TALKING DRUM: Saddick Adams ‘Obama’- From High School Sports reporter to National Best Sports Journalist

When I met him at the Klings Pub at Kokomlemle in Accra on Friday, November 30, 2018, it was my first time having a personal interaction with him. However, it was not my first time I had heard about him. If you should put me on the spot to name the players that make up the Black Stars team without consulting Google, I doubt I can mention any— apart from Asamoah Gyan, Andre Dede Ayew and his brother. Sports, specifically soccer, is not my thing but back in Sunyani, the Bono Regional capital, one young man literally ‘forced’ me to listen to him present sports on radio. Probably, I did because everybody was talking about him but certainly, he was captivating. That was how I heard of Saddick Adams, popularly known as the Sports Obama. His unique style of sports presentation, he says, earned him the nickname, “Sports Obama”. “Back then, access to internet or foreign sports was difficult. I used to go and pay at the internet café to search for foreign news. I will master the full names of coaches, players and the stadium of favorite European teams during presentation,” he narrated. Saddick Adams explained, “It was unusual in Sunyani. People will phone in and say this guy has brought ‘change’ to sports presentation. It was during those times that Barrack Obama was also campaigning on the change mantra. They will call and say you are the Sports Obama. That’s how it stuck.” For a young boy who started his basic education in a small community, his father had always wanted him to be a lawyer due to his strong debating skills but he had other dreams. “I started my basic education in the village. Adrobaa Roman Catholic around Duayaw-Nkwanta in the Tano-North constituency of the Ahafo Region,” he described. At age 9, he moved to join his family in Kumasi where he attended St. Peters Basic and later Bantama M/A school before finally completing his Basic Education at the Islamic Educational Complex also in Kumasi. “As a child, I loved sports to the hilt. In Kumasi, I went around picking scraps to sell at the Suame Magazine just to get money to go to the stadium on Sundays. I used to walk from Suame to Kumasi stadium without breaking a sweat. I was about 12 years,” he says. For his schoolmates of the Asanteman Senior High School in Kumasi in the Ashanti Region, Saddick’s interest in sports was striking right on campus. Going on to pursue it immediately after completing SHS, thus came as no surprise. “Yes, Baba Saddick [as we used to call him] was synonymous to sports. He had a small radio set and will always be seen listening to sports during leisure hours. I also had a radio [set] but whereas I listened to current affairs shows, he listened to sports, usually tuning from one radio station to the other. When he is going to the mosque, he will be listening to sports and even used to carry his radio to the bathhouse,” says Kwame-Poku Adu-Gyamfi (former GIMPA TESCON President), Sports Obama’s SHS confidant. Sometimes, he would abandon class sessions to follow the school sports team just to report when they play in the regional inter-school championships. He would go to Kotoko training grounds at Ridge Park just to report to colleagues back on campus. He says, “He was acting like the school’s sports reporter.” Rising steadily through the media landscape in Sunyani, the then promising sports presenter started his career with Parrot FM, a campus-based radio of the then Sunyani Polytechnic, now Sunyani Technical University. From there, he moved to GBC’s Brong Ahafo Regional station [Radio BAR]. He eventually also worked with Space FM, Dinpa FM, Storm FM and later Suncity Radio all in Sunyani. “At [Radio] BAR, I started as an intern. After a few months, I was co-opted into the team and started paying me ¢35 a month… around 2007. I was so content. I needed the job more than the money. It was purely about passion.” “Space FM recruited me and increased my allowance to ¢60. Dinpa FM signed me for GH¢90 a month. After two months, the Dinpa management increased it to ¢120. It was enough for me then,” the now sports guru says beaming. The determined sports presenter, who was poised to serve the trade with the best, went undercover in 2011. He says with the little money on him, he sojourned to Accra to begin a probe into bribery allegations involving a football coach. “I had heard that some of the coaches in the national team take monies to field players. I wanted to prove this. I knew a [Ghanaian] goalkeeper who was in Italy. She wanted an invite to the women’s team and she told me the coaches were trying to extort money from her. I went to the coach, Adusei, and acted like I was an agent for the girl,” narrates Sports Obama. He says he later got all the conversations with the coach who had already received watches, other items and money and sent the tape to the Ghana Football Association. The Sports Ministry met, examined the evidence and got the coach sacked. That was his first real big shot. Whereas the young man happily went about his show at Dinpa FM, something happened one day. That unfortunate incident would hit him so hard the way a torrential windstorm hits a wall. The station he was so determined to help uplift its banner in the region gave him a red card! “Dinpa [FM] actually sacked me. It’s not a pleasant story. Those were the early days of blogging in the Brong Ahafo Region. Storm FM, a station owned by one of the wealthiest men in the region, was being established. Rumours were rife in the city as to who they’d recruit. Then, some blogger wrote that I was one of the people Storm FM had eyed to poach. Dinpa FM implied, then, I had spoken to them already.” “They gave me a dismissal letter and subsequently collapsed the sports show. I was unfairly treated,” Saddick Adams paused to brood over the hard-hitting memory he never wanted to share. “As of today, I still feel innocent. I didn’t speak to anyone at Storm FM about poaching,” he indicated. He had to sit at home for about five months. Jobless! When Storm FM later started operations, he went there with broadcaster cum sports administrator, Micky Charles. There was no money involved as had been rumoured. Getting all the attention like a lady in a skimpy dress, Sports Obama would move to Suncity Radio. There, he had become a ‘millionaire’ after being handed a cheque for the first time. “It was ¢1,000. That was big. That was the poaching fee but when I was leaving [to Kumasi; Angel FM], I had to pay back because I spent only three months with them,” he says. Typical of most Ghanaians, many were those in Sunyani that speculated and calculated how much Saddick had been paid to leave Suncity Radio for Angel FM. But that was not it. “Summer (Michael Darko of Angel FM Sports] called me to come help them with production because Joe Laka and his team had left; not that they were signing me. But, people in Sunyani thought they had signed me. The real story was that before I came to Angel FM, Metro FM had also invited me and was ready to pay money [to poach me] but I missed a meeting with the owner so the deal hit a snag,” Saddick revealed. Leaving his comfortable job at Suncity Radio where he was the toast of town to do ‘boy-boy’ in Kumasi’s Angel FM for three months without salary was tough. “My first few months at Angel FM were terrible. I had no accommodation so had to commute to work from Sunyani to Kumasi every day. Such was the danger. I wanted a challenge. I needed a platform to show what I had and so the difficulties would not stop me. I was determined to succeed despite the adversities.” Interestingly, Angel FM gave him an offer some months later. Saddick tells me that upon recommendation by then head of sports, Bright Kankam Boadu, Angel FM owner, Dr. Kwaku Oteng, called to pay for his deal. This was to probably quell interests from other stations in Kumasi. “In Kumasi, somebody even gave me his two-bedroom apartment for free just because he liked how I spoke on radio,” the Sports Obama recounted how well he was received in Kumasi. He says sometimes when finished a radio production, some admirers would gather at the forecourt of Angel FM just to catch a glimpse of the man whose voice disseminated the power-packed sports show to their hearing. At Angel FM, the crew would sometimes be joined by legendary writer and broadcaster, Kwabena Yeboah, and to the Sports Obama, there was nothing rewarding than sitting on same table with his childhood idol. “I will be on panel with Kwabena Yeboah. I will steal glances at him about a hundred times before the show ends. I was star-struck. Sometimes, he will share his opinions with me. Sometimes, he will forget something – say on tennis— then I’ll remind him. I thought I was dreaming,” he said with a rueful smile. In less than a year, the Sports Obama had become a household name to Kumasi sports fans basically due to his research-based analysis, fierce opinions and unique style of presentation. “Just a month after Angel FM gave me the offer, my dad passed on suddenly. That was the biggest blow in my life. I never did anything [substantial] for my dad. When I started getting something, he died,” he said gently dropping his phone and power bank on the table we sat across. “I remember the next day after receiving payment, he was the first person I thought of. I went to town, bought watches and shirts for him. He was appreciative but I couldn’t do enough. When he died, I saw a note in his diary saying the day he felt really pleased was when his son bought something for him. I was teary. I could have done enough. All the money I was given, I used it for his funeral. I was only 25 years.” Well, everything, they say, comes and goes. Saddick Adams put all the cruelties of life behind him. One morning, he would unexpectedly be hinted about an Accra deal. “Kwame Adinkra called me after his show [on Angel FM] one morning and asked whether I would like to move to Accra? I said why not. I love challenges. He told me there was a station poaching him [Kwame Adinkra] and he had told them if they are able to get me along, he will be pleased to move,” Saddick recalled how he ended up at Atinka FM/TV. “Before I could sign the Atinka FM deal, I travelled to Equatorial Guinea to report on the African Cup of Nations. I ended up receiving my contract in a Malabo Hotel. Atinka FM had sent someone with my contract all the way from Accra to Equatorial Guinea. They didn’t want me to change my mind,” he says. When pressed to reveal figures of his Atinka FM deal, he insisted on keeping that personal. “The decision was not about money. I wanted to continue my education and expand my scope,” he noted. The proud son from Ahafo has been true to his words. He has indeed expanded his scope, becoming one of the most respected sports journalists not only in Ghana, but Africa. At the 23rd Ghana Journalists Association Awards in 2018, Saddick Adams was awarded the Best Sports Journalist of the Year. He has progressed from picking foreign sports stories from the internet cafe to reporting for global media giants such as the BBC, SuperSport and BeIN Sport among others. Presently, he does correspondence for China Global Television Network [CGTN], covering for them from the West Africa sports sub-region. For some time now, he wakes up to numerous emails from some major international media outlets requesting for an interview on trending issues. That’s the price of passion, hard work and determination. Perhaps, for the many struggling Ghanaian youths out there, what Kwame-Poku Adu-Gyamfi, Sports Obama’s senior high school mate, says must serve some inspiration. “The young man we are seeing today didn’t start today. The glories and accolades he is attaining today started [from] somewhere. You could see passion in his eyes right at Asanteman SHS campus.” Dear Ghanaian youth, I urge you to start something where you are now and your beautiful story would be told tomorrow. But while at it, be careful you do not breach the laws of the game Saddick loves, else he will drag you to his Sports Court show on Atinka TV!

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By Solomon Mensah|3FM||Ghana The writer is a broadcast journalist with Media General (TV3/3FM). Views expressed here are solely his and do not, in anyway, reflect the editorial policy of his organisation. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aniwaba  ]]>