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29.10.2007 Feature Article

Further Opening the Culture for Progress

As Ghanaians come to grip with their development process, there are increasing dialogues among themselves with their culture, for long suppressed by colonialism and their elites. From governmental to non-governmental organizations, from President John Kufour to policy-makers and bureaucrats, there are increasing discussions of the culture in relation to Ghanaians' progress. While President Kufour calls for science based culture, Mr. Alex Sefar Twefour, director of Centre for National Culture, suggests the abolition of cultural practices that hinder Ghana's progress. And Alhaji Mustapha Ali Idris, Northern Regional Minister, has given a new insight as to why there is “high illiteracy rate” in the northern regions: “some of the traditional beliefs and practices of the people,” especially “infant betrothal and child labour.”

However, across Ghana, Ghanaians now talk freely, openly and critically about female genital mutilation and health; overbearing spiritualists to the detriment of reasoning; witchcraft and rationality; human/ritual sacrifice and human rights; culturally-induced violence against women; culturally entangled land tenure system against prospects for bank credits; a neo-liberal banking system that doesn't consider indigenous banking and financial values; over 70% informal economic sector that isn't considered when broader national development planning is being undertaken; superstition under increasing threats from emerging scientific thinking; policy-makers and bureaucrats who think outside traditional norms and values; scientific based culture instead of superstition based one; among others.

But resolving the inhibitions within the culture come in all sorts of ways, as Ghanaians grapple with the complicated implications of the culture in their progress, sometimes needing international cooperation and sometimes some Ghanaian who don't understand what is going on ask shocking questions about the very culture that sustain them. Some people wrote surprisingly at, “Why discuss all these cultural stuff? What is wrong with the culture? Why are these people talking about witchcraft and female genital mutilation? What is wrong them? Is there witchcraft in Ghana? Why don't you discuss something else?” It is this climate of reasoning and conviction, sometimes misunderstanding, that the Accra-based government-owned “Daily Graphic” and the privately-owned “Joy FM” critically reported that one Kweku Badu, a 22-year-old man resident at Agona Duakwa in Ghana's Central Region purportedly attempted to ritually kill (or sacrifice) his 2-year-old daughter for instant money by taking her to a fetish shrine at Kwasi Amoakwa village for the ritual sacrifice.

As with Daily Graphic and Joy FM using their medium to help refine certain inhibiting cultural values, the Ghana Police Service too is critically involved. By the grace of reason Badu couldn't sacrifice his daughter for instant money. Having informed the police about Badu's murderous intensions and preparations made with the police for his arrest upon bringing his daughter to the shrine for sacrifice, the fetish priest, Okomfo Agesu, part of the growing enlightened traditional spiritualists, waited for Badu. Badu was arrested when he brought his daughter to the shrine to be killed for quick money. Police say Badu would be prosecuted and charged with conspiracy to commit murder. What is significant here is that years ago you will not hear a fetish priest working with the police to expose a potentially lucrative client for ritual sacrifices. This again shows the collaborative nature of the attempts to reconfigure Ghana's progress via cultural refinement in a piecemeal nature, and not any exaggerated, grand, and confusing proposal of yesteryears.

If the Ghana Police Service could work with traditional fetish priests to arrest those appropriating the inhibitions within the culture, as part of the broader attempts to refine the hindrances within the culture, some of these attempts to refine the cultural inhibitions could come from globalization. In a cooperative venture between the Nigerian Police Force and the Ghana Police Service worked, as the Daily Graphic reported, to abort an attempted ritual murder of a pregnant Ghanaian woman in Lagos, Nigeria. More shocking and influenced deeply by the negative aspects of the culture, Kwabena Boateng tricked his girlfriend, Abena Dansowaa, 22, to Lagos to be sold for ritual sacrifice but was saved by the Nigerian police and INTERPOL upon tip-off.

Aside from these exemplary feats by ordinary Ghanaians and their institutions to free themselves from certain inhibitions within the culture, there are increasing attempts to float a new enlightened discussion of the culture for progress - Alhaji Mustapha Ali Idris and Mr. Alex Sefar Twefour, once again, come to mind. The campaigns to refine the inhibitions within the culture are Ghana-wide: simultaneously while Alhaji Idris was speaking at Daire, Northern Region, Mr. Twefour was doing same in Accra, in the south - they were basically saying the same thing: “How to refine inhibitions within the culture for progress.” In Alhaji Idris we learn that the northern regions of Ghana, the poorest areas, part of the reason for their disturbing poor state of affairs, aside from remarkable central government efforts over the years, includes certain cultural practices – “infant betrothal and child labour.” In Mr. Twefour, the discussions of the inhibitions within the culture expand to the entanglement of Ghanaians' land tenure system and the degree of the ability of traditional Ghanaians to use lands for bank credits for development. “In certain tribes women are not allowed to own lands, irrespective of whether these women are capable of developing the land or not,” Mr. Twefour revealed unprogressively.

Praiseworthy is the work by the Ghanaian mass media such as JoyFM, Daily Graphic, Ghanaian Times, The Statesman, The Ghanaian Chronicle, Public Agenda, Crusading Guide, VideFM, and, among others, in helping to educate the public about the inhibitions within the culture and the need to refine them and use the good parts for policy-making. Equally, in Alhaji Idris, Ghanaian opinion formers can learn a new strategy. Alhaji Idris advised students to reach out to the people, especially the large majority of the rural folks where much of the cultural troubles are prominent, and educate them about the inhibiting traditional beliefs and practices and promote traditional cultural virtues of peace, patience, understanding and tolerance.

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong
Kofi Akosah-Sarpong, © 2007

This author has authored 338 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: KofiAkosahSarpong

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