Renowned investigative journalist, Manasseh Azuri Awuni has opened up on his feud with broadcast journalist Paul Adom Otchere.
Manasseh was forced to finally address the issue for the first time after his (Paul) outburst on Zanetor Rawlings, the MP for Klottey Korle Constituency, Dr Zanetor on his Good Evening Ghana show last night.
Manasseh Azuri wrote:
What Paul Adom Otchere’s did to me — a $100,000 lie
Paul Adom Otchere is trending again. Some people are upset at his treatment of the MP for Klottey Korle Constituency, Dr. Zanetor Rawlings, on his show yesterday. I have endured crucifixion on that show a number of times. I have not uttered a word in response to the insults and attacks and lies.
My Facebook friend, Maazi Okoro has posted on Zanetor’s. He says some of those complaining today rejoiced when Paul held similar shows and attacked me (Manasseh) because it was against someone they hated. His post reminds me of the question people often ask me, “Manasseh, what have you done to Paul Adom Otchere?”
The answer rather is what Paul Adom Otchere has done to me, even before he hosted those shows to attack me. Like many others, I have ignored in order to focus on my job. But our elders were right when they said he who is slow to accuse the thief on his farm would find the intruder rather calling the farm owner a thief.
In November 2016, I went to work and was greeted with one of the biggest shocks of my life. I had got leaked cabinet documents on the youth employment contract with Zoomlion. In 2013, I had investigated Zoomlion, rLG and other companies that were fleecing that entity meant to create opportunities for the youth. The cabinet memo was about the intended payment of 448 million Ghana cedis to Zoomlion for a contract that did not exist.
The NPP had held a press conference on the contract, saying it was fraudulent. I was interested in the story so I followed up to one of my NPP friends and got the original cabinet documents and ran my own checks. They were authentic.
I did a short piece for news and discussed with one of the producers of one of the radio shows and it was agreed that we would do the story extensively on the show, since I had a lot of background to it. On two occasions however, the discussion of the story on the show was postponed without any tangible reason. Then on the third day, while I was expressing my frustration, a member of the production team whispered something to me that got me upset.
This person said one of the team members had told them to be careful with the story I was pushing. The person said I had a personal vendetta against Zoomlion because I had gone to demand $100,000 from the company and they denied me. There was evidence of my demand and the refusal, this person told them.
I am human and have my own shortcomings, but if there’s one thing I can swear under any deity without blinking, then it is the fact that I have never demanded, discussed or accepted money not to do a story. So this allegation got me upset, especially when it was from one of my colleagues and he spread it without even asking me.
I called Robert Coleman, who was the communications manager for Zoomlion, and who had a relationship with some of my colleagues. He was the person I suspected should know about it if any such thing was discussed at the company. He told me no such information had come from the company and that they knew nothing about it.
When I confronted the person at Joy FM who had told his colleagues this allegation, he said it was Paul Adom Otchere who gave him that information.
I called Paul Adom Otchere. He said he had sent my colleague a WhatsApp message to that effect, but he did not mention a figure. He was surprised where the $100,000 came from.
I asked him to send me a screenshot of the message he had sent to my colleague, but till date, Paul has not sent it. We had exchanges on WhatsApp for over a month but he did not send it.
I contacted my work colleague who had spread Paul’s allegation and requested to see the message Paul had sent. He was taking breakfast so he said when he finished eating, he would forward it to me. He later said that phone was home so he would send the message to me when he got home that evening. When I called him in the evening, he said he had changed his SIM card so that WhatsApp message was missing.
I requested a meeting between Paul, my colleague and whoever Paul said had given him the information from Zoomlion, so I could at least know where the fabrication came from, but nobody minded me.
On WhatsApp, where we had exchanges, Paul would not send me the message he said he had sent to my colleague. He said he had called my colleague at Joy FM and he denied putting a figure to the message he (Paul) sent to him (my work colleague). Paul said he had also spoken to his friends at Zoomlion and they had denied my claim that a figure was mentioned. It was not my claim, but what the person who broke the news to me said. I told him that even if he had said I had demanded one cedi, it was bad enough because it was a lie and a total fabrication.
At 9:08a.m. on December 14, 2016, Paul Adom Otchere sent me a message on WhatApp when I insisted on the message he had sent to my colleague. His message partly reads: “And I have just reached Coleman…he has also denied your claims [about the figure] … he says you essentially you asked for a meeting which offer they turned down.”
Each time I published an investigation about Zoomlion, I always reached out to them for a response and my requests have always been in writing. And apart from the 2013 written respond I got from the company on GYEEDA, the company has always refused to respond to me. When I’m doing a follow up story, however, I call to say this is what I’m about to publish and I want to know what you have to say.
On this story, I called on the phone and asked for their response to the issues in the cabinet memos, but they declined to comment. Even if I ask for a meeting and they turned down as Paul said, how does that amount to a demand of $100,000 dollars?
Paul Adom Otchere did not apologise. Neither did my colleague at work. My colleague was upset that those he relayed Paul’s allegation to at the station told me about it.
I found it serious because if Paul could come to my media house with such lies, what could he not tell those within his circles? If I wanted to take any legal action against Paul, I could not leave out the one who passed on the lie to others. Besides, I had heard many such lies and did not want to be distracted.
I had evidence of all the encounters as I sought the truth. I could have confronted Paul the same way Nii Arday Clegg confronted him and got him (Paul Adom Otchere) to say on live radio that what he had said about Nii Arday Clerg was a lie. But I ignored him. He, however, did not just let me, his victim, be.
Since then, Paul Adom Otchere has used his show to attack me and called me names and told the world how unethical I am. In one of the episodes, he relied on the GJA Press Statement which attacked my “Robbing the Assemblies” documentary on Waste Bins and other contracts. They could not say a single thing that was wrong with the story.
The waste bins contract was cancelled and it saved us more than 330 Million Cedis.
To those who keep asking what I have done to Paul Adom Otchere, this is what happened before he started his attacks. It is the most memorable encounter with him.
Maazi Okoro has a point. An action should not only be seen as right or wrong depending on who the victim is.