseases to conduct tests on my blood to determine what’s wrong with me. I already know.

I am homesick.

I can’t wait to be back in Ghana. As wretched and backward as it is, I miss my country. I miss the black outs. I miss the traffic chaos. I even miss President Mills and his effeminate gesture. I miss General Mosquito and his rampaging band of NDC footsoldiers. I miss the dirt and the stench of Accra. I miss the rickety trotros and taxis. I miss the ranting on radio. I miss the sunshine.

Simply put, I miss home. And even if I turn into a goat, I can’t wait to be back where I belong. It’s hell. But it’s my hell and I miss it.

I had long forgotten that hospitals were supposed to be spotlessly clean with friendly nurses who smile and crack jokes and doctors who don’t walk around with superior airs. But a few days ago, I regained my sense of what a hospital should be. It all happened at the Virchow-Klinikum in Berlin.

I went to Virchow-Klinikum, thinking I had malaria.

I woke up on Saturday morning feeling a feverish, with joint aches and a thumping headache. But I had to go on a guided tour of the German capital and so my body was more than eager to shake off the feeling of illness. But when I got out of the hotel, it was raining and it was very cold. I knew I wasn’t going to end the day a well man.

Somehow, the beautiful sights of Berlin, its rich history, the wide open spaces and the efficiency with which the city is run awed me so much that I forgot about the illness for a bit. Then I started thinking about Sekondi-Takoradi. And Accra. And Kumasi. I asked myself one question: When? When shall Accra, Takoradi and Kumasi be transformed into well-planned modern cities with efficient, dependable social infrastructure and open spaces for romantic strolls?

Just thinking about the lack of progress back home made me feel sick all over again.

I told one of my kind minders, Lucien, that I suspected malaria.

He looked quite alarmed. “It’s nothing,” I tried to assure him. But he didn’t seem convinced. “I get it about four times a year so don’t worry. If I get a few pills to pop, I’d be fine.”

“In Germany, you can’t walk into a pharmacy and buy malaria drugs,” Lucien said. “We have to go to the hospital.”

And Virchow-Klinikum is where he took me.

It’s a beautiful place. It’s what a hospital should be. It makes Korle Bu look like a filthy slaughter house which is not even fit for pigs. So clean is Virchow-Klinikum that I saw a little child crawling on all fours in the full glare of his parents, who made no attempt to restrain him. If your child crawls on the floors of Korle Bu or La Polyclinic, you would need to bathe him in a whole barrel of antiseptic to disinfect him. Even so, he might not grow up to be the healthy child you want him to be.

As I waited for my test results at the Virchow-Klinikum, I felt I was truly in a place of healing. Suddenly, it dawned on me that perhaps, falling ill every once in a while wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all. In fact, this hospital will be a very nice place to die.

Then I started thinking about why our leaders like to come to Europe for treatment. It’s a shame we are going to live with for a very long time to come because they just don’t care. Therefore, I have started praying that when the time comes for me to die, God should be so kind to make sure that I meet the Angel of Death at the Virchow-Klinikum or some hospital like it.

In all, I spent more than six hours at the hospital as they called in an expert in tropical diseases to determine whether or not I had malaria. It’s a very rare disease here and it tends to scare the hell out of Europeans. For me, it’s “normal” and I didn’t understand the big deal about the expert in tropical diseases.
“There is nothing wrong with you,” the expert said when she finally arrived. “You don’t have ma-la-ria.”
I could see the look of relief on Lucien’s face.

But I was disappointed.

In what seemed like a gesture to lessen my disappointment, she gave me two tablets of paracetamol as she said in German that she was once in Accra. That should have made me feel better. But it didn’t. I still feel feverish and I have a headache. Perhaps, it’s because I allowed myself to slip too far into despondency. Lucien thinks it’s the weather and he just bought me some aspirin and a pack of vitamin C tablets. They could help. But I still think I need ‘Coartem’.

For the next ten days, I am going to be calling myself a Berliner. The German capital is a beautiful city. I love it. It’s well laid out, quite green in many areas even though there is a lot of construction going on.

I came in here from Frankfurt, where I connected from Accra.

One of the first things that struck me when I got out of the airport was the fact that they use some of the latest Mercedes Benz models as taxis here. All the cabs outside the airport were Mercedes Benz models. This will never happen where I come from.

With me in the taxi on the short journey from the airport to the elegant Park Inn Hotel, were two bloggers from Nigeria and Hungary. I doubt if I heard correctly but I think the Nigerian said something to the effect that Berlin looks like Accra. “Really? How?” I asked – without uttering the words because I wasn’t so sure what I heard and I wasn’t in the mood for an argument with a man I had just met. I was too tired for that.

In the coming days, the subject might come up again and if it does, I will tell my new Nigerian friend that I don’t see any rubbish ‘mountains’, rickety ‘trotros’, haphazard developments or chaotic traffic to make Berlin remind me of the big slum called Accra.

One thing my Nigerian friend wouldn’t argue with me about though is the hotel we are staying in – the Park Inn Hotel. It’s beautiful and the rooms are very tastefully done, even though I find them to be too small. After entering the room, I just slumped on the bed and slept.

I woke up a few hours later and went out to meet the other bloggers.

There is Emlan, an intelligent, impressive and courageous Saudi Arabian woman who tackles taboo subjects in her conservative society. There is Mahmood, a middle-aged, well-dressed entrepreneur from Bahrain who sells broadcast equipment but can’t open his own broadcast company because the government will not issue private licences.

There are others from Costa Rica, Egypt, Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Russia and Switzerland.
But the one I engaged with the most is from Singapore. His name is Andrew – a thoughtful man who can’t wait to see the media in his country liberalised. Over dinner, we spoke at length about former Singaporean Premier, Lee Kwan Yew.

“A lot of young people don’t like him,” Andrew told me.

I understand why. I recently watched a documentary on LKY and he’s very easy to hate. But with his vision, drive and single-minded determination, he brought development to his people. Andrew agree with me on that but he still wants to see a freer media in Singapore. That seems like a far-off dream for as long as 86-year-old LKY remains “minister-mentor” in Singapore.

Andrew seems to like the idea that Ghana has so many private newspapers and radio/TV stations. That’s not bad, is it? But it doesn’t necessarily amount to press freedom, does it? I told Andrew that if Singaporeans came to us in Ghana with an offer to give them our free press (or whatever it means to have so many radio stations and newspapers) in exchange for their development, most Ghanaians wouldn’t mind giving up press freedom.

I wouldn’t let go of my freedom without a fight. I don’t want us to go back to the era of the ‘culture of silence’. But then, what’s the point in having a free press when water doesn’t flow, electricity is epileptic, children are studying under trees and pregnant women are sleeping on floors in hospital?

That’s question over which I am going to scratch my chin for a while as I spend my first night in beautiful Berlin.

Once again, the Ghana National Fire Service has failed to miss an opportunity to demonstrate its inefficiency and incompetence. They have gained legendary notoriety for their inability to put out fires. And now they can’t conduct simple investigation to tell us the cause of a domestic fire?

A lot has been said about what might have caused the fire at the House of the Rawlingses on Valentine’s Day. The former president and his family believe that aged and weak electrical cables might have sparked the initial tiny flames that brought about the conflagration.

The ‘Ghanaian Observer’, dared to observe that during the fire, there were some explosions in the household, suggesting that the blaze might have spread so fast because there is hidden armoury in the house.

Then a certain Nana Darkwa, now famed as an NPP radio commentator, suggested he wouldn’t put it past the former President to set his own house on fire. It was a silly but daring pronouncement and for his prize, Darkwa was slapped with a charge of “spreading panic and alarm”.

Prosecutors are yet to make much headway in that case because the radio station on which he made those remarks can’t seem to locate the recording of the programme. The speed with which state prosecutors placed Nana Darkwa in the dock – not to mention the fact that the trial appeared to have been instigated by Rawlings’ special aide – brought political intrigue to an otherwise straightforward case of a family disastrously losing everything in a fire outbreak.

Before Nana Darkwa, a good number of Ghanaians were looking for expert opinions on what exactly caused the fire at the Rawlingses. After his pronouncements and the commencement of his trial, even those who don’t give a rat’s behind about what happens to the Rawlingses decided to take an interest in the matter, stroking their chins and wondering: was the fire caused by an electrical fault or did the former president truly set his own house ablaze in a fit of senseless rage?

Ghanaians looked to the Fire Service to provide some answers.

But after three months of investigations, all Ghanaians get from the fire service is a shameful “we can’t tell”. So it took the so-called experts three months to tell us what, with my naked eyes, I could have said in three seconds?

It’s therefore not a surprise that the fire service’s investigation has thrown up more questions than answers – and the questions are pretty disturbing: Are they (the Fire Service and the Rawlingses) hiding anything? What if they found something (maybe explosives) that they do not want us ordinary folk to know? If the fire service can investigate and tell us the cause of an outbreak in a place as big as the Makola Market, why are they unable to tell us what caused the blaze in the home of the Rawlingses? If they are genuinely unable to tell us the cause of the fire, could it be that the Rawlingses cleared up the rubble a little too early? And could it be that Nana Darkwa was right after all?

Very few will challenge the fact that our fire service is one of the most inefficient on the planet. If it is incompetence that makes it impossible for them to tell us the cause of the fire, government should take immediate steps to bring in a more serious bunch of investigators to look into the Rawlings fire again. It’s not too late, is it?

If all else fails, we should form a ‘CSI: Kokomlemle’ with Nana Darkwa in charge. With a theory to prove, he and his team would do a much better job than the fire service has so shamefully done.

In the early weeks of the Mills presidency, I got embroiled in a needless argument with one of the president’s key henchmen, Koku Anyidoho. He didn’t take kindly to my suggestion that the Castle didn’t need a director of communications and a presidential spokesman.

He claimed that I had “cobwebs” in my head.

“When Ato Kwamena Dadzie decides to move the ignorance-filled discourse to absurd levels, it is only proper that I do my utmost best to clear some of the cobwebs in [his] head,” Mr. Anyidoho wrote in a widely publicised statement.

“Ato Kwamena Dadzie may have an educated opinion on a number of issues but his postulation on the roles of the Head of Communications and Spokesperson, pans him out as not having a hold on the distinct and separate functions of myself and [presidential spokesman] Mahama Ayariga.”

I responded by insisting that no matter how Mr. Anyidoho looked at issues, his job could very easily be merged with that of Mr. Ayariga.

Then we both ceased fire.

But then, President Mills sent his spokesman to the Trade Ministry as deputy minister. Going by the communications structure, Mr. Anyidoho had so stridently defended, I have been expecting the president to appoint a replacement for Mr. Ayariga.

But then, just a few days ago, it struck me that, perhaps, the president has “seen the light” and has come to the realisation that he doesn’t need a director of communications and a presidential spokesman – in addition to an information minister and two deputies.

It’s been almost six months since Mr. Ayariga left the presidency. Yet, there doesn’t seem to be any move to fill the vacuum he might have left. That’s good because since Ayariga left, Mr. Anyidoho has been doing the job of presidential spokesman in addition to his own – director of communications. So far everything seems to be going smoothly.

I am feeling quite vindicated but I am not gloating. It’s a minor victory for common sense and I think we must all celebrate it in style. It all goes to show that the cobwebs in my head haven’t caused much damage.

Check out my earlier response to Koku Anyidoho here:

atokd.com/blogContent.aspx

I was going to wait till I do something grand with my life and tell the world how much Matilda Asante, former news editor JOYFM, influenced my drive on the journey to get there. However, things have changed and I believe there’s no perfect time than now to tell Miss Asante how honored I am to have met her.

Prior to getting a job as broadcast journalist in the Joy newsroom, I heard this woman delivering the news in her own unique way. She was firm but not rude, smart but not a- know-it-all and above all, she sounded dignified on air. As a girl growing up in a city where it was a taboo for women to ask questions, especially in the bold, incisive manner that Matilda grilled most of the people she interviewed, she made a riveting mark on my consciousness. I knew there was no way I was going follow the career path my father had chosen for me.

So in July 2006, fresh out of University and brimming with excitement, I walked into JOYFM as an intern. Matilda was away on one of those training seminars abroad when I arrived, and as is done to new employees everywhere, I was treated with mild neglect for the first few months.

I was sent on assignments which made no sense to me, wrote stories I hated and met people I’d gleefully smack for stupidity. But all that was to change when Matilda arrived. A good judge of character, she noticed my rage right away and set out to pass on her enviable set of skills for the job to me.

It was at lunch at Marquis Tante Marie where an intimidated me sat across her and got grilled lightly on everything from my deviation from clinical psychology to my new found love – journalism. I remember my fears fizzling out as the afternoon wore on and I listened to her talk about how to get on and survive in the newsroom and as a young female journalist in a male-dominated environment.

After that open conversation, life in the newsroom had a whole new feel. I was assigned to stories I could apply my strengths. I do remember those after-work reading and voice sessions. I had low timbre and sounded rather like a mouse on air and Matilda wasn’t having it. And that began Tilly’s unwitting influence on all things Nana Ama, especially my sense of professionalism.

I had seen and met other journalists, women and men and very few had Miss Asante’s attitude to the job. Whiles some of the men I met on assignments haggled with conference organizers over “soli,” the women were casual about the job. But Matilda was different. She was dedicated, dignified and resolute.

Being a female boss made no difference to her. She didn’t miss work with flimsy excuses about a bad hair day or how the floods at the area where she stayed had kept her in. And it was an annual flood affair at Gbawe where she lived. But during those periods of floods, she waded through the waters, reported live on the situation in her neighbourhood and came in to work.

She just was professional with her job. She came in early, worked hard and made sure everyone did too. She would not let you off the hook till you give her the story she sent you out for. She was demanding and sometimes uncompromising but if you pleased her, she’d harp your praises to the team and anyone who cared to listen.
I remember been assigned to do a story on fifty great Ghanaians alive or dead, thanks to Wereko- Brobbey’s brilliant idea of inviting nominations to award fifty great Ghanaians for the fiftieth anniversary. I went out, spoke to a couple who all believed Kwame Nkrumah deserved it all – all fifty medals.

I went back to the office to tell Tilly that everyone I spoke to mentioned Kwame Nkrumah and that I may have to use just that. She sent me back to speak to kids and the hawkers at Circle to nominate people. Grudgingly I went, came back and wrote the story with nominations that baffled even me. When we sat down later for her to edit the story, she looked at it and back at me and said, “Good thing I pushed you, this is one of your best pieces yet.”

It wasn’t all honky-dory working with Miss Asante. I did cross her a few times and she dealt with me same way as she did everyone else. Sometimes her criticism stung more than a bee but it was from her that I learnt only my acts were been criticized and not my person. Because after each of those reproach sessions, she drew you back in and explained why you deserved to be told off or pushed in the manner she did. I have since not taken anyone’s criticism personal. Miss Asante had again unwittingly taught me, it is never personal.

And for the two or so years I worked as a broadcast journalist, everyday with Matilda in the newsroom was a lesson worth learning. She was our boss and not our friend. Yet she took time off to be friend when one needed one. And in my case, with all the tearful boy troubles and secret crushes, she was more than a friend.

I can never end this piece without talking about her sharp dress sense. Matilda never came to work over or underdressed. She was always appropriately attired, a rarity in the age of scantily-clad journalists.

Matilda Asante-Asiedu is warm and assured woman who has not only raised the bar of professionalism but also served as an example of what can be achieved with devotion, courage and perseverance. I do credit my folks for raising a confident assertive woman but I’m grateful for the opportunity to pick up a few useful tips from Matilda.

There a few remarkable women like her around. She’s worth celebrating.