Saturday, January 27, 2007
How Ghana @ 50 is heading towards a no-celebration
By: NANABANYIN DADSON
PRESIDENTS make mistakes sometimes; President Kufuor included. Last year, he made quite a few regarding preparations for the celebration of Ghana’s 50th anniversary.
First, the President was rather late putting together a team to plan the celebrations. For such an auspicious event, planning should have begun latest by March 6 last year but it didn’t. Mistake number one.
When he eventually did, the President came up with a National Planning Committee whose members were all ministers and government officials most of whom many not know much about how to celebrate anything. Mistake number two.
Then on realizing that the time for the effective planning was too short, the President directed that the celebrations should be a year-long affair stretching from January through December. Who will be paying any attention after March 6? Mistake number three.
Again, the person who was placed in the driver’s seat as Chief Executive appears not will auditioned for the role. Reason? Dr. Charles Wereko-Brobbey cannot dance! What has dancing got to do with it? A person who cannot dance cannot be trusted to lead a celebration. Mistake number four.
It is because of these mistakes that the supposed celebration has taken off and no one is feeling it. Did I say “taken off”? Well, the drama that is currently unfolding regarding take-off or not, has made matters worse.
While the programme of activities put our in the media by the Ghana @ 50 Secretariat suggests that the celebration has already started, only a few days ago, a countdown to the celebration was launched on TV. Countdown to what? The beginning or end of the show?
Expectations for a great celebration were nipped in the bud at the very start when questions begun to be asked about the seed $20 million that the government had voted for the anniversary activities. Not wanting to appear frivolous, Mr. Kwadwo Baah Wiredu, the Minister of Finance, said that the money was not meant for a birthday party. (Daily Graphic, July 25, 2006).
Someone should have been bold to say: “We’re going to blow it on music, dance, drama and general feasting. Instead, we were told by Mr. Baah Wiredu that “whatever the money would be used for will benefit the whole nation. For instance, if it was used to build a kindergarten, it would be to the benefit of the whole nation”. Thus the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make artistes and culture workers happy was blown.
How is it that whenever money is to be spent on the arts, it pains some people? Artistes have always “sat their somewhere” quietly while money has been doled out to other sectors such as health, education, environment and sports. And on the one-in-50 years occasion that some money was coming their way, “skin-pain” has set in!
Now we are supposed to be in a celebration mood and we are not feeling it. All one hears is talk about building new or sprucing up existing hotels to cater for expected foreign visitors. Is the independence anniversary for us or for visitors?
Someone should ask PANAFEST organizers how they succeeded in making the festival an event for visitors while the local folk at Cape Coast were reduced to being mere onlookers. I was feeling rather sorry for Dr. Wereko Brobby the other Monday when he said that “the anniversary was not meant for his secretariat alone, but the entire nation and therefore urged all Ghanaians to get involved” (Daily Graphic, January 16, 2007).
Who said celebrations occur as a result of exhortation? Celebrations are created and as far as I know, nothing of such nature has been created.
Just take a short look at the programme of activities, that is being released piecemeal. The very first actively, Greening Ghana initiative, got off to a limping start when the President could not be there to lead the campaign as expected. Anyway, whoever heard of planting trees during Hamattan?
January 8 was supposed to be a Rally Round the Flag Day during which all Ghanaians and institutions were expected to fly Ghana or Ghana @ 50 flags in homes and workplaces. This activity also did not fly or did it? Indeed, if anyone had tried it, he would have looked foolish in other peopled eyes. “Why is he flying the Ghana Flag when there’s nothing specific to celebrate”?. People would have asked. You see, people don’t fly flags by-heart like that.
On January 13, 2007, a festival of Ghanaian Religions Choral Music was held at the forecourt of the State House in Accra. The capo, Dr. Wireku Brobby, was there and must have noticed how empty the audience seats were. Although this was a good programme by way of content, there was hardly any publicity and only about a third of seats were occupied.
The following day, during a National Day of Christian Prayers at the same venue, the same scenario was repeated. Either people did not know about the event, or church goers were not too keen on attending their various churches in the morning and going for a repeat in the afternoon. Too much of everything, they say, is bad. Didn’t someone consider that?
The three goals of the celebration, I am told, are to celebrate, reflect and look forward. Perhaps I should stick to only the celebration aspect of the anniversary programme but if I many be a little impetuous, let me ask how the People’s Assembly that was held at Sunyani became a Jubilee event? Something we have done regularly over the last six years? What about Martin Luther King’s birthday?
Anyway. The theatre performances on the programme have been titled “season of Ghanaian about the two short plays to be performed this weekend – “Every man” and “Streetism”. There may be a dearth of drama works in the country but the situation is not that bad, to borrow a medieval morality play and force a Ghanaianess on it or take a relatively recent play on street children and label it as a classic. Come on guys!
If I had my own way to do anything to the artistes programmes, I would focus on making the shows that have been mentioned in the programme of activities really grand affairs which people would remember for a long time to come.
All big concerts are built around invite well-known artists from the continent and beyond to head the performances. Only a couple of months ago Citi FM, an Accra radio station, single-handedly put together an Osibisa concert. Can you imagine grand concerts that would feature the likes of Nana Kwame Ampadu, Kojo Antwi, Daddy Lumba, Lagbaja, Lucky Dube, Youssou Ndour, Angelina Kidjo or even Bayonce, Mariah Carrey?
Again, I would insist that the fun be carried to the regions as well. It is good to have concerts going on concurrently in the regional capitals as was done with the Religious Choral Festival and this weekend’s Gospel-fest but it would be better if each region had its own day. If it is so done, the use of equipment will be maximized and also very popular artistes could be taken round to allow music enthusiasts in the regions to also meet the artistes, they have heard so much about. As it is, every region will be featuring her own artistes.
Let the money flow! I have been wondering why the Ghana @ 50 secretarial gives approval for programmes without providing the necessary cash at the right time to ensure effective delivery. I would work towards hastening the process of funding so that items that have to be paid for are paid for quickly. Afterall, the money is available so why wait till the last minute?
No one should be allowed to toy with publicity. Indeed what is the use of preparing a good show for no one to see it? All the artistic programmes of the celebration have so far suffered a lack of publicity. It is noted that publicity is expensive but there is no way we can do without it. I would fire commercials on all cylinders – newspaper, radio, posters, etc … and pay for them.
Besides the secretariat’s own programmes, I would also encourage individuals and organizations who come up with acceptable programmes to be assisted by at least 40 per cent of their budget. This will help such promoters to spice up their shows and present something on a more grand scale than they usually do.
And if by the end of the day, the shows are good, we will all be happy and we should not even be surprised that Osagyefo himself will rock in his vault at the mausoleum.
Daily Graphic - Saturday, January 27, 2007 Page: 21