In my last days in journalism school a man I admire so much came to my class and delivered what may be described as a motivational speech. His message was simple: “shake the basket”. I will never forget that day and that phrase. When the speech ended, I pondered how I could go out into the real world and “shake the basket” as the class had been entreated.
The guy who delivered the speech was – and still is – at the top of his game. I knew that I could do all the basket shaking I could but I would never dislodge him and gain the recognition he had. So I decided to stay in my small corner and do my job to the best of my ability, one day at a time.
That was almost ten years ago. Today, I work in the same company as that guy who delivered that motivational speech – Kwaku Sakyi Addo. He does all the big interviews and asks all the right questions. If you think you have “arrived” and Kwaku has not interviewed you, I’m afraid you still have a very long way to go. Above all else, Kwaku is a master story teller – he doesn’t confuse, he doesn’t fuddle and he doesn’t tinker with facts and figures.
Kwaku Sakyi-Addo is the best journalist this country has ever had. Yet, he has his enemies. I have heard people say some pretty awful things about him. Come to think of it, Kwaku doesn’t actively seek trouble for himself. He’s opinionated but he often keeps his opinions to himself. He stays the professional course and hardly ever causes offence. Yet, many are those who hate Kwaku’s guts.
Contrast Kwaku’s career and professionalism with mine. I have opinions – very strong ones – and I don’t make any attempt to keep them to myself. Every day, I actively seem to seek out enemies for myself by criticising everyone and anyone – from the mighty to the lowly. I have been told that I talk on radio as if I was having a chat with my buddies in a beer bar. That is to say that I talk “by heart” on radio. Others say I trivialise important issues. I have been described as “uncultured”, “disrespectful”, “arrogant”, “too pessimistic” and “jealous”. Others say I am “biased” and “ignorant”.
Forgive me for being so presumptive, but when the president urges the “doom mongers to pipe down”, I take it that he is referring to people like me. I have been told that if I persist in my ways, I will never get to wine and dine with the high and mighty, I will never get an opportunity to travel with the president and I will not be “connected”. I have been threatened that if I don’t change I might die (an unnatural death) young and poor.
Some people take great delight in taunting me about my looks. They say I am too ugly (and I won’t contest that) and this, apparently, takes away my right to talk and express my opinions in any way I deem fit.
I am very much aware of all the things people say about me. The last few weeks have been particularly nasty. But I’m unfazed. I take consolation in the fact that even the great Kwaku Sakyi-Addo has his enemies and there are people who think he’s not good enough. If Kwaku has enemies, don’t you think I deserve to have a lot of them, judging by what I do and how I do it?
I am also unfazed because I know that most of the threats I’ve had come from a few misguided bigots and some underlings eager to please their masters. I have no doubt in my mind that majority of right-thinking Ghanaians – even those who do not like what I do – will not hide behind secret phone numbers to threaten me.
I am also unfazed because I know that – whether I am right or wrong – I don’t need affirmation from any ‘big man’. I work to put bread on my table. I don’t go begging anyone for food or water or money. So my conscience is clear. I am nobody’s chorister and I am not in this job to sing people’s praises. It is not my job to make the so-called “big men” feel good about themselves. If I have opinions, I will express them and damn the consequences. If I believe a “big man” has acted foolishly I will say it – and laugh about it… with my “annoying” laughter, of course. My head is too big already and I can’t make it a warehouse for unexpressed opinions – it will only grow bigger. I can’t deal with that.
If you think I am arrogant, maybe I am. There is absolutely nothing you can do about it. The good news, though, is that I can’t force you to read my articles or listen to me on radio. You have a choice. Exercise it!
People who write on the comments sections of the various websites on which my articles appear often refer to how ugly I am. It’s almost becoming a regular mantra and I feel it’s some sort of psychological warfare that’s being waged against me. Some people think that by making derogatory remarks about my looks, I will be forced to back down. For God’s sake, I am 31 years old. People have been calling me “ugly” since I turned two. If it didn’t break me then, it won’t break me now.
I know that I was either created in a hurry or I was in a rush to get off God’s conveyor belt. If you think I am too ugly to appear on your TV set, switch it off when you see me on it. Better yet, take the damn set and smash it! If you think I am not good-looking enough to talk to you, just don’t listen to what I say and don’t read what I write.
If you feel libelled or defamed by the things I say (or write) take me to court. I will state my case, you will state yours and if the judge feels I’m an “albatross”, she will have me imprisoned. I will go in and serve my term. If I don’t die inside, I will come out and write a book!
If, on the other hand, you feel I don’t deserve a hearing and you want to make yourself judge and jury, I can’t stop you. Go ahead. Shoot me dead – if that will make you happy! Ram a truck into my car. Or set my house on fire. The choice is yours. Just don’t get caught. I am getting sick and tired of people hiding behind ‘withheld’ numbers, calling and threatening me. Just go ahead and do as you wish. Just stop wasting my ears. The bottom line is that, as Fred Addae said, “I don’t fear hu”.
>>> First published in October 2008