Entertainment of 2014-04-18

Accountability through entertainment

There are a lot of people I know who prefer spending their Saturday mornings listening to Joy FM’s weekend city show. It is hosted by two incredible individuals: Nii Ayi Tagoe and Anny Osabutey.

Their mission: poking fun at the political establishment as and when those in the establishment become the subject matter of discussion in the course of the week.

In order words, they adopt humour and satire usually laced with music and other side comments as a means of raising awareness of the ills that those in the political establishment continue to inflict on the state.

Last week, they turned their attention to the sadder SADA situation. In the midst of the fun and laughter, they attempted to create an insider’s perception of how the officials of SADA handled the finances entrusted to their care to transform the fortunes of the Northern Region.

Presumptuous as some of their statements may be, these two presenters have continually carved a niche for themselves in an area that has tremendous potential to improve accountability.

I discovered the potential of the arts as a tool for influencing and promoting political accountability through a course I took during my undergraduate studies. It was referred to as “our African heritage through literature.”

One of the recommended texts was “God’s bit of wood” written by the late Senegalese writer, Sembene Ousmane.

It was in reading the background to the text that I discovered the significant role that griots played in ensuring accountability at the traditional and local levels in some communities.

Griots are usually members of a hereditary caste among the people of West Africa whose main task is to keep an oral history of the tribe and village they emerge from and to entertain with songs, poems, dances and other musical forms.

In addition to being the custodians of the history of the people and the main source of traditional entertainment by way of songs and other art forms, they play an essential role in ensuring political accountability.

This was because no chief or leader wanted to be remembered in the memories of these traditional historians in a negative way.

If not for nothing at all, they desired to be remembered in a positive light. Moreover, the misconduct and insouciance of a leader was likely to be a theme in either one of their stories or songs.

That is the power and sting of the arts. It comes as no surprise that in repressive regimes around the world, the first category of people that are attacked are “not lawyers” as Shakespeare suggests but rather artists.

After all, their works endure for generations and the impressions they create persist almost for a life time. Aside from the splendid attempts by the weekend city show team, there is little evidence of the reliance of arts as a form of ensuring political accountability in Ghana. But to A plus, I doff my hat off to.

At least in recent times, he has been one outstanding musician who has taken up the challenge of commenting on critical issues of national interest.

In one of his compositions, he sums up in an impressive manner the state of the nation in a manner that probably few would have cared to apprise themselves of, if it were in a newspaper or some academic journal.

In one breath, he takes on the trivialities of the Ghanaian politics and dumps them in the trash can where they belong; and goes on to turn the spotlight on critical issues such as the arrogance of some members of the ruling government and the excesses of the Kufour administration which included the award of a medal by the president to himself; and the sweeping clean of a state bungalow occupied by the former Speaker of Parliament, Ebenezer Sekyi Hughes.

Even though the Ghanaian entertainment scene is expanding and making considerable effort, most movie productions seem to shy away from the themes of politics.

Most of the movie trailers comprise nonsensical and ridiculous depictions of witchcraft scenes which have no bearing on the development of the state.

The state of written literature on political themes is even more exasperating and saddening.

At this point in time in the life of our nation, the only modern day political text we can rely on is Amu Djoleto’s “Money Galore”- a fantastic book by all standards which deals with the issues of political alliances, the role of money in politics as well as disappointment and health consequences of active engagement in politics. We are yet to see any other text of such authority.

There is no gainsaying about the tremendous contribution of the arts to the promotion of good governance and accountability. Even though in the existing literature there is a widespread acknowledgement of the essential role that the arts can play in development, there is little evidence of the fact that we are taking advantage of such initiative.

Civil societies and other advocacy bodies can and should take advantage of the immense influence of the arts to get their messages across.

Make no mistake; it is possible to achieve political accountability through the arts.