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Salute to President Kufuor: Perfume, a pick-up and press freedom

BY: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari
GJA President Ajoa Yeboah-Afari, sharing a joke with President Kufuor, the Guest of Honour, as she ushers him to his seat at the 11th GJA Awards Night in 2006, held at the Press Centre, Accra  Picture: Daniel Lanquaye
GJA President Ajoa Yeboah-Afari, sharing a joke with President Kufuor, the Guest of Honour, as she ushers him to his seat at the 11th GJA Awards Night in 2006, held at the Press Centre, Accra Picture: Daniel Lanquaye

It is well known that the period when the New Patriotic Party was on an offensive to win the presidency from Flt-Lt Jerry John Rawlings, was also the years when the Ghanaian media were battling numerous problems from the then government.

The political opposition had to rely on the Ghana correspondents of the foreign media to publish information that the local media could not, or would not publish.Thus, being the Ghana Correspondent for the BBC (1984 – 1996) and West Africa magazine, I recall a few times when I went to interview Mr Kufuor at home.

He and ‘Auntie’ Theresa always received me warmly, and Auntie would complain playfully that I wasn’t visiting them enough.

The picture above shows GJA General Secretary, Mr Bright Blewu (left) and then GJA President Ms Ajoa Yeboah-Afari (right) presenting a framed citation commending his government's support for press freedom to President Kufuor. Looking on are the treasurer, Ms Yaa Oforiwaa Acquah (middle), and incoming GJA President, Mr Ransford Tetteh.

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Surprise gift

On one occasion when I went to the house, Mr Kufuor told me that he would be travelling to London and asked me what I wanted him to bring me from London.

I thought it was a joke and I replied, laughing, that anything would do.

Some time later, I had occasion to go for another interview. When we finished, he told me to wait for him as he had something for me but it was upstairs. I heard him asking Auntie Theresa to remind him where he had put ‘the gift for Ajoa’.

To my astonishment, he came back with a parcel which he gave me, saying that he had brought me something from London, as he had promised! It was a bottle of a famous brand of perfume. I was elated, to put it mildly. It was such an unexpected, nice and uplifting gesture.

I believe that it was his way of showing appreciation that some of us made it possible for the views of the political opposition to be heard, despite the challenges.

That perfume bottle had pride of place on my dressing table for many years, even long after the last drop had been shaken out.

Citation presentation

Fast forward to 2006 when Mr Kufuor was President of Ghana and I was the President of the Ghana Journalists Association. My executive decided that to commemorate World Press Freedom Day 2006 (a Day celebrated on May 3), we would invite His Excellency to be the Guest of Honour at the 11th GJA Awards Night.

My administration was going to hand over to a new GJA leadership at the Awards Night.So on April 26, 2006, the GJA executives, both outgoing and incoming, were at the Castle to formally invite President Kufuor to the Awards Night.

Also, we had a framed citation to present to him for his government’s unprecedented, outstanding and sustained support of the media and press freedom. Notable proof was the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law (in 2001), championed by the then Attorney-General, Nana Akufo-Addo, now President of Ghana.

The Kufuor administration had earlier donated to the GJA, under the Gifty Affenyi-Dadzie administration, the building which is now the Ghana International Press Centre (inaugurated by President Kufuor on March 28, 2003.)

Later, the GJA got another donation from the Kufuor Government, a pick-up vehicle.

The 11th Awards Night on Friday, May 5, 2006, was a night of ‘firsts’,including the first time the GJA hosted its Awards Night on its own premises and the first time the handing-over to a new executive took place at the Awards Night.

Furthermore, most important of all, I am proud to state, it was the first time a President of Ghana attended the GJA Awards Night.

Your Excellency, on behalf of the media family in general, and the Editors Forum, Ghana, in particular, thank you again; and Happy Birthday from Ajoa Yeboah-Afari!

The writer is the Chairperson of the Editors Forum, Ghana and a past President of the Ghana Journalists Association (October, 2003 – May, 2006)