It was a traumatic experience not only for those who paid to go watch the 20th edition of the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards on Saturday, May 18, 2019.
For many of us who followed proceedings from our homes [and wherever possible], seeing TV3’s transmission truncated midway into the music awards show got us asking, “What’s going on there?”
When Stonebwoy’s name was mentioned that he had won the Reggae Dancehall Artiste of the Year award, I saw his fellow musician Shatta Wale [on TV] saying something to a guy who sat next to him. Then, within a split of a second, TV3’s feed was off. There and then, I knew something was wrong. I quickly logged on to Facebook to see if those at the Dome, Accra International Conference Center [AICC], were posting about the happenings. There was nothing yet. I called 3FM’s Larry Amable who was at the grounds. His phone buzzed but couldn’t answer my calls.
After about 30 minutes or so, TV3 brought back the feed. It was Onua FM’s Paa Kofi Aborͻnoma reporting live – giving us a brief of what probably had transpired there. As it happened, we got to know Shatta Wale and his militants had thronged the very stage Stonebwoy and his Bhim Nation fans already mounted to receive their award. The former was prevented from the stage, erupting into a fracas – which in the expression of Paa Kofi Aborͻnoma ‘pandemonium’ had ensued.
Later, headlines came in screaming! “Video: VGMA@20: Stonebwoy pulls gun as Bhim Nation, Shatta Wale camps clash,” wrote Myjoyonline.com. “2019 VGMA marred by clash between Stonebwoy, Shatta fans,” that came in from Citinewsroom with Yen.com.gh and 3news.com sharing: “Stonebwoy apologises for pulling gun on VGMA stage” and “Shatta breached protocol but security could have been proactive – Charterhouse CEO,” respectively.
Without fear or favour, I vehemently condemn the two A-list artistes. As have been espoused by many entertainment pundits, Shatta Wale despite his claim that he had wanted to go congratulate the Bhim Nation boss had no basis to mount the stage in the first place. Personally, I admire Shatta Wale for his fight for the Ghanaian musician to be respected as now their craft is well monetized. Nonetheless, some of his utterances and actions – as that witnessed at the VGMA@20 – are gradually digging him his ‘grave’. The cow that is in a hurry to America, it is said, will eventually come back as corned beef.
Shatta Wale should have known better that his haste to get attention in whichever way possible was soon going to haunt him. Today, the law has almost reduced him into a tin of ‘corned beef’ on the dining tables of Ghanaians and the world at large.
Today, the people’s idol [becoming too powerful by dint of his insults and some unwarranted provocations] is being shown the wood he was carved from. Was it not Shatta Wale who prevented both Samini and Stonebwoy from coming on stage at his Reign album launch? Is he telling us today that he had wanted to do at the VGMA what he stood against few months ago?
On the other side of the coin was Stonebwoy shamefully apologizing after pulling a gun on the VGMA stage. He had said that they [he together with his team] had gathered intelligence that Shatta and his team had planned to foment mayhem at the awards ceremony. Hence, they [Bhim Nation] also came prepared by stockpiling ammunition(s) on them.
Osama Bin Laden once said that self-defense is never a crime. Nonetheless, Stonebwoy defending himself in that manner should, as well, have known better that the madman who throws a stone into a crowded market could hit his own mother with his madness. We are only thankful to God he did not pull the trigger. We would have had a mass burial on our hands by now.
The question is, “Did Bhim Nation report to officials of VGMA and the police that they knew Shatta and his team had planned mayhem?” Or, did they not trust the police to do a good job, hence, taking their security into their own hands? Is Stonebwoy gradually growing a penchant for flaunting his gun as we heard he had pulled same at the Paloma Hotel in Accra?
Many have been the concerns of the apparent insecurity at the grounds of the VGMA to the extent that Stonebwoy and his Bhim Nation entered the Dome with weapon(s). Certainly, the police/security searched the ordinary Ghanaian and let go the so-called celebrities!
Speaking on Zylofon FM on Tuesday, May 21, popular highlife musician, Dada Hafco, said no one searched him upon entering the VGMA grounds. I was not surprised on hearing this.
In 2013, I served as a script writer for a non-governmental organization. It happened that we once had to make a donation to the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital [KBTH]. Together with a friend, Edward Balami, we went with former Black Stars’ captain, John Mensah [who was the NGO’s ambassador]. We were in Mr. Mensah’s sleek car – a Porsche model.
When we got to KBTH, we struggled for a place to park. A parking lot we saw was reserved for high officials of the hospital. Then, our ambassador decided to give it a try by entering the yard of that parking lot. The security man there yelled at us, signaling that there was no space. However, when John Mensah rolled down his side window and the security man spotted him, there ensued what appeared to be well-rehearsed acrobatics.
“Oh, boss! Please, turn. This side. Come back, small. Yes, park there Sah,” the security man directed. He was proud to have seen John Mensah and assured him he will even police the car for him.
This account could be said of many police officers on seeing celebrities. This is a culture we must nip in the bud as there is the possibility of celebrities also habouring in their vehicles contraband goods or caring on them offensive weapons.
Another important element we must not leave out in the equation of the condemnation, in wake of the VGMA fracas, is the fans of these musicians. Gradually, the lion cubs of fans of both the Shatta Movement and Bhim Nation are growing into an uncontrollable army. As we saw on that dawn of the music awards, it was the fans from both camps that traded blows and triggered a pepper spray [we are told].
In an Aljazeera documentary dubbed “Indonesia’s Football Fever” by David Lipson, a message is clearly sent across that loss of life at a football match – in that country – is considered normal, Yes! So, on September 23rd 2018, a 23-year-old man by name Haringga Sirla died painfully in Bandung.
Ari, as he was affectionately called, was a member of Jakmania [a fan club of Persija Jakarta FC] who disobediently went to Bandung to watch a match between bitter rivals, Persib Bandung and Persija Jakarta. Away fans had been banned from going to see the match knowing the highly polarized nature of Indonesia’s football fans’ front.
Indeed, Ari was beaten to death with iron bars and planks by supporters of Persib Bandung. Just to reiterate his crime, Ari had found himself in the midst of his fan club’s enemy. According to the said documentary, 74 football fans have been killed in Indonesia in the past few years just because they followed football and supported one team or another. Mind you, these football fans are trained as militias to support their teams no matter what, leaving the atmosphere surrounding the game so tensed that even the players are transported to the field in armoured vehicles.
The Ghanaian is so much God-centered that we would easily brush under the carpet the possibility of the Shatta Movement and Bhim Nation fans’ craziness degenerating into the level of Indonesia’s football fans. As someone said recently, whether we believe it or not, even our police and military who admire Shatta and Stonebwoy are sharply divided on these lines. The earlier we policed such fan base gymnastics before it becomes a canker, the better.
All these aside, the Ghanaian media busily trumpeting the woes of the two musicians cannot absolve itself of the blame. Hungry for bad news, all the popular radio/TV stations – as I monitored – had Shatta-Stonebwoy on their morning shows. In the Ghanaian media, entertainment discussions are scarce as sanity on our roads. All our morning shows on both radio and TV, from Paga to Axim, have a cast-in-stone NDC-NPP bogus banter. This, however, I can exempt Zylofon FM and Hitz FM and a few others that have decided to talk showbiz.
In Ghana, we hardly value the arts. So, even in almost all newsrooms, entertainment/arts journalists are considered the most useless persons. Showbiz stories filed for both radio and TV, across the media landscape, are usually cut midway during its airing. Prominence is always given to political stories and its journalists are the most respected. And, once a year, at the music awards, we pretend to love showbiz and the arts that much. If we all valued showbiz and spoke about it, we could have, in a way, prevented the VGMA blues.
Funny enough, whereas we trample on the arts in Ghana, we tend to roam and search for productions like Avengers and Game of Thrones to watch. This, I think, explains why we couldn’t keep our state film production house. Our country is but sadly a proud failure.
Anyway, if I had the power, I would have let the two ‘mad’ men go on a 2-week internship at the KBTH and the 37 Military Hospital mortuaries. They go and assist the morticians daily. By seeing the sad end of humans, they would learn not to insult their fellows [unprovoked] and not to pull guns at the least provocation. And, sadly, while Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy aimlessly fought over awards, they forgot that somewhat opposite the AICC was their fellow musician, Ebony Reigns, buried. What really is in an award?
I only pray the VGMA fracas of a national shame never happens again and may it change the two folks and their fans for good.
By Solomon Mensah
The writer is a broadcast journalist with Media General [TV3/3FM]. Views expressed herein are solely his, and do not, in anyway, reflect the editorial policy of his organization whatsoever.