History was made on Wednesday, February 11, 2015 when hundreds of Ghanaian musicians who are passionate about ensuring that issues relating to royalties collection and distribution are tackled with more seriousness came together throughout the country to cast their votes to elect a new Management Board for the Ghana Music Rights Organisation (GHAMRO).
Indeed, the whole process was unprecedented and historic in so many ways due to the events that had transpired prior and during the process that culminated in Highlife maestro, Kojo Antwi, being elected as GHAMRO’s first official Chairman.
The about 3,700 members of GHAMRO who cast their votes in Accra, Kumasi and Tamale to elect new Board Members in GHAMRO’s 25-year history voted for other personalities to constitute the Board and assist Kojo Antwi in the delivery of his mandate to ensure that, the country’s musicians receive what is due them in terms of royalties collections and distributions.
They included; Nana Tuffour, Ahmed Banda, Diana Hopeson, Mary Ghansah, Bessa Simon, Zapp Mallet, Augustina Addison, Nana Kwaku Duah (Tic Tac), Benjamin Mensah, Manu Francis, Amponsah Seth and Reverend Francis Boahene.
Just as MUSIGA was established to champion the affairs of the country’s musicians, GHAMRO is Ghana’s only government approved copyright collective management organisation for music.
The organisation is responsible for collecting royalties and distributing on behalf of the country’s musicians. Over the past few years, that has not been achieved satisfactorily as there are pockets of issues around the whole scheme, especially in the manner that the royalties are distributed.
Kojo Antwi may have been sworn into office as the new Chairman of GHAMRO after he contested the position unopposed in GHAMRO’s elections.
He may be an established and successful musician but truthfully, being a Chairman of GHAMRO comes with so many challenges. Per what we have all witnessed, Kojo Antwi’s chairmanship will either make his colleagues who withdrew their candidature at the last minute to contest him regret or have confidence in him. The task is uphill. I will let you in on what Kojo Antwi as GHAMRO Chairman would be doing.
Issues and discussions about copyright and royalties are very important and dear to the hearts of every musician in Ghana who does music commercially, because it involves making extra income for them.
Copyright and royalties are all about ensuring that, the property of musicians are protected and money that accrues from using such property is paid to the rightful owners.
Strangely and for whatever reasons, not much has been done to safeguard and ensure that Ghanaian musicians are protected. What has resulted over the years has always ended in fighting among musicians themselves. When musicians disagree or fight one another, it only means that, they cannot come together to fight the common disease which is eating them up; which is the lack of accountability in the industry.
With things not going in the direction they anticipated, Carlos Sakyi, a well-known composer and musician then came into the picture by offering himself up to lead a campaign to ensure that what the musicians deserved as royalties were given them.
It was believed that a musician leading such a campaign to help correct some of the wrongs that were working against the musicians in the system was a step in the right direction. After all, a musician can work well for the interest of another musician, because they are all in the same situation.
When Carlos came in the picture with his associates, he was supposed to hold an election within a time frame of not exceeding 2 years. Just 3 months later, the Publishers Association called GAPI initiated a move to compel him and his associates to hold elections. That was ignored. After 6 months, another move was made, yet again, it was ignored.
Now his own people on the board started realisng that, he, Carlos, did not come to work for the musicians and save the situation; instead they felt he was there for his own interest. They started resigning. Rex Omar was the first, Charles Amoah was the next.
The very things Carlos Sakyi accused his predecessor, Sidiku Buari, of doing wrong were the very things he repeated.
Politicians forget and disregard the electorates when they gain absolute power. Carlos towed that line; he ignored everyone and did things in his own way when he became the interim Chairman of GHAMRO. After the two years he was given to hold elections elapsed, the current Chairman, Kojo Antwi, threatened to resign.
Soon it was three years and nothing to show for it. Bice Osei Kuffour alias Obour, President of the Musicians Union of Ghana was then compelled to write a letter requesting Carlos and his Board to account for their stewardship. That was also ignored.
The infighting among the musicians to an extent afforded the users of the music to stop paying the royalties using the confusion among the musician as an excuse.
The management board led by Carlos Sakyi and made up of Amandzeba Nat Brew, KK Kabobo and Mark Okraku Mantey was then asked to step aside by the Human Rights Court in Accra after Highlife great, Nana Ampadu, and 99 musicians took the case to court on July 11, 2014.
The Human Rights Division of the High Court presided over by His Lordship Kofi Essel-Mensah J. put a five-member interim board to take over the affairs of the organisation.
The new five-member interim board members appointed comprised Nana Aboagye Da-Costa, a musician and traditional ruler and Chairman of the interim board, Kwame Nsiah Apau popularly known as Okyeame Kwame, as the PRO and Enock Agyepong, music publisher.
The other two are Dorothy Habadah, a State Attorney and representative of the Copyright Office and Kow Sessah Acquaye, a State Attorney and representative of the Attorney General.
Their mandate, according to the ruling, was to take charge of the body’s affairs for the next six months before new elections are held. Fast forward to now, their mandate after many attempts to have it failed have succeeded in holding GHAMRO’s first ever elections to elect the Chairman and Board Members.
Just as I have stated above, Kojo Antwi is faced with so many challenges. His immediate exercise as the Chairman would be to help chase the Carlos Sakyi-led GHAMRO Board to account for the more than GHȼ1 million that they have embezzled. The over GHȼ1 million according to the interim Administrator of the interim GHAMRO Board, Abraham Nuetey Adjatey (Agya Abraham), were used to pay salaries, travels refreshment, contingencies, accommodations and other undocumented withdrawals and transfers.
Can Kojo Antwi recoup all the undocumented money to GHAMRO and gain the confidence of his colleagues or just as politicians behave when they win elections, ignore the people and embark on a chopping spree? Can he succeed where Carlos failed?
As to whether Kojo Antwi will succeed or not is up to him, after all, the system is there and it’s been practice worldwide, he doesn’t need to re-invent the wheel.
What Carlos did was to shut out the world and rule like a dictator. As long as Kojo Antwi opens up, there are people ready to help him to set up because the benefits are both ways, so when you succeed, they also succeed.
By Ebenezer Anangfio / Graphic Showbiz