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27.10.2014 Opinion

Ebolarizing West Africa: Who Will Take Up Komla’s Mantle?

By Rashidi Ogunmola, “The Contextualist”
Ebolarizing West Africa: Who Will Take Up Komla’s Mantle?
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Recently in a UNAIDS Conference, His Excellency, President John D. Mahama revealed he had thought that HIV/AIDS “was a disease we could never conquer…” Indeed, one can perfectly identify with the President's assertion in that the little one knew about HIV/AIDS was that once infected one was sure to die. The danger was dreadful and the fear, as pervasive as that impacted normal lives in two ways: give up on detection or hide one's status at all cost.

It is a different case with Ebola.Yet many may be thinking the same of it today. Described as a disease contracted from animals, such as bats, monkeys, and transmitted from one human to the other through contact with blood or bodily fluids,Ebola kills its victim within a period of 21 days only if it is not diagnosed early for appropriate treatment to be given accordingly. But with the right diagnosis and timely treatment, an infected person can be cured.That as a prognosis is consoling and gives hope as much as it has been with HIV/AIDS from the start of the alarm. It was and has been held as African contagion. This is a simple fact about Ebola today, which is being used to dehumanize Blacks again.

Here is the pattern of the scare mongering: reporting on its recent outbreak in West Africa, international media do well to show people helplessly dying like chickens and make believe that Blacks are in no way going to be able to stop the spread of the Ebola on their own: the works, as reported, are being done mostly by white humanitarians and Blacks were helping by disposing of the dead bodies. A picture vividly painted in the following words of U.S. President Barack Obama, who had neither visited Guinea, Sierra Leone, nor Liberia since the outbreak: “Right now, patients are being left to die in the streets because there's nowhere to put them and no one to help them ”.

In an effort to ward off any hard-headed investor, President Obama also stated very emotionally: “Ebola virus is spreading at alarming speed. Thousands of men, women and children have died, thousands more are infected.If unchecked this epidemic could kill hundreds of thousands of people in the coming months. Hundreds of thousands! […] if this epidemic is not stopped, this disease could cause a humanitarian catastrophe across the region…” One couldn't have agreed more with President Obama since parroted news make one accept observably as true that one's days, in this part of Africa, could be numbered.

Yet, it's been over 21 days since President Mahama and his entourage visited the three affected countries. This visit, which depicts one core African moral value found in Matthew 25:36 that says “I was sick and you visited Me”, did indicate one fact:that the whole world is being misinformed. But who could impress upon the foreign media to tell African stories in African ways? Who will take up the mantle of the “Boss Player” and smash it on the waves of the current news reports on Ebola and rightly divide the truth about it?

This is where, Komla Afeke Dumor is missed and will forever be. Today, indeed, like parrots, Ghanaian media broadcast whatever foreigner media say about the Ebola. At the Remembrance Ceremony On The Occasion of his 42nd Birthday, Kenneth Ashigbe, Managing Director of Daily Graphic, pointed out a poignant fact: “One of my pains at the eve of his birthday is the fact that CNN will show the face of a patient, who has Ebola [and] comes from Africa, but when theirs got Ebola, all they did was [to] show still pictures of them when they were strong. And they only showed them to us when they were healthy. Unfortunately… Ghanaian TV stations repeat this!”

Years ago, a visionary son of the land, Prof. Kojo Yankah, noticing this unprofessional way of practicing journalism, decided to establish an institute, now grown into a University, to remedy the situation. Addressing new faculty members of the University in September last year, he stated that he finds it unimaginable that African media houses cannot go out of their continent and investigate situations and bring first-hand, accurate, and credible information to their own people.

In a presaged way, relating to the current outbreak in West Africa, he indicated that Ghanaian media wait on foreign ones to carry out news happening just at their doorsteps for them to “copycat”. Indeed,this is what is prevailing in the country now; everyone is too afraid to go and investigate and dig out facts and truths about Ebola. Is it laziness, the lack of know-how or sheer professional incompetence? Some expert commentators in academia and public think these are the causes.

Today, in a thoughtful way, Prof Yankah had proposed the establishment of a centre in memory of the “Boss Player” in African University College of Communications (AUCC): The Komla Dumor Centre for Broadcast Journalism. If materialized,both present and unborn generations of Blacks will remain grateful to him, and Ghana, for that matter Africa, has only one significant role to play in this: lend an unrelenting and inexorable support for the Centre,whereKomlaDumor's mantle will be preserved, taken up and lifted by determined students, who, as Prof nana essilfie-conduah said, will “continue the bit the “Ametsitsi” had done in the field of journalism.

Professor Ernest Dumor has lost a great child. This is very painful. But as a Chairman of this Centre, one could envisage how many more children he is going to have in the stead of Komla. They will never replace him, but, as a father, he will be happy to pass unto them the virtue that made this illustrious African distinguish himself worldwide. With his blessings, these other children would wear Komla's mantle and stand for what he stood for: telling the African story from the African perspective. Finding comparison in a statement from another prodigy, John Kofi Mensah Sarbah (died age 31, Komla 41), Prof Essilfie-Conduah poignantly sums up Komla's professional stand: “Let us therefore frankly acknowledge our own limitations, not with an intention to rest and be thankful, but to make good our defect and press on to a higher level of usefulness.”

Afeke is gone, but as Mawuena Dumor believes that he is around, I also could hear him say to all Africa, especially to the affected countries: “Don't panic over Ebola. It is terrifying. But it's not likely to kill you…” He is still waiting for a journalist to get the hint from the following statement of the Presidential Spokesperson, Ben Dotse Malor after returning from the three affected countries: “The stories we hear, the pictures we see do not truly reflect what is on the ground. We probably go there from these images expecting everything to have come to a halt. But, actually fairly normal activities were going on, traffic was in town…”An empirically sharp contradiction to President Obama's statement quoted earlier.

One vital point on the Ebola outbreak is this:we shouldn't panic or be fearful, because “when the symptoms are detected early people are getting cured, it's not a death sentence” . As President Mahama believes that “if we continue to work together in the determined manner like we have done over the years by 2030 we could see the end of AIDS”, when we also get the fact about Ebola right today, we can in unison overcome it. We will then be preventing as in the case of HIV/AIDS to spend much more resources to sensitize people on attitudinal change towards People Living With HIV/AIDS. Ebola is curable!

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