Bundled to BNI

Yaw Boadu Ayeboafoh
Yaw Boadu Ayeboafoh

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.
— William Shakespeare in KING , n.

In 1993, when Mr Huudu Yahaya was the Minister of Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDR), he organised a press conference whereby one flour mill in the country was castigated for producing substandard flour.I was the News Editor and Ms Janet Quartey, now Editor of the Mirror, was the reporter assigned to cover the press conference. However, when she wrote her story, she did not focus on any flour mill but made a general statement about unwholesome flour that got to the market.

At the Editorial Conference the story was placed. However, when we came out of the conference I had a call from the News Editor of the Ghanaian Times, the late Mr Mike Atsutse, aka People Know Me Well Well. He wanted to know whether we were using the story. I told him that we had placed the story and that I did not see why the story should not be used since it was a general comment about the quality of some of the flour on the market.

He revealed to me that there had been a damaging statement about a particular mill whose owner was their friend and therefore, Mr Christian Aggrey, the Editor of the Ghanaian Times had decided not to use the story and would have been happy if Daily Graphic did same. I insisted that we were using the story and that we would not drop it. It was not strange that he called me because in those days we collaborated more than we competed as we linked up with each other regularly to cross check our stories so that we did not miss out on important developments.

Unknown to him, one of the reporters at the Ghanaian Times recorded the telephone call and leaked it to the Ministry of Information. True to what he told me the Ghanaian Times did not use the story. But the paper made an editorial comment suggesting that the government had not been fair to the flour mill that was cited as being responsible for bringing unwholesome flour to the market.

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That evening a man came to see the Editor, Mr Sam Clegg, who asked me to bring a copy of the story on the flour issue. He read through the story, gave it back to me and left. A few days after the visit I was informed that Mr Clegg wanted me to come to the office early the next morning for an appointment with the Minister of Information.

I reported as requested and was soon joined by Mr Clegg, who initially said we were going to the Ministry of Information but when we sped towards the TUC Head-office and turned left, I asked whether he had forgotten that we were going to the Ministry of Information. He did not respond until we turned after the Ridge Hospital where he told me that the meeting was outside the offices of the ministry.

Eventually, we entered the Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) office close to the Immigration Headquarters. We were ushered into a room on the first floor where I saw some journalists from the GBC including Mr Yao Dziekpor and a team from the Ghanaian Times including Mr Atsutse. I felt very uncomfortable. I was given a paper and asked to write a statement about what I knew about the flour story.

Full of venom and anguish, I narrated the sequence of developments including the call from Mr Atsutse, which I described as routine. An official thoroughly scrutinised my statement and said I had been released.

Unable to contain my anger even before we left the premises of the BNI I told Mr Clegg that what he did was like a knife struck through my heart and that the ache would never heal. Accordingly I would find it difficult to forgive him.

His response somewhat disarmed me. He emphasised that he knew I had not taken anything from anybody and that he had full confidence in me. It was then that he told me the man who visited him in the office and read through the manuscript was Mr Annoh Kumi from the BNI. He explained that if he had any hunch that I would be implicated he would not have taken liberties but he wanted me to establish my innocence.

Indeed, it was when I had the unfortunate task of writing a tribute to Mr Clegg that I gathered the courage to forgive him for what I considered to have been a gamble with my future.

At the end of the day, Mr Atsutse was transferred to the Ministry of Information as a concomitant to the flour story.