When I stood at the New Polo Ground in Accra at midnight on 5 March 1957, within earshot of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, as he whispered to Mr Krobo Edusei, “Bepae ma me!” (Come and do the opening salutation me!) and heard Krobo respond by yelling with gusto: “CHOOOOOBOI!”….. “CHOOOOOBOI!”, to be greeted with probably the loudest YEEEEEEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIII!! ever uttered on earth, I would never have believed that 59 years later, we would have a regime that would pack journalists into a tipper truck for them to cover the independence anniversary of their own “beloved country”.
On that most auspicious day in our country’s history, members of the Press were given special buses – all new and shiny. A special stand was erected for photographers to stand on and be able to get the best shots possible. All I myself needed to tell the police officers near the special dais on which Dr Nkrumah and other CPP leaders stood, was “Reporter!” They gave me immediate access by pushing people away to allow me to pass.
For I lived in a country where people really understood their duty. The police were there to prevent harm being done to our leaders, not to show anyone where “power lies”. Had they prevented me from getting access to the dais – and thereby being able to tell successive generations what it felt like to be present at the Polo Club at that midnight hour – I would have just walked away with my head held high. But the reporters of the current era do not seem to have any pride.
They are thus treated with very little respect by those who organise public events. Indeed, some of them were violently assaulted whilst covering – a similar independence anniversary parade in 2013. The army’s PR department initially lied about what had happened, but later apologised. But no-one was punished as far as the public knew. The sequence was this year’s tipper truck!
No; 59 years ago, I would never have believed that the journalists of independent Ghana would be among the most servile elements of our society, or that the rulers would look on unconcerned if and when humiliation was inflicted on journalists. After all, Kwame Nkrumah was a journalist! Would there ever have been a “Ghana” had The Accra Evening News not existed?
And which politician could become known to the electorate without the reporting of his speeches to the world by journalists?
I would not have believed, either, that Chiefs, whose predecessors had competently and courageously organised their people to resist foreign invasion after foreign invasion, mounted with superior weapons – sometimes led in their resistance by women (one of whom, Yaa Asantewaa, has become a shining icon in our country’s history) – would today sit down and expect the agents of a disinterested Central Government to be the only people to beat off gangs of local and Chinese galamsey gold-diggers-cum-fortune-seekers, who use toh-toh-toh-toh machines to dig for gold in the rivers from which human beings get the water which they must drink in order to live!
Is this the country whose people used ancient kyirem [asafo] formations to prevent their cocoa trees from being cut down, ostensibly to fight against ”swollen shoot” disease? Is this the nation in which the sounding of gong-gong and drum alerts would send men into the bush to look for women who had not returned from their farms and had disappeared (believed raped and killed); and who would also organise night-time patrols to deter burglars from attempting to rob their towns and villages? What has happened to the spirit that once reigned at Aboabo in Kumase? Where are the Amantuor-Mmiensa in Akyem Abuakwa? Where are the ”Asafo Companies” – with their picturesque flags – that taught valour and honour to the young men of the Western and Central Regions?
No, I would never have believed that our people would all be sitting down and watching their rivers die. Birem, Densu, Offin, Prah, Tanoh, Butere, Supong and many others are all at risk of dying completely.
One brilliant TV journalist who made a film about the tragedy, Edem Srem, wrote in heart-breaking terms about the lack of concern in the country over this tragic situation:
NO! On 6 Match 1957, I would never have believed that our independence, which we deemed so valuable that Dr Kwame Nkrumah was bold enough to say that it would be “meaningless unless it is linked up with the independence of the whole African continent!” would rather so emasculate us and rob us of all common sense that we would sit down and watch with our hands tied behind our backs whist the source of our VERY LIVES – our water bodies – were being violated AND KILLED by foreigners and the local traitors who assist them – for money. And, of course, I would never have believed that one day we would have a President in this country, who. having sworn to safeguard all our lives, tells us, regarding galamsey, that those who destroy our water bodies do so because “they want to earn a living!”
And I would never have believed that in a Ghana that has been independent for 59 years, and has developed relations with Interpol, the FBI, Scotland Yard and many other first-class detection agencies,in the world the police would be so toothless and unprofessional that when an old woman suffering from dementia is burnt alive publicly for merely mistaking someone else’s bedroom for her own, they would not be able to bring the offenders to book in five years and four months! I refer to this report in the Daily Graphic of 26 November 2010:
Buck up, Ghanaians of 2016. A lot of confidence was invested in you in 1957. Do not let those who believed in you as the future builders opf the nation they won back for you from the British colonialists, gnash their teeth and wring their hands with sadness, as they watch you from that far-away place they have now gone to, from where they can never return.