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Ebony’s ‘message’ to the creative arts industry

By: Mawuli Zodgenu
The late Ebony
The late Ebony

 ‘It is sad that green leaves fall too’ - Author

I HAD just tuned in to Accra-based JOY FM to listen to the early morning preaching while driving to work. At 5:42am or so, the host announced the fact that there was a breaking news! Then bam, it was dropped by a female presenter! ‘Oh noooooooo! This can’t be Ebony’!

This was my initial reaction as I parked by the road side and stopped my engine to be sure I was not dreaming. Yes, Priscilla Opoku Kwarteng (Ebony) says ‘good bye’!

She became the toast of many and my personal favourite artiste especially in the past few months! Yes, under 21 years of age and ‘piam’ – gone, just like that! How? But that is the reality of life – no one knows tomorrow! 

This ‘bloody’ reminder that ‘no one knows tomorrow’ and for that matter the need to always be prepared spiritually and ‘insurancely’ needs no overemphasis!

When artistes die young
When artistes die young, messages from their creative works get flushed out forever! Indeed, this is not the first time we have heard about some of our celebrities getting involved in such terrible accidents when least expected. Mention can be made of the untimely deaths of Terry Bonchaka, Suzzie Williams, Kwame Owusu Ansah and young artiste, Emmanuel Kojo Quayson (aka Vibrant Fire of Mampi fame). All of them died in separate accidents in similar fashions. This thought has indeed given me cause for concern thus pushing to the fore the need for insurance for all entertainers.

The hardest blow to the entertainment space was felt in 2016 as some of the most influential entertainers bowed out in a seemingly organised fashion. As if by some design or what looked like a movie with many parts, veteran actor Odoi Mensah passed in 2016.

Comedian Nkomode also passed and while fans were left with a consolation in his compatriot to continue entertaining us, Bishop Bob Okala also died. Lucky Azasoo (MC Flava) of Efiewura fame, as young as he was, was also flushed out by the unmerciful closet of death!

Kofi Middleton Mends (of ‘Keysoap Midofo pa fame), Solomon Sampah (of Original Hacks fame) and Daasebre Dwamena, a celebrated highlife artiste, all died in 2016.

The list would be incomplete without mention being made of Danny Nettey, a Gospel artiste, George Williams, a veteran actor, Ebenezer Donkor (Katawere of Efiewura fame), George Forest, a celebrated sound engineer/music producer, Omanhene Pozo (of Nananom fame), a young musician, and Belinda Asiamah, a model.

All of these deaths followed on the heels of the accident involving ‘Ghana’s Bob Marley’, Abrantie Amakye Dede and the demise of his manager in a gory motor accident in the very last minutes of 2015.
This should, therefore, remind us of the risks artistes and members of the creative arts in general are exposed to on a daily basis!

Call for group life insurance ignored?
In 2015, my heart was gladdened when in what appeared to be an advocacy for group life insurance package, a panellist on a radio entertainment programme, after listening to the sad story of the late Madam Comfort Annor, strongly advocated a compulsory insurance package for the entire membership of Ghana Music Rights Organisation (GHAMRO) and others emphasising that these associations had the capacity to provide personal accident and medical insurance cover for their members.

To the best of my knowledge, like the proverbial vulture, the story ended there and I am yet to hear of any such arrangement seeing the light of day!

The unexpected fatal accident involving Ebony is likely to trigger similar discussions and advocacies (only if that had not started on various media platforms). It often ends there, no action!

Are Ghanaian artistes concerned about insurance?
For me, the answer here is a big ‘NO’! Many a creative industry person is not interested or feels disasters are for some other persons not them. Some of us in the inky fraternity continue to make the deafening noises but most of the real players themselves, I stand to be corrected, don’t seem bothered.

Unlike in the advanced world where artistes could even insure their voices against an ailment such as common sore throat, most artistes in Ghana don’t! At the peak of their trade, some are often carried away by their wealth from ‘once-in-a-while shows’ hence their apathy in matters related to insurance.

The way forward
With the death of Ebony at such a tender age, it’s about time artistes became more mindful of the fact that stardom is largely transient, and that the unfortunate circumstances of some celebs in the past could befall any of them at any time! They may be strong, youthful and very active today, but the same cannot be guaranteed the next second! Some of the deceased were likely to have dependants who become the victims of their failure to get insured.

I wish to appeal to officials at the helm of affairs to take a bold insurance decision as a matter of urgency. It is needless to say that medical expenses on kidney, liver, lungs and heart, for instance, can be pretty expensive; hence the need for insurance cover to mitigate the costs arising from such unfortunate and unforeseen mishaps.

As death is inevitable, the need for an insurance package to compensate the nominated dependents (e.g. wife, children, siblings and parents, etc) of artistes who meet their untimely deaths is imperative.

In this regard, the leadership of the various associations in our entertainment industry should, arrange insurance for their members in relation to accidents, terminal illness, hospitalisation and death.

While advocating that artistes take a special interest in insurance, there is also the need for appropriate education to members in order that they may fully appreciate and support the need for such insurance protection.

The Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts, apart from considering a group life insurance for entertainers, I believe, also has the responsibility to encourage all entertainers to patronise personal insurance policies as well.

We should not wait until the reality dawns on us when we hear such shocking stories of deaths of prominent entertainment personalities. Artistes falling seriously ill or dying suddenly, either accidentally or through other natural causes, are occurrences we should expect from time to time but what happens thereafter should be a matter of equal concern to us.

While calling on the sector ministry to lead the campaign for insurance, the time has come for the leadership of our entertainment fraternity to seriously consider a group insurance for their members (if that has not been done yet), in relation to personal accident, ailment hospitalisation and even death. They must talk to insurance practitioners, brokers and agents on which mix of
covers would be relevant to their respective associations.

It is therefore my expectation that the leaders of GHAMRO and MUSIGHA respectively will chart this new path of bringing hope to their members. It is also an opportunity for the various leaders to leave such a lifelong legacy in service to God and country.