“Chieftaincy – Historical challenges in the form of colonial attempts to sidestep the institution and the attempt by the immediate post-independence governments to subjugate and divest them of their economic strength through drastic laws, never cowed the institution.” - Professor Boafo – Arthur, Political Science Department, University of Ghana
WHAT BETTER WAY TO EXPRESS the country's gratitude to the salutary advice Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Asantehene, gave the chiefs at their meeting recently at the Ashanti Regional House of Chiefs (AHRC), Kumasi, than to say: “Nana, Mo ne kasa.” He urged the chiefs to resist the temptation of endorsing aspirants to political power.
In order to maintain the sanctity of the chieftaincy institution, the chiefs are expected to shun partisan politics. Chiefs remained the “last resort” for resolving conflicts, and that if they were seen to be partisan, it would be difficult for anyone to seek their intervention when conflicts arose.
Since colonial times, the chieftaincy institution has been buffeted by several governmental powers. When Yaa Asantewaa, the Queen-Regent of Ejisu, took the gun and gingered men into action, it was to signify the importance of the Golden Stool to Asantes. Before the council of Kumasi could discuss what to do about the deportation of King Prempeh I, and the demand of the British governor – General of the Gold Coast, Frederick Hodgson, for the Golden Stool, she uttered the famous words: “How can a proud and brave people like the Asante sit back and look while a white man took away their king and chiefs, and humiliated them with a demand for the Golden Stool. The Golden Stool only means money to the white men; they have searched and dug everywhere for it. I shall not pay one “predwan” to the governor. If you, the chiefs of Asante, are going to behave like cowards and not fight, you should exchange your loincloths for my undergarments. (Montu mo danta mma me na monnye me tam).” Heroic! Yaa Asantewaa was chosen to lead the Asante army. She and her army laid siege of the Asante Fort, until the British reinforced their army with a strong force of 1,400 men. Yaa Asantewaa was captured with some of her men and forced into exiled in the Seychelles Island.
We may recall Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc) nicknamed “The Maid of Orleans” (La Pucelle d'Orleans) for her role in the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years' War. Joan claimed to have received visions of Archangel Michael and others instructing her to support Charles VII and recover France from English domination in the Hundred Years' War. She led the French Army till they won victory at Castillan in 1453. She was captured at Compiegne by the Burgundian faction, a group of French nobles allied with the English. She was later handed over to the English and put on trial by the pro-English Bishop, Pierre Couchon, on a number of charges. Declared guilty, she was burned at the stake in May 1431, dying at only 19 years of age. But in 1456 an inquisitorial court authorised by Pope Callixtus III examined the trial, wrote off the charge pronounced her innocent and declared her a martyr. In 1803, she was declared a national symbol of France by Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1909, she was beatified and in 1920, she was canonized.
What does all this history teach us? We have a heritage which we should cherish. And when men's courage is flagging women fill the gap! Each passing day has a lot to tell. Some of us are keenly watching the political field. In November, 2016, K.B. Asante in “Voice From Afar” wrote: “The Convention People's Party (CPP) government sought to build a Ghana not of tribes…sought to mobilise the youth…and 'verandah boys' to assist the party achieve its purpose…Some chiefs were threatened with being forced to run away and leave their sandals – a form of self-destoolment.” You can imagine some people giving a halo to such demeaning statement! Infra dig! And, truly in those times of CPP, especially when Ghana was declared a one-party state, (1960-1966), a number of chiefs were destooled, organised by the Builders' (Workers') Brigade and Young Pioneers.
We do not want to revisit the damnable atrocities of the past, but Nananom should do everything within their power to maintain the “sanctity of chieftaincy by doing away with partisan politics and instead maintain their neutrality.” Perhaps some will argue that it is difficult to do this, but governments will come and go, but the chieftaincy institution will be there (for as long as the human mind can go).
The 1992 Constitution, particularly Article 276, states: “(1) A chief shall not take part in active politics, and any chief wishing to do so and seeking election to Parliament shall abdicate his stool or his skin.” The Chieftaincy Act also lays stress on this. In his research on this, Professor Bampoe of the University of Ghana notes: “It is now a custom for all aspiring political leaders and parliamentarians to call on their respective chiefs during their electioneering campaign…” And, that is exactly what they all do. Whoever comes to you must be embraced warmly. If you have any advice, you can give it, just as the Asantehene gave advice to John Dramani Mahama when he called on him to introduce his running mate: “You have been a President before and you want to return again as President. I have spoken to you a lot and I have said that if you want to come back, let Ghanaians know what went wrong yesterday. Also let Ghanaians know that the mistakes won't be repeated.” Sensible, non-committal. When it was the turn of Nana Addo to call on Otumfuo, he told him: “Your good works in office will speak for you going forward into the election. We in Asanteman, remember, we do not forget. Asanteman will, therefore, remember your good works on Election Day. All I can offer you are prayers and blessings.” Apocryphal! Otumfuo charged the party's communicators to “tell Ghanaians exactly what his government has done and what is being done.” Otumfuo was, however, worried over the exclusion of chiefs from the issuance of licences to concessionaires under the community mining programme. So, the law says all minerals found in the country belongs to the state, “we forget that the land in which the minerals are found belongs to the chiefs.”
We saw how chiefs “endorsed” Mahama in 2016. The President of the Northern Regional House of Chiefs, Nayire Naa Bohugu Mahami Abdullai prayed for Mahama to retain his seat: “We passionately pray that Almighty God and our ancestral skins will support and back you to achieve your desired aim of continuing to be the President of the Republic of Ghana.”
A few months earlier, the Kukurantumi chief and Sunyani chief Nana Bosoma Nkrawiri had promised Mahama of 50% and 80% votes respectively for Mahama. So had Gbese Mantse, Nii Ayi Bonte and the Dormaahene Osagyefuo Oseadeyo Agyemang Budu II openly defied tradition and constitutional edict and endorsed Mahama's bid in 2016. It was, to say it bluntly, very dirty! And they would crown it all with a litany of requests: potable water, roads, schools, hospitals, et cetera. On the sideline, whoever was most strident in his “support” and “endorsement” would go home richer by a brand new Landcruiser purchased by the money looted from the vault of Ghana. Unpardonable.
From Africanus Owusu – Ansah