A rare night meant to celebrate journalists who hail from or work in northern Ghana, and to discuss how the media could help develop the north, ended with an equally rare apology from world-class investigative journalist, Anas Aremeyaw Anas, to the relations of those exposed so far through his “name-shame-and-jail” undercover missions.
“I know some of you are not happy because I’ve dealt with some of your relatives. I will apologise. I’m sorry. But it was necessary because the impact on the lives of other people cannot be measured. It could happen to anybody. Fairness is a very important ingredient that would lead to our country developing. Lack of this element is a straight way to chaos.
“So, when we set off for that mission to film or to investigate, let none of you think that it’s for selfish interest. Who says it is enjoyable standing in front of you wearing a mask? I would love to have removed it to speak to you, but it’s not a bed of roses,” said Anas Wednesday night in Bolgatanga, the Upper East regional capital, at the National Media Festival 2017 organised by the Press Foundation (TPF).
The event, held at the Akayet Hotel with Manasseh Azure Awuni, a prominent investigative journalist, also in attendance with renowned preacher and Founder of the Fountain Gate Chapel, Rev. Eastwood Anaba, is the second edition lined up so far by the TPF after the first one had taken place last year in the Ashanti region.
The ‘tiger-eyed’ anti-corruption icon added: “My kind of journalism is extreme and I can see that from your faces. I do what I do because I’m a product of my society. Everything I do is what has been mirrored back to me by you. I think that we have an extreme disease. I see myself as an extreme remedy. And I can say, with all these years of work, that extreme remedies are the most appropriate for extreme diseases. I belong to the remedy. I define Journalism by looking at the problems that my people have. That is how I define my Journalism.”
Anas sacrificed his Good Looks for Society — Chief
The Paramount Chief of Talensi, Tong Raan Kuggbilsong Nanlebegtang, who chaired the function, used the closing minutes of the event to describe Anas, who is also the founder of the Tiger Eye PI, a private investigation agency, as astonishingly selfless.
“This is a man who has dared into the lions’ dens. Not everybody can do what he’s doing. He is a handsome man, I can observe. Looking at his structure, I’m trying to figure his face. This is a face to attract a lot of ladies here, but he has hidden it. He is a man who has stuck his head out to do things that are supposed to change society, to attack the ills of society,” said the paramount chief.
Many among the residents who made into the conference hall, apparently seeing Anas for the first time, stood on their feet as they took from a distance endless photographs of an icon whose works had cost several evildoers either their jobs or their freedom.
“I believe what our journalists can do to help us is to help us identify, specify and occupy the Upper East region, the Upper West region and the Northern region. Journalists should champion the cause of identifying these regions as separate regions, requiring different developmental approaches. The second thing we need to be able to develop is what I would call defiance. Defiance is a major step to development.
“We have a gravitational force like depending on others to develop us. We can’t sit in the Upper East region and say we need some of the oil money. What about the granite money? If you go to Bongo, where Honourable Manasseh comes from, children climb these beautiful rocks and use them for open defecation. We defecate on our rocks and we are [asking] God for somebody’s oil to come to us. We should be aggressive, passionate and angry enough to develop this place,” Rev. Anaba told the gathering.
He also charged journalists to do more stories that would portray the north in a positive light— a call supported by the other speakers when they took their turns to address the audience on the theme for the event: “Developing Northern Ghana; the Role of the Journalist.”
My Father is still a Night Watchman — Manasseh
Whilst speaking to the theme, Manasseh Azure Awuni shared the experience he had from a lowly childhood far away from his roots at Bongo as he sought to encourage the packed hall.
“Let us not allow our circumstances to define us. When we talk about greatness, each one of us can be great. You don’t need to be rich to be great. Around the 1990s, my father left from Bongo to Kete Krachi. He still works there as a night watchman. We grew up under very terrible circumstances. Anytime we visited our friends in school— that’s in Krachi— and their parents asked, ‘who is that your friend?’ ‘Oh, that’s the hospital watchman’s son.
“After that, you would find your colleagues using your father’s profession to insult you. But today I say to the glory of God that even my father’s description has changed. When he’s walking around and they ask, ‘who is that man?’ then they say that is the father of the award-winning journalist. So, let us not allow our circumstances or our background to hold us back,” said Manasseh who, amid applause from the audience, also urged journalists to help fight greed in the north and to project the “positive”.
Veteran journalist and founder of the Press Foundation, Listowel Yesu Bukarson, said the TPF National Media Festival essentially was established to “give meaning to Investigative Journalism” to influence society for good in ways not much familiar today in the Ghanaian ‘mediascape’.
“We are committed to the passage of the Right to Information (RTI) bill into law to increase public transparency and accountability. In the Upper East Region, I am determined to work with the media to tackle their common challenges to pave way for closer partnership in development,” the Upper East Regional Minister and Special Guest of Honour for the event, Rockson Ayine Bukari, assured.
Joyfully sharing their impressions about the fair with Starr News, a number of the attendees described it as a massive success, one they said they always would remember for the inspirations and an ideal dose of humour shared by Anas, Manasseh, Rev. Eastwood Anaba, the Paramount Chief of Talensi and the Regional Minister.