Home Entertainment Enimil Ashon: In the name of National Security

Enimil Ashon: In the name of National Security


National Security learned last week what ancient Fantes knew, that “inyim ekitsiw ekitsiw a mannfa nkitsiw nkantosoe ho”.

The advice is in reference to the days before the invention of the WC and toilet roll. For bowel movement, the people practiced free-range, after which they wiped themselves clean with any soft object in sight, usually tree leaves. Over time they learned, albeit the painful way, to stay off the prickly pear plant.

Bullies are those who yearn for a fight when they see people they can beat. Especially against the media, Ghanaian security operatives, from Special Branch to BNI to National Security, have always lusted for a fight. They just came for you and threw you into the “cooler” at any of the prisons. Ask Kwesi Pratt, Kweku Baako and Haruna Atta.

Though they seldom succeeded in breaking the will of their victims, they came again and again.

Until last week.

Samuel Atta Mensah, Managing Director of Omni Media, operators of Citi FM and Citi TV, not only refused to hand over Zoe Abu Baidoo to the security operatives but drove the lady there in his own car. At National Security, he stormed the office of the capo di tutti capi himself and told him that “what your boys did (the invasion of Citi with six operatives to arrest the lady journalist) was wrong”.

If you tasted journalism under Kwame Nkrumah, Generals Ankrah and Afrifa (NLC), Kutu Acheampong (SMC) and Jerry Rawlings’ AFRC & PNDC, you know that you don’t that do that!

But Sammens did, and won. Journalism and freedom won.

Let us be clear. So far, Nobody has said that Police cannot invite any journalist to help in investigations, like all other citizens; what everybody is saying is that this communist police state style of subjecting journalists to detention and torture must stop.

Even in democratic rule, terror reigned in the newsroom. For what I wrote in my column, ‘Fragmented Thoughts’, in the ‘Weekly Spectator’ newspaper from 1981 through 1983, Yours Truly was one of five journalists from the state-owned media who were ordered to go on leave in 1983 (under this Fourth Republican Constitution).

In 2009, the IGP sent his men to invite me, as Editor of the ‘Ghanaian Times’, to Police Headquarters. My offence? The paper had published a story that quoted a top police officer as lamenting that an uncompleted police building in Swedru had been turned into a den of robbers.

I declined the invitation. The GJA, under Ransford Tetteh as president, intervened. I remember a long meeting that ensued at the Press Centre. It was the ‘Ghanaian Times’ versus the Police. The GJA, with its lawyer, was in the middle.

I refused to apologize on grounds that the paper had not erred. Besides, even if we had, since when did a mistake in a newspaper in the free world become punishable by time at police headquarters?

This morning, something inside of me gives me the feeling that we are about to see the end of those days, thanks to Sammens.

I pause here, however, to express my horror at and disappointment with a negative tribal statement attributed to Caleb Kudah. Two online news channels quote him as telling a TV interviewer that at the National Security headquarters, he “had to hide his identity as an Ewe, otherwise his beatings would have come double-double”.

Did his interrogators ask him about his tribe or hometown? Since when did Ewes become an endangered species in Ghana? Is Caleb suggesting that among the National Security operatives there are no Ewes? Did the dreaded Gbevlo Lartey go away with all Ewes in the security service?

In a country where people get beaten to death because someone shouted that their genitals vanished at a touch by the victim (all of which accusations turn out ultimately to be false), I can imagine how many uninformed and unsuspecting Ewes may have been incensed against other tribes because the words came from the mouth of a credible, trusted journalist. Thank God Ewes know better.

Meanwhile, the very modus operandum of National Security is creating national insecurity. These days 4×4 vehicles, with sirens and flashlights, pull drivers over on the highways. The occupants jump out, with guns blazing, and announce, “We are from National Security”.

Here is my proposal. The use of sirens by all government functionaries must cease forthwith. Ministers of State on urgent duties must be given a new form of laissez-passer. National Security must announce on radio and TV, that henceforth its operatives will not be sent out with sirens to make open arrests anywhere in Ghana.

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