The big news these days surrounds the number of celebrities who have entered the political fray, endorsing one candidate or another as the crucial December elections draw closer and closer.
The rate at which celebrities are getting involved in the political process has raised the conversation between the public over the ethics of public figures of such nature making clear political stances.
The answer is that there’s nothing wrong with it, of course. All over the world celebrities make political choices all the time. They are also people living in the system and the decisions taken by the powers that be affect them as much as the next person, so they have every right to marshall the star power they possess for a cause they believe in. Remember how the candidacy of Barack Hussein Obama galvanised the Black showbiz world behind him as they saw the Holy Grail of an historic Black Presidency on the horizon.
Making that kind of a principled stand, supporting someone based on their politics (Hollywood is overwhelmingly liberal, so Obama’s colour was simply bringing celebrities who would have supported the Democratic candidate anyway), at least makes sense in a way. It’s standing up for an ideal, a principle, and usually such positions transcend the money factor.
Not in Ghana, apparently, People are usually sceptical whenever a celebrity comes out to endorse any politician because there is the feeling that the transaction occurred on a quid pro quo basis. Usually these things are just unconfirmed rumours swirling around, but the public utterances of several celebrities make it obvious that is what happens behind closed doors.
Shatta Wale has now become Exhibit A in the case against unscrupulous Ghanaian celebrities. Shatta has maintained throughout the year that he is not going to endorse any political party because he is simply focused on sending out a message of peace during the year. This was at the height of the furore over whether his mega hit ‘Mahama Paper’ was an NDC campaign song or not.
After numerous denials emanating from his camp, Shatta came out to say that he was simply a businessman who was prepared to work with any political party who want to hire his services. Shatta promptly appeared on stage Saturday alongside the NDC Minister and Tamale Central MP, Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, where he performed ‘Mahama Paper’ on stage.
The decision to appear at an NDC campaign event is obviously an endorsement but that’s a conclusion Shatta Wale disagrees with.
“…I will not endorse any political party or its candidate but rather preach peace and entertain their gathering!” he wrote on Facebook last week.
“In times like these, when the political climate is about to be heated up, we need to intensify our campaign for peace. For this reason, Shatta Wale will take advantage of any stage presented by any political party or movement to preach peace and stability in the country before, during and after the election. I’m a musician and a performer and if they require my services to entertain their following, that is strictly business. However, I will not endorse any political party or its candidate but rather preach peace and entertain their gathering,”
He misunderstands the simple human concept that for someone with his star power, doing business with a partisan entity indicates an endorsement of that entity. Justin Bieber recently made news when he turned down millions of dollars to perform at the Republican National Convention simply for the optics. The RNC tried to convince him the performance was not an endorsement – the same argument Shatta is making – but the bigwigs in Bieber’s camp simply knew that would not fly. What matters is perception and it’s difficult to perform at the Republican Convention and claim that’s not an endorsement, same applies to Shatta Wale.
And the baffling thing is he’s not the only one to have made that point. Within the past few months, Edem, Choirmaster and 4X4 have all made it clear they are ready to perform for any party ready to pay them. They obviously fall under the same mindset that it’s simply business, but it puts forward the perception that they have no principles and are simply after the money. Because if they had principles some positions can just not be endorsed, as happened with Bieber and the Donald.
So Shatta Wale can rationalise his choice all he wants but he just endorsed the NDC in the minds of millions. Many see the NDC government as the sole cause of tons of hardships in the country right now, but he’s ready to promote that brand for the cash on offer. It makes him a mercenary, only concerned with what he can make for himself. It’s because of actions like these that Ghanaians automatically assume a celebrity campaigning for a party has done it in exchange for something. If more of them took principled stands, people would realise it doesn’t always require money for a celebrity to take a political position.