The awards ceremony put together by Charterhouse Productions was marred by a brawl between dancehall rivals, Charles Nii Armah Mensah Jr ‘Shatta Wale’ and Livingstone Etse Satekla ‘Stonebwoy’. It was an eyesore – a bummer to the music industry. These young men arrived on the music scene barely a decade but have stepped out of line.

The British High Commissioner to Ghana, Iain Walker, Minister for Tourism, Arts and Culture, Hon. Barbara Oteng Gyasi, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Hon. Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Deputy Minister for Communications, Hon. George Andah, CEO of Mobo Awards UK, Kanya King CBE, representatives from Sony Music, Ben Oldfield from The Orchard, Phil Phillips, Alison Hinds and other representatives of the Barbados Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy witnessed the ignominy the two brought to Ghana.

Onstage brawl

The incident occurred at the Dome, Accra International Conference Centre on Saturday, April 18, 2019. Stonebwoy was named the winner for the “Reggae/Dancehall Artiste of the Year” when his rival Shatta Wale and his entourage crashed his acceptance speech with violence.

Shatta Wale was sitting right behind me (on the front seat of the third row. I was on the last seat of the second row) when Stonebwoy’s name was mentioned. I fixed my camera on him to capture his reaction. He didn’t look happy (which is normal for every loser).

While Stonebwoy and his team were moving to the stage to receive the award, I captured Wale having a tête-à-tête with one of his team members. He stood up in (what looked like) anger and walked straight to the stage.

And when entering the podium, the leader of his team was asked by Stonebwoy’s manager, Blakk Cedi, to stop. He didn’t retreat. He pushed forward in a violent manner. Blakk Cedi retaliated with a punch to his face.

Then a brawl followed.

Blakk definitely acted on his intelligence – he saw a threat instead of peace. Shatta Wale’s team lead’s body language and approach to the podium was aggressive and the best way, he thought of, was to stop him before any harm. Maybe, he was preventing XXX and Nipsey Hussle's history.

Stonebwoy’s personal security man passed him a firearm but none of the security personnel on the stage noticed. He was later forced out of the stage after back and forth with Shatta Wale’s team members.

Someone jetted a pepper spray at the VIP lounge (that’s where the brawl continued). The spray filled the air across the regular patrons. Then, I heard of teargas (the police has denied this).

It created a riotous scene.

That is when everyone in the auditorium started running out for their lives. I had to run away because I didn’t see any emergency exit. I feared for my life. I was afraid a stampede would happen.

Shatta Wale’s excuse

That same morning, Shatta Wale shamelessly took to social media ranting about the incident and calling on the police to intervene. He was afraid for his life (from his rants).

According to him, his presence on the stage wasn’t in bad faith – he only wanted to congratulate his rival. And he found it appropriate to climb the stage with a dozen team.

His father also went on the radio to give a flimsy excuse and a completely contradicting account. He told Hitz FM that: “I was sitting at the VVIP… he told me that he will relocate to where we are sitting but he is monitoring the atmosphere in the auditorium before he moves.”

Perhaps, Shatta wanted to relocate to the podium. It’s clear: they are not remorseful for invading the stage.

He had won two awards before Stonebwoy but he didn’t step on the stage. But thought it was okay to storm Stonebwoy’s platform.

During Shatta Wale’s “Reign” album concert at the Fantasy Dome last year, Shatta Wale and his team prevented Stonebwoy and Samini from making a surprise appearance because they came unannounced.

So, what was his business on Stonebwoy’s platform? Did Stonebwoy also invite him?

The best thing he could do was to arrange with the organisers to allow him to climb the stage to congratulate Stonebwoy on stage in case he wins.

Stonebwoy’s defence

Stonebwoy lambasted Shatta Wale on stage after the situation was calmed. In his speech, he bragged and boastfully claimed he could thrash Shatta Wale at any given chance.

For Stonebwoy, pulling a gun on live television was in self-defence. “We know how premeditative people can be. We’ve seen the threats on social media so we didn’t come in unprepared.”

He apologised: “I apologise to Ghanaians. The award is going to continue. Thank you very much for supporting my music and everybody else’s music.”

He later issued a statement apologising for the event.

Gun violence in Ghana music

We haven’t seen the American-kind of gun violence in Ghana music but we have had so many clues from these two musicians.

Shatta Wale has been spotted on several occasions playing with guns. In 2017, the singer was filmed firing shots in his house. When the public called on Ghana police to pick him up, nothing happened. He shows off guns in his live Facebook videos. Even recently in Kumasi, he was seen with a shotgun while inspecting his uncompleted mansion.

Stonebwoy, on the other hand, also has a history with guns. In 2018, when Stonebwoy was performing at a mini-concert at Paloma Hotel in Accra, Bulldog interrupted him to cease a car Zylofon Media gave him. Stonebwoy fired shots, causing panic among guests and hotel staff of the hotel.

Prior to this year’s VGMA, rapper Edem raised awareness about the growing number of firearm possessions among Ghanaian artistes but no one took it seriously.

“Do you know that nowadays, when artistes go for shows, at least, one team member or the artiste carry a licenced gun? Now when we go for shows in Ghana, somebody is strapped with a gun. Why does it have to be that way? We would wait for the damage to be caused before we realise what I said,” he stated on Hitz FM.

It’s a growing concern. The public isn’t happy. Organisers might lose millions in the future because of this.

Who has something to lose?

Shatta Wale has nothing to lose. That’s the brand he has curved for himself. He is a ‘dirty’ dancehall performer who cares less about what people say about him. He respects and listens to nobody. He’s already in the mud so if you join him, he won’t be affected. He has mocked Stonebwoy with his disability several times and called him all sort of names but didn’t lose any of his brand deals. He slapped his own bodyguard on live TV, smoked on Facebook live streaming, insulted all Ghanaians, received BJ with friends and accidentally leaked it, insulted policemen and done all sorts of things but he remains active in the industry. His brand is so sleazy that no amount of filth can dent it anymore.

For Stonebwoy, he has something to lose. The strong, clean and internationally recognised brand he has built for years has been ruined. Now, he should be more concerned about losing his brand deals and the respect and trust he has gained from Ghanaians and foreigners. He was seen as ‘humble guy’ but for him to pull a gun in front of Ghanaians, government officials, international dignitaries and on live TV, he has lost a lot. As Kwami Sefa Kayi said, Stonebwoy lacked emotional intelligence. He didn’t think of the consequences. He wanted to show Shatta Wale that he’s got a gun and that he is equally dangerous. He is quick tempered (from my observation) and was too quick to pull a gun. Using self-defence as an excuse is just a vacuous and dumb idea.

Charterhouse’s security questionable

Charterhouse Productions failed with their security details. No search was performed at the entrance of the venue and there was no emergency exit in the auditorium. It seems they took security for granted – because, after all, Ghana is a peaceful country and nothing of such could happen.

They didn’t pay attention to Shatta Wale’s threats including the one he issued regarding losing all his nominations on the night. Wale has always proven how dangerous he is. He eats and drinks threats so Charterhouse should have had a ‘Plan B’.

Also, they didn’t collaborate with the police when planning the event. They only invited them to cover the event. That was wrong. For an event that has existed for 20 years, Charterhouse could have gone a bit further with security.

“One thing event organisers need to know is that when they want to organise big events, they need to involve the police in the planning stage,” ACP Kwesi Fori told Kwame Nkrumah Tikese on Okay FM Monday while commenting on Stonebwoy and Shatta Wale’s arrest. “Emergency route and the sitting arrangement; where fans, dignitaries and the competitors will sit should have been considered. When there’s a rivalry between the musicians, their sitting arrangement could be done in a different way.”

“But in this case, we received a letter from Charterhouse asking us to provide security for their event. We were not directedly involved in the planning of the event,” he revealed.

So, Charterhouse failed with security. They took things for granted.

The two should be banned forever

Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy

This is Ghana – not America. We might not be a developed or progressive country but one thing that has put Ghana on the map and attracted foreign interest is the fact that peace dwells here. We love peace – not war.

Moreover, these two frivolous men cannot run the industry their own way. They have no power over anyone. If we continue to entertain this stupidity from Shatta Wale and Stonebwoy, VGMA will die and no investor will step in to support.

Charterhouse should ban them from all future VGMA activities. It will serve as a deterrent for the rising artistes. Even the pioneers of the game; Reggie Rockstone, Obrafour, Obour, Okomfour Kwadee, Amakye Dede, Kojo Antwi, and others didn’t do this. They shouldn’t sit and allow these dunces to ruin what brings the industry together.

To end this, I want to borrow author Jon Gordon’s famous quote: “Talent without character is like a car with no gas. It's useless without the fuel that drives it. Character drives talent toward greatness.”