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19.07.2005 Feature Article

The Criteria for Selecting a King of Ghana

The Criteria for Selecting a King of Ghana
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In The last two months, much of what one sees on the Ghanaweb, features and SIL discussion forum is about the role of our traditional rulers in development, and who is more important our among traditional rulers.

To take a personal stand on this subject, I think those who are engaged in such discussions have abandoned issues of priority in relation to Ghana's development. In fact these discussions have no bearing on how to increase productivity and are therefore not worth the huge expenditure of precious time that they exact on the web.

This article is intended to provoke our thinking into realising that there are more important things to worry about in Ghana than the importance and non-importance of our traditional rulers, some of whom are perhaps only interested in their power. These kinds of misplaced priorities have made us into the last people on this earth, because we misdirect our intelligence into insults, ridicule and hate.

A recent newspaper report on the Ashantihene's appointment in the UK drew comments from Ghanaians on the SIL in relation to the title of King of Ghana. The comments seeking to affirm and disaffirm the title of King of Ghana were unhealthy and only ferment disharmony. The questions to be asked are: Should we have a king of Ghana? Who would qualify? What criteria will form the bases for selection?

I believe that coming out with a set of criteria for a King of Ghana will help us get one, or perhaps bury this topic or make a shift to other better issues. The questions below may help us decide on the criteria.

The aspiring King of Ghana should answer 'yes' to all these questions below:

Do all Ghanaians respect you as a traditional ruler?

Do all Ghanaians accept you as their ruler or lord?

Do all Ghanaians obey your laws/rules?

Do you have authority equal to or above the central government?

Are all Ghanaians obliged to obey your laws/ rules?

Do you have the power to force all Ghanaians to obey your laws/rules? Or do you have the authority to extract obedience to your laws across Ghana? Are you able to prescribe consequences if Ghanaians don't obey your laws/rules?

If we are able to find any traditional ruler who meets the requirements of these questions, then we are on the road to finding a King of Ghana.

Traditional authorities in Ghana have played incredibly significant protective roles in the past, to ensure the survival of our kingdoms. Today, many of our traditional rulers have still got the desire to push for development of their areas, and know that they have responsibility to see improvement in the lives of their people. Thus, all traditional rulers have some good qualities to qualify to be King of Ghana

However, in answering the above questions, it is clear that no single traditional personality in any part of Ghana has authority beyond central government and none has power to have his laws or rules obeyed by all Ghanaians. Further, Ghanaians are not obliged to obey traditional rulers. Most people are obliged to obey traditional rulers of their ethnic origin, and even such an expectation is debatable today. This is because enforcing traditional rules is quite problematic in modern times, and as most students of law would agree, there have even been philosophical questions about whether or not citizens are obliged to obey the laws passed by the state.

Since no traditional ruler would have the power to have his laws obeyed across Ghana, we need to remember that our reverence for any traditional authority is based on our belief that a particular ruler is our lord and is worthy of being obeyed as the head of our ethnic group. All other traditional rulers are respected because we accept that they are lords over our fellow Ghanaians. On the basis of the latter statement, the arguments, and comments on the web should respect the sensitivities of the different ethnic groups, and our individually cherished traditional rulers. This respect is essential for the reason that many ordinary Ghanaians would not like to disobey or malign any traditional ruler of any ethic group in this country, because we do not want that to happen to our own traditional rulers.

Consistently, the derogatory statements made about the Ashantihene, and other traditional rulers by people trying to reinforce their positions would only succeed in hardening our hearts and creating strong negative attitudes towards kings/chiefs of the different ethnic groups. In this way, the initial respect people have for the traditional rulers of other ethnic groups will be lost, and supplanted by hate.

It is absolutely important that we respect the right of others to talk high of their king, but we have to be careful not to try to compare our kings, and in the process malign others. The only result of negative comments against other traditional rulers is negative attitudes toward the kings of those who malign our kings.

Humans can be forced to obey the laws, but no human can be forced to accept another king, because acceptance is the child of attitude and belief. This is where Marcus Garvey's famous statement that there is no human law that can change attitudes makes sense. Thus, if we think that we want to maintain the existing positive attitudes toward all traditional rulers, we have to measure our words. No one can extract obedience from those who are making those insensitive utterances on the web, but they should know that they are hardening attitudes.

The other dimension of the web discussions is that some Ghanaians are taking two positions on the mistakes of foreign news outlets. We move heaven and earth to correct any mistake that brings shame to us, but try to reinforce mistakes which suite our narrow interests. For example when a Ghanaian patient left unpaid bills in a UK hospital and claimed links to the Ashanti royal family, many tried to counter that claim, as proud citizens of Ghana. Further when a traditional ruler of the Akyem Traditional area was addressed as King of Ghana in a USA report, people came out to correct it.

It stands to reason that if a foreign news outlet claims that a traditional ruler in Ghana has done something illegal, we all have responsibility to challenge it outright, if it is not true. In the same vein, if the foreign media sources make mistakes in assigning titles to personalities in Ghana, we Ghanaians are duty bound to correct those mistakes and not reinforce them. Even if we do not want to correct the mistakes, we do not have to make big issues out of them. After all, the idea that the Ashantihene is King of Ghana is a matter of belief, but it is hollow in reality because it has no substance. Why should we waste precious energy arguing and maligning other traditional rulers who have no hand in those discussions?

Do we really think that all the people of Ghana are going to start believing that we now have a King of Ghana simply because we think it is so? We can put our message across and silence the rest of the people who think otherwise, but that does not make it true. Michael Servitudes (A medical doctor who was burnt to death by his old friends Martin Luther and John Calvin on the triumph of the Protestant Movement) said in defense of his belief …'To kill a man is not to prove a doctrine'.

In respect of Ghana, to silence all other people and make your message clear is no proof of truth. Our words do not become facts, and whether or not a king is better than another king in Ghana remains to be substantiated, and does not warrant us fighting each other to make such assumptions true.

Let our kings prove they are better in providing honest leadership and care for their people, including all Ghanaians. Only then would they (through the respect they carve for themselves) fulfill the criteria to be called KING OF GHANA. If the Queen of England cannot ensure peace and prosperity for her people, what makes her a good leader? And if she provides that leadership for only her people, why should an African be bothered about her importance except to ask the king of his community why he is not doing the same.

As stated earlier, this article is intended to provoke our thinking about more important things. Man's intellect of is too precious to be wasted on issues that don't better the lives of ordinary people. When the Japanese and Chinese are using reverse engineering to power their people into higher levels of industrial development, our Ghanaian engineers and scientist have not been able to master how to reproduce the salient parts of a tractor so that we can make tractors ourselves. More importantly, they have not been able to utilize the Neem or Mahogany tree to create a potent malaria drug. I wonder why we are so enthused with personality worship and seeing ourselves as being important or non-important.

It is disheartening to face the bleak reality that nearly fifty years after independence we are still discussing the importance of personalities rather than how to make tractors and/or stop malaria, which has in the past killed some of our 'important kings' whom we have actually now forgotten, due to the mere pressures of just surviving in a dilapidated country called Ghana. After all, no matter how important we are as humans, we are just unimportant particles trapped on a tiny planet called earth.

I hope God is listening, because this script is also a prayer for mother Ghana. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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