From Kemi Yesufu, Abuja The decision to retain health maintenance organisations (HMOs) as part of the country’s health insurance programme caused a major disagreement between the House of Representatives Committee on Health Services and the executive secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof. Yusuf Usman. Usman, at the just concluded two-day investigative hearing…
JUST as America has the “Star-Spangled Banner,” so is Ghana, the land of the Black Star—the black star that is the nucleus of the red, yellow, green colours of the national flag of Ghana.
One mention of the “Black Stars” and the national football team of Ghana which had from time immemorial been the nemesis of Nigeria come to mind. But today, I am not talking football. Instead I am here to celebrate a great son of Ghana, a star in journalism and the pride of investigative journalism the world all over. I am here to present to you a strange man, the courageous and heroic journalist who used journalism as a tool to expose bribery and corruption among judges in Ghana. The iconoclastic detective cum reporter, the Sherlock Holmes who shook his country’s judiciary to its very foundation, leading to hitherto respectable judges being brought down from their Olympian heights and sacked with ignominy.
His name is Anas Aremeyaw Anas, a surreal, incognito character straight out of fiction, his face perennially masked like our very own Lagbaja, the saxophone-blowing musician masquerade whose face none can see and only very few people can swear they have seen his real face.
I was reflecting on the theme of corruption in the Nigerian judiciary and the recent siege on the homes of some judges by the rampaging men of the state security and the hoopla it all generated and is still generating. I was wondering how to approach this evolving controversial story and which unique angle to take. Then in one aha moment, my mind went straight to Ghana which also had its own scandal of judges taking bribes to switch judgements, making the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent—all after money had exchanged hands in the dark secret places where justice was murdered and its smelling corpse oozing foul odour. In Ghana, they didn’t have to go the brick-and-mortar way of Nigeria, unleashing violence to unravel the truth. Instead, a journalist, risking his life, using a hybrid of undercover reporting and crime detective methods openly spilled the beans. And the shocked nation watched the shameful drama of the video and audio recordings of how their hitherto respected judges were seen, caught taking bribes—flagrante delicto! In the video, you could hear the judges clearly willingly accepting the bribe, giving every assurance that they would turn the tide, bend the arms of justice and give justice to the guilty party and the crooked ones as soon as they got the money. And to think that the cost of justice was as cheap as $3,000! You pay the amount and the rapist, the killer, the drug pusher and all kinds of criminals are all set free in the court of justice. You could hear the judge educating the guilty party on how to go about it, so that everything would look judicious and the criminal can escape jail sentence. In addition to the money, white rams are part of the bribes. You could see the rams being led to the judge’s abode. You could see the money, the raw cash and the judge accepting it and putting it into his drawers.
The video recording was there for all to see. Anas made a documentary where he graphically reported the bribery involving 34 judges, magistrates and about 100 judicial service staff who were all part of the shenanigans. He took it to the cinema houses and gave out free tickets for people to watch and form their own opinions.
Anas had broken some big stories in the past, but this one was earth-shaking. It reverberated around the whole world with Al Jazeera doing a documentary on the shaming of judges in Ghana. The former Ghana President John Kufuor responding to the video said: “We should hang our heads in shame.”
The Chief Justice of Ghana Theodora Woods, according to a report, suspended 22 judges implicated. President John Mahama similarly “directed the removal of Justice John Ajet-Nasam and Justice Ernest Obimpeh from office as Justices of the High Court on grounds of stated misbehaviour and 20 lower court justices were equally dismissed in December 2015.”
Kofi Anan, the former UN Sec-General and another star of Ghana said: “Sometimes it takes a spark, and I think Anas has provided that spark for the whole edifice to blow up.” He personally called Anas from Geneva and said: “I just want to say bravo. Well done!”
Responding to Anan’s phone call, Anas said: “I am encouraged. It tells me I am not alone.”
The loudest ovation was from President Obama when he came visiting Ghana. In a speech, Obama described Anas as “a courageous journalist who risks his life to unveil the truth.”
I met Anas in Cape Town, South Africa, where he was one of the panellists at the IPI World Congress 2014. Together with my late friend and co-author Dimgba Igwe, we interviewed this great African investigative journalist who gave his journalism mission statement as being out to “name, shame and jail” all the perpetrators of evil in this world. According him, “journalism must have an impact.”
“Your stories must be what people want to know about. It is all about people and what interest people,” he says. His journalism doesn’t end at reporting the story. He goes the extra mile in bringing the perpetrators to book—by making them to face justice in the court of law.
Next week, Anas tells his undercover journalism story in full. Meanwhile we bring you another star of Ghana in the person of Nigeria and Africa’s business guru Dr. Mike Adenuga who last Saturday in Accra, was conferred with Ghana’s highest national honour: The Companion of the Star of Ghana (CSG). In his citation, the President John Dramani Mahama said of the Globacom boss:
“Throughout Africa, you are acclaimed as one of the most astute and successful entrepreneurs and investors, controlling one of the continent’s largest business empires, comprising oil and gas, telecommunications, aviation, banking and real estate. This award is in recognition of your unique and outstanding contribution to business enterprise both in Ghana and the continent of Africa at large. We commend your transformational achievements in the telecommunications industry (which includes the laying of the historic Glo 1 optic fibre cable linking several African countries including Ghana with Europe and America.)
“Through your creative business exertions, you have touched many lives in Ghana. You have provided employment for our teeming youth, artists, footballers and many more. I am particularly proud of you. This award is our way of saying a simple Thank You.”
Responding, Dr. Adenuga said President Mahama’s “recognition and support of my modest contributions to the development of Ghana’s economy have come as a great source of pride and encouragement to me. This is more so as it is coming from Your Excellency, whose sterling qualities of leadership I admire greatly.”