Today happens to be one of the saddest days in the lives of all journalists in this country and as a former ace journalist I want to take some form of inspiration from this most famous saying by the military "once a soldier always a soldier" and use this opportunity to report about my facts finding mission in respect of what really happened on that "BLACK THURSDAY" as we mourn our lost friend, brother, father, husband, relative Mr. Samuel Nuamah whose untimely death happened at a call to duty for God and Country.
It is exactly a week today that the Presidential Press Corps were involved in a motor accident on the Shai Hills on their way from a Presidential assignment in Ho. This led to the fatality of Samuel Nuamah, the Ghanaian Times reporter (May His Soul Rest in the bosom of the Almighty God). Many others seriously got injured and were rushed to the Michel Camp Hospital and were later airlifted by a military helicopter to the 37 Military Hospital for prompt attention. Reports say the injured are responding to treatment. I thank God Almighty for saving their lives and wish them a speedy recovery.
In my quest to find out how the flagstaff house really operates in respect of the activities of the Presidential Press Corps these are my findings;
The Press Corps is the second largest single unit after the security in the Presidential outfit in terms of numbers. There are four Ford Buses; two for the security and two for the media. In every assignment outside the Flagstaff House, depending on the nature of the assignment, either one bus or both buses are used.
Each of the buses carries about 13 reporters and one Media Coordinator from the office of the President. This means that at every point, an official in the capacity of a media coordinator moves with the media. This coordinator, when it happens that they travel, sleeps in the same hotel with the presidential press corps when the assignment is a regional tour i.e. outside Accra. In most of the regional assignments, the Communication Bureau is mandated to come out with the operational details of the assignment and media engagement.
Sometimes, because of logistical challenges; accommodation, per diem, etc. one of the buses is used. This means that just about 13 journalists, including some selected cameramen would have the opportunity to travel. In situations like these, selection is rotational. The coordinators give priority to GTV and Radio Ghana, the Daily Graphic (Reporter), Ghanaian Times (Reporter) and the GNA which are state facilities. The other media houses alternate. Citi Fm may alternate with Joy Fm, likewise the TV stations Metro and TV3. There is always alternation between Daily Graphic Cameraman and Ghanaian Times cameraman etc.
Occasionally, the coordinators decide to do full media complement looking at the event. This means they may need to travel with two buses.
It is important to state that per my investigation, any time the Flagstaff House Communication Bureau travels with a reduced number of media in one bus, the affected media houses, especially those from the State owned media houses, complained of why they were left out. There had been an occasion when officials from the Ghanaian Times matched to the Castle, when H. E. John Dramani Mahama was the Vice-President, to ostensibly lodge a complaint of their cameraman being left out by media coordinators.
The information I gathered indicate that President was informed of challenges in terms of logics and that it was practically impossible to travel with every media person on board one bus, hence another bus was bought for the media to have two buses.
At the Flagstaff House, just like any well structured institution, there are various departments with departmental heads. On receipt of information on presidential assignment where transport would be needed to transport the media, the Transport department is informed about transport arrangement. The Communication Bureau, having agreed on how many media personnel would have to travel, would then place a call to the Transport department. This department provides bus/buses for any assignment.
It is not possible for the Head of the Communication Bureau to go looking for or arranging buses for the media on his own. I want to reiterate that the Press Corps has two buses allocated to it but those buses are often deployed for any other assignments when the need arises. Considering the many assignments there are under the presidency and the usages of both buses, sometimes pressure is put on the buses and they break down. They are also sent out for regular maintenance. In cases like these, there is always alternative arrangement in case there is a need for more buses.
This means the Transport Department would have to hire a bus for an official use which is best and most wise option available for them aside from buying a new bus.
On the Fateful Thursday.
In view of the above mentioned, On Wednesday, a day to their assignment in Ho, the Communication Bureau on receipt of information, decided to do full media complement. One official vehicle was available and the Transport unit decided to hire the said vehicle to augment the vehicles.
As usual, since two buses are involved, their strategy is usually to keep reporters in one bus and the cameras in another one. As fate may have it, the reporters sat in the hired bus with a media coordinator/liaison officer and the cameras in the second bus (official bus) also led by a media coordinator.
The two buses took off from the Flagstaff House in Accra for Ho at about 7:20am with the media bus with the cameras leading while the hired bus followed. The team got to Ho without any incident. The official assignment was well covered and again, by their methods of doing things, the media buses often take the lead to and from assignment because the speed of the buses cannot match the main convoy.
So taking off early affords the media team the leverage of time to cover some distance before the main convoy catches up with the team. The media team then joins the main convoy from the rear till to the last destination. The lead vehicle made sure the bus behind was given the protection it needed, especially during overtaking.
The narrator tells that Upon getting to Shia Hills, the lead bus noticed within a relatively short time, that the hired bus was out of view.
There was a cloud of dust and immediately, made a turn to the spot only to see the bus in the valley of water. Quickly, a report was made while frantic efforts were made to save everyone on board the bus, especially those who could not move out of the bus. The late Samuel Nuamah of the Ghanaian Times and Patrick Biddah of the Enquirer newspaper were thrown out of the bus since they were not on seat belts. Both of them were lodged under the vehicle in a very precarious situation. Help was marshaled and the bus was raised a little where Mr. Biddah was pulled out from the water but it was difficult saving Samuel Nuamah because the rim of the burst tyre and the back axle were lying on him and he was submerged. It took an excavator to lift the bus before Nuamah, was taken out. He was already dead.
For me One of the saddest moments in the life of the media was when in the midst of saving colleagues who were dying, the narrator mentions that Mark Sasu of GTV, Jubal Amedetor and Ebo Hanson of Daily Graphic were busy taking both video and still coverage of the accident. It was expected that in the midst of that those cameramen would have shown some sense of urgency and helped their other colleagues who were doing everything possible to save the lives of their colleagues.
The main media Coordinator in the Communication Bureau I am told was Mr. Wisdom Peter Awuku, who was in the second and leading bus while his colleague, Victor Odoi, who got injured was also in the accident bus. It was therefore erroneous for people to suggest that the media personnel were always left alone.
Again, the narrator states that the bus was not a rickety bus as being speculated. Any vehicle in that accident of that magnitude; somersaulting before landing it tyres would have suffered wreckage like any brand new vehicle.
In all this, as a former journalist I believe in the saying "once a journalist always a journalist". I would advice my colleagues to keep their faith in the Lord God Almighty as we mourn our departed colleague SAMUEL NUAMAH.
I also wish advice the general public to stop this whole blame game especially when we describe the event as an accident. In fact I don't believe that accidents are planned. Accident is a tragedy and when tragedy befalls you all you do is to solemnly pray to your maker to forestall in such from happening in the future.
In conclusion, i want to send my condolence to the family and friends of my former friend, brother and colleague Samuel Nuamah. God, in His infinite Wisdom will Grant him a perfectly peaceful Rest.
Sammy Due! Sammy Due!! Ne Amanuhunu!!!!!
Nuamah Nante Yie!!!!!
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