There’s something about politics and political allegiances that turns otherwise rational people into absurd versions of themselves. Something in the brain just switches off and confusion sets in. Fealty coupled with credulity renders these individuals like the proverbial bull seeing red: It robs them of their intellect and reduces them to an undignified spectacle. I was reminded of this yesterday.
On my most recent post, I talked about plagiarism in Ghana citing Poka’s work as just one example of the trend. His work had been altered by a “rogue NPP supporter” and industrially distributed on the ‘I am for Nana’ Facebook page… a social media effort that one Kow Essuman takes credit for creating. (More about Mr. Essuman, Esq. to come later.)
The majority of people who read yesterday’s post agree with the sentiments and understand the gravity of what’s taken place. A handful of others have claimed that my pointing out this infraction is much ado about nothing, and certainly shouldn’t be charged to the NPP flag-bearer’s account. I find that sentiment rather interesting, particularly since it is this same set of people that has dubbed our sitting president as “incompetent” for his party’s many failures. It doesn’t matter whether JDM personally set fire to the trader’s homes at Arts Center or not; whether he’s personally responsible for directing the mess at our harbors or not; whether he has failed to use his body generate the megawatts needed to end dumsor or not! Somehow, he is personally to blame. Yet instinctively, we know John Mahama’s incompetence does not exist in a vacuum. He has surrounded himself with and is being advised by incompetent, semi-literate people. He made the choice to entrust each of these people with particular aspects of his presidential agenda. Likewise, Nana Addo, his running mate and all the bottom feeders looking for a reward in return for their support have entrusted a cadre of individuals to represent the party on social media.
A number of those individuals are failing him, and giving Ghanaians a glimpse of grim things to come if these are the sort of crass bullying tactics they intend to use to sway public opinion, regardless of who they trample on in the process.
Yesterday, I shared 2 images of Poka’s plagiarized work on twitter, juxtaposing the original work with the politicized alteration. In the course of conversation, Kofi Asenso recommended that an invoice be sent to Kow Essuman, a man who describes himself on twitter as an aide to Nana Addo, among other things. For someone who is supposed to be a lawyer and an aide to a presidential candidate on the campaign trail during an election year, he displayed the sort of sickening arrogance that one expects only after the coveted seat in power has been won. I suppose Essuman should be commended for showing his true colors as one of the NPP’s many mouthpieces responsible for public engagement. It will spare us all future disappointment. Here is a sample of the condescension he exhibited to the horror of his friends and colleagues.
Saa? You don’t pay people by heart, but your teams steal property by heart? Ahh, ok. Honestly, it would be possible for me to concede that the theft of Poka’s intellectual property (and potentially several other artists we may discover in days to come) was a one-off incident committed by a rogue party zealot if not for the existence of this second image that came filtering into my private messages.
This is just beyond the pale! In this instance, the culprit was Nana Boakye, who is incidentally a member of the NPP’s social media strategy team and a trained lawyer to boot. It is his team’s appropriation that I find most ironic. Depicting NPP as a ship to bear Ghanaians to better fortunes promising development, prosperity, quality education and JOBS, it cannot escape anyone that this cabal would rob a man of a job opportunity and simultaneously steal his intellectual property in the process! This can’t have eluded Mr. Boakye’s consciousness…not unless he willfully parted with civility and his sworn duty to uphold the law. And make no mistake: what his team did here was unlawful. Furthermore, if Poka’s art was good enough to steal, it was good enough to pay for. (Or he could have simply asked Poka to use his work and accepted a potential refusal with grace.)
As I generally do, I reached out to Nana Boakye for his reaction and provided him with an opportunity to give a justification for his actions. In part, my query to him read:
“I would like to be fair to you and give you an opportunity to explain why you felt that you had the right to appropriate the work without the artist’s consent, and what your feelings would be if he should decide to sue. Also, do you believe the flag-bearer of your party would approve of your tactics? Are there other artists you plan to/have appropriated work from?”
Mr. Boakye has yet to respond.
Several people have intimated that Poka ought to sue and be done with the whole affair. But this is bigger than just one artist. This is about an elitist group who thinks it has the right to rob people of their work for the benefit of their political agenda. For Poka to have his work politicized without his knowledge and/or consent is unconscionable, especially given the vindictive political atmosphere that Ghanaians live under today. The “wrong” allegiance can rob you of opportunities until the “right” party gets into power. That’s our sad reality. And it’s precisely why so many professional people remain closeted ‘party-of-choice’ supporters until they decide it’s safe enough to come out.
But here is the bigger question: Is this how NPP wants to set the tone for its campaign in 2016? If it’s discovered that other artists have had their work appropriated, do they really want to mar their campaign with a class action lawsuit? Why do that when such an incident is avoidable in the first place?
Back to the guardians of Nana’s image: Do they understand that he is not Nana Addo running for the position of head boy of some primary school in Atebubu? He is running for the highest office of the land! And if this is the caliber of person he is surrounding himself with – men who have NO regard for the Ghanaian creative/entrepreneur and whose propensity is to mock, rather than reflect when a real infraction has been pointed out – then he’s doing the rest of us no favors. We might as well make John D. MaHaHa president for life. If this behavior is considered acceptable on this level, can you imagine the level of imperiousness the higher up the political food chain?
Why is this important? We live in the digital age and for many people, virtual reality is more “real” than our lived experience. Our thoughts, opinions and convictions are often formed or influenced by something we’ve seen on the internet. That’s why social media teams have such a great responsibility to uphold. They are the first/only link to a candidate that a certain segment of the voting population will ever have. And let’s be honest – to the impoverished villager who had to feed his kids scummy pond water this morning, copyright infringement means nothing. That doesn’t mean we must ignore this plight. Because the end goal is to lift that villager from poverty so that they too can develop modern, patented ideas and express themselves creatively and/or scientifically. Shouldn’t that person at least be able to expect that a whole political machine wouldn’t devour their intellectual property to suit its own purposes?
It’s unlikely that Nana Addo and his management team are aware of this (repeating) issue, even though it affects them personally. It’s Mr. Addo’s face and his promises emblazoned on these stolen images. He ought to be concerned. His overzealous (and at times, overbearing) supporters ought to be concerned about the manner in which they represent their party to the public. As it stands, the NPP social media team is proving itself to be a group devoid of original thought, save a few points of light. We’re seeing evidence of this with increasing regularity. One cannot easily forget how they have shamelessly ripped off the CPP’s “Ghana Must Work Again!” slogan, coined by its current General Secretary Akomfrah. This type of knavery constitute the many ugly seeds of corruption.
And yes, indignant NPP foot soldier about to swan dive into my comments; I know NDC is guilty of the same. We’ve already had a good laugh at them on Facebook. It’s your turn now.
*Copyrights are automatic under Ghanaian law, meaning the day the work was originated it had copyrights; however, the originator of the work would need to register it in the copyright office of Ghana. The registration is what protects against plagiarism or gets the originator compensation through the licensing of the work. If you have intellectual property and are wondering how to further protect yourself from plagiarism, you can seek legal counsel. One place to start is Globetrotters Legal Africa, where teams specialize in copyright and trademark law. A ballpark estimation to have your work trademarked will run between GHC15,000 – 45,000.