By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo
This year’s Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA) has been shrouded in some controversy, especially for the ultimate category, ‘Artiste of the Year’ – which went to Kuami Eugene.
Congratulations to the young chap but his win, just like that for E.L in 2016 and Joe Mettle in 2017 was greeted with some shouts of disapproval and dissatisfaction by a section of the public and not even the release of the results of voting by KPMG could solve the quandary.
What the results from KPMG did, was aggravate the confusion, not only among the public, but among the folks at Charterhouse too. It was a mess!
But that’s not the issue under contention today. This is;
The contentious matter is the revelation that VGMA Board members actually hold discussions or deliberations or what you can also all, consensus building in sittings, just minutes before they vote to select winners for various categories.
Public Opinion vs. VGMA Board
The VGMA elicits emotions; sentiments that always question the transparency and integrity of the awards and in the last 5 years, the reliability of the scheme has come under scrutiny for at least, 4 outings; 2016 when E.L won over Bisa KDei for ‘Artiste of the Year’, in 2017, when Joe Mettle also won ‘Artiste of the Year’ and in 2018, when Fancy Gadam won ‘Most Popular Song’ of the year with the song, ‘Total Cheat’ ahead of Patapaa’s worldwide banger, ‘One Corner’. In 2020, Kuami Eugene’s ‘Artiste of the Year’ win also raised concerns.
The overwhelming opinion of the public, be it outrageous or genuine, depending on where you stand – has been that, the VGMA Board has a way of altering the scheme and the results to suit its agenda with regard to winners of various categories.
Hard as Charterhouse has tried to disabuse the minds of such critics, the impression of underhand dealings on the part of the Board and the organizers never go away. Such an opinion held against the Board even got entrenched this year when Kuami Eugene beat favorites, Sarkodie and Kofi Kinaata to the top prize.
Clearly, the outburst and the opinion formed by the public with regard to machinations by the Board on how winners are selected became profound this year – raising a grave matter of concern for the scheme.
Over the weekend, at the back of inquiries over the Board’s 100% votes for the ‘Instrumentalist of the Year’ and ‘African Artiste of the Year’ respectively, Robert Klah, PRO for Charterhouse, explained to Kwasi Aboagye on Peace FM’s ‘Entertainment Review’ show that, the Board members actually sit and have a discussion before they vote for winners for the categories.
That disclosure was corroborated by the Spokesperson of the VGMA Board, Francis Doku, who also stated that, indeed, the Board meets and deliberates on the strengths or otherwise of the nominees for various categories before members vote.
The two gentlemen repeated the same account of the Board sitting to discuss and probably building a consensus before voting to George Quaye on Joy FM’s ‘Showbiz A-Z’.
To climax the day of such astounding disclosure, another member of the Board, Nii Ayite Hammond, expressed same account to Nii Noi on ATV’s ‘Christian Entertainment Review’ show.
So, after 21 years of the scheme, Ghanaians got to know that, in fact, Board members gather, sit, eat, drink and discuss, weigh the strengths of nominees, then cast their votes as a Board.
Mandate of the VGMA Board
For some of us, who have religiously followed the awards and its processes for many years, I can state unequivocally, that, the sitting to discuss as a Board in building some sort of consensus or otherwise before voting is done – is not a documented mandate of the Board.
The mandate of the Board is to; categorize the songs submitted, nominate the songs submitted and shortlist the songs submitted. Sittings and discussions of all Board deliberations must only be connected to categorization, nomination and shortlisting.
Outside its documented mandate with regard to nominations and selection of winners, some members of the Board, over the years, have been co-opted to aid in some parts of the organization of the scheme.
Also outside the domain of nominations, the Board also sits to discuss issues relating to disciplinary actions against an artiste (s), as seen in the cases of Obour, Samini, R2Bees, Black Rasta and most recently, Stonebwoy and Shatta Wale.
The sitting of Board Members to have a discussion prior to voting has never been part of the mandate of the VGMA Board.
At a time when the Board is facing accusations of deciding how winners are chosen, the revelation and confirmation about this act of the Board is dangerous – a hit to the credibility and integrity of the scheme.
No Academy, Committee or Board for any award scheme across the world meets to have a discussion before its members cast votes. The VGMA and its Board are not from Jupiter; they are part of this planet and should not come up with that flippant excuse of ‘it is the Board, and no one can decide what it does’ baloney.
This unwholesome act of the VGMA Board feeds into the suggestion that, it always has an agenda in how winners are chosen, especially for the topmost prize, ‘Artiste of the Year’.
Voting for winners, for most of the categories in the VGMA, are a shared responsibility for the Public, Academy and the Board. Aside the differentials in voting percentages, no block is supposed to have any preferential treatment when it comes to voting.
Even for the categories exclusively meant for the Board, they are not supposed to meet and have any form of discussion before they all cast their votes in the same room.
Let’s assume that, orientation, discussion and consensus building are crucial for voting, why are these procedures not organized for both the Academy and the Public before voting is done? Why should only the members of the Board meet in a room for discussion before they vote?
The same category definitions that were used as a guide by members of the Academy as well as members of the Public were also available by the Board, so, why the need for a meeting and discussion?
The Board sits atop the hierarchy of the organogram of the scheme; in fact, they are touted to be more experienced and technically- adept, so, they do not need a meeting to discuss the performance or audience appeal of Kuami Eugene, Sarkodie and Kofi Kinaata before they can vote.
If these Board members, who were responsible for categorization, nominations and shortlisting of nominees are telling us, that they need meetings to discuss the performance of nominees in the varied categories before they can all vote, then they are not fit to occupy seats on that Board.
Wrong Act, Stop It Now!
In his bid to defend such a scandalous act by the Board, Francis Doku downplayed the 30% rights the Board holds in most of the categories. His defense is even more ridiculous than the Board meetings held to have discussions prior to voting. How can 30% be negligible?
That 30% from the Board alone has gone a long way to see songs and artistes win awards; stop playing with our minds, Sir!
Go check and study the unconvincing results released by KPMG, analyze the trend and you’d realize how influential the voting by the Board has always been in the selection of winners.
The point is; if KPMG is able to send ballots to Academy Members to vote individually, after which the votes are quickly collated, why can’t the same be done for the Board?
If Academy Members are casting their votes individually online, why can’t members of the Board also sit in their respective homes or wherever they find themselves and do same?
If every member of an awards Board, Academy or Committee across the world do cast votes on individual basis, why in the name of God will Charterhouse assemble members of its VGMA Board to have discussions before they all vote on the same day? Why?
By the revelation of this act, the fight to quell misconceptions of fraud, transparency and credulity, has been dealt a big blow. Instead, the perception of agenda-setting by the Board and the organizers in the selection of winners – has been deepened. Fix It!