#FixTheCountry Was Not Mentioned At VGMA And It Is Shameful
For the first time, the Ghana Music Awards was held over two separate nights in Accra.
Even after more than 20 years, the awards continue to be among the most anticipated events in the year, and the oddity of a two-day show did not dampen viewer enthusiasm.
If the idea to hold the awards over two days was an attempt to make sure the show does not run into the early hours of the following day, that attempt failed.
Friday night’s show dovetailed into Saturday morning, and so did Saturday’s into Sunday morning.
It was a night of music and fashion, as expected. Ghana’s biggest entertainment night tried to live up to the billing. One by one, 32 categories were filled with winners. Some artistes were multiple winners, as expected.
But another thing that was also expected, at least by some socially-conscious Ghanaians, was to see Ghanaian entertainers take to the podium and speak to the urgency of the Fix The Country clamour.
This would have been in the same fashion as American entertainers speaking to sociopolitical issues in their country when they have the privilege of going on stage before millions of eyeballs.
Much is said about how we copy wholesale the impressions created in the Western world, but one wonders why Ghanaian entertainers have not copied sociopolitical activism.
What is the problem? Why do our people copy hip hop but not the anti-establishment spirit of hip hop, for instance?
Why have we grown an entertainment industry where the only sort of sociopolitical impact our entertainers make is limited to philanthropy, lightweight social commentary in songs, and occasionally supporting a political party during elections?
Before anyone thinks that politics does not find its way into entertainment, one should remember that politicians have never refused the express support of entertainers. Those who seek to rule will continue to shamelessly court the voice of those who entertain.
But even if you think that is just an example of partisanship and not necessarily in the interest of the national good, may you be reminded that Tourism, Arts and Culture are subjects of government interest, so much so that they constitute a ministry today.
In 1992, the erstwhile PNDC government sought to promote Pan-Africanism, a political ideal, through Ghanaian tourism and entertainment. The result of that project is what we now call PANAFEST.
In the last three decades of multiparty democracy too, how many times have we not seen the government using entertainers for public service education on civics, health, energy conservation and even the economy? Musicians and actors are always on our TVs telling us to vote or to pay taxes, no?
When he had his time with the Appointments Committee earlier in June, the new Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Mark Okraku-Mantey, revealed his knowledge of how nebulously defined “American values” are propagated in Hollywood films with the help of the U.S. military and more.
The new Deputy Minister hinted that he also hoped to find a way to convince Ghanaian filmmakers to help shape “Ghanaian values” through cinema and TV. That is as political as it can get. That is the government literally looking to direct your sense of entertainment.
It is rather easy to see how political opinions find vehicles in entertainment activities. In ancient Rome, emperors were known to organise grand festivities in the name of Roman nationalism and/or religious reification that they called panem et circenses, or ‘bread and circuses’.
Bread and circuses were state-organised festivities that served as distractions for the political authority and pain-relievers for the public.
Political authority was able to avoid the harshness that came with the bitter pills swallowed by the public, especially the majority who were poor. Politicians could excite the “small-minded” public with entertainment while the nastiness of what needs to be done is performed on the public’s blindside.
Politics is bigger than partisanship and factionalism. Politics is the affairs of the whole community, and no single party or faction can have a monopoly on the way to go.
However, unfortunately, in the last 30 years in Ghana, we have come to think of politics incurably in terms of partisanship.
The consequence of this infantile obsession with parties is why politicians get away with crimes. It is why the infrastructure we need is never built, and the law is never implemented. It is also why the genuinely worrying cries of the Fix The Country campaigners is muffled.
It is no secret that the ruling party believes #FixTheCountry is laser-targeted at Nana Akufo-Addo’s government. This is despite the efforts of the campaigners to show that the problem is not with the present government per se but with the political class that has succeeded in leaving the majority of Ghanaians in abject misery.
Oliver Barker-Vormawor, one of the most lead conveners of #FixTheCountry, has on countless occasions promised that the problems he aims to fight are endemic to the Ghanaian sociopolitical culture and not because he is anti-Akufo-Addo.
Sam George, the opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Ningo-Prampram, tried to jump on the #FixTheCountry bandwagon on Twitter to bash the sitting government and he was abundantly and harshly reminded that the fight was against all like him. He learned his lesson rather immediately.
The government and some helplessly partisan supporters of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) still believe the campaign is fashioned against the sitting president but not also against John Mahama or the entirety of the political class. It is in the interest of this category of Ghanaians to believe what they do.
But do you know the people who cannot afford to keep mute or side with power while the cries of Ghanaians are muffled? Entertainers! Creatives!
Those people who tell us art come from free-thinking and sell their products to the “people”.
The “people” are now crying and are even fighting for the right to protest, and none of the dozens who were awarded at the VGMA was free-thinking enough to be sympathetic to the cries of the “people” to whom they sell their products?
Why was it hard for the awardees to sympathise with #FixTheCountry while millions, if not hundreds of thousands of Ghanaians, watched on Friday and Saturday nights?
Did they forget, which would mean they are not as socially minded as their “we belong with the people” brands seem to suggest?
Were they afraid, which would mean they are not as free-thinking and confident as their music and public appearances seem to suggest?
Were they asked to intentionally avoid the topic, which would mean the sponsors and organisers only care about profit and not people?
Or did the artistes refuse to touch on the issue because the plaques mean more than what the “people” have been crying about in the last few months?
Dear musicians, whatever the reason for your collective silence on the biggest night that you commanded Ghanaian attention, you have to know that you failed awfully the people who continue to make you rich enough to afford your eccentric clothing for some interviewer to ask, “who are you wearing?”.