Bessa Simons (Acting President, MUSIGA)

There is no gainsaying the lull in the functions of most of the associations and institutions in the creative industry. 

A few days ago, I was compiling a list of associations in the creative arts industry and what sprung to mind was how beneficial these associations have been to the industry. 

Things are awry and we can’t play the ostrich. Sometimes we need to spit the hard truth without fear or favour to ensure the right things are done.

In fact, some of these bodies, particularly the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA), have become white elephants with their leaders just occupying titular positions. 

On Saturday, March 25, 2023, I made a clear case on ‘SAY IT LOUD’, a new segment on Joy FM’s Showbiz A-Z regarding how unattractive MUSIGA has been. 

I also charged them to rebrand and make the union more attractive to musicians in the country. 

Although Bice ‘Obour’ Osei Kuffuor’s 8-year tenure was marked with scathing criticism and allegations, it still remains arguably the most vibrant period in the life of MUSIGA since it was formed in 1975. He could have done better but what we are experiencing now is akin to a non-existent union; one that is only felt when its leaders are invited to deliver speeches at funerals of deceased musicians or to present prizes at award programmes.

Kwame Dadzie: Scrap MUSIGA rule that bars 'ordinary members' from running for President
Bice ‘Obour’ Osei Kuffour – Former MUSIGA President

At present, the union lacks lustre and that is ominous for its future. In fact, the current state of MUSIGA is a reflection of general state of the music industry.

Postponement of elections 

MUSIGA has had its elections postponed umpteenth times since 2019 when Bice ‘Obour’ Osei Kuffour finished with his tenure in office as the President of the union.

The elections which were earlier slated for June 26, 2019, were later rescheduled by the National Elections Committee to July 10, 2019.

According to the chairman of the committee at the time, Smart Nkansah, the decision was based on the feedback the committee received from the initial release of the voters register for the elections.

There had been concerns that the voters’ register had not been updated and there were some irregularities in the names of the voters.

The Chairman indicated that the Electoral Commission of Ghana (EC) which would supervise the elections was also engaged with the limited voter registration exercise.

Ras Caleb Appiah, the Chairman for the Greater Accra MUSIGA, actually took the Union to court in 2019 for running an election that had anomalies in the voter’s register and operating under rules in contravention of their constitution.

Kwame Dadzie: Scrap MUSIGA rule that bars 'ordinary members' from running for President
Ras Caleb Appiah-Levi (Chairman, Greater Accra MUSIGA)

In the wake of the protracted misunderstanding, Bessa Simons who was the 1st Vice-President was made to act as the President until a new election is held.

Ras Caleb even called on the Acting President of the union, Bessa Simons, to abdicate his position before their elections could be held.

When I interviewed him on Monday, June 27, 2022, he said it was wrong for Bessa Simons, an aspirant for the presidency, to have been made the Acting President.

Ras Caleb, who is also contesting the President position alongside Deborah Freeman, said even though he had withdrawn his case against the union, and had agreed to an alternative dispute resolution, there was still some dirt to be cleaned at MUSIGA before they could have their elections.

Asked if he was not being a litigant in the MUSIGA impasse, he said in proverbial terms: “If the car is faulty, and you insist on moving with it, it will leave you on the way.”

Ras Caleb also added that they could not hold the elections as of that time because Bessa Simons and Samuel Kofi Agyemang, the accountant of the union, had a court case regarding an alleged forgery of signatures to withdraw money belonging to the union.

The election was later scheduled for January 13, 2022 but got postponed again to February 23, 2022 to enable enough preparations for the elections of new executives to lead the association for the next four years.

On June 17, 2022, Bessa Simons told me in a separate interview that the voter’s register was ready and that they were just waiting for the National Elections Committee to set a date for the elections.

“We have the monies to do it. We’ve gone to the Electoral Commission, they have given us the budget, we are ready to pay them. The only thing left now is for the Election Committee to set a date. They are meeting on Tuesday and I am hopeful that they will come up with a date. MUSIGA will have its elections and whoever wins MUSIGA will move forward,” he said.

Again, the elections were not held in 2022.

MUSIGA finally to go for election? 

The National Executive Council (NEC) of the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGA) announced on Friday, March 17, 2022 that the union will be going to the polls on Tuesday, August 8, 2023.

This is the date proposed by NEC for the national and regional elections after almost four years of court injunctions, postponements and internal rifts. 

In a press release issued by the Acting President of the Union, Bessa Simons, the NEC in an emergency meeting to review the roadmap proposed by the election committee, ratified the roadmap proposed by the election committee.

The Election Committee is chaired by Peter Marfo, the outgoing Eastern Regional Chairman of MUSIGA.

“According to the roadmap, the voters register has been opened from March 20 to April 3, 2023. This is to allow members to check their status and eligibility. Thereafter, the new voters’ register for the election will be compiled from April 4 to April 18, 2023,” Bessa announced in the press release. 

This will be followed by the exhibition of the new voter register from April 20 to April 23, 2023.

Kwame Dadzie: Scrap MUSIGA rule that bars 'ordinary members' from running for President
MUSIGA’s Presidential aspirants (from left: Bessa Simons, Deborah Freeman, Ras Caleb Appiah-Levi)

Contestants will then have the period before Tuesday, August 8, 2023, to run their campaigns for the elections to take place nationwide.

The NEC members believe that holding the elections will pave the way for the newly elected leaders to organize the biennial conference to work on the Union’s constitution, among other issues.

MUSIGA’s fortunes waning 

The honest truth is that, MUSIGA has not been effective since they went to court. This is an association that is supposed to bring together musicians, ensure they have a good welfare policy and think about what to do to make the work of musicians in Ghana better. 

It is a crying shame that after it was formed in 1975, the union does not have an office of their own. A union as old as MUSIGA should not be operating from Ghana House; they should not be perching from government’s apartments. They should be able to build or acquire an office for themselves.

With a mission to promote and preserve ‘Ghanaian culture through education and equipping the Ghanaian musician to be self reliant, creative and industrious,’ MUSIGA is living short of its mandate. 

Governed by a National Executive Committee elected at a National Congress, MUSIGA is supposed to offer its members help with music contracts, copyright registration services, pension and insurance, welfare fund for its aging members and a loan service. I wonder which of them they do now.

After Obour’s exit, some of the great initiatives have stalled. Where is Ghana Music Week? Where is the Aging Musicians’ Welfare Fund (AMWeF)? What happened to MUSIGA Ball? The MUSIGA Honours, died just like that? The Ghana Music Week never returned?

The Acting President of MUSIGA, Bessa Simons has introduced a welfare scheme with SIC Scheme but how effective has that been? Members are not signing up because they have probably lost interest in the union. 

MUSIGA should allow ordinary members to run for President 

According to Article 10 (vi) of the MUSIGA Constitution, to contest “for the office of the President, applicants must have held Executive office of the Union successfully for at least one term.”

This metric for qualification has prevented a lot of brilliant individuals who have novel ideas for the union from contesting. It means that if you don’t hold an executive position you can’t vie for the presidency! 

That part of their Constitution has to be reviewed. They should open it up for people who have the interest to contest for the position to do so. It should not be limited to only Executives! 

A lot more people with innovative ideas should be welcomed into the fold. They should not necessarily be musicians in the strict sense of the word. They could be administrators with understanding of how the music industry works. They could be music executives and not automatically performing musicians.

MUSIGA’s problem is leadership. The current constitution will not help even after they go for elections because it becomes a rotation of the same old people running the affairs of the union. 

Seriously, MUSIGA needs rebranding and that will stem from proper leadership and effective policies. 

Whoever takes over the reins of leadership after their next elections has a lot of work to do with regards to sprucing up the image of the union. 

I’ll be watching closely and wouldn’t hesitate to ‘Say it Loud’ when need be. 

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.