The Chieftaincy as an institution has played and continues to play important role in Ghana however there are certain aspects of the institution that needs modernisation to conform to the ideals aspirations and desires of the people in this 21st Century.
One such tradition that needs modernising is the bare footedness of the servants who serve the chiefs, the paramount chiefs and the Kings in Ghana. In all civilised societies the appearance of a King's subjects speaks volume of the wealth, richness, power, quality of life and the level of development of the King, his subjects and his kingdom and how his throne has evolved over time. Unfortunately it is common to see servants walking barefooted in front of the Kings, their paramount chiefs and sub-chiefs during festivals, funerals, durbars and other occasions.
Although such practices have been handed to us by our forefathers, I strongly believe that they are not consistent with the needs, aspirations and development of the people and need changing. Such practices have been misrepresented in the media around the world especially in Europe and America to portray us as backward, savage, illiterate, and people who are out of touch with time. These practices bring down people instead of uplifting them. They make those involve in it loose face and respect instead of honour. The black race is insulted and ridiculed because of such practice that is why I am calling on Otumfo to consider reforming it. The Kings could prescribe special footwear to be made for their servants who serve them in their kingdoms instead of allowing them to walk barefooted often on heated earth surface. Such modifications will not only add colour and richness to the institution but will also demonstrate how ready we are as a people for this 21st century.
I do not think the wearing of footwear will take away the servant status of those who serve the King, his paramount chiefs and sub-chiefs. On the other hand the opinion usually expressed by people who come to visit us from Europe and America and who are not familiar with our culture, customs and tradition is that of backwardness. Not only is the bare footedness of servants backward, archaic and unprofessional but it is also degrading and demeaning to our chieftaincy as an institution, to the people involved and to our race as black people. Such practices are often the subject of bad press in Europe and America, and are part of the reason why we are often caricatured and stereotyped. Black people are looked down upon by rest of the human race around the world because of such archaic and slavery practices.
Related to the above is the practice where both children and adults usually young boys are made to sit on the bare floor, sometimes on a mat right in front of a chief when he is sitting in state. Such practice is also demeaning not only to those who are made to do it, but also their families and to our culture and traditions.
Another aspect of the chieftaincy that needs modernisation is the practice whereby servants of Chiefs carry stools in front of them while they journey to festivals, funerals, durbar and other occasions and gatherings. We know the stools and chairs are of paramount importance to the chieftaincy institution but allowing people to carry them in front of paramount chiefs and their sub-chiefs bring into play the memory of slavery, forced labour and the mistreatment of ones subjects. I do not believe the power and authority of a paramount chief is diminished if nobody carries a stool in front of him while journeying to a durbar. What prevents the stool carrier from taken the stool direct to where the chief is going to sit instead of carrying it in front of him and walking barefooted on a heated earth surface? Are we happy to degrade our fellow human beings in the name of tradition and culture?
Often those who are made to carry the stools, or made to sit on the floor and walk barefooted are not respected by society at all as they are often regarded almost as slaves, good for nothing, and are subjected to all kinds of cat callings and are given several nicknames because of the nature of the work they do and how they are perceived by society. They are regularly insulted, humiliated, and despised by the public. They are often illiterate, penniless, alcoholic and unemployed and are unable to maintain a family. Almost all of them are poor and are hardly able to provide for themselves and their family if they happen to have a family at all. Such practices are partly to be blamed for our lack of development and advancement.
It is important to note that any attempt to modify or stop the practice will be resisted vehemently by the conservatives who always resist change because old traditions always die hard but we must recognise that there is no culture or tradition that is not susceptible to change and we must begin to modify our chieftaincy institution especially the issues raised so that the chieftaincy can be inline with the desire and aspirations of the people. Otumfo being the Ruler with the biggest Kingdom in Ghana must spearhead such changes and begin to modernise for the sake of the institution and the people caught in the practice.
An institution exists to make the people prosperous and does not make them poor, serfs and almost close to slaves. The support a king enjoys from his servants depends on how he is able to marry their aspirations, their development and desire for change with tradition and custom. All monarchies are aware of the need to change with time and the chieftaincy institution in Ghana is no exception.
God Bless the Chieftaincy Institution and God Bless Ghana.
By Lord Aikins Adusei