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Counting the days: Ministerial hug from Nana Oye

BY: Vance Azu

For close to 30 years practising as a journalist with the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), which practice officially ends on May 3, 2021, I have engaged and interacted with different people with motley backgrounds: politicians, presidents, presidential candidates, ministers of state, members of parliament, as well aspirants, businessmen, etc.

When I started working as a journalist, the country was on the verge of being ushered into the Fourth Republic, with political activities at a crescendo.

I had the privilege of interviewing heavyweight politicians, such as the President of the Third Republic, Dr Hilla Limann; the then presidential candidate of the People’s National Convention, Lt Gen. Emmanuel Erskine; the then candidate of the erstwhile People’s Heritage Party, Mr Kwabena Darko; the presidential candidate of the National Independence Party, Prof. Naa Afarley Sackeyfio, among others.

I also reported on the many press conferences of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) at the then Ringway Hotel at the Ring Road Central in Accra, that was owned by the father of our current President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.

Interview top guns

I can confidently say that I was among the very few journalist who had the opportunity to interview and profile Mrs Theresa Kufuor, the First Lady and wife of former President John Agyekum Kufuor, the second President of the Fourth Republic.

I also interviewed and did personality profiles on the female cabinet ministers in Kufuor’s first government — the late Mrs Gladys Asmah, Mrs Cecilia Bannerman, Ms Christine Churcher, the late Madam Hawa Yakubu.

After my interviews with some of them, in subsequent meetings, some of them were able to make me out, while others deliberately or due to forgetfulness did not.

I rationalised that as human nature, thus, I do not begrudge them.

I recount this to pay tribute to two former ministers of state, whose actions left me dumfounded, continuing to excite me anytime discussions on the human relations of political office holders and appointees with the people they serve, particularly their constituents, come up.

Austin Gamey

First I wish to throw a big salute to Mr Austin Gamey, now a labour consultant, and a former Deputy Minister of Employment, during the administration of former President Jerry Rawlings.

Sometime in 1996, a colleague of mine, Emmanuel Quaye, now assistant photo editor, and I went on an assignment at Sogakope in the Volta Region.

We went on a bus provided by the ministry, but after the opening ceremony, which was performed by Mr Gamey, the two of us from the Daily Graphic decided to leave early in order to file the story before Editorial Conference, which was at 1p.m.

We were in the lobby of Hotel Cisneros, where the event took place, contemplating how we were going to get to Accra.

Unknown to us, Mr Gamey, who was also in the lobby, overhead our conversation and cut in to ask, “Gentlemen, are you going to Accra?”

In unison we responded in the affirmative, and he asked us to join his vehicle, a Nissan Patrol. We hopped into the vehicle and in no time we were in Accra.

When we got to the Ridge Roundabout, around the Rawlings’s residence, Mr Gamey informed us that he would have sent us to our office, the GCGL, however, he was chairing a meeting at 1p.m., so he would ‘drop’ us at Ridge.

He then gave us some money to pick a taxi to the office. For us, the minister’s action was unbelievable because until the programme we all attended, he did not know us at all, and also the fact that he was a minister of state. We were overwhelmed. We thanked him and alighted.

Nana Oye

The other Minister of State who also surprised me with her courtesies is Nana Oye Bampoe-Addo, formerly Nana Oye Lithur, former Minister of Gender, Women and Social Protection.

I knew Nana Oye long before she was appointed minster. Both of us have worked together on many occasions, particularly on human rights issues.

One of such collaborations resulted in the release of the abolo seller, who was sent to jail based on an outdated law, a story I recounted in this column last week.

Since Nana Oye’s appointment in 2013, the two of us have not crossed paths until 2015, while I was working at the Junior Graphic as the Assistant Editor.

The Junior Graphic organised a Fun Fair, solely for schools with the Junior Graphic Fan Clubs at the Lizzie’s Sports Complex at East Legon, Accra.

The big hug

Nana Oye was the special guest. She arrived on schedule.

After she had performed the opening ceremony, my boss and Editor of the Junior Graphic, Mrs Mavis Kitcher, and other team members, escorted her to her car, while the rest of us continued with the other events.

After some minutes, I saw Nana Oye and the team that went to see her off returning to the grounds, where the opening ceremony had been performed.

To my surprise, she got to where I was seated and told me that she saw me earlier when she arrived and decided to say hello before leaving, but had forgotten. She apologised and asked me to stand and give her a hug, which I did gleefully.

Indeed, it was a long hug and those of you who know Nana Oye would appreciate how I felt with that big hug.

Later when Nana Oye left, my colleagues and other onlookers who were flabbergasted asked me why I was picked for that euphoric hug.

It was a whole lecture I delivered on that day, telling them how I met Nana Oye and how we had tugged along until that day.

PS: Big shout out to Daddy Bosco, Anas Aremeyaw Anas and Naa Ayeley Sekyere (nee Ardayfio) for your input and commendations.

The writer is the Night Editor of the Daily Graphic

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