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23 January 2017

OPINION: Is Socrate Sarfo’s Own Unguarded Comments on Radio Endangering His Ministerial Chances?

Socrate-Sarfo
Socrate Sarfo

The creative arts sector is a curious one. We hemorrhage money and opportunities yet can’t close our ranks to advance our common good.

Prior to H. E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo becoming president, he held discussions with industry people from the film, music and theater sectors to make the creative arts sector an even more viable one should he emerge victorious.

Akufo-Addo has conferred with musicians, producers, actors, writers in several of such meetings and must have a good idea about the challenges of the arts sector and legislative interventions which can enable creative people enjoy from their creations even years after the productions.

Nana has already picked Madam Catherine Afeku, Member of Parliament for Evalue, Jomoro-Gwira Constituency as minister designate for Tourism, Culture & Creative Arts. The nomination is not without its detractors who contend madam Afeku’s alleged duping of an American couple in a business transaction for which they were awarded compensation shows a woman who is crafty, self-seeking and undeserving of a ministerial portfolio. It must however be said that Madam Afeku and her husband have filed a suit challenging the grounds of the earlier ruling in the face of new evidence.


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I shall leave Madam Afeku to fight her battles although I fear her choice for this delicate ministry which can rain in heavy cash is misplaced, but then again, the president and his advisers have better insight.

The battle in the creative arts sector for some time has been who will best fill the post of deputy minister assuming Madam Afeku sails through her vetting.

While varied arts people took to Nana Addo’s cause including Agya Koo, Andy Dosty, Daddy Lumba, Praye, A-Plus, Mark Okraku Mantey, Kwabena Kwabena, Socrate Safo, Kweku Oteng, Lucky Mensah, Evangelist Diana Asamoah, Ernest Ennin and Ricky Anokye preaching his gospel, all cannot be ministers so some straining must be done.

If what is being bandied about is anything to go by, film maker Socrate Sarfo is reported to be in the reckoning for the deputy ministerial job. It’s by no means a done deal but it appears lobbyists for Mr. Safo are running a tenacious campaign to sway public opinion and the power brokers to hand him the job.

It emerged that Madam Afeku had submitted, he desired a male deputy to work with citing a need for gender balance and one with industry experience leading the ‘Sarfo-ites’ to claim it was good sign.

But who is this shining coal man with a Greek first name?

An Associate Professor, Carmela Garritano, PhD at the Africana Studies and Film Studies, Texas A&M University submitted in a piece that having known Mr. Sarfo for nearly a decade, he truly admires the entrepreneurial spirt of the ‘Hot Fork’ filmmaker who begun making film at the age of 19.

He adds Safo’s Movie Africa Productions ranks as Ghana’s most successful production unit and being a writer, producer and director of movies goes to show his immense gifts.

According to prof. Garritano, as a founding member of the Film and Video Producers Association of Ghana and later the Association’s PRO, Mr. Safo proved himself adept at working with stakeholders in the public and private sectors and at being an advocate for Ghanaian producers adding he even facilitated Mr. Safo’s travel to lecture at five American universities on his experience as a Ghanaian filmmaker.

I must concede that Prof. Garritano’s revelation was a pleasant surprise. Socrate Safo has offered dozens of films including ‘Unconditional Love’, ‘Dons of Sakawa’, ‘Hot Fork’ and ‘Adults Only’. The latter some found to be too raw for their taste.

Already, industry people including aviation man, blogger and writer, Arnold Asamoah Baidoo and artiste manager and journalist, Halifax Ansah Addo have lent their support to the ‘Safo for Minister’ campaign extoling the virtues of their preferred candidate as a tried and tested industry man.

On a few occasions, these two have shown zealous enthusiasm in advancing their man’s quest and being tenacious in repelling contrary view on social media platforms not sparing even New Patriotic Party (NPP) sympathisers who reckon Socrate is not the man for the office despite his film credentials.

Socrate Safo despite his film experience only became a household name when he started appearing as a panellist on Peace FM’s ‘Entertainment Review Show’ tackling issues bothering on the creative arts.

I cannot say what role he was assigned, either to offer his candid opinion on issues or be eccentric but Safo soon earned the reputation for making submissions which were on some occasions bizarre.

Even show host, Akwasi Aboagye has had to reign him in or cut him off on occasions when he was off tangent. Other panellists have had issues with him on one or more occasions with his unguarded statements.

When President Mahama merged the Tourism, Culture & Creative Arts Ministry appointing Elizabeth Ofosu-Agyare as head and Dzifa Gomashie as deputy, many industry folks hailed Dzifa’s appointment in particular. After all here was a movie actress, a theater performer, a poet and an entrepreneur in her own right.

But despite some gain, madam Lizzy and Dzifa must realize they ought to have done more for the sector and on one occasion at the Peace FM studio, appearing as guest, Madam Gomashie who doubles as queen of Aflao Traditional Area had a rude awakening when journalist, Halifax Ansah Addo tore into her with scathing remarks and an acerbic tongue citing her failure to spearhead visible changes in the affairs of creative arts people regarding revenue streams and offering protection from persons who use their work without pay.

Today Halifax believes Socrate has done enough to become a deputy minster. True, Halifax and Arnold must know Socrate better than I do. They must have spent hours with him picking his thoughts over the years and come to know his skills and attributes which could be shielded from public view so when they endorse him, they must know the gem they advocate for. But it is also true that friendship clouds judgement and I can only hope the latter is not the case for it is difficult to lash out at a friend whom you’ve dined and wined with unlike one who has no such attachments. It is because of these that there is something called self-censorship.

Those who deal with Hon. Ken Agyapong know better to self-censor their writings and utterances when he’s offered them aid lest he pours out the assistance he rendered when provoked.

I met Socrate Safo once when a Ghanaweb colleague directed me to Mustapha Inusah (then a producer of the entertainment review show) to contact him about a news portal owner who was ready to pay writers per story.

I visited Inusah at the Peace FM station to discuss the deal and after the show together with Mustapha boarded Socrate’s vehicle to his movie office in the Avenor area. At the office, it soon emerged business was bad and there was little going on by way of editing or anything else.

It was apparent Socrate spoke his mind with little hindrance which could be a good trait but can also be a liability. A few hours with any man is too little a time to form a fair opinion of the fellow some might argue but it could also just take minutes to sum a man up.

In Mario Puzo’s ‘Godfather’ book, Don Corleone insisted reasoning with defaulting men, only sentencing them to death after coming to the conclusion, they were unreasonable men or men who refused to reason.

The Socrate for minister opposition stems from his utterances on radio, how he is perceived in people’s minds and eyes.

In life, balance matters and one without balance is sure to meet trouble. Socrate by his own exhibitions exposed his skewed orientation, sometimes defending the outrageous and downright offensive.

As a private man, Socrate could afford his brash ways but as a minister of state, I reckon he would run into varied obstacles and scandals.

Socrate can serve on a film committee or board offering his insights but as a deputy in the glare of the public, I fear there would be pitfalls which even the substantive minister would wish not to be saddled with.

But we’ve been here before. The Peace FM ‘Entertainment Review Show’ had a stellar panellist in Carlos Sakyi in the early days whose brilliant submissions on Copyright issues and the ills confronting the creative arts sector charmed many and raised hopes when he rendered solutions which could mitigate those challenges on radio.

But by the time Carlos Sakyi, the onetime Board Chairman of the Ghana Music Right Organisation (GHAMRO) eventually left office, his name and image had become battered over issues of theft, malfeasance, document appropriation and even potential detention.

I estimate, even when he sees Peace FM’s door left ajar and mic hot, he would take the opposite lane not to resurrect the crucifiers who seek his head. All that glitters they say is not gold, some are even not gold dust.

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