The Director-General of the CID appeared on Atinka TV on the 11th of May, on the eve of Mothers’ Day, to be celebrated as a mother. However, we have conspired to turn that celebration into a hailstorm she might never ever want to experience again.
The interview lasted some 45 minutes and was preceded by a narration of her profile. She joined the Police Service nearly 19 years ago, and within this period rose from the rank of a recruit (Constable) to now a Commissioner of Police. She was responsible for the revival of the CID Training School and trained five hundred and fifty detectives. She was the first commandant of the Police Officers Staff College at Winneba, which opened during the time of IGP Mohammed Alhassan. Her meteoric rise has occurred under all governments of the 4th Republic.
She is a mother of three and a chartered accountant. She was adjudged the best all round officer cadet, in 1999, for her batch of officer trainees that comprised two females and forty-six males. She did so well that a special ‘staff of honour’ was ordered from the United Kingdom to decorate her on passing out. This was presented by Prof Atta-Mills, then the vice-President of Ghana. Maame Tiwaa’s incredible rise all began from humble beginnings at the Konongo Roman Catholic Primary and Middle Schools and then on to Bompata Senior High School and ending at Kumasi Polytechnic.
Is this not an inspiring story to trumpet throughout the land to inspire the ‘Cyto’ pupil, the girl child and in fact all Ghanaian youth? Yet the whole interview has been shrunk to a 30-second segment that was extracted to condition the minds of Ghanaians towards condemning her. The interview covered her role as a mother, her work as a police officer, the suitability of a woman as IGP, the Takoradi kidnappings and the latest Ofosu Ampofo invitation. Yet the very station that invited here could not even write a fair representation of the interview. I have seen two stories by Atinka out of the interview – ‘my comment on missing girls misconstrued’ and ‘I am more than prepared for IGP post – COP Tiwaa Addo-Danquah’. Sitting the two headlines alongside each other painted her, somehow, as an incompetent officer who ridiculously wants to be the next IGP. And they fuelled it by hosting political discussions on it without correcting the wrong impression.
Before analysing what COP Tiwaa said on both recent occasions that she has interacted with the public, a little context will help because it seems Ghanaians have not appreciated the magnitude and complexity of the events from Takoradi. These are kidnap and ransom (K & R) situations where the kidnappers are demanding ransoms in return for the release of the young women. The fact that one suspect is in police custody but the girls have not been found should indicate that he has accomplices. These accomplices have the abductees and they probably have moved them somewhere beyond Takoradi or even Ghana. The added complication might even be that the accomplices are demanding (in addition to the ransom) the release and safe passage of the arrested suspect.
The objective of the Police and the other Security and Intelligence Agencies involved in resolving this problem is to secure the safe release of these young women. There is no point rushing it and compromising their safety; otherwise all the effort would have come to nothing. And I think that should be the expectation of the families as well. Thus the course of action is to identify the kidnappers, establish contact with them and to begin negotiations. The foremost information to be extracted at the beginning of the negotiations is to have some proof that the victims are alive and well, and if possible, also to establish their location. It appears the Police and the Security and Intelligence Agencies have done these. They were thus ready to give some limited information to reassure the public.
It would be recalled that in the days and weeks leading to the CID Press Conference of April 2, there had been demonstrations in Takoradi and a media pile up on the Police to say something to the public. The Police had to walk the tightrope of giving out enough information to reassure the public (especially the family) without also jeopardising the safety of the girls. Hence COP Tiwaa gave out the following information:
“Together with the BNI, we’ve worked very hard and currently we know where the girls are. I am unable to give the details because we don’t want to compromise their safety. We are working hard together with other stakeholders so that these girls are brought home safely. The assurance to the families is that they should keep on keeping on. The ladies, we know where they are and they are safe. If you really know how kidnapping works, there is something you don’t have to do to compromise the safety of the girls in hostage. Like I said it’s taken us over three months to identify even where the ladies are and what we do not want is to do anything that will jeopardise the safety of that. So we are working very hard; all stakeholders who are supposed to be on board are on board. And, hopefully, the girls will be brought back safe and sound.”
There are a lot of clues littered in this statement, which we have failed to analyse:
“We know where the girls are” – note that this is not claiming that that the girls have been found. You can know where the wallet you thought you have lost is, but that does not mean that it is in your possession or within grasp.
“We do not want to compromise their safety” – this means the agencies, even if they knew the location, could not use force to free the girls. The location may be defended and there is a real risk that the girls could come to some harm, if forced rescue is attempted. It can also be inferred from the message that they are engaged in some negotiations and cannot give any guarantees as to when it would be concluded.
Immediately after the press conference, our lack of comprehension and culture of cynicism kicked in. Whilst most media portals got their headlines right – “We know where the Takoradi Girls Are” – the content of their reports did not accurately reflect that. The reports rather gave the impression that the girls have been found. That evening, I listened to Peace FM’s 6 O’clock news during which a lady describing herself as a sister to one of the victims was interviewed. She immediately cast doubt on the CID statement. Her basis was that her mother had been speaking to the CID Boss, and at no instance did the CID mention that they knew where the girls were. This story was all over several news portals the next day. Some news portals also got it completely wrong from the very beginning by their headlines, where they equated ‘We know where the girls are” to ‘The Takoradi girls have been found’. The Daily Guide Newspaper, on their website, did not help matters either. On April 24, they made a categorical claim that the girls have been found safe and that they were being examined at a private medical facility in Accra.
If the foregoing was not a misunderstanding of the information the CID gave out at its press conference of April 2, nothing else would qualify as such. With this misunderstanding as the basis, pressure started to mount again on the Police. “If you say you know where they are, why is it taking you so long to bring the girls back?” The caveats the Police gave at the press conference were swept aside. With this as the backdrop, COP Maame Tiwaa gave her latest interview on Atinka TV, which was meant to celebrate her as a mother.
The interview (the part about the kidnapped girls) progressed along the following lines (translated from Twi):
Host: If you haven’t heard what is being said on the grapevine, they are saying: she says she wants to become the IGP, has she been able to bring back the kidnapped girls? That is what is going on. What will say to them?
COP: Abena, I am happy you have brought up this subject. If there is anything on my heart, that everyday I am looking to solve, it is this issue. I am not sleeping on it, I have not relaxed. Everything that we have to do…..I am not the only one working on it; I am working on it with my officers; everybody who is involved….we are continuously working….I know that as we sit here today, the greatest thing that will give me immense relief, happiness….is to hold the hands of these girls and tell Ghanaians: see, we have brought back the girls. It is my topmost priority. But having said that, it is not one person who is working on this case – it is teamwork; I am not the only person. So we are not sleeping on it; we have not relaxed. All the logistics that we need to carry out our work, we have received them. I cannot say that today or tomorrow.
From the word go, you just have to utter I need this and it’s given to you; you just have to say I want to do this, and it is given to you. We have a proverb that if you are pulling something and it is not giving, it implies something is holding onto it. And the thing holding it, we have not accepted that it should continue to hold it for ever. We are still pulling, every way and manner that we have to pull at it, we are engaged in that.
Host: In recent times, the thing you were pulling was descending; that is why you came to tell us that you knew where the girls were. But what is holding it this time again?
COP: Abena, it is not everything that I can say on this platform. What I can really say is that we are currently and continuously working on it. Any agency that has to help is involved. The logistics that we need are available. The intention behind what I said at that time was to give encouragement, hope that…..(interrupted by host).
Host: To the parents and the family?
COP: Yes, yes…that we were not sleeping on it but rather we have moved forward from where we were previously. Maybe, either people did not understand me well and misrepresented what I said but we have never slept on it; we are still engaged in doing whatever we have to do; but I am unable to give timelines as to either today or tomorrow. However, we are hard at work.
Host: In truth, Maame, do you know where the children are?
COP: Abena, if we leave it here, I would appreciate it.
Host: I do not want to get you wrong. In fact what you really told us was that you knew where the children were and not that you have found them. In truth, do you know where the children are?
COP: Abena, I do not want to go there. I do not want to again give the wrong impression created the last time I spoke about this.
With this, the interview moved on to the Ofosu Ampofo invitation. It beats my mind how and why anyone could interpret the translated exchange above to mean that COP Maame Tiwaa had said that the information she gave out at the April 2 press conference was to give false hope to the families. If that was the impression, why would the host then have asked: “have you actually seen the children?” In Twi, ‘me nim baabia nkwadaa no wo’ [I know where the children are] is different from ‘mahu nkwadaa no’ [I have seen/found the children]. Yet you get a senior clergyman booming out: “we heard you alright; you did not speak in Greek”. It is very unfortunate if we are becoming this intolerant as a nation.
Hellooo Ghanaians, we are dealing with a kidnap and ransom (K & R) situation with an international dimension. This is the time to suspend our usual all-knowing commentary on every subject under the sun. This is the time for the ‘experts’ to be humble enough to see the limitations of their knowledge and experience. Ghana must be the only country in the world, where an expert publishes no leading research or adds nothing to existing body of knowledge in a field, but yet covets the title or get it bestowed. Please let us hold our horses.
These kidnappings began with low-value (please do not misunderstand) victims. In other words, the victims do not come from wealthy backgrounds; hence the demands were low. Our utterances and actions, if not checked, have the potential to, inadvertently, up the stakes. Our utterances could make any ongoing negotiations intractable and could easily convert the victims into high-value ones. Furthermore, our scathing criticisms could push the Police to decide, prematurely, to use force. I hope we all know the potential risks involved in such an approach.
Let us rather support those trying to resolve the problem with all the information we have and can give. Who is Samuel Udotec Wills? When did he arrive in Ghana? At which places has he stayed? Has he got landlords and co-tenants? Did he rent the place alone or with others? Was he receiving visitors? Are there any places they frequented? What is the Nigerian High Commission doing to help? In some other countries, the media would be falling over each other to get answers to these questions and even more. But, sadly, in our case, cynicism is the only currency we trade in.
May God give protection to the girls and bring comfort to their families until they are safely reunited. And as COP Maame Tiwaa said at the Atinka interview – Let the will of God be done.
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