Is Music Bringing Ghana Towards Redemption?

Criticism of the Ghanaian government sometimes finds expression through music. These outbursts are by no means limited to music. Non-musicians were at the Parliament of Ghana this year to protest specific decisions by the government; Ernesto Yeboah and Frank Abeku Adam of the Economic Fighters League protested before the lawmakers. Adams’ clothes were torn when he was yanked out of the gallery at Parliament House while Yeboah was pinned to the ground and handcuffed. These responses by the Ghanaian authorities to dissent suggests the government is unwilling to accommodate criticism or listen to the youth. 

But despite this intolerance by the state, Ghanaian youths are voicing their criticism through the art, regardless. 

Let us consider two significant music videos released in 2019: The Return Of 1979 Cypher by Koboo, and Freestyle on FireboyDML’s Jealous instrumental by Eldeezy. 

 Both videos are critical of the ruling New Patriotic Party, but their message applies to all political parties within Ghana that practice a winner-takes-all democracy. Koboo’s video, states that the government is inept and unwilling to learn because it has a know-it-all mindset (Mma mo ny3 menim menim). He referenced the mismanagement of Ghana’s natural resources and laments its lack of benefits to ordinary Ghanaians.

Kwame Legacy in his own video addresses the President directly quoting an African proverb:

Nana, you should not step on an imbecile thrice, but you have done so four times, and now you have made me wiser for it. Nana you have betrayed your brethren and your nation by not fulfilling your promises, by taking their hopes and dashing them.

Kwame adds, “Ya hw3 n’anim daadaa, saa na adanko daadaa adoe ne ba,” meaning, “We have looked to the government, been lied to and we are let down. Good Governance is not a matter of oratory skills or having university degrees. It is simply a matter of common sense.”

The video adds that poor governance has resulted in youth participation in armed robbery, kidnapping, and vigilantism

Eldeezy in his own creation complains about the government’s decision to build a national cathedral and a parliamentary chamber for $200 million when university students lack lecture halls. He adds that if he was born in London or Dubai, he would be better off because there, governance delivers a better standard of living. 

He also accuses the Ghanaian government of living in luxury while the rest of the nation languishes in poverty and warns that the day of reckoning is here. He said, “We are tired of the cheats. We are coming to your offices. We are tired of the lies.” Eldeezy also referenced the weak power of the Ghanaian Cedi to the  US Dollar. He complains of fuel prices that keep going up as a result of deliberate government policies and affirms that the youth will not play nice with the politicians any more but rather stand up against the state.

Governance is about informed policy-making. But this is not always the case in Ghana. For instance, a defense cooperation agreement was reached between Ghana and the United States in an opaque manner until the agreement was leaked to the public. Although Ghanaians demanded accountability in response to the revelation, the President acted as if all who raised objections belonged to the opposition party. 

The previous administration of the National Democratic Congress is no different in this regard, too. They entered an opaque deal with the United States to resettle Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp detainees in Ghana. The deal was kept a secret until it was leaked to the public.

But Why Must Politicians Listen?

They must listen primarily because there exists a constitutional right for every Ghanaian as per Article 21 of the 1992 Constitution: “freedom of speech and expression, which shall include freedom of the press and other media;” and “freedom of thought, conscience, and belief, which shall include academic freedom.”  

Ghanaian politicians must, however, listen to the youths because they are over three-quarters of the population—73.33 percent of Ghana’s 30.4 million population is under the age of 34. 

Also, the sovereignty of Ghana resides in the people, in whose name and for whose welfare the powers of government are to be exercised per the 1992 Constitution. The purpose of government according to the Constitution is to “secure for [Ghanaians], and posterity the blessings of liberty (freedom), equality of opportunity and prosperity.” If the youths feel this is not followed, they can demand justice, probity, and accountability from those who have sworn to serve them, even through music.

Solomon Appiah is a Social Science Researcher and Public Policy Consultant. He has formerly consulted for organizations including the Kofi Annan chaired Africa Progress Panel in Geneva, Switzerland and the Natural Resource Governance Institute. He’s on Twitter: @s_apiah.

Photo Credit: Sebastian Ervi