Chief Moomen-Ghana@60 impasse bodes ill for the arts [Article]

The issue between Chief Moomen and the Ghana @60 Anniversary Planning Committee brings to the fore how deeply marginalised the creative arts are in our part of the world.

As an arts advocate, I am not happy about the turn of events in this saga and wish that it had not even come this far. However, since it is in the public domain it is necessary that we make a holistic assessment of the matter.

Background

As part of the Ghana60 Years On celebrations on 3rd March, 2017, the Planning Committee engaged the services of Heritage Theatre Series, producers of Wogbejeke, a stage production that employs poetry, music, dance and drama to tell the story of Ghana – spanning its origin to its modern state. They performed at the Accra International Conference Centre.

About a week ago, the producer and writer of the show, Chief Moomen, took to Facebook to register his displeasure with the committee not paying the remainder of his fee.

He went ahead to explain how that had stalled his subsequent productions.

The Chairman of the Committee, Ken Amankwah, therefore, following Chief’s statements on social media, released a statement indicating that the committee had no formal contract with Chief Moomen.

Full statement by Mr. Ken Amankwa

“Moomem Moonshine

Chief Moomem, in a contrived tearjerker article on social media, claimed that Ghana 60 Years On Anniversary Committee owed him for his WogbeJeke musical performed sometime in March 2017.

What he failed to mention was his whopping budget of GHC3,355,000.00 that he delivered to the Committee. Admittedly, the budget was inclusive of Regional and International tours but even so, the local one night show of GHC213, 210 at the Banquet Hall in Accra was excessive!

And this was a budget the Committee had to look at and take a decision bearing in mind our own limited outlay of GHC20 million for the entire year long celebrations.

Chief Moomem was a young man in a hurry. Before we could examine the details in his budget, he had mounted the stage and the musical was performed without an agreed contract.

This was against the Committee’s well laid down procedures of agreed terms of engagement for all entertainment events. Moomem’s budget and our annotated suggestions are set out in an appendix to this article.

But the moonshine of his presentation was the ruse that he had never been paid. Moomen received GHC100,000 in cash from the Chairman of our Events sub-committee as “mobilization” fee.

This was payment done by the Events Sub Committee Chairman without authority and he had since been reprimanded.

The GHC100,000 was half of Moomem’s local one night performance budget at the Banquet Hall of the State House. The Banquet Hall, and its expensive chillers that normally would cost GHC20,000 to hire was given gratis by Ghana 60 Years On Committee.

Chief Moomem called on me at my office in the Flagstaff House to demand final payment for his staged musical sometime in late April this year. Apparently, he had been to see the Events sub Committee Chairman on several occasions without success.

All that I asked him at our meeting was my signed contract with him. He looked vacant and confused. He claimed since the Events Sub Committee Chairman had paid him GHC100,000 mobilisation, he was under the impression the Committee had okayed his budget of GHC213,000.

I reminded him of our earlier discussions when he delivered his budget. There was the understanding that his budget was not a fait accompli. The Committee was entitled to sanitise and prune it down to reasonable amounts. He never came back for the budget hearing.

Then some few days ago, I started getting calls from Committee members, friends and family about how one Chief Moomem was traducing Ghana 60Years On Anniversary Committee for collapsing his business empire of one musical!

Well, Chief Moomem, you were even lucky to have been paid the GHC100,000. And you have contributed to the woes of the Events Sub Committee Chairman leading to his early exit from the Committee.

During Ghana@50, Prof. Martin Owusu, with the School of Performing Arts in Legon staged twelve classic plays at National Theatre – one play a month for the entire period of the Jubilee Year. His budget was GHCII7,648. My institutional memory has served me well at Ghana60 Years On Committee. Even with the highest inflationary index I don’t think one musical would cost GHC213,000 now!

Ghana60Years On is not debt-distressed. We have sufficient funds to launch events every month. And that is what we are doing. Witness our nationwide Brassband competition launch at Swedru, our Food Farms for Schools (Fofas) project in partnership with MOFA, our ongoing Jubilee durbars, our international debut in London, our near completion of contract agreement for a giant black American soul maestro to cap the celebrations in March next year, the school quiz competitions, the E Library projects, the 60,000 borehole projects with MTN and so and so on.

We are on course and no Moomem calumnies can stop us. It is rather unfortunate that his cheerleaders at some radio and TV stations were inveigled to carry his story without the hallowed journalistic canons of balance, accuracy and fairness. But we forgive, so let the celebrations continue!”

Ken Amankwah- Chairman, Ghana@60 Planning C’ttee

Chief Moomen rebuts Ken Amankwah’ claims

Chief Moomen, not happy with The Committee Chairman’s account of the story also came out to rebut some of his claims:

“Now that the Chairman of the committee has issued a response to my entreaties, I am now at liberty to put out the facts of the case. And I shall respond to his claims in greater detail.

  1. He Claims our 213,000ghc budget to stage a WogbeJeke is whopping and excessive (The agreed amount was actually 200,000ghc) . By whose standards? We produced a 2hr 30mins production with a cast and crew of 170 people. This was inclusive of all related production and technical costs- remunerations, rehearsals, sound, lights, set, props etc. The only thing we were given is the venue (which is actually the Conference Center and not the Banquet Hall as he claims). Our remunerations budget alone was over 100,00ghc ( eg. @ an average of 500ghc*150 people= 75,000. @ 2000ghc to 5000ghc to directors of various units of the production= 35,000. Our technical costs averaging 20,000ghc and other costs like rehearsals, refreshment, transportation, props, costumes, etc averaging 20,000ghc. I will usually have to spend about 150 to 160,000ghc on every production period. So 200,00ghc charge for WogbeJeke is in no way excessive. Sir did you know Umoja charges 50,000 dollars for a performance of about 30 people and you still have to pay for all their technical costs. If I’m even to pay my cast and crew what they reasonably deserve for all the work they put into this, 300,000ghc will be my rate.
  1. He claims, “Chief Moomen is a young man in a hurry. Before we could examine the details of his budget, he had mounted the stage and the musical was performed without an agreed contract.” That is quite a curious claim. So on what basis was WogbeJeke advertised on radio, television, newspapers and social media as part of the official programme for the anniversary? On what basis were invitations sent out to people, including the Vice-President and Council of State, to come to the Conference Center on Friday 3rd March, 2017 at 6pm to watch the production? On what basis was the first 100,000ghc given to me for the programme.? Yes I was not given a written contract, and I believe that no service provider for the anniversary celebrations was given one either. I , however, presented an invoice of 200,000ghc and a receipt covering the receipt of the first 100,000ghc.
  1. He again claims, “But the moonshine of his presentation was the ruse that he had never been paid.” Now that is plainly not true. In my facebook post and in all my interviews I have always indicated that I was given half of the payment.
  1. According to the Chairman, our budget is excessive because ten years ago, my own beloved lecturer Prof Martin Owusu put up plays for the 50th anniversary celebrations and didn’t charge that much. I won’t even bother to respond. It’s like walking into a boutique to buy a shirt and being told that it costs 200ghc only for you to claim that amount is excessive because you came to the shop ten years ago to buy a shirt that costs 20ghc.
  1. He claims I was supposed to come for a budget hearing and I never turned up. That is also not true. I have availed myself to every single meeting that was required of me. Even after the performance, I have made several attempts to secure meetings. In fact, I have been to the seat of government these past months more than I have done in my entire life.
  1. For the past four months I’ve been following up on this issue in what has been a really frustrating process. I have reached out to many people to intervene on our behalf with no results. My business indeed has been gravely affected. I finished my march shows with an amount of 56,000 to pay out which I have been trying to do. This debt has made it difficult for me to invest in my operations. I canceled my show in April because of the debts and was at the verge of cancelling my July show too. My angst and frustrations are very real sir. I’m in no way out of the woods. You may not care, but please don’t describe my sentiments as “ a contrived tearjerker”.”

 

Is the GHc. 200,000/213,000 fee outrageously high?

People charge hefty sums of money for contracts and other business engagements. Footballers ‘chop’ big money when they play matches for the country. We see no problem with that because we attach prestige to their work.

But we consider Ghc 200,000 or Ghc. 213, 000 cost of production for theatrical performance involving 170 cast and technical crew as too high. Let’s transport a foreign act to this land to perform and they won’t mind giving him a double of this same ‘high’ fee.

We live in a country where art works are treated as ancillary. Writers, poets, musicians, actors, etc always consigned to the back when it comes to issues like that. For the chairman to have called the fee ‘high’ tells he either doesn’t know much about stage production or he just failed to acknowledge the reality.

I have watched ‘Wogbejeke’ and it is not the usual 10 cast play we have been seeing. It is huge – and I trust that it is not crime paying this fee for such a spectacular performance.

The No-Contract Gaffe

I’m highly disappointed that no formal contract was signed in a serious venture like this one. Yes, I blame Chief for not insisting on a formal contract but the committee also showed negligence in this regard.

As to why a committee will dole out GHc. 100,000 to someone when they had not agreed on any terms, beats my mind. As Ken Amankwah said in his statement, the GHc. 100,000 was a “mobilisation” fee. Paying mobilisation fee is not same as paying for the “real” fee of engagement. The “mobilisation” fee obviously translates as precursor to a “real” fee. If this isn’t negligence, what is it?

However, the issue even gets murkier by juxtaposing Mr. Amankwah’s claim of ‘no-contract’ to the fact that Wobgejeke was advertised in the newspapers, on radio and television prior to their performance.

Even the Ghana @60 programme of activities had Wogbejeke’s name. How on earth can a cast of 150 “hurriedly” rush to stage a show? This was not a miming performance by a rap artiste, who can rush on stage, put off his microphone and start performing.

This is a well-rehearsed show that has directors who pay attention to sequence and other technicalities of the play. It is not possible for Chief Moomen and his crew to have “hurriedly” mounted the stage to perform under this circumstance.

Who’s telling the truth?

In Ken Amankwah’s statements, he indicated that the amount agreed on by both parties was GHc. 213,000. However, Chief Moomen comes back to dispute that, saying it was Ghc. 200, 000. So who do we believe?

Again, Ken said Chief never came for the budget hearing but Chief also intimates that he has been to all their meetings. Who do we trust?

Why did Mr. Ken Amankwah say the Wogbejeke drama took place at the Banquet Hall when in fact it took place at the Accra International Conference Centre?

Why was the post on Facebook pulled down?

Few hours after the Chairman’s statement was published on their Facebook page: Ghana: 60 Years On, it was pulled down. Why was it pulled down even when the statement had been published in several websites?

As we keep on debating this issue, let’s muse over these questions I have raised.

The way forward

I strongly believe we have had enough of the social media banter from the two parties. At this juncture, I expect powers that be to call Chief Moomen and all the parties involved and find an amicable solution to this issue.

By: Kwame Dadzie/citifmonline.com/Ghana

(kwamedazzy@yahoo.co.uk)

 

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