The head pastor of the International Central Gospel Church (ICGC), Dr Mensa Otabil, who has become the centre of a raging controversy over audio recordings he claims to have been pieced together, has asked those behind it to cease playing it as an advert.
This was a day after the celebrated man of God held a press conference at which he made an appeal to President John Mahama to call his boys behind the tape to order.
A group within the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) that identifies itself as the ‘Education Watch’ has used the said audio for an advert which is being aired on various radio stations in an attempt to ridicule the opposition New Patriotic Party’s ‘free SHS’ campaign promise.
But senior associate pastor at ICGC, Reverend Kofi Okyere, who spoke on Accra-based Citi FM, said, “He (referring to Dr Otabil) doesn’t want his voice being used like that so we are asking them to stop it.”
That, according to him, was in view of the fact that “they are using Doc’s voice without permission”.
“They are making it seem that he (Otabil) has no integrity and is a coward. That is not fair. Just stop using it.
“It’s not fair. The fact that he has produced an album and it is being sold on the market doesn’t mean anyone can use it anyhow. We think they are not using it well and should quit it,” he advised, warning that “If they don’t want to stop, it’s up to them. They can do whatever they want. We will not take it to court. We leave it to God.”
NDC’s No Holds Barred
But President Mahama and the NDC insist on using the tape because they believe the contents are relevant to issues of the day.
A statement issued by the president’s campaign team and signed by its communications director, Hannah Tetteh, sought to justify the use of the tape.
The likes of NDC propaganda secretary Richard Quashigah, deputy Finance Minister Fifi Kwetey, and an endless list of party spokespersons have sought to denigrate the revered man of God, with some using intemperate language to express their sentiments.
The Director of Monitoring and Policy Evaluation at the Presidency, Dr Tony Aidoo, believed Pastor Otabil did not have integrity. The former University of Cape Coast Economics lecturer described the preacher’s thoughts on theology as “metaphysics nonsense” which, he claimed, had lost contemporary relevance.
Dr Aidoo, a former deputy Defence minister, said, “The press conference today shows an extreme case of behavioural inconsistency to be exhibited by a man who presents himself or rather misrepresents himself as a man of God, as somebody who has the knowledge and the vision and has been preaching over the years and more or less become an opinion leader for a large section of the population.
“Nobody asked him to come and present himself and his image to Ghanaians as a man of wisdom. If you have done that, you will have no private ownership of the things you have said.”
He added, “I don’t think he has integrity.”
When he was asked whether or not the NDC would stop playing the tapes, Dr. Aidoo, who abandoned the academia for the world of politics, said, “I am not in charge of the NDC campaign, but if I was, I would play it day and night, 24 hours for Pastor Mensa Otabil to live with his conscience. He said we should have the courage to tell the truth. The test is on him. Let him tell the truth and stop running away.”
Ace Anan Ankomah, a lawyer, however believed the decision of the NDC to use Dr Otabil’s voice was a breach of the nation’s copyright laws.
“Those who are using his voice in adverts are in breach of the law. Maybe, you didn’t know, but it has been pointed out to you now that the advert you are carrying with his (Otabil’s) voice is a breach of the law. Just stop it and let’s continue with the politics and leave this out,” he noted.
He quoted sections of the Copyright Act, Act 690, insisting, “In section 1, it mentions works eligible for copyright. It mentions literary works are eligible for copyright. If you go to section 76, it specifically mentions sermons” and that “section 76 under the definition of literary works, it lists lectures, addresses or sermons”.
“Everyone who gives a lecture, an address or sermon, is entitled to copyright protection and so, yes, Otabil has copyright protection.
“You can’t take anyone’s works and simply use it because you claim (he hasn’t] registered it,” he emphasised.
Mr Ankomah, a former lecturer in civil procedure at the Ghana School of Law, indicated, “…he has a right to be protected against distortions, mutilations and other modifications of his work if it is prejudicial to his reputation or the work is discredited by the act” and “has the right to protest against distortions and that is what he (Pastor Otabil) is talking about that various words and sentences have been put together for a certain purpose.”