Opinions are unanimous among a section of Ghanaians that the brutal attack on Daily Graphic journalist, Daniel Kenu, was a crude, reprehensible and despicable act of violence.
Organisations such as the GJA and NMC have been consistent and clear in their condemnation of Baffour Gyan – the senior brother of Black Stars Captain, Asamoah Gyan – who led thugs to assault Kenu at the Baba Yara Sports Stadium in Kumasi on Friday.
Needless to say, physically assaulting journalists in the course of their work is a satanic and cold-blooded act that must be condemned rigorously and relentlessly by well-meaning members of the public.
Although the attack on Kenu has been widely condemned, some individuals have argued that the journalist brought his woes upon himself by asking Asamoah Gyan an “irrelevant” question at the Black Stars press conference, which preceded the Ghana-Uganda AFCON qualifier.
My compatriot, Rodney Nkrumah Boateng, has been unambiguous in describing Kenu’s question as “senseless” and “stupid”. Others have expressed similar sentiments, including journalist Michael Oti Adjei, who implied that the Daily Graphic reporter asked a “what a wow” question.
So, was Kenu’s question ‘stupid’ or ‘senseless’?
In my candid view, it was a harmless, legitimate and appropriate question that should have posed no danger whatsoever to anybody.
In order to appreciate the relevance of the question, one, inescapably, has to understand the context within which it was asked. It will simply be disingenuous and unfair to isolate the question from its context and proceed to criticise Kenu based on that.
It is this crucial background that I seek to provide in this article.
During a Black Stars’ training session at the Baba Yara Stadium last Wednesday, some angry fans hurled insults and other expletives at Asamoah Gyan, suggesting that he had a hand in Castro’s disappearance and asking him to produce the popular hip-life musician.
When, apparently, the insults became unbearable, Gyan approached the fans and appealed to them to end the insults. The fans rebuffed his appeal and intensified their provocative action. This prompted the GFA to invite the police to arrest two of them. The two were released later in the day after a stern warning by the police for them to be of good behavior.
When the Black Stars held a press conference later that evening, Kenu saw an opportunity to question Gyan about what had happened earlier at training.
Don’t forget that since Castro and his female friend, Janet Bandu, disappeared at Ada in July, there have been widespread rumours to the effect that Gyan “sacrificed” them for some spiritual purpose.
These rumours may appear outrageous and “stupid” to the highly educated minds in our country, but to the majority of citizens who boast only basic education in our superstitious society, the rumours are, at least, worth looking into.
I remember participating in a debate regarding the plausibility or otherwise of those rumours a few weeks ago. And in case you doubt the power of such rumours to impact people, cast your mind back to January 2010, when millions of Ghanaians slept outside their homes because there had been rumours of an impending earthquake.
On Saturday, September 6, the people of Teshie climaxed their annual Homowo festival with the fiery Kpashimo – the energetic dance that draws thousands of the town’s people onto the streets to sing songs of praise, admonition, condemnation and insinuation. Among the songs was one with claims that Asamoah had killed his friend, Castro.
A colleague of mine, who was at Teshie to observe the annual spectacle, recorded a video of the youth enthusiastically singing their claims in Ga. He also learned it was a song some of the townsfolk had been singing since August.
In the video, hundreds of the youth are seen and heard singing,“Asamoah Gyan egbe Castro eeh wonna, Castro ei, Castro mami wata, Asamoah Gyan egbe Castro ei wonna”, to wit: Asamoah Gyan has killed Castro, we can see that.
The bottom line here is that a lot of Ghanaians genuinely feel Gyan knows more about Castro’s disappearance that he has let on. They may be wrong, but whether we like it or not, that’s how they feel.
A lot of Castro fans, especially, have expressed outrage at the failure of Gyan to throw light on the circumstances surrounding Castro’s disappearance. They have also questioned why the Police have failed to interrogate Gyan in relation to the disappearance, since he was the one who took Castro to Ada on a weekend getaway.
As far as I am concerned, these are legitimate concerns that citizens of Ghana have a right to express. Don’t forget that Castro is also a big name in the country and that he has hundreds of thousands of fans who care about him. Janet Bandu also has family and friends who care about her.
It is within this context that Kenu took advantage of the press conference to ask Gyan what he made of the rumours.
Contrary to what some commentators would have us believe, Kenu did not, whether implicitly or explicitly, accuse Gyan of ‘sacrificing’ Castro. He only asked the Black Stars striker for his take on allegations that he had done so.
What is wrong with this question? The journalist wasn’t representing himself when he spoke; he was representing the millions of Ghanaians who are frustrated by Gyan’s loud silence on Castro’s death. The job of a good journalist is to ask tough questions on behalf of the public, and not to massage the egos of public figures. The job of a good journalist is to make public officials angry by asking provocative questions in the national interest, and not to lick the boots of public officials for his/her own personal gains.
Geraldo Rivera, an American lawyer, journalist and author, puts it succinctly: “The courage in journalism is sticking up for the unpopular, not the popular.”
It is very unfortunate that Gyan failed to take advantage of that golden opportunity to clear the air on the matter and put the allegations to bed once and for all.
If I were in Gyan’s shoes, I would have latched onto the opportunity the Daily Graphic presented to dispel those rumours and reiterate my commitment to finding Castro and Janet. I’m certain that the matter would have died there and then.
Instead of taking this honourable path, Gyan opted to assault the journalist. When he was restrained from doing so that Wednesday, his brother, Baffour, took it upon himself to brutalise Kenu when he met him at the stadium two days later.
In a serious country, Gyan would have been obliged to appear in the media to explain the circumstances surrounding the disappearance – probably death – of Castro and Janet. The police would have subjected him to rigorous scrutiny on the matter. The police would have demonstrated their commitment to finding the two with regular televised updates on the status of their investigations. We also would have heard from those who were having fun with Gyan and Castro that fateful day. We will then have been clear in our minds as to what really went down in Ada.
But I don’t think it’s too late for Gyan to address the issue. Under the circumstance, a press conference will be the best forum to do that. The longer he refrains from addressing this crucial issue, the deeper those dreadful rumours take hold among Ghanaians.
It’s not too late for the police to conduct a serious investigation into this matter either. Castro and Janet are Ghanaians, and the police have an inescapable responsibility to ensure that an accurate picture of what transpired in Ada on Sunday, 6th July 2014 is painted. All necessary measures must be taken to achieve this.
God bless our homeland, Ghana.