By Arnold Asamoah-Baidoo
Some weeks ago, the Ghana Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have called on Sarkodie to apologize to well-meaning Ghanaians for making smoking cigars attractive on social media. According to CSOs, Sarkodie’s new brand images is likely to negatively impact the youth who see him as a role model.
A statement issued by Mr. Labram Musah, the Director of Programmes of VALD, and National Coordinator of Ghana NCD Alliance, called upon the rapper to desist from sharing images of him smoking on social media. The statement reads, “We are very disappointed in Sarkodie for circulating pictures of himself smoking a cigar on social media without considering the negative influence this singular act stands to have on the public, especially the youth, most of whom consider him as their role model.
They also called on the artiste to render an apology.
“We are also by this statement calling on the singer to render an apology to all Ghanaians, especially the youth, for such a distasteful act that has the propensity of changing the behaviour of our youth from good to bad and pledge to support and promote the health and well-being of all.’’
Sarkodie offered a rebuttal to the call via an interview with Andy Dosty on Hitz103.9FM and he pooh-poohed the call for him apologize.
“The only thing that blew me off is the fact that they expect me to apologize. It’s very disrespectful to say that. For me to come and apologize for holding a cigar? To who?”
This matter looks dicey but when captured in three perspectives, there lies some understanding to the actions of Sarkodie; Law, Culture and Influence.
In the statement issued by the CSOs, they referenced the law, Ghana’s Public Health Act (Act 851), as a tool to chastise Sarkodie and to cause him to apologize.
Under Part 6 of the Act, there’s a stipulation that prohibits tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, as well as the smoking of tobacco in a public space.
Sarkodie, in the last couple of years, has added the portrayal of cigar as part of his brand – exhibiting it in pictorials and videos to project his music. However, none of those depictions, especially the recent Birthday pictorial that got the attention of the CSOs, breaks the law.
Sarkodie, in those photos, does not advertise any tobacco, he does not sponsor and tobacco and does not promote it as well. He has never been seen smoking these cigars in any video, not to talk about being seen smoking it at any public space.
In effect, he has not contravened any law that sticks against the representation and use of tobacco in Ghana.
Cigar has been a prominent feature in the world of sports and entertainment. It is part of the culture that celebrates success, victory, accomplishment, triumph and elevation.
The portrayal of cigar – just holding it and taking photos with it, without even smoking it – is a testament of success.
In the world of hip hop, almost every successful rapper has pictures of himself holding a cigar to celebrate success – from Jay Z to Nas to Ja Rule to 50 Cent to Drake to Lil’ Wayne to DJ Khaled to everybody else.
That celebratory act is also prevalent in sports and it has been so for decades, heavily popularized by Michael Jordan. In fact, at the just ended NBA Finals between Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns, the players for the winning teams, Bucks, as part of their celebrations, were given cigars to pose for the cameras. They just held those cigars without even lighting and smoking it.
Sarkodie is a hip hop act and believes in the culture of hip hop that embraces the exhibition of cigar. If we accept the wearing of baggy shirts and jeans, jewelry and all the flashy stuff that comes with the culture, why scowl at the handling of cigars?
One of the issues the CSOs had with Sarkodie was his proclivity to influence some of his followers in his act of depicting cigars in his photos. Somehow, the CSOs are right!
Sarkodie is one of the most powerful artistes in Ghana – commandeering such massive clout, influence and following. In the span of his illustrious career, he has indeed influenced many – the many that wear his type hair style, his beard shape, his spectacles and the many that dress like him.
So clearly, there are some out there that may be influenced to take photographs in cigars too, with some obviously likely to take it notch by smoking it – but is that Sarkodie’s fault?
He is an artiste that belongs to a certain fold that have convictions and a culture. He is thriving in a make-believe world where everything you see in picture are what they seem to be. He is living his life and charting a career, he is not to be held responsible for how we live ours.
Nobody has ever touted to have taken up the job of a prostitute because she saw a film of Jackie Appiah playing the role of a prostitute.
A role model is classically thought of as, someone to aspire to be like or “model” and for some reason, celebrities are hugely considered as role models.
The same society that adorns these celebrities with the ‘role model’ tag forget that these people are they are human and fallible. It is, so often falsely assumed, that the discipline it took to get so good at that one thing, must mean they apply this same discipline to all areas of their life.
Society is so quick to anoint people with role model status. Usually, that person has no desire to even be a role model. They just want to do what they are good at. Society is also so quick to take the unwanted role model title away, at the first sign of any questionable behavior.
If you push role model status onto “celebrities” and get upset at the first sign that they made a human mistake, you are lazy! You’re also a lazy parent if you outsource the job of “role model” to a stranger that you don’t know.
You are responsibility for your own lifestyle and as a parent, you are responsible for better parenting skills for your kids.