Friday, 16 August 2019

TALKING DRUM: 37 years a journalist, the incredible tale of the man who ruled the airwaves!

Retired broadcaster, Teye Kitcher
Every June 4th, Jerry John Rawlings’ 1979 coup in Ghana inspired by his Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) readily comes to mind. This year, as in previous years, the story was not different. I knew nothing substantial in history― worldwide― that occurred on the aforementioned date than Rawlings’ coup.

Then, in the afternoon, as I watched Aljazeera, I heard something that was totally new to me. The anchor mentioned Tiananmen and that it was a protest which happened in Beijing, China, in 1989. The news report said many people died in that protest. After I had watched the news report, I sought to find out more about this mass death in history.

“The Tiananmen Square protests, commonly known in mainland China as the June Fourth Incident, were student-led demonstrations held in Tiananmen Square in Beijing during 1989. In what became known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, troops with assault rifles and tanks fired at the demonstrators and those trying to block the military’s advance into Tiananmen Square. Estimates of the death toll vary from several hundreds to thousands,” so is it captured by Wikipedia.

Journalist Adrian Brown reports on the Tiananmen Massacre in 1989 
Whereas I was thrilled to have learnt something new, what really got me excited was the Aljazeera reporter who filed the story from Beijing on the 30th anniversary of the protests. The reporter was Adrian Brown – a foreign correspondent in Beijing – and as if by design, he was the same reporter who covered the demonstration and subsequent massacre 30 years ago.

Adrian Brown recounts the Tiananmen Massacre
Adrian Brown and his Tiananmen reports make me miss many Ghanaian journalists currently on retirement. One of such persons who readily comes to mind is Teye Kitcher who proceeded on retirement from Ghana Broadcasting Corporation [GBC] few weeks ago. For me, journalists must not retire, especially when they are strong and healthy and so much on top of their business.

Born to Mr. Joseph Richard Wentum-Kitcher from Osu and Ada and Vida Mercy Wentum-Kitcher of Sempe, all in the Greater Accra Region and Saltpond, Central Region, the then little Teye Kitcher began his education at the Osu Presbyterian Boys Primary School in 1965.

“I attended the Ada Foah Presbyterian Boys Middle Boarding School from 1970 to 1973. I thereafter attended the Ada Secondary School and then Ghana Institute of Journalism [GIJ]. I studied Diploma in Journalism and completed in 1981. Luck smiled on me as I got to start work at GBC on 7th of April 1982 till I retired this year on the 7th of July,” Mr. Kitcher tells me in a WhatsApp chat.

A whopping 37 years of service to mother Ghana as a journalist!? Incredible! I got to personally know Mr. Teye Kitcher when we sat in the same lecture hall at GIJ for a degree in journalism. That was in 2014/16. Nonetheless, I had heard his soothingly deep voice on Radio Ghana as far away as Wamfia in the Bono Region when I served as a mentee during my third year at the Berekum College of Education in 2010.

Teye Kitcher’s voice and fantastic pronunciations of words in the English Language urged one to listen to the news whenever he presented it no matter how badly one wanted to switch the radio dial.

“About 15 years of my time at GBC was spent as a correspondent at the Castle, Osu, during the time of former President Jerry John Rawlings. I began work at the Castle at the rank of a reporter; the lowest rank in the newsroom,” he narrated.

“My work at the Castle took me to places as far as Newfoundland; as far west of the world to Los Angeles; as far east as Brunei and as far south as New Zealand,” he continued.

He tells me that while he so much enjoyed his job as a journalist working in the newsroom and later as a presidential press corps member – flying to countries around the globe – that joy was punctuated with shock and pain at a point.

“My most challenging assignment was during the coverage of the Kokomba-Nanumba-Dagomba conflict in the 90s,” he said sending me an emoji depicting his painful experience. Mr. Kitcher says the coverage of the conflict was very much challenging for him mainly because of the weight of emotional strain it had on him.

“I had never seen so much destruction and deaths in all my life. Solo, trust me! I left the Castle 6th January, 2001. I came back to the newsroom to assume the role of Shift Leader. I later produced and presented Ghana Today – a news magazine program. I went on to become a supervisor and retired as Head of News.”

Without exaggerating issues, whoever listened to the retired broadcaster present Ghana Today on Radio Ghana would attest he lifted the stories out of his scripts, making it hard for listeners to switch to Focus on Africa [on BBC radio] which aired at the same time – 1500GMT.

“The time is three o’clock and this is Ghana Today where we bring you reports from our correspondents across the country,” his introduction would go. His style of questioning whenever he engaged his correspondents was spectacular.

This aside, another news segment Mr. Kitcher fronted was the Major News Bulletin at 1pm on radio. It was always a delight to hear this amazing broadcaster read scripts on News Commentary [a segment on the news].

Undoubtedly, here is a man full of rich experience as a journalist. Must such a person retire from journalism because he is 60 years old when he could actively be a walking institution in the GBC newsroom?

I am an ardent viewer of Aljazeera and, I perhaps think, I know all of the station’s reporters and correspondents. Talk of the old but active Mike Hanna who reports from Washington DC in the United States, Adrian Brown from Beijing, from Pakistan Kamal Hyder and Diplomatic Editor, James Bays, among others. Watching these phenomenal journalists is such a pleasure. This is because it is not about them being old but being full of rich experience as they have done what they do repeatedly.

I believe that we need such experienced folks in every newsroom to help shape affairs. I am not, in anyway, suggesting that the young folks are not on top of their job. The point, however, is that there are some old folks whose knowledge the young crop of journalists earnestly need to better their trade.

I am sure you have heard of TV3’s Stephen Anti of News@10 fame, right? Truth be told, the likes of Stephen Antis and Teye Kitchers drive the news. I have produced the former for over three years now on 3FM [92.7] as he reads the then Newshour [at 6pm] now Hot Edition [at 5:30pm].

Stephan Anti – though not overly old – is that type of a newsreader or anchor who basically needs no scripts or prepared questions. Yes! Just get him the microphone and it is as if he was destined to do what he does.

A mention could also be made of the former GBC newsreader, Mercy Sowah. Although I never have met her before, having monitored her from afar – via radio – aside her overly soothing voice, I could tell that GBC had a treasure that it perhaps never knew.

I understand that GBC has been engaging its men and women on retirement to teach at its training school. This, I must say, is commendable and must be continued. We must tap the experiences of the doyens.

Anyway, did you know that the man whose news reading gift you so much enjoyed never wanted to be a journalist? Interesting!

“My earlier interest was in architecture. I was, however, encouraged to pursue journalism by my big brother, Paul,” he tells me. Fate, indeed, has a way of turning around things in our lives.

Mr. Kitcher says he is much grateful to all and sundry, especially his listeners, who made his career a success. He hints that there are three people who, however, were very instrumental in his professional career as a journalist.

“My professional life was shaped by three Johns. John Nyankuma, a former Head of News [at GBC] who taught me all I know about broadcast writing; Johnnie Ashie Kotei, one time Head of Programming at GBC and my father-in-law who taught me presentation skills; and Jerry John Rawlings who mentored me in critical thinking.”

Mr. Kitcher is today thanking persons who shaped his life but, probably, little does he know that he has himself shaped many lives, especially people he directly worked with.

“He was my boss who later became my friend. He was a boss-friend who knew how and where to draw the lines between professionalism and friendship. He also knew how and when to combine the two to get the best out of me,” says Abdul Hayi Moomen, one of the celebrated broadcasters in the country, to me in a WhatsApp chat.
“I would miss his friendly but stern and strict nature― fair but firm. He was one person who was passionate about seeing the state broadcaster take back its place as the pacesetter of broadcasting in Ghana― and for that, I will miss him. This is because I share the same sentiments. In his absence, there’s almost no one left to look up to,” he adds.

For Nana Achia Aboagye, also at GBC, Mr. Teye Kitcher is a role model who keeps inspiring her even when he is out there on retirement.

“I consider him my father and I was fortunate to have sat in the same classroom/lecture hall with him at GIJ. He’s such a wonderful figure whom I look up to in my career. He has been my source of inspiration since day one,” she said.

“Mr. Kitcher is very knowledgeable, humble and affable. What I miss about him is his jovial nature. He plays with everyone in the office. He doesn’t discriminate at all. He appreciates and respects everyone,” Ms. Aboagye intimates.

If it is the case that the retired broadcaster never received any award or citation, I do not consider such a big deal. I have always told my close friends that the best award in the world is giving other people [and even animals] the reason to live and this has been confirmed by Mr. Moomen and Nana Achia.

Mr. Kitcher is 60 years old but, mind you, he did not retire on a ‘simple note’. He bagged Masters in Communication Studies, majoring in Media Management, from GIJ in 2017. You can only wait to see him lecture in a communication/journalism school near you as he is currently doing so at the Wisconsin University College in Accra. All said and done, however, let the broadcaster’s passion for excellence and higher heights in education motivate you to achieve that dream. It is never too late to be that wo/man in the mirror in front of you!

The writer is a broadcast journalist with TV3/3FM. Views expressed here are solely his and do not, in anyway, reflect the editorial policy of his organization.
Twitter: @aniwaba

Sports Obama quits Atinka TV, remarries ‘old wife’ – Angel FM

Saddick Adams, the Sports Obama. Photo source: Culled from the internet gathers that one of Ghana’s celebrated sports journalists, Saddick Adams popularly known as the Sports Obama, has left Atinka TV/FM and is headed for the Angel Broadcasting Network, operators of Angel FM [102.9] and Angel TV with over 20 other radio stations in the country.

This comes as the award-winning journalist has selflessly worked with the Atinka Media Village group for almost 5 years, uplifting the media house’s standard of sports shows.

“I believe he has by now signed and sealed his new deal with Angel FM/TV and you would be hearing/seeing him soon,” the source who pleaded anonymity said. has since placed calls to the journalist for confirmation but to no avail.

Sports Obama before joining the Atinka Media Village had worked with a radio station of the Angel Broadcasting Network in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region.

Source: Solomon Mensah/

Friday, 26 July 2019

TALKING DRUM: The Methodist Church, homosexuality & ‘The Boy Called A Girl’

It was a huge magnitude of confusion that rocked not only the Methodist Church of Ghana but Christians and others in Ghana and, perhaps, Africa as a whole when the Methodist Church, UK, said it had [technically] approved same sex marriage.

“The bird,” our elders say, “has no business worrying itself over a collapsed bridge.” If it is a section of the world that has legalized homosexuality and same sex marriage for that matter, one would have thought that Christians had no business worrying themselves contemplating as to whether to indulge in the practice or not. Is that not so?

Nonetheless, that was not the case as the Methodist Church, UK, made it somewhat hard for its branch in Ghana concerning the issue of homosexuality.

Indeed, last week, all eyes were on the Methodist Church of Ghana. Many were the observers who patiently waited to hear whether the church here would approve their UK fellows’ stance on homosexuality.

So, eventually, it happened that the issue was trashed and confided in the museum of history. The Methodist Church in Ghana, at a press conference, said that even if the country [Ghana] legalized same sex marriage, it would not bless such a union.

The issue of homosexuality has now become so topical and gained overwhelming support – worldwide – that many fear making their stance on it known publicly. If you speak against it, you are branded as homophobic. Again, speak against homosexuality and you are likely to be blacklisted and denied visa to countries that say they are upholding human rights. On the flip side, if you speak in favor of homosexuality, you are hailed as if you just won a lottery!

Sincerely, in my opinion, homosexuality should – ordinarily – not be an issue that deserves anyone’s precious time for a second on deliberating on whether to legalize it or not. It is a total NO!

Recently, I wrote a lengthy article in which I called on my President, Nana Addo Danquah Akufo Addo, to legalize marijuana.

The said article titled, “Mr. President, unu wan mi fi tell unu legalize ganja?” got many insulting me. Many of these persons who insulted me – I later realized – never bothered reading what I wrote. They insulted me based on the headline. In that article, I gave research-based evidence on why – if possible – every country must legalize marijuana but restrict their citizens from abusing it as we see in Israel.

I, hereby, want to read from proponents of homosexuality on their reasons why they say we must at all cost legalize man-to-man and woman-to-woman marriage/relationships. Based on human right? If yes, I do not also have the [human] right to be an armed robber or smoke my marijuana?

In 2015, I lived at Spintex and worked at Abelemkpe; all in the Greater Accra region. I had always commuted to work by bus [trotro] until I decided to board a train one day.

On one busy morning when I got to the train station at Adogono at Spintex, a gentleman walked to me.

“I like your red shirt,” he said.

“Thanks,” I replied.

“I am a photographer and makeup artist. I like good colors,” said the stranger.

“I see.”

“So, what do you do?”

“I’m a pressman.”

“Can I have your contact, please? I would be glad you publish a story for me.”

As soon as he got my contact, he sent a ‘hi’ on WhatsApp. We were far apart in the packed train so he engaged me on the social media platform till I got down at Abelemkpe.

Daniel, the name he mentioned to me, initially proved to be genuinely interested in my work – journalism. He wanted to publish some of his supposed pictures in the media.

Then, within two days, this man was inviting me to his house.

“Hi Solomon, when are you visiting me?”

“Visit you? Like how, boss?”

“I’m inviting you to my house. Come and see my place.”

“I see; it will be nice knowing your house but I don’t have time for myself. I will let you know when I’m less busy,” I replied his WhatsApp messages.

All along, it never crossed my mind Daniel had a hidden agenda.

“Hey, good morning. Since you are that busy, can I visit you instead?”

“Sorry boss, may I know why you are bent on visiting?” I replied.

“Do you live alone?” he ignored my question and asked me one instead.

When I told him I lived with a friend, Edward Balami, he was disappointed and would want me visit him instead. I said to myself, “This guy must be crazy!” True to my word he sent me the bombshell.

“You are handsome. Can you make love to me?”

I cringed at the message. In ‘their world’, he is a female and wanted me to make love to him. Really? When there are many God-created women around?

I blocked him [or should I say her?] on WhatsApp and deleted the contact. But hey, that was not all. About three years ago too, a young guy sent me a message on Facebook. My personal resolution is not to look down on any human being whether rich or poor; a child or an adult. So, I would usually give people who need my attention some time.

To my surprise, this young guy [per his profile picture, if that was him] started praising me on how handsome I am and how he liked my pink lips. Then, he also dropped the bombshell. He wanted to make love to me. He was a “he” and needed a “she”. At this instance, I understood why some ladies ignore men who pressure them for love.

I was so annoyed but something told me to speak softly to him. I told him that I think he needed prayers and that I would remember him in mine. He needed to cut short his desire for his fellow man.

My third experience with gays was just last year. He was a “she” and was dying over me because I am handsome. Here was a man saying to his fellow man that he had monitored me for long and that he admired how I dress, too.  

One of my closest lady friends discerned and advised that I ignore him. I indeed did.

On Saturday, July 20, 2019, a very good friend of mine – named Kobina Ansah – had his latest stage play shown at the National Theatre in Accra. The play titled The Boy Called A Girl had Pastor Ronny naming his son Ewura – a name for ladies/girls.

The man of God who doubled as a counselor badly needed a daughter that he prayed to God for such. Luck, however, eluded him. A male child was born onto him. He did everything to get the son to behave as a girl.

Pastor Ronny [right front] at a workout session with his clients
The man of God operated Ronny’s Dance Factory where people with pressing issues came for counselling. Nonetheless, he himself could not resolve the animosity he had towards Ewura, leading to the solitude life his son lived. Not even Ewura’s mother could intervene for peace to reign in their home. Vulnerable Ewura fell in the hands of a ‘good Samaritan’― Pastor Ronny’s senior pastor. Unknown to them, Bishop Akpanya was gay who forced to have sex with Ewura and that was how the boy called a girl found himself having preference for his fellow men.

From left, Ewura and 'her' friend Adez [Pastor Ronny's Secretary]
I have heard many proponents of gay rights say that those in the trade were born with it. Kobina Ansah’s play – though fiction laced with life’s facts – tells that some homosexuals are in the trade due to their upbringing. For those who perhaps genuinely have natural inclination for their fellow sex mates, lawyer Moses Foh-Amoaning has an answer for you.

“Caster Semenya we know is a South African female runner. Now, because she is a female but has a dominant hormone of testosterone (male hormones), she’s got more power. The International Athletics Association has told her to take the necessary medical steps to reduce the amount of testosterone to normal female level. Does this not tell you that there is a solution to those who said they were born homosexuals?” the lawyer at the forefront of persons kicking against legalization of homosexuality told Stephen Anti on Hot Edition on 3FM last week.

Before God and man – without being a hypocrite – I cannot claim to be a saint. But, aside playing the religious card, homosexuality does not sit well with me. The truth is, I cannot keep my opinion on this particular issue to myself when others want it [homosexuality] imposed on my country. And again, I cannot keep mute for the fear of being denied visa or branded homophobic.

This does not, however, suggest we must hate homosexuals or attack them. Far from that. I think that rather they need our love and prayers and hopefully things might change for them.

Anyway, if you should push me to sum my lengthy talk in a sentence, I would say that I gladly would be polygamous than sleep with my fellow man. Sex is between a man and a woman!

The writer is a broadcast journalist with TV3/3FM. Views expressed here are solely his and do not, in anyway, reflect the editorial policy of his organization.
Twitter: @aniwaba

Friday, 19 July 2019

TALKING DRUM: I suffered in your absence, NAM1’s ‘brother’ speaks!

CEO of Menzgold, Nana Appiah Mensah [NAM1]
If I would not be (mis)taken for exaggeration, I would have said that almost every blessed day I get no less than two people asking me the same questions I have been asked repeatedly.

“Are you NAM1? Is he your brother?” people whom I never knew before would just ask me on my first time meeting them. On January 23, 2019, I passed through the domestic terminal of the Kotoka International Airport [KIA] as I checked in for a flight en route Tamale in the Northern Region. One of the security personnel at the check-in point signaled that I dropped in a bowl my cell phones, wallet and such belongings for screening. I obliged.

Then, a man of about 38-years old – being one of the security officials – would engage me even after they were done searching me.

“Are you NAM1?” he asked.

“No, boss,” I replied him.

“Wow! Do you relate him? Your surname is even Mensah?” he probed further.

I had told him that the Chief Executive Officer of the gold dealership firm, Menzgold, Nana Appiah Mensah [popularly known as NAM1] was not somebody I had ever met before let alone being my relative.

Then, again, jokingly, he said with a bit of seriousness in his voice that if I had landed from an international flight at the KIA, he would have arrested me because – for him – I was NAM1. Can you imagine?

Solomon Mensah has a resemblance to Nana Appiah Mensah
To my surprise, on my second time using the domestic terminal at the KIA for another trip to Tamale, an official at the airline Passion Air – a lady – said to me she found it difficult asking me on my first flight if I were NAM1. I was not surprised. As I have alluded to, I get this kind of question and interrogation daily. On this same second time of going to Tamale, on my return to Accra, another official at Passion Air’s desk at the Tamale Airport named Prince Curls Wilson said to me he wanted to ask me a question, after he had checked my pass.

“Sir, sorry oo, I wanted to ask you something on the last time you used the [Tamale] Airport but I could not gather the courage to do so. Please, are you NAM1 or do you relate him?”

Mr. Wilson later would tell me that NAM1 used to travel to Tamale which got him a bit closer to him [NAM1]. They share a kind of working relations. Yet, seeing me, he could not differentiate between his friend and me.

In May 2019, I went to the then Accra Polytechnic now Accra Technical University’s printing pool. I was there to print a manuscript. Following the numerous questions on my resemblance with NAM1, I now would walk carrying my 3FM/TV3 ID card on me and, indeed, I had it when I went to the Accra Technical University that day.

“Hey! Who are those owed by NAM1? Come for your money oo he is here at long last,” a lady – whose printing shop I had entered – shouted so loud that I thought she spoke through a megaphone. This was a young lady I never knew before.

That took me about two minutes virtually begging the lady that I am not the Menzgold CEO and that she was putting my life in danger considering that hundreds of students were around.

Dear NAM1, if I mean to recount every single encounter I have had with Ghanaians mistaken me for you, I guess I would need a full month to do so. Severally, I have been warned and admonished by friends to be careful – especially when in town – so people do not pounce on me. Hence, my carrying of my workplace’s ID card in my pocket even to church, at times.

Of a truth, at a point in time, the pressure of a possible attack on me was so much that I thought of reporting myself to the police so – perhaps – they issued a  disclaimer on my behalf.

On Wednesday, July 17, 2019, a group calling itself Aggrieved Customers of Menzgold held a press conference. They had one main thing to say, they need their locked up investments refunded to them.

“We want to hear from NAM1, we have supported him all this while and it is time we hear from him…we want to demand from the CID that we want to meet Nana Appiah Mensah in person. Wherever he is, he needs to address us as leaders of Menzgold customers.

“If it is not a deliberate attempt on the part of the government to shield and protect Nana Appiah Mensah to loot and create and share our investments, then this is the time that the government should be transparent…and let us know what is happening with our investments,” the customers fumed as reported by the

‘My brother, NAM1,’ I must say it is refreshing seeing you return to Ghana. Good name, the old adage says, is better than riches and for that you must endeavor to save yourself the tag of defrauding your clients. Ironically, I also get people asking me the question, “So, when are you paying your clients?”

We understand that you won your case in Dubai. That is fine. I would entreat you to, as a matter of urgency, pay your clients with whatever money you got from Dubai. Even if it means selling some properties you have to add up to the settlement of your debt, I think it will go a long way to clear your name.

The good news, however, is that some of your clients still believe Menzgold was and is never a Ponzi scheme. They rather say, it is government who is to blame for their woes. This suggests that you have an appreciable level of sympathy and trust from a section of the public. If you are able to defray your debt, I think, history will remember you as the man who supposedly fell from grace to grass and rose up again with the growing speed of the Chinese bamboo tree.

And when this happens, you would not only save yourself but people like me. In my neighbourhood – somewhere in Accra – a woman who sells foodstuffs now looks at me with the corners of her eyes whenever I go to buy from her.

NAM1, when the Ghana Police Service declared you wanted and the media splashed your photos, this woman had a copy of an edition of the Daily Graphic at her shop. You were on the front page of the paper and she asked me why I was all over even in the newspapers. Fortunately, she could not read the Daily Graphic so she did not understand what the issue was. But, sadly, after probably watching the Akan speaking television stations, she now [till date] says I am the one in the news and that people need their monies.

It has been but God’s grace that I am not hurt by any of your aggrieved customers in your long absence. The ball is fully in your court now and Operation Calm Hearts must begin now!

The writer is a broadcast journalist with Media General (TV3/3FM). Views expressed here are solely his and do not, in anyway, reflect the editorial policy of his organisation.
Twitter: @aniwaba

Friday, 12 July 2019

TALKING DRUM: When we thought we could praise Nana Akomea

STC bus. Photo source: Culled from the internet
Beside me in the State Transport Corporation [STC] bus with registration number GE 402-16 was a beautiful, dark-skinned lady. She wore [what appeared to be] a Denim blue-faded jeans trousers with a black sleeveless top matching it.

It was the 21st day of June 2019 and we were headed for the Ashanti Regional capital, Kumasi, from the nation’s capital – Accra. Before our bus could set off from the Kwame Nkrumah Circle Interchange, passengers chorused one thing― they were dying of heat and that the driver should switch on the air-conditioners in the bus. However, the driver sat still. He did not utter a word.

Then, the voices drumming home their discomfort roared again. Yet, neither the driver nor his conductor [mate] showed concern. My new friend – the lady in jeans – stood [up] from her seat and walked to seek for answers from the STC bus drivers.

“He says there is nothing he could do about it. That, they [air-conditioners] are not working properly,” she said to me and other passengers who could hear her sleek voice.

The air-conditioners were actually switched on but the air that flowed from it was nothing to write home about. For four solid hours and some minutes, we sat and endured the heat in the ‘oven’ bus before reaching our destination.

Before my traveling to Kumasi, I had spoken to 3news’ cartoonist – Tilapia – on persons [seemingly] doing well in society whom we could both write and draw about. We aimed at praising such people so it spurs others on to emulate. And, one of these names that came to mind – readily – was the Manager of STC, Nana Akomea.

We had learnt from media advertisement and word-of-mouth how STC had transformed. It now had a crew onboard to readily attend to passengers. The STC of old now serves snacks to passengers to get them enjoy their journeys.

Of a truth, I actually had a very good friend – a lady – who used to work with the STC crew who catered for passengers. When I decided to travel to Kumasi, I sent her a message on whether she would recommend I went by an STC bus.

She said yes, affirming Tilapia’s call on me to go by STC bus so we get to do a better job [of writing/drawing] on the Managing Director of the state-owned transport. Today, if I am to recommend STC bus to anyone, it would probably be a word of discouragement.

On Tuesday, July 9, 2019, I sat in the vehicle of a colleague at work [TV3] and it happened that two STC buses passed us by.

“You see Nana Akomea’s STC? That’s my subject for this week’s write up on my column,” I said to my friend. Little did I know that he similarly had a bad experience of the State Transport Corporation.

“My wife travelled to Kumasi not long ago by an STC bus. She says she had a hell of an experience. The air-conditioners were uncontrollably high that everybody complained in the bus,” he said to me.

So clearly, two different worlds. While we had to endure heat from Accra to Kumasi, another group of STC passengers had to battle frigid temperatures. My checks with some insiders at STC reveal that these buses of malfunctioning air-conditioners were mainly added to the Corporation’s fleet from another transport service and that these buses would be perfect on the road if they were properly maintained.

My air-conditioners rant aside, I again noticed something at STC’s makeshift terminal situated close to the VIP Bus Terminal. After the recent Kintampo-Tamale accident that claimed over 70 lives, transport operators were advised to properly document their passengers. This, the STC needs not to be told. Nonetheless, STC out of laziness – I think – refuses to get the bio data of its passengers as there are provisions made for the computation of the name, age and gender of their clients on its receipt.

“Name: NA [Not Applicable]. Age: NA and Gender, NA,” the receipt I had from STC indicated. The STC cannot spend five minutes on each of its passengers to put down these details? A state transport joining the mediocrity of bandwagons? If airlines are able to properly document passengers, why is it difficult for long journey transport services?

The writer's ticket
My STC experience and that of my friend’s wife could probably not mean that there is a total gloomy picture at the corporation. I am tempted to believe that there are some [or many] of their buses in good shape. However, Nana Akomea must be reminded of the adage which says that the spoilage of a grain of groundnut affects the wholesomeness of a barrel of such.

I understand that STC no longer has the crew on its buses to attend to passengers as it used to previously. If this is true, as they were absent in my bus, attempts must be made to bring them back. They save drivers of passengers’ complaints and all that. The drivers need a peace of mind to do their work while driving. And it must be stated that if people call for the comeback of STC serving its passengers snacks, it does not mean they [passengers] cannot buy same for themselves. I only think that that treatment to passengers distinguished STC from the fleet of other transport services making them the preferred choice.

In the world of business, it is all about branding. Someone says, the difference between Spiderman and Kwaku Ananse is but branding and that is indisputably true.

Dear Nana Akomea, deliberate efforts must be made to ensure all your buses are well maintained. STC’s success story must be told with a broad smile. All is not lost. You have started a good fight. Finish it well.

Lest I forget, on my way back to Accra from Kumasi, I chose another transport. Someday, God willing, I will travel by STC bus again and if I realize that things are in good shape, I will write another lengthy piece – this time – to praise you. Until then, I wish you the best, Sir.

The writer is a broadcast journalist with TV3/3FM. Views expressed here are solely his and do not, in anyway, reflect the editorial policy of his organization.
Twitter: @aniwaba

Friday, 5 July 2019

TALKING DRUM: Mr. President, ‘Unu wan mi fi tell unu fi legalize ganja?’

Marijuana. Photo: Culled from the internet 

NOTE: I use marijuana and ganja interchangeably to mean ‘weed’ in this piece.

Apart from his family, I think nobody knew his real name. He was nicknamed Kilo, a man who served as a barber somewhere in Sunynai, the capital of the Bono Region.

In Kilo’s barbering shop were about seven calico-cloth-made caps. They [caps] were usually temporary gifts to his clients. Clients who were mainly outsiders who went to Kilo’s salon to have a shave.

“Senior, for this haircut I have just given you, I must give you one of my caps. You must return it when your hair grows,” Kilo would say to his unsuspecting clients.

The man [Kilo] could not separate his pleasure for smoking marijuana also known as ganja from his job as a barber. So, getting him shave your hair meant giving you a ‘killer’ haircut. The story of Kilo and many others nationwide and probably across the globe have demonized ganja. In the local parlance, the herb is even referred to as ↄboronsam tawa – the devil’s herb.

Ganja, indeed, is so powerful that it could let a sane wo/man act weirdly or at worse, go mad. In Sunynai, at a marijuana base, a smoker in the company of his friends ‘lost’ his left leg after puffing on the herb. Hearsay had it that the unnamed smoker stood [upright] while he bent his left leg to touch a mango tree under which they smoked. It was after the ‘madness’ had taken over his head that he told his colleagues – who foolishly believed him – his left leg was missing!

Last week, the Rastafarian Council of Ghana was in the news after the Ghana Police Service thwarted their resolve to embark on a demonstration to get ganja decriminalized in the country. This generated a buzz as to whether it is right we legalized ganja or not. The issue has had the nation sharply divided on ‘yes’ and ‘no’ lines. For Professor Joseph Bediako Asare, a retired chief psychiatrist, his answer to the debate on legalising the herb is a big NO! That, Ghana’s marijuana is of high grade and that ligalising it will mean seeing many mad wo/men on our streets. 

Professor Asare’s position was endorsed by Mr. Gabriel Bernaku being the National Chairman of the Coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations in Health. The two granted interviews to 3FM News.

Whereas I understand their fears and concerns, I think it is about time we sat down to take a relook at the herb gifted to mankind by God. The million question is, “Is ganja only for smoking”?

“Most people think cannabis [marijuana] is a plant you smoke. My point is, it is much more than that,” says 88-year-old Professor Emeritus Raphael Mechoulam of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as reported by under the headline, ‘Israel is banking on cannabis as its next big industry’. He is credited for being one of the pioneers of researching into the medical use of marijuana in Israel – God’s nation.

The report continued, “Experimenting on his newly acquired stash, Mechoulam was able to isolate and identify tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main mind-altering component of cannabis, and cannabidiol, or CBD, which has therapeutic properties but does not get the user high. He was building on work by Roger Adams, an early 20th century American chemist, who first identified certain chemical components of cannabis in the 1940s but whose efforts were slammed shut by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.”

If Professor Mechoulam, at his age, still spends sleepless nights researching into medical use of marijuana, then it should tell you he is up to something spectacular.
“The ailments that Mechoulam and his associates say are being treated effectively with cannabis-based medicines include epilepsy, osteoporosis, obesity and all sorts of pain,” says.

It is the fool, the popular adage says, who does not change his mind. So, in 2013, writing under the headline, “Why I changed my mind on weed,” CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta apologized for previously kicking against prospects of ganja.

“Long before I began this project [referring to a documentary], I had steadily reviewed the scientific literature on medical marijuana from the United States and thought it was fairly unimpressive. Reading these papers five years ago, it was hard to make a case for medicinal marijuana. I even wrote about this in a TIME magazine article, back in 2009, titled ‘Why I would Vote No on Pot’,” he said in his apology article.

Last year, I chanced on Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s documentary titled Weed on YouTube and what I saw was revealing. In the said documentary, this is what Dr. Sanjay Gupta shared on his findings: “In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works. Take the case of Charlotte Figi who I met in Colorado [in the US]. She started having seizures soon after birth. By age 3, she was having 300 [seizures] a week, despite being on seven different medications. Medical marijuana has calmed her brain, limiting her seizures to 2 or 3 per month.”

Indeed, Dr. Sanjay Gupta was right opining that they [Americans] have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States. It is not only Americans misled on marijuana. My people, Ghanaians, have had their own share. In particular, churches – pastors for that matter – have for long demonized and continue to paint the herb pitch black. They do so without making the effort to research into the issue, only basing on hearsay.

Medical use of ganja is but one of the many uses of the herb. Mention could be made of marijuana playing an active role in the manufacturing of [some] creams, cloths and even for fuel.

If you live in a country where most citizens together with their government’s main concern is to wake up every day, get some banku or fufu to eat and engage in partisan politics of NDC-NPP gibberish without finding solutions to even the filth killing them, it would be hard for such a group of people to buy into the idea of decriminalizing ganja. No wonder that after many years of malaria killing our active labour, it is the white man coming to us with a malaria vaccine in 2019. Nothing concerns us!

But, I am here to make my position known that we must decriminalize and legalised the herb. The Nana Akufo Addo government and other subsequent governments must ensure we have a state-controlled-farm of marijuana cultivation coupled with a team of scientists [researchers] reviewing the claims by the Israeli weed industry and improve on such. This could possibly stabilize our economy as Ghana would become medical tourism for persons who would want a cure to their sickness the marijuana way.

Then, after the decriminalization and legalization would come another hurdle to cross. Must we allow people to smoke it [anyhow]? My response is no. Currently, in Israel where marijuana is on top of the agenda, it is still illegal for people to smoke it.

Nonetheless, if we feel that we have decriminalized it and would give persons who would want to smoke it their right, then I have a suggestion. Marijuana joints – each – must be set up in all our [military] barracks across the country. One lion’s den [barrack], one marijuana joint. Here, you go to the proposed joint with your Ghana Card – also proving you are above 18 years – and you have the chance to smoke the herb say once a month. Remember that, we cannot entrust our corrupt police to handle this task.

This suggestion [marijuana joints] should tell you that although fire is good, it could be bad, hence, the need for stringent measures in place. Did you know that when it comes to gun crime in the world, Japan has one of the lowest rates? That, in 2014, there were just six gun deaths compared to 33,599 in the US? “What is the secret?” asked the BBC in article titled “How Japan has almost eradicated gun crime.”

“If you want to buy a gun in Japan, you need patience and determination. You have to attend an all-day class, take a written exam and pass a shooting-range test with a mark of at least 95%.”

“There are also mental health and drugs tests. Your criminal record is checked and police look for links to extremist groups. Then, they check your relatives too - and even your work colleagues. And as well as having the power to deny gun licenses, police also have sweeping powers to search and seize weapons,” the BBC article says.
If you care to know, in Japan, I learnt in that article that you can only buy fresh cartridges by returning the spent cartridges you bought on your last visit.

This is how Ghana’s laws must work. Guns are not illegal in Japan but the system will ‘frustrate’ you owing one since it could cause mayhem. We must wake up as a country and act as responsible humans.

I do not follow what I see or read blindly. Before you get my trust, it means I have painstakingly researched into who you are and what you do. I have done an extensive search on the good uses of marijuana and we cannot brush the herb under the carpet just because it is getting people mad.

If we would let common sense have its way, no single person will get mad out of legalising marijuana. When you are done reading this piece, kindly go to YouTube, search for Kofi Annan by Blakk Rasta. Listen to that song and send me your feedback afterwards.

The writer is a broadcast journalist with TV3/3FM. Views expressed here are solely his and do not, in anyway, reflect the editorial policy of his organization.
Twitter: @aniwaba