The Most Reverend (Emeritus) Akwasi Sarpong, the immediate-past Metropolitan Catholic Archbishop of Kumasi, spoke for all Ghanaians, when he asked traditional leaders to re-examine their roles in the socio-economic development of the country.
Archbishop Sarpong, launching a programme of activities to mark the 10th anniversary of the enthronement of the Asantehene, Osei Tutu II, noted that "apart from a chief serving as mediator between the living and the dead, he is also to protect people from aggressors as well as epitomize culture".
The interest of the Times in the Archbishop's comments begins from the very occasion on which he was speaking and the personality the anniversary of whose reign he launched. We are referring to Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the king whose inspirational leadership has done a lot to lift the image of the chieftaincy institution.
The likes of him, the Okyehene, the Agbogbomefia of Asogli, Togbe Afede, Nana Kobina Nketsia V, among others, have redefined chieftaincy. It is not just their high academic background: it is the interplay of many factors manifesting in their willingness to be used by their creator to lead their generation into greatness.
At the appropriate time, we shall return to pay homage to Otumfuo Osei Tutu II. For now, we only wish to use the success of the Otumfuo Education Fund which he launched just after his enthronement, to point out to all other traditional rulers that the reason for their being on their thrones is the welfare of the people. Mention should also be made of the environmental programmes being pursued by the Okyehene, and the progressive economic projects, such as the Asogli Power Project being pursued by Togbe Afede.
Chiefs, particularly paramount chiefs, are heads of state in their own right. A traditional area progresses or retrogresses depending on who is on the throne. Many of them have recognised that the most effective mix is the marriage of the traditional and the contemporary; the ancient and the modern. Together with their elders and queen mothers, and in collaboration with civil leadership in government, chiefs can make all the difference between a thriving, progressive community and a dying one.
To be fair to those other chiefs who are unable to make their mark, it should be recognised that the two enemies of progress have been the many chieftaincy disputes and the over-ambition of a few people in the traditional areas who, by virtue of their wealth, mostly ill-gotten, are determined to ascend the throne by all means and at all cost. This is the bane of chieftaincy in Ghana. There are a number of flash-points in the country that owe their origin and intensity to petty rivalry on the part of contenders to stools and skins. Instances that come to mind include the Dagbon crisis and the Anlo chieftaincy.
Regarding what the Emeritus Archbishop said, about some chiefs turning out to be oppressive arid unbearable, the least said about it the better. Suffice it to mention that studies have pointed out that most invariably, those chiefs who become terrorists are those least likely to be able to point to physical progress in their communities: all their time is spent on petty litigation meant to show where power lies.
The Times urges traditional leaders to embrace the wisdom in the Archbishop's admonition by purging the sacred chieftaincy institution of negative practices.
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