Live from the Woods: What if ‘one-sided’ Marwako assault account is entirely not true?

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If ever there’s any event that has affirmed the notion that the Ghanaian student is not taught how to ask questions in the classroom, it’s the Marwako assault incident. It appears everybody, including government officials, is running commentary on the issue, but nobody seems to be talking.

It reminds me of what celebrated British journalist, Charles Prestwich Scott, said in a 1921 essay marking the Manchester Guardian’s centenary, a newspaper he had served nearly 50 years as editor. He told a British audience that, “comment is free, but facts are sacred.”

He added that “The voice of opponents no less than that of friends has a right to be heard.” The message was delivered to a 1921 audience, but I believe it applies to us especially on the issue before us. What are the facts about the Marwako assault case? From the purview of a media practitioner, I’ll say the information out in the public appears one-sided. It favours the victim, Evelyn Boakye. And rightly so because she has a good case. Any form of assault is bad.

But I’m not given to trusting things especially when I don’t have all the facts before me. Call me a non-conformist and you won’t be farther from the truth. Fact is I love to pursue the devil in the details of events and things. I acknowledge sometimes I overdo this to the chagrin of my significant others, but it serves me well. We all need the facts especially when we were not there when it all happened.

A friend sent me a link to an online petition about the Marwako incident to sign. This was a day before the matter escalated. Seconds after I received the message through WhatsApp, I immediately asked for evidence. His response was “Hmm.” He was displeased with my reaction. It was as though he had wanted me to “obey before complain.”

So what are the facts?

The facts according to the victim:

Evelyn Boakye who is a cook at the Abelemkpe branch of Marwako Fast Food has made public an ordeal she went through in the hands of her branch Manager. She has repeatedly said her face was dipped into a hot pepper sauce by her boss, Jihad Chaaban, for being lethargic.

The February 26 incident, according to her, happened when she was working in the kitchen. A displeased Chaaban then stomped the kitchen and ‘mercilessly’ assaulted her. She was detained for close to 10 minutes after the encounter, she told the media. She also added she was bribed with a GHC50 note (she has been carrying around as one of her exhibits) to buy her silence.

The victim, Evelyn Boakye

The facts according to the accused:

Chaaban has admitted he manhandled Ms Boakye, a development he has apologised for. I think it is not enough. He must be punished for whatever he has done. But he has insisted he didn’t thrust Ms Boakye’s face into a pepper sauce contrary to the victim’s account. There was a splash as he shook her, he had said. He also said they made frantic efforts to get her medical attention, but they were unsuccessful. He then gave her GHC50 to facilitate her transportation home. Chaaban said he didn’t detain her as she claimed. Disparity in accounts about incidents is almost normal which explain why there’s the need for an expert to establish the truth.

The facts according to Ghanaians:

Ms Boakye is right; Chaaban is a bully and must be crucified to serve as a lesson to other foreigners, Ghanaians have called out. With the collaboration of the media, schemers behind the lady have succeeded to push to the backburner Chaaban’s account of the event. They are riding on the pent up anger of Ghanaians about maltreatment of citizens by foreigners to achieve their selfish ends.

The accused, Jihad Chaaban

Let’s think through these questions:

Could it be that her face was dipped into the blender since the pepper was then inside it? Where was she detained after the altercation as she claimed? Who’re those pushing the lady to adopt canny postures to make her story believable? Why is Ghana’s media unintelligent to ask the tough questions?

From my last count, Ms Boakye has volunteered three different accounts about the incident? Her account of development to Daily Graphic, Citi FM and the police varies to the point of being irreconcilable.

A simple, unscientific analysis of the claim that her face was dipped into the pepper shows it might not be entirely true if the pepper was in the blender. This might perhaps confirmed Chaaban’s account and that of some of the workers that there was a splash of the pepper in the course of the scuffle. But we don’t want to hear this.

I know a story like this is alluring and it’s enough to delay the circulation of blood through your artilleries just for anger to well up inside of you. And when the blood starts to flow, you have no difficulty cursing the attacker for damage caused ‘our own.’

Evelyn Boakye in the studio of Accra FM days after the incident

I am aware foreign bosses have the knack for maltreating Ghanaians who are working for them, a worrying development. But we can’t vent our pent-up anger on Mr Chaaban because of his Lebanese extraction. I don’t think Ghanaians are calling for justice to be served the victim because she is a native, but because what she went through is bad.

But what happened to being fair to the facts especially when we’re dealing with two parties to an issue? What happened to the legal principle, holding that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty?

Is someone benefiting from this story?

It’s difficult to rule out the contribution of a guiding hand in this event. The posture of Ms Boakye and the near cosmetic way she appears on media platforms make it difficult to believe she’s not being coached. I am convinced someone is benefiting from this story that has exposed the mediocre manner media do their work. It appears whoever is behind the issue has succeeded in applying a tranquiliser to the minds of Ghanaians. There are so many unanswered questions but thank God the case is before the court.

I am drawn to pity for Gender Minister, Afisa Otiko Djaba, because of the way she has conducted herself since the incident became public. The only fact she ever wants to know is the account of Ms Boakye because it helps to position her as a strong Minister. It’s pathetic how people lose their dignity by taking the low road.

All forms of assault is a threat to justice:

I am against all forms of assault, which I know some Ghanaian bosses are guilty of. Mr Chaaban might have manhandled the victim, but let us be fair to the facts. If he deserves to be punished, I am for it. But let the truth reign. Let us not act as though we have an agenda to prosecute.

Ghana is neither rich nor has a strong economy, but we have dignity which makes us respect the rule of law, rather than the rule of men. This is not a Kangaroo or banana republic. This is the Republic of Ghana-born on March 6, 1957, after blood, sweat, and tears of our ancestors were sacrificed to bequeath to us the liberty we are enjoying today, however, faulty it might be.

Let’s do what’s befitting and insist on fairness in whatever we do, remembering the measuring rod is always available.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed here are the Author’s and do not necessarily reflect the position of management of Multimedia or Myjoyonline.com. The writer Austin Brakopowers works as a journalist at Joy99.7FM and could be reached via Brakomen@outlook.com or www.brakopowers.com

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