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Counting the days.... Controversy over Komla Dumor’s GJA Best Journalist award: Graphic averts annulment

BY: Vance Azu
The writer

As I indicated in my previous epistle, I served as the Graphic Chapter Chairman of the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA) for a very long time; first as the acting Chairman from 2001 to 2004, after which time I was unanimously confirmed as the substantive Chairman.

Even though while I was serving as chairman I travelled to the United States in April 2004 on vacation for four months, the office remained vacant because at the time it was unattractive and nobody bothered himself or herself about the vacuum that my absence had created.

As a result, the Graphic Chapter became dormant until I returned to rejuvenate it.

Before I travelled to the US, in May 2003, the GJA Awards, under the Presidency of  Mrs Gifty Affenyi-Dadzie, had been held and Komla Dumor, the Boss Player, then with the Multimedia Group (JOY FM to be specific), was adjudged Journalist of the Year.

Chapters raise red flags

There was brouhaha moments after Komla’s crowning as the best journalist in Ghana. Some GJA chapters, as well as individual members of the association, started grumbling and raised red flags over the conferment of the coveted award on Komla.

The beef of the chapters, as well as those disenchanted members, was that Komla had, prior to receiving the award, said on radio that he was not a journalist and, therefore, did not belong to the GJA.

Another issue the protestors raised was that the story on which the GJA Awards Committee had based its judgment to declare Komla Journalist of the Year was being challenged in court.

The story was based on allegations of corruption against some management staff of the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), and the people felt Komla did not merit the ultimate award, since there was the possibility of the story being invalidated after the court proceedings.

Resolutions

Based on those contentious issues, the chapters started passing resolutions denouncing the proclamation of Komla as the Journalist of the Year.

It started with the GNA, then the GBC, the New Times Corporation and TV3 chapters.

The agitation that characterised that development really put the Affenyi-Dadzie-led GJA in a bad light.

Meanwhile, what many members of the GJA were waiting for was the response of the Graphic Chapter to all that was going on to serve as a spark to  trigger other responses.

As Chairman of the Graphic Chapter, I found myself in a quandary; more or less a Catch 22 situation.

The Saturday before all that hullabaloo over Dumor and his award began, The Mirror, for which I worked, had featured Komla prominently on its front page, telling his story, while espousing the attributes that had powered him to win the prestigious Journalist of the Year award.

Significantly, I had interviewed Komla for that front page story at his father’s residence at Haatso in Accra.

Graphic resolution

It was a challenge for me as the Chapter Chairman and reporter who had crafted the story of Komla’s accomplishment for The Mirror. Under the circumstance, I was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

I needed to act fast to save the image of The Mirror and protect the integrity and sanctity of the GJA Journalist of the Year.

I went on my knees and prayed to God Almighty to give me an idea about how to deal with the thorny issue.

And being so good, God spoke to me and instructed me on what to do.

Pressure for chapter meeting

With the unfolding development on the media landscape, I had done some consultations with some senior members of the chapter, who empowered me to be firm and resolute in the handling of the issue. Even though they did not prescribe a solution, what I gathered from my engagements with them was that the Graphic Chapter should not follow the crowd.

 However, one Wednesday afternoon when I returned to the office after an assignment at Korle Bu, two senior

colleagues — the late Breda Atta-Quayson, one of the senior editors, and Alhaji A.B.A. Fuseini, the Political Editor — instructed me to call an emergency Chapter meeting.

I asked them the reason for that urgent need for a meeting and they said it was necessary we met as a chapter to consider the possibility of passing a resolution to denounce the Journalist of the Year award conferred on Dumor, the same way the sister chapters had done.

I asked them why they wanted us to join the bandwagon, without examining the merits of the claim by those chapters. They were not forthcoming with a tangible reason.

I mustered courage and told them that the Graphic Chapter would not follow the trail for the sake of it, which ultimately sought to undermine the sanctity of the prestigious GJA awards. My two senior colleagues told me that if I was not willing to convene a meeting, they would do that on my behalf and rally the members to pass the resolution.

I dared them and told them that they did not have the locus to convene a chapter meeting, and that if they went ahead to hold the meeting, its outcome would be declared null and void.

My response irked them and voices were raised, resulting in heated exchanges.

I stood my ground and told them that there was no way the Graphic Chapter would undermine the credibility of The Mirror, a brand in the Graphic stable, which had carried the story about the award winner, as well as his personality profile.

I told them it would be unheard of and suicidal for me, as the Chapter Chairman and reporter who had conducted that interview with Dumor, to turn around and preside over a meeting that would denounce the award.

After making my position clear to them, they left, with a threat to mobilise the members of the chapter to pass a ‘vote of no confidence’ in me for reneging on my duties. I called their bluff, and that was how the Graphic Chapter under my chairmanship saved the national executive and members of the GJA, Mrs Affenyi-Dadzie and Dumor from embarrassment.

To be continued

PS: In my last epistle, I inadvertently left out the name of Sir Isaac Fritz Andoh, formerly of the GNA and the Catholic Standard, and made it appear as if the 1993 GJA presidential contest was between Kabral Blay-Amihere and Cyril Acolatse of the GBC. Sir Andoh was a contender and came second after Blay-Amihere in that election. I really apologise for the mix-up.

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The writer is the Night Editor of the Daily Graphic