Senior broadcast journalist with Joy 99.7FM, Manasseh Azure has taken time in a long letter to address all the pros and cons about the latest celebrity in Ghana, Abraham Attah. Read the letter full of lessons below:
Dear Abraham Attah,
I bring you warm greetings from Ghana. I don’t know which part of the world you are right now and I cannot imagine which luxurious hotel is housing you at the moment. But I am happy to tell you that, back home, you are the most popular celebrity in Ghana right now. Your name is a household name. President John Dramani Mahama, has described you as a “positive positioning of the Ghana Brand.” And he is very right!
I want to use this opportunity to sincerely congratulate you on your enormous achievement. You first came to my notice when I read a very positive review about you on the internet. That was the first time I heard about the Beasts of No Nation movie. I am not a movie fan, but I was compelled to look for the film when you picked an international award last year. I was curious about what that movie was about and how Abraham Attah fared in it.
The Beasts of No Nation, in my candid view, was overrated. The production and the characters were great but the storyline is very poor. What, however, excited me was the quality you (Abraham Attah) and the other children in the movie exuded. Hearing that Beasts of No Nation is your first movie and the first time you acted convinced me beyond any reasonable doubt that you are very gifted. You will surely go places if you work hard and keep the few pieces of this advice I offer later in this letter. I am proud of you. And so are many Ghanaians.
In Ghana, you are celebrated in homes, offices, markets, classrooms, mainstream and on social media. I have lived in this country for three decades and my experience has taught me that there are two kinds of human beings that one must not say anything uncomplimentary about. They are the dead and people who are being celebrated. Ask Martin A.B.K. Amidu his experience when he took on Anas.
Yesterday, you wrote on instagram, “I know some of the radio presenters in Ghana are saying I gave a bad speech at the Independent Spirit Awards…”
Abraham Attah, let me tell you that no Ghanaian radio presenter said your speech was bad. No Ghanaian radio presenter said your grammar was bad. No Ghanaian radio presenter said you missed some words and fumbled. Nobody has said on radio that you don’t deserve the award, as some people want you to believe. They are all lies and misrepresentation.
The fuss and the unwarranted attacks on the radio presenters you referred to are based on misreporting of what Lexis Bill of Joy FM and Jay Foley of Live FM said. About 95% of those who took to social media to insult and harshly criticize the presenters did not hear what they said. Neither did they know exactly why they were attacking the two presenters who have used their shows to celebrate you. They spoke based only on their emotions and not facts.
A lot of the attacks followed an erroneous article written by one Chris-Vincent Agyapong Febiri, who has mistaken notoriety for popularity, and thanks to the indescribable gullibility of some Ghanaians, his baseless attacks were read and formed the basis for further attacks on the presenters.
When someone shared Chris-Vincent’s article and condemned Lexis Bill and Jay Foley, I reached out and asked whether she had heard what they said. She confessed she had not heard what they said but her comments were based on the article. And did the writer of the article hear them? The answer is no.
Chris-Vincent started his article this way: ““I am told Jay Foley of LIVE FM, Lexis Bill of JOY FM and some other human being called MzGee ridiculed young Ghanaian-Hollywood actor-Abraham Attah’s Oscar’s speech because he fumbled and somewhat got his words and sentences wrong.”
The first sentence was the basis for his attack on the two radio personalities. Abraham Attah, you did not make a speech at the Oscars. What he wanted to say was your speech at the Independent Spirit Awards, where you were awarded the best lead role in the male category. None of the three people he attacked commented on the fact that you fumbled or got your sentences wrong. There are many factual inaccuracies in Chris-Vincent’s article, which formed the basis for many of the attacks.
I listened to what Jay Foley said. He started his show by celebrating you. He called you “our very own.” He played the teaser of your acceptance speech and repeated the “thank you” once before remarking that you appeared nervous. Is this the reason to insult him and call him names for pulling you down and trying to destroy your career?
Later that day on the Airtel Entertainment News on Joy FM’s Drive Time Programme, MzGee did two stories on you. It is a 10-minute show but two separate stories on you at the Oscars and the Independent Spirit Awards. The Entertainment News ended with your piercing “thank you” in which you stressed the “T” and it sounded like “Tenk yew.”
Your sound bite ended the entertainment, so Lexis Bill said “Tenk yew, MzGee for the entertainment news, Tenk yew Evans Mensah (who was in the studio to present top story)…” to which MizGee replied in the same way to sign off that segment of Drive Time in the jovial way they always end it. They did not say any other word about you.
Some people think it is mimicking, and that was offensive. It is their view, and they are right to think about it this way. Where I do not agree with them is the level of insults the repetition of the “tenk yew” attracted. Listening to the presenters, the spirit behind the repetition of your “thank you” was not that of malice. They have celebrated you on the show several times and on social media and would not deliberately run you down.
It was just one of those light comments we pass daily in this country. In Ghana, we make humour out of every situation and of every personality. When we mimic Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s accent, the intention is not to mock him or portray him as someone who does not speak good English. When we repeat the late President Mills’ ‘My brethers and sisters,’ it is not mock for his accent. It’s for the humour in the unique way these great personalities speak.
Everyday, we record children who speak bad English or cannot recite the national pledge and other slips and play them on radio and television and share them on social media. We all laugh and move on. Some of these children are younger than you Abraham Attah. Beyond the “tenk yew” Lexis Bill did not pass a single word of negative comment about you. So do you think he merits the verbal crucifixion he got? Please, ignore those latching onto your story and using the harmless comments to settle their own scores.
Even if you are not enthused that the presenters repeated your “thank you” I can also say that the exaggerated and false stories you are hearing about their comments are exactly what they are, exaggerated, false, and not borne by the facts. The comments of the presenters were not as bad and ill-intentioned as many gullible commentators want you to believe.
It is also very senseless to suggest that they envy you and want to bring you down. They are in a class of their own. They are great presenters who do not have to be on the BBC to prove that they are good. They are not in your industry. Neither are they competing with you for roles in any movie. But I was not surprised. If you criticize anyone in this country, you are accused of being envious. Even Pastor Mensa Otabil is accused of envy when he speaks about government.
The Dangerous Traps
Abraham Attah, I will advise you to be careful of the dangerous trap people are already setting for you. I have seen comments, photos and videos people have made to pitch you against the experienced and great actors we have in this country. Some people have said that you are the only celebrity in Ghana. Others have also said that you are better than the likes of Madjid Michel, John Dumelo and the many great actors we have. Please, be guided by humility and don’t fall for these dangerous traps and senseless comparisons. You are not better than those actors and actresses. Even if you had won an Oscar, you would not have been anywhere near John Dumelo, who started acting as a child and has been consistent up to this stage.
Those making such comparisons are people with incurable inferiority complex. The fact that a white man has featured you in his movie does not make you better than the great actors who have over the years featured in very great movies produced in Africa by Africans. The fact that the white man has awarded you does not mean you are better than all the great actors who have received many awards here and on the continent. So ignore such shallow minds. You are not in competition with anyone. Be the best that God wants you to be.
The white man’s story about Africa is about war, diseases, poverty and all the barbarities they tell the world about us. If they want to produce a movie of a brilliant child doing interesting things, like Home Alone, they will feature a white kid. If you are lucky you may occasionally feature in the gloomy Hollywood movies on the “Dark Continent.” The local actors and producers are those who can feature you more regularly in diverse roles and help you to grow. You will spell the doom if you ever think they are inferior to you.
It is only the slave mentality that makes people call their own movie stars and entertainers “local champions.” If your talented movie star can only gain your recognition when they are featured in the white man’s movie then you are implying that you are inferior. Do such people want to tell us that the “local champions” are not good enough because they act to entertain monkeys while the white man’s movie stars entertain human beings? If the local movie producers had a tenth of the American producers’ budget, they might do better than Hollywood in some movies.
Abraham Attah, let me also remind you that you are not the only celebrity in Ghana. Until Michael Jackson died, I did not know a single song he composed or performed. I still cannot tell you a single track of Justin Bieber, Chris Brown or 50 Cents. My true celebrities are the borborbor musicians in the Volta Region whose music I enjoy. We have local, national, international, continental and intercontinental celebrities. Anybody who says there are no celebrities in Ghana just because the stars here have no stamp of approval from the white man needs to visit the curer of sick heads. The average Ghanaian may never watch the Beasts of No Nation, but they have been entertained by Agya Koo or Kwadwo Nkansah Lil Win. So one does not need to receive an award in Europe or America to be a celebrity.
You must be humble and not fall for such traps. You acted very well in that movie. But the child who impressed me most is 11-year old Emmanuel Affadzi (Dike), the actor of Imagination TV. For some, Strika should have taken your place. But God’s ways are not our ways. So be humble and thank God for lifting you up. Always remember that there are thousands of ordinary children in Ghana who can act better than you but were not lucky enough to be spotted. Humility elevates.
Beware of the land of mediocrity!
Abraham Attah, you must resist mediocrity. In Ghana, mediocrity has more worshipers than God. It’s both a deity and a festival. We worship and celebrate it. Keep learning and get better. Don’t think that you have arrived. Don’t let the tunes of the praise singers get into your head so that you settle for less.
When 11-year-old Serena Williams was asked in her childhood which tennis player she wanted to be like in her career, she smiled and told the interviewer: “I want other people to be like me.” When I watched it, all I could say was, “Wow!”
When, Heaven, a three-year old girl dancing with her mother became an internet sensation and The Ellen Degeneres Show interviewed her, she blew the minds of the audience. When the host asked her whether she would be a dancer if she grew up, her answer was, “I am already a dancer!” The host apologised for asking a “silly” question.
Here in Ghana, a 15-year old boy is too young to say anything intelligent so no one would expect you to make any intelligent speech. If you want to follow the standards of our society, you will not grow. We will not push you to achieve anything higher because the typical Ghanaian’s highest standard is someone’s starting point elsewhere.
Your career and future!
My dear Abraham Attah, my investigation has revealed that you have been moved from your Ashaiman public school to a very good school outside the Greater Accra Region. William Adom Quaye who starred as Strika and another “child soldier”, Justice Promise Azudey, are with you in the same school. Apart from you, the two had never been to school before acting the movie.
I will urge you to take your studies seriously. Forget about your stardom and learn hard. Ignore those who are saying you must relocate to America. They are not serious. If you were in America, you would not have starred in this movie. If you lived in East Legon, attended GIS and spoke impeccable English, you would not be suitable for this movie. God made no mistake by putting you in Ghana. It was in Ghana that you were picked and put in a global limelight. You don’t need to get out of Ghana in order to make it. Just learn hard and be determined.
Please, stay away from drugs. Women who are old enough to be your mother will begin to throw themselves at you. Avoid them. For now, limit the use of your manhood to the passage of urine and forever limit the use of your anus to the passage of fecal matter. There are filthy perverts in the movie industry who can offer you heaven in exchange for your anus. Be ware. Be wise!
You still have a future. But not everyone who starts well ends well. Find time to read about Macaulay Carson Culkin. He was one of the most successful child movie stars. At age nine, he was the star actor in the Home Alone movie. His life is in ruins now. He is trying to recover from drugs and a rather wretched life.
Learn hard. And serve God well. Let Him guide you to fulfill the purpose He has for you. The God who made the once childless Abraham the father of all nations, is the same God who has lifted you, Abraham Attah, from the obscure slum of Ashaiman, on to the red carpet of the Oscars. And He has only begun with you.
I am your admirer,
Manasseh Azure Awuni.