Opinions Sat, 6 Feb 2010

Baby Ansaba Dressed in Ato Kalaka Sam’s Bunkum.

By Ato Aidoo

Ato Sam’s confession about fabricating stories is not anything new, and should not be given any currency, but investigating the matter would be good for the development of journalism in Ghana.

It was three years ago when a friend drew my attention to this change of name- from Ato Sam to Baby Ansaba. Growing up in Takoradi, “Baby” was a popular epithet, and my last recollection points to a girl by name “Baby Sackey.” It is, therefore, surprising how Ato Sam metamorphosed into Baby Ansaba. I inquired whether there has been a sex change, only to be told that “dem nkwasia dze no onsen Ghana ha”. (“Brand Ghana Lingual”, apologies for no translation).

The chilling effect of a man acquiring the name of a woman is in itself a celebration of controversy.

Ato Sam was an ally as we co-edited the journalism school’s mouthpiece. We exchanged ideas on our weekly columns – mine being the “Dictionary of Politics,” and Ato Sam’s “Weekly Eye.” He was humble, an embodiment of erratic controversy, but appeared dangerous for journalism. He writes well, but can creatively falsify information to appear good in the eyes of right-thinking people.

During our internship with the Daily Graphic in 1989, “Wofa” Yaw Boadu-Ayeboafoh encouraged us to learn the “Graphic-Style” of writing, saying it demands quality, truthfulness, and fairness. Ayeboafoh taught us how to make use of words, and advised us against yellow journalism.

Ato Sam was likeable, but also attracted enemies for himself during our “Graphic” days. He does not qualify as a braggart, but periodically praises himself as he draws a distinction between his work, and that of senior journalists. In all these, Malik Eshun of blessed memory advised that young journalists should deviate from that path, and manage well the trappings of early life in journalism.

Lo and Behold, in 1991, Ato Sam wrote that - “Col. Kpodo, Commandant of the Ghana Military Academy, Teshie, has advised the military to purge itself of self-seeking officers.” According to Ato’s story, Colonel Kpodo also advised officers engaged in the acquisition of ill-gotten wealth to desist from that indignation to protect the military from public scrutiny.” However, these words met the criteria of fabrication.

Colonel Kpodo and the military hierarchy challenged the credibility of the story, and urged the Daily Graphic newspaper to retract it. Ato Sam had a meeting with the editorial team, confessing that the story was, indeed, an imaginary one. The next day, “Graphic” fired him.

I cannot be a judge, fallible as I can also be, but Ato Sam, the journalist who confessed that prior to elections 2008, he fabricated stories about then candidate John Evans Atta-Mills to boost the New Patriotic Party’s chances is no stranger to controversy and mendacity.

To Baby Ansaba, I say, yes, we are friends; I would like to pass a day with you in serious and inconsequential chatter. I would not mind washing up beside you, dusting beside you, reading the back half of the newspaper, while you read the front, but it takes a good friend to tell you, that “You Miss Road,” and May the Good Lord help you during these trying moments.

-Author, formerly of the features desk, Daily Graphic.

Columnist: Aidoo, Ato