Friday, January 15, 2016

INSIDE AFRICA: When The Media Met The President And Forgot What To Say

Edward Adeti, Journalist
There is an old saying in Africa that when you are offered a rare opportunity to sleep with the king’s wife, just make her pregnant.

It may sound scandalous, but the import of the saying simply is: do it well whenever you are assigned to a task usually not awarded to common men. There are at least two English proverbs that echo a similar meaning. What is worth doing is worth doing well. And strike whilst the iron is hot!


I have always described media practitioners in Africa as charitable signboards or signposts. They direct the public to the desired destinations but they themselves remained fixed at one miserable spot, languishing there under all kinds of harsh weather conditions until retirement is due all of a sudden.

Celebrated football coach, Jose Mourinho, says poverty and fame should not go together. In other words, you have no business being poor if you are famous as the same fame will advertise your poverty against your will, free of charge and globally!

Africa, as compared to the other flourishing continents, has a vulnerable ‘mediascape’. The black continent is generally an eventful terrain for a journalist to practise but the worst place for them to retire as a salary earner. Very few productively employed journalists, who are qualified and lucky to work with companies who are not only well resourced but also are compassionately and religiously aware that life after retirement and life after death can be identical twins bound together by one umbilical cord, walk home at the end of their careers secure, sound and smiling. And many, after spending their useful years so obsessed with helping institutions and individuals to get there at the neglect of their own families, crawl home insecure, miserable, forgotten by those they once stood for and only received by the family they failed to prepare ahead of retirement.

Many media practitioners on the continent act as loyal friends of the public and principled enemies of their own families. They are prone to ulcer, skipping appropriate breakfasts and at times enduring spiritually unapproved fasting because there are always government convoys to catch at dawn, early tasks to execute somewhere and distant emergencies to cover.

Prez John Mahama, Ghana
Because they spend many hours in front of computers and other editing machines to prepare reports, they are exposed to at least five serious health issues that result from sitting too long. Cancer, obesity, diabetes, heart attack and foggy brain form the package to be delivered slowly but surely! All these have been proven by reputable medical institutions including Harvard School of Public Health and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) who publishes its findings in the European Heart Journal, and they are simply saying: sit more, die younger! Media practitioners also die a lot earlier because they often return home to late heavy traditional supper― a recipe for acid reflux that generates esophageal cancer and heartburn among other problems.

The little they earn at the end of the day is under the pressure of so many demands. Some die suddenly in the middle of the misery, or tragically in the line of duty, leaving behind a more miserable family who has nowhere to turn for sustainable support. And those who failed to spend more time with their families and to prepare their children adequately for the future (because they loved the public more than their own) and are lucky to grey on the job will return on retirement to a family too helpless and even too clueless to offer them support because they did not prepare their children enough as a future support base.


The Government of Ghana deserves a pat on the back for having been organising a meeting between the President and the press for some time now. It is a necessary encounter, as uncommon in Africa as a ship in the Sahara.

The President was brilliant and so were the media representatives at the recent engagement held in the country’s national capital of Accra. The journalists were cool-headed on the day, perhaps because the Commander-in-Chief himself is a good-tempered figure. As a king is, so is his kingdom.

But again, sadly, the media forgot about their own. They failed to spot a low-hanging opportunity begging to be plucked. They blew away an opportunity to make the king’s wife pregnant.

Questions asked dwelt more on government’s commitment to the fight against corruption, the country’s power crisis, internal security particularly with proliferation of firearms with recent mass discoveries of ammunition in three of the country’s industrial south and the underdeveloped north as it braces for polls this year, the recent resettlement asylum readily granted (in temporary terms) to two ex-detainees from the under-deconstruction Guantanamo Bay and soaring utility tariffs and prices of petroleum products.

The President was meeting the press for the first time since a colleague journalist died on a presidential assignment in 2015. Samuel Nuamah, a presidential correspondent from the Ghanaian Times, a state-run media corporation, got thrown out of a somersaulting bus reportedly rented by a presidential staffer and died on the spot.

Cross-Section of Journalists
The tragedy sparked bile among his colleagues in the presidential press corps who claimed they had raised concerns in times past about the fitness of vehicles used in transporting the press assigned to cover presidential affairs and that the complaints lodged had all fallen on deaf ears. The bus that was bringing a section of the press from the Volta Region, where President John Mahama had graced a religious convention, suddenly burst one of its “worn-out” tyres and the driver’s alleged panic decision to apply the brakes sent the bus flying and rolling in the air. That incident also left the fate of other journalists, who survived later and were discharged one after the other from hospitals in the national capital, dangling for some time within the jaws of death.

Out of a forest of hands that went up when it was time to ask the President questions at a press briefing broadcast live on television and radio stations and monitored by millions across the country, about twenty-six journalists had their turns to sleep with the king’s wife. And no one made her pregnant.

They did not pursue the line of enquiries some keen followers of the briefing had expected. Samuel Nuamah’s needless and painful loss only in August last year poses a critical question still relevant today about the safety of not only journalists attached to the convoys of the President and the Vice President but also of the media men and women resident mostly in the rural parts of the country where they travel daily under riskier conditions to bring pleasure and life to the people.

That question was not asked. And, surprisingly, not even a moment of silence was observed in honour of a breadwinner who died a needless death too soon whilst following the President around and is now separated eternally from a young widow and a suckling baby girl. If the Presidency did not observe a moment of silence, and nobody from the media would talk about it at the event, who should talk about it from the Presidency? Who should speak for those whose field is to wield the pen and the microphone, and who were at the centre of the event?

The failure to ask that question when the press finally met the President himself only shows how little journalists care about themselves, how little they think of their own, how they are their own ‘enemies’. Besides, no question was asked about government’s commitment to the Media Development Fund advocated in the year 2000 in Ghana and re-advocated three years ago for the purposes of supporting the media to perform their duties properly without fear or favour, let or hindrance.


Journalists in Africa rush to offer coverage wherever there are public protests for increase in salaries and wages, but hardly do they fight for their own increase.

They are the first to report injustice where allowance arrears owed civil servants are being delayed or denied but the last to talk about their own basic salaries not paid for months. They rush to help the people drain water out of a luxury swimming pool whilst ignoring the fire on their own thatched roof. He said love your neighbour as yourself― not more than yourself.

As they fight for the countries and for others, journalists should not forget to fight for themselves as well. As they do the work, they should love their families, too. They should not be signposts that only show directions and never get to any destinations themselves. They should not behave like the hurricane lamp that flickers to brighten the bottom of every object around except its own. When a rare good opportunity to sleep with a ‘king’s wife’ presents itself, do not hesitate for a moment to meet it halfway. Make ‘her’ pregnant!

By Edward Adeti | Email: Twitter: @edwardadeti1

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