Ace investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas has disclosed the circumstances that led to him employing his colleague Ahmed Hussein-Suale who was murdered on January 16 in Accra.
According to the BBC, Hussein-Suale grew up among eight siblings in Wulensi, a small town in northern Ghana, where he stood out for his fierce interest in politics. At 18 he moved to Accra to study political science at the University of Ghana, where he first met Anas.
Anas had already made a name for himself as an undercover reporter and Tiger Eye was a fledgeling team. Hussein-Suale sought him out the same way several early Tiger Eye employees had, by asking around until someone could tell him: that is the man known as Anas. Anas responded the way he did to all potential recruits – he set him a test: travel to Tema, north of Accra, and report a story there about cocaine. Hussein-Suale went to Tema and promptly failed. He blew his cover and got himself arrested. “He did not perform to my expectation,” said Anas, in an interview with the BBC last week. “And that was that.”
But Hussein-Suale wrote Anas a long letter explaining why he should be given another chance. “So I gave him another chance,” said Anas. “And from that day he excelled from one investigation to the next.”
Hussein-Suale’s first big story came in 2013 when he travelled with Anas to northern Ghana to expose witchdoctors behind the poisoning of children – often children with disabilities – believed to be possessed by evil spirits. In an elaborate sting typical of Tiger Eye’s style, the team arranged for the witchdoctor’s “concoction men” to visit a family home with a supposedly possessed child. While the concoction men were outside cooking their poison, the team swapped the infant for a prosthetic baby. When the men returned and took hold of the fake baby, police swooped.
The film – Spirit Child – aired internationally on Al Jazeera. Hussein-Suale, then 24, impressed Anas with his pragmatism, not hesitating when it came to entering the witchdoctor’s shrine. “The average African is spiritually afraid of traditions and gods,” Anas said. “But Ahmed was always bold.”
His natural demeanour was the opposite. He was quiet and unassuming, to a fault. “You would be likely to disregard him at first,” said Sammy Darko, Tiger Eye’s lawyer, “but that made him a good fit for investigative journalism.” He was also scrupulously attentive and diligent. He became known as the “encyclopaedia of the team” for his detailed knowledge of each project, and later as “spiritual leader” for his habit of leading a prayer before undercover operations.
His cubicle at Tiger Eye’s offices had notes and documents from various investigations piled on the desk and pasted on the walls. “He would go out quietly and do a lot of background work,” said a fellow investigator, “so that when we came on to the story we knew exactly what we were doing.” But he also had a playful streak. “I got annoyed with him once,” recalled Seamus Mirodan, the director of Spirit Child. “One of the villagers gave him a just-slaughtered guinea fowl as a gift. He put it in my tripod bag and it just shat itself all over the inside of the bag.”
In 2015, Hussein-Suale took the lead on a story that would rock Ghana and propel Tiger Eye into the national spotlight. “Ghana in the Eyes of God” – a three-hour undercover epic based on hundreds of hours of secret filming – exposed widespread corruption in Ghana’s judiciary, showing judges and court workers accepting bribes to influence cases. More than 30 judges and 170 judicial officers were implicated. Seven of the nation’s 12 high-court judges were suspended. The film played to 6,500 people in four showings at the Accra International Conference Centre and brought gridlock to the streets of the capital.
For all Tiger Eye’s fans, not everybody appreciated the team’s methods. They faced accusations of entrapment. “It is wrong to induce somebody by an enticement of something lucrative, big money or whatever, then turn around and say the person is corrupt,” said Charles Bentum, a lawyer for several judges implicated in the expose. “You cannot exonerate the enticer and condemn the victim.”
The judiciary story made Anas famous in Ghana. Behind the scenes, Hussein-Suale’s combination of diligence and mettle was impressing his boss; he was becoming Anas’s right-hand man. In early 2018, Anas asked Hussein-Suale to accompany him to Malawi for a grim story about “muti” – the practice of harvesting human body parts for good luck rituals – that a young Malawian journalist, Henry Mhango, had brought to them. They would collaborate on the story with the BBC. “I chose Hussein-Suale because I knew he had the capacity to withstand the shocks,” said Anas.