30.08.2022 Feature Article

Understanding The Paradoxes In Ghanaian Society

Understanding The Paradoxes In Ghanaian Society
30.08.2022 LISTEN

Many Ghanaian institutions, especially chieftaincy, are a “paradox” personified.

For when a person is fingered by the elders of a town or village to become their chief, he normally runs away to hide!

The operative word in that last sentence is “normally”. A person, who would run away rather than be enstooled as a chief, is usually a “normal” person. He knows that becoming a chief will bring him a lifestyle that he has seen and admired, but whichat iwould be enjoyed at a great cost to his personal liberty.

Eventually, though, he may allow himself to be “caught” and enstooled (if the people really want him to be their chief.)

Now, the interesting fact is that at the same time as the favourite heir to a stool might be trying to run away, some members of his own family (usually ambitious brothers or cousins) would be paying bribes to some kingmakers to influence them to give the stool to the bribe-giver!

In other words, the institution of chieftaincy contains -- sἑbe o tafrakyἑ -- elements of schizophrenia, no less. So, a few chiefs may have -- sἑbe o tafrakyἑ -- suffered, at one time or another, from a psychological conflict that obliged them, simultaneously, “to want it, but not to want it!”

Anticipating the confusion that this version of trauma can, subsequently, produce in the person who is put on a stool, our ancestors went to great lengths to offer such s person psychological support, on a continuing basis.

His drummers would frequently tell him in code to be eternally sagacious because:

Asaase trἑtrἑtrἑ ἑntrἑ kwa!

Yἑmmfrἑ wo ↄhene kwa

Ↄpanin kwa,

Ↄhen kwa,

Ↄpanin kwa!

(TRANSLATION: “The earth is wide, wide, wide; It’s not wide for nothing; We don’t call you a Chief for nothing; We don’t you an Elder for nothing!)

For good measure, the chief is also reminded that:

Wo ho baabi yἑ Odum,

Woho baabi yἑ Onyina

Woho baabi yἑ Fἑtἑfrἑ

Woho baabi yἑ Brↄfrἑ

Yἑtena wo so a

Na yἑto afↄ!

(TRANSLATION: Part of you is like the Odum tree (proper hardwood). Part of you is like the Onyina (composed of soft pith but thorny on the outside); Part of you is like the soft-soft Fἑtἑfrἑ, while part of you is like the fallen pawpaw stem That wets the bottom if sat upon!)

I submit that these two verses conjure for us, all the qualities and opposing weaknesses that can help a chief to try and “be all things to all men”; in much the same way that (in the English-speaking world) “justice” is said to be “blind”.

In either case, resort is made to the biological sciences to implant the view that the fabric of chieftaincy is rooted in biochemistry itself – the source of all life on Planet Earth.

How can mere humans cope with such contradictions that are innate in Nature, and thereby, doubly so in our genes?

That is why our Chiefs are not allowed, by custom, to speak in public but to pass everything through their official spokesman or Ↄkyeame. And, conversely, no person may address the Chief, as he sits in state, directly, but is required to first ask, “Ↄkyeame wↄ hↄ”? and only unburden himself of what he’s got to say, on being assured that the Ↄkyeame is all ears for him.

I have gone to great lengths to lay bare these verbal techniques, which are embedded in Akan culture, to call a halt to the unnecessary constitutional crisis that the Kumase Traditional Council, in the absence of Otumfoↄ Ↄsɛe Tutu The Second, is creating between his nation and Mother Ghana.

Yes, Asante is a Nation but at no time have I ever heard anyone, offered, sἑbe o tafrakyἑ, an ambassadorship or other important job, reject it on the grounds that he or she is an “Asante” and not a “Ghanaian.”

Similarly, all laws passed by the Parliament of Ghana apply, equally, in all parts of the Ghana that was given its instruments of statehood by the Government of the United Kingdom, on 6 March 1957.

That is why the Executive Director of the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), Professor Henry Kwasi Prempeh, has described the directive by the Kumasi Traditional Council to the Management of Oyerepa FM radio station to shut the station down, as amounting to an “abuse of power.”

Prof. Prempeh said on the NewsFile programme of JoyNews TV that even though the Kumase Traditional Council is clothed with powers to exercise authority within its jurisdiction, the move to halt the broadcasts of the station is not grounded in law.

The law Professor explained that customary laws are indeed part of the legitimate sources of law, as enshrined in the 1992 Constitution. He noted, however, that the implementation of such laws must be done in conformity with other relevant provisions of the Constitution, “to ensure harmonisation between customary powers and the authority of the state.”

He aded: *To actually arrogate to yourself, the power to basically overstep the constitutional limits, because you have considerable local support, I think, really borders on abuse of power, and I think we should not encourage it”.

But he also cautioned the

media, particularly the local FM stations, to be “circumspect” in their reportage, of events. Even though traditional authorities must not overstep their powers, there is the need for the media to also demonstrate professionalism and responsibility in its line of duty.

Prof Prempeh’s comments were made in the light of an order by the Kumasi Traditional Council on Thursday, 25 August 2022, directing Oyerepa FM to halt its operations. The order followed comments made on the station by Mr Akwasi Addai ‘Odike’. Speaking as a guest on the station’s political talk show, Mr Odike criticised the traditional chiefs in the Ashanti Region, for failing to combat galamsey in their areas. He accused the Chiefs of aiding those engaged in galamsey and looking on, unconcerned, while forests and water bodies were destroyed in their own communities

He also threatened to lead the youth to stage a “massive demonstration” against the chiefs, if the galamsey menace continued.

Subsequently, the Kumasi Traditional Council declared Odike’s statement to be a form of “rebellion against Asanteman” and “banished” him from setting foot at Manhyia.

Meanwhile, as if to suport Odike, but completely inocently, Mr George Mireku Duker, Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources and Member of Parliament for Tarkwa Nsuam, has given an indication of the high price that has to be paid to fight galamseyl.

According to the Minister, that fight almost cost him his Parliamentary seat. Speaking on the Joy News programme, Upfront, Mr. Mireku Duker revealed that the illegal miners ere making the fight very difficult

“Fighting galamsey is a continuous fight”, he disclosed. “After arresting one group, another comes in to continue . So you need to really get the people off the place before reclaiming the lands,” he said.

He added: “The illegal miners wait and start their activities at night, when the security operatives are away. We have now strategically asked the Navy Ifto intensify their patrol of the river bodies”.

Should this intractable problem be tolerated and someone be punished for calling on his Chiefs to lead the battle to end it?

If Nananom allow themselves to (sɛbe o tafrakyɛ) listen carefully to their own subjects, they will find that on this issue, they have shot themselves in the foot