27.06.2003 Feature Article

Letter From The President (VII)

Letter From The President (VII)
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Hosu Castle Accra Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, the young and the old, as you may be aware, I have come under a lot of criticism, from my opponents of course, for allegedly securing a five-million-dollar World Bank grant for two eminent traditional rulers in the country – Asantehene Otumfuor Osei Tutu and the Okyehene, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin. I think that those who have objected to the deal are just trying to make political currency out of an initiative which, I believe, will make our chieftaincy institution more responsive to modern challenges. Over the centuries our chiefs have just busied themselves riding in palanquins, receiving and drinking barrels of schnapps, wearing ornaments which weigh heavily on their necks and simply being very traditional. Instead of organizing and galvanizing their people for development, most chiefs in Ghana today are dividing their people and have clearly lost direction. Sometimes, I feel that the chieftaincy institution has outlived its usefulness and that I should just seize all the stools and skins and tell all the chiefs to “get a life”. But whenever I hear of the exploits of the Asantehene and the Okyehene, I get the impression that things can get better. The two chiefs have demystified the chieftaincy institution. The Asantehene plays golf and the Okyehene likes to run to raise awareness about AIDS. The two eminent rulers are about the only chiefs in Ghana to have taken advantage of their ‘divine right’ to rule to make a difference, not only in their traditional areas, but in the country as a whole. Call me tribalistic if you like but most the credit goes to the Asantehene, who started it all, challenging the other chiefs that being on a stool or a skin is not just about the double sale of lands and the drinking of schnapps. The Okyehene came onto the scene and accepted the challenge of the Asantehene, taking steps to curtail environmental degradation in his kingdom and campaigning against AIDS. The Okyehene makes no secret of the fact that he enjoys listening to such jazzy tunes as “rock with me tonight for old times’ sake” and the Asantehene is not ashamed to let the world know that he does not like to sleep alone in the cold of the night (he recently married a very nubile, young lady with an ample bosom). They deserve the five million dollars from the World Bank. The young chief in Dormaa, I think is also trying ‘small-small’, but he needs to rev up his PR machine just a little bit to tell the world about the difference he’s also making. Apart from these three chiefs mentioned above, most of the other chiefs are bogus. Take the chiefs in Accra for example. The only difference I see them making is that at a particular period in the year, they help to keep the noise-levels in the city of Accra low for some 30 days by banning drumming and noise-making. That’s all! The Ga Chiefs tend to spend their days attending state ceremonies, engaging in the multiple sale of lands and recruiting armies of landguards. Most of the Chiefs in the Volta Region have gained notoriety for their trivial conflicts. Take the Peki-Tsito conflict for example. It has been trivialized to such ridiculous depths that the people of Tsito are refusing the use our new 20,000 cedi note because it bears the photograph of Ephraim Amu, a great son of Peki, who contributed enormously to the efforts to raise our national consciousness. Our traditional rulers in the Western Region, most of them, I must say, are always crying over the “meager” mining royalties they receive. So I ask them, “to what use have you been putting the royalties you have been receiving?” Well, am told that they use the money to marry more wives and engage in endless litigations. Those traditional rulers in the Central region have become so dependent on tourist revenue that they seem unable and unwilling to think for themselves. As for the chiefs in the northern regions, the least said about them the better. Even my international friends think that those chiefs up north busy themselves by making bows and arrows for their subjects. Such arrows, I am told, are as efficient as the precision guided missiles the Bushman’s soldiers used in Iraq and Afghanistan. I will like those who have been criticizing me for arranging the five-million dollar deal for the Asantehene and the Okyehene to inform their chiefs that it still holds true that “those who climb good trees often get a good push”. Our chiefs should first move towards sobriety by stopping the excessive consumption of schnapps. Then I expect them to get rid of those heavy ornaments they wear – those ornaments are too heavy and I think they weigh too heavily on their minds even months after they’ve worn them, thus they are unable to think very well. The chiefs should also get down from their palanquins, sit down with the people and plot developmental strategies. Strategies, which should not just make a difference in their communities, but in the nation as a whole. The Asantehene and the Okyehene might be getting more than they are due, but until the other chiefs sit up, all the recognition, local and international, will go to Kyebi and Kumasi. What will become of the other chiefdoms? The answer is on a billboard I see everyday on my way to the Castle. It simply reads – “EXTINCTION IS FOREVER!” Before I sign off, let me make the sad announcement that I have lost the services of one of my most illustrious bootlickers. He licked my boots to shine so bright whenever I stumbled into muddy legal waters. He has been out of the public eye for quite sometime now and I had almost forgotten about him until I read in the newspapers that he was seriously ill. Justice Direwu served me with as much loyalty as the magnanimity I demonstrated by appointing him as Chief Justice. It was a position he so desperately wanted to occupy before procuring a casket. Remember he helped me keep Tsatsu on the fast track? Now that Direwu has been forced by a stroke of ill health to retire am not so sure if I can continue to keep the likes of Tsatsu on the fast track. Let me take this opportunity to wish Direwu a speedy recovery from his stroke of ill health, which, for me, is a stroke of bad luck. If he gets well and changes his mind about retiring I will make him CJ once again. I am still, The Excellent One, J. A. Fukuor

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