HOST INTRO: Wear the cassock? Become an undercover agent? Or do journalism? Commentator Raymond Bayor digs deep into the transitions of his life.
My intelligence career wasn’t planned. I stumbled upon it, but it gave me insight into a world too murky for understanding. A world whose hallmarks are deception, blackmail and subterfuge.
I had a childhood dream of becoming a Roman Catholic priest, and it looked real when I entered the seminary in Ghana. My instructors were priests. But Fr. Mathew Sung’s friendship was exceptional. He would advise me to stay away from girls and alcohol. In my eyes, he was a man of virtue, a true mentor worthy of emulation.
I often visited his room for counseling and conversation. During one visit, I was still there after midnight. An attractive woman in her early thirties walked into his apartment. Fr. Sung said I should leave, that it was a matter of priest-parishioner confidentiality. Rumor later had it she was a married woman whose husband was travelling abroad. The lady’s husband divorced her upon his return. He also provided damning evidence of Fr. Sung’s sexual encounters with his wife. I was disillusioned. My mentor was transferred to another parish.
Priesthood, it turned out, wasn’t for me, but what else?
My uncle worked in the state intelligence agency. He asked me to join the agency. It was something I never, ever imagined I’d do. The recruitment procedure involved rigorous background checks and training.
I specialized in covert operations. We used wiretaps to spy on powerful people in society—politicians, journalists, religious leaders, and anyone who was critical of the president.
I became aware of rampant corruption by people in government. I watched helplessly as the presidency inflated the money paid out in government contracts, and gave the contracts to cronies, who in turn financed the ruling party with the loot. State corporations were also privatized and sold at below market value to leading members of the ruling party. Yes, it was the golden age of corruption in Ghana.
I got tired of being used to do evil, and left the job in 2008. Ghana was then preparing for an election that was expected to have no clear winner in the first round. But my intelligence radar picked up evidence of a plot to rig the runoff in favor of the governing party’s candidate. I had rock solid evidence— tapes, videos and pictures of those involved in the plot.
I went on radio and exposed the plot. It was a tense moment for Ghana, and for me. I knew a reaction would follow, and it did in the form of threats on my life.
But my revelations scuttled the plot, and the runoff was freer. The candidate of the ruling party, which had organized the fraud, was defeated.
I’ve now found another love—journalism—and my resolve to confront corruption has never been stronger! But it mustn’t end this time in another disillusionment. It certainly won’t.
BACKANNOUNCE: Raymond Bayor believes that democracy only works when journalists dare to expose abuses, even if they are committed by friends. He will be returning to Ghana later this year.