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16.02.2003 Feature Article

Senate, Chieftaincy and Politics

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- A Peep into Nana's Comment - Part I Nana Akuoko Sarpong is a chief, the Omanhene of Agogo. He was the former Presidential Advisor on Chieftaincy Affairs during the NDC era. The writer is not sure how long Nana served at that position but now that he is out he has made a good observation. Nana has called for, 1. the abolition of the Council of State and
2. the establishment of a second chamber of Parliament He added, The whole structural base of the institution of chieftaincy has been undermined by progressive legislation from the time of Nkrumah. If we are to rediscover ourselves as part of our cultural renaissance, then, we must use the structures, which are close to the people as part of the basic institutions to run the nation. Nana advised that a third of the members of the district assembly should be chiefs (credit, Ghanaweb, 13/01/03). This writer is amused by the comments of Nana Akuoku Sarpong at this time for the following reasons: 1. The timing of his comment after having served as a Presidential Advisor on Chieftaincy Affairs for years under the NDC era. A time that such a comment would have yielded no debate at all.
2. The critical observation on the call for the abolition of the Council of State
3. The position of Nana about chiefs and politics. The writer agrees with Nana on the position of dissolving the council of State and to some extent chiefs and politics. However, his opinion will surely be different from how Nana sees it. So in this article, the writer will comment on the issue chiefs and politics and justifying why they should join or not and why the Council of State should be abolished for a Senate. Chieftaincy Institution and Chiefs Human life is dynamic and so there shall be with things or institutions of human management. The institution of Chieftaincy has gone on serious dramatic changes over the years. The appointment of who qualifies to be a chief has been affected. The ownership of some of these stools have been affected. The organisation of the Chieftaincy Institution has been affected. Some policies like who a chief should marry and how many 'wives' have been affected. A lot of changes have gone by. The writer is not really going to justify the impact of these changes per se but will take the institution as it is now. A quick reverie of the past refreshes us on the courage, display of justice in arbitration of disputes, good display of management, patience and exemplary leadership by past chiefs. The writer recalls Yaa Asantewa, Prempeh, King Gartey, Taki Tawiah and many more chiefs. There were war-like leaders determined to maintain their dignity and did preserve tribe and nationhood. Most of these chiefs never saw CHALK. They may have heard school bells or heard the promises by the colonial masters of school. They may not have been able to even write their own language but they were walking books of proverbs and wise sayings. Happily, their leadership have reminded us in our National Anthem, Our Pledge and the quite 'Yen ara Asase ni' (Our destined land) tune by the late Ephraim Amu. Still today, there are some chiefs like what have been described above. Nonetheless, the institution of Chieftaincy is besets with problems unprecedented in our young independent country. Most chiefs today are well educated. Some few even have University degrees with excellent academic records. Some have stayed in foreign lands for substantial period of time and were/are opened to the modern changes in the global transition. The writer can mention the Asantehene and Omanhene of Abuakwa, Amoatia Ofori Payin II. Coincidentally today, some chiefs are fighting with the queen mothers even in public as it happened in Brong Ahafo region. There is land dispute almost everywhere between and among chiefs in Ghana today. Sadly, instead of being arbitrators of local disputes, it is now the High Court in Accra that tries time and again battling to handle the piling Chieftaincy disputes. Some chiefs have hired and armed individuals with guns to be their commandos and protectors. Many more have had their attention occupied with the lucrative business of selling plots of land around them that there is not time for consultation. Some have been charged with rapping some girls. Some have fought among themselves with kingmakers or the like and died brutally, rather disappointingly. Many more are now having extension of their autonomy in foreign countries where they visit when bored at home. Few chiefs even stay out of Ghana and visit home annually when it is time for festival. The list l bet is so long to complete. Such disturbing circumstances have cast a bad shadow in the efficiency, trust, believe and the respect accorded chiefs of late. The Ghanaian public is accepting this bitter truth gradually. It is easy to see an individual today fighting with a chief. At Asankrangwa in the Western region, the chief's fight with a citizen in 1999/2000 resulted in innocent civilian deaths, burnt houses and displacement of people for months. In Winneba, there are 2 chiefs who have been fighting to the discovery of true ownership of the stool. Each year's festival is packed with tension and accidents happen. It is really heart-burning to say that some chiefs instead of leading people to wars against their foes are rather fighting with their own people. Most people today attend festivals to cover boredom at work and possibly not the real meaning/context of the celebration their traditional treasure proposes. Some people do not even understand the history and meaning of the festival. Such people are not to be blamed. After all, there are some foreigners who can also become chiefs overnight in Ghana. How can such foreigners tell local folks about their history and festivals when they cannot even speak the language of the mass. With the chaos in the institution being manufactured from Paga in the north to Asiama in the south, chiefs in Ghana have not called for crisis management. There isn't any one effective association of chiefs nationwide to handle the distressing episode of this cultural and cherished institution. Most chiefs are currently waiting and praying the High Court for direction. In Greater Accra alone there are land disputes and confusion over the institution. All these have have not bothered the institution much to warrant the calling for amicable solution among chiefs. There has not been attention given to development and if there is it is so minute to count with credit to the uncountable chiefs in Ghana. The writer is not against the chiefs but one has to accept the truth that the relevance of our institution is dying in 'shame'. In his article the 'A Flip for Development - Part I & II' the writer talked extensively on the need for culture revision as a catalyst and bedrock to our development. He believes chiefs should be made to play active part in national debates for development and be charged to assist in mobilisation of resources, motivation and direction for growth. Thus serving as a media between grassroots activities geared towards development and growth. But if chiefs are fighting and selling all the lands, if they are thinking of their security to perpetuating their rule in any form, it appears to be absurd to pull them into national agenda. The writer shares the view that chiefs are far capable to assist than may people can think of. But of course Nana Akuoku Sarpong never advised the government to abolish the Council of State at the time he was on duty but sees it today. Having realized this now than later is acceptable to me. Better late till now, than never. The writer wishes to assure Nana that he will be the first to support his call for chiefs in active politics as he has already been doing but here is the bet for chiefs: -That chiefs should revisit their former past and make out a new picture of the institution
-That chiefs should demonstrate leadership by example and keep their houses in order
-That they will clear all land disputes from the High Courts and other courts of adjudication and prove their capability of handling their own matters before being offered even Senate role (which l will call for) as advisors to development plan
-That the institution will position a clear-cut rule, demand its respect and 'parenthood' protection our past chiefs offered Ghanaians. It is acceptable that one cannot give what s/he has not. To perform as members in the district assembly which Nana mentioned, the same eye that people use to observe the chiefs will persist. The same petty fighting from the homes with their people will be extended to the district assembly meetings. Already, there is much tension between Regional Ministers and Chief Executive Officers, which should have been settled by chiefs within their area where they serve. If there is not peace at the floor by chiefs, then one has no justification to bring these people to order. The writer wishes to reiterate his wishful promise to campaign for effective development role and to some extent a greater involvement in politics of positive action for people they rule if chiefs will hold the promise.

Kwame Atta Kaytu
Kwame Atta Kaytu, © 2003

The author has 21 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KwameAttaKaytu

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