I was both astounded and infuriated when on Tuesday, February 24, 2009, I read on Modernghana.com — the story was attributed to the Daily Guide's Morgan Owusu and titled “Chief Leads Attack On NPP Girl” — that Nana Baffour Akwasi Bosomprah, the Paramount Chief of Goaso Traditional Area, had ordered his minions to assault one Selassie Kartey, a purported National Patriotic Party (NPP) employee, simply because this 28-year-old lady had failed to honor Nana Bosomprah with the traditional obeisance reserved for such megalomaniacal and flamboyant traditional rulers. If this incident does not elicit absolute revulsion and astonishment from the reader, then I doubt what will, for this reported assault is at once a gross violation of Selassie Kartey's rights as a human being and a criminal act perpetrated by Nana Bosomprah and his deluded epigones, and these men ought to be hauled into court to defend their reprehensible act.
Now, this writer is not against the institution of chieftaincy per se — he has written several rejoinders in support of said institution, seeing that it is a repository of the nation's history, mores and customs, which ought to be preserved against the backdrop of other influences in modern society — but to assume, even for one minute, that this writer will overlook, or possibly condone, any transgressions by chieftains is a gross understatement. I am also not against honoring our chieftains with whatever modes of obeisance are peculiar to each geographical area of the country, but what I will unequivocally and readily condemn is a chieftain coercing a subject into rendering any such obeisance.
Selassie Kartey's poignant story reminds me of the comical behavior of one Hohoe, Volta Region, sub-chief in the early 1980s. According to my source, this fussy sub-chief was in such dire need of recognition by locals and outsiders alike, that he always insisted on his assistants introducing him to anyone unfortunate enough to run into the sub-chief's entourage. In fact, the sub-chief's hushed refrain in Ewe was always this: “Dem fie,” to wit, “Introduce me ….” One could not ask for a more asinine and melodramatic situation than that! Perhaps Nana Bosomprah is no different in his attention-seeking!
Selassie Kartey's story is one that portends a future clash between traditionalists, on the one hand, who believe that the institution of chieftaincy needs no modernization, and contemporary scholars, on the other hand, who believe that the nation's cultures and mores — vested primarily in our chieftains — need to be modernized to reflect societal changes. What is insidious about the behavior of Nana Bosomprah and his apparatchiks is that it was carried out in Gestapo-brutality fashion, with little regard for the victim or the law. When did our Houses of Chiefs become violent fiefdoms? When did our chieftains become the progenitors of hoodlumism and other vices that are typically associated with scofflaws? Is it not paradoxical that most of our chieftains, by virtue of their superior education, should know better and treat their constituents with respect and yet do the opposite? Nana Bosomprah's behavior may be a good topic for psychoanalysts trying to determine how a man, so desperate for recognition, would resort to cruelty to exact it!
“[A] medical report signed by George Kunyanga, a Medical Assistant at the Goaso Government Hospital, [revealed that] Selassie Kartey [had] sustained a lesion on the right thigh and abrasion on the left hand as a result of the assault” (Daily Guide, as reported by www.modernghana.com, 2009). As if the beatings meted out to Selassie Kartey were not enough, the report further revealed that the local police at Goaso had initially refused to allow the victim to make a formal plaint with the law enforcement outfit, positing instead that the victim needed to go bring her mother! How on earth would a 28-year-old woman be required to bring her mother to file a plaint, as though she were a minor? And why would mother and daughter be locked up once they arrived at the police station and later released without any charges being brought against them? These grandstanding and obnoxious acts by proxies of the Government of Ghana have gone on for so long that many citizens simply look the other way even as their rights are being trampled upon by others!
With her impecuniousness a stark reality and a serious disadvantage, all that Madam Abena Darkowaa, Selassie Kartey's mother, could do was report the matter to the Brong Ahafo Regional House of Chiefs, but I am willing to predict that the case file will go missing in a fortnight or so! Of course, while Nana Bosomprah admitted to a reporter that there was, indeed, a confrontation with the victim, he denied, as expected, that it was on his orders that the innocent victim was flattened into pulp. Perhaps, envisaging the reactions of Ghanaians to his cruelty, Nana Bosomprah would go on the offensive with a preemptive statement, asserting that his action was in line with enforcing a curfew for the town's juveniles! Whew!
The truth of the matter is that until Ghanaians realize that the spate of democracy they are enjoying presently — this system of governance has derivatives such as the rule of law, classlessness, freedom of expression, et cetera — cannot be permanently maintained until there is equality for all in the eyes of the law, the rich will continue to both stamp on the poor and the law. Doing nothing even while the rich and the powerful trample upon the impecunious and the nonentity only makes a caricature of our democracy. If we are to take our nation back from hoodlums in Armani suits in high places, we must fight for the protection of civil liberties enshrined in the Constitution. Change is hard to effect — the impious in authority will not readily yield their capacity to circumvent the law. But change we can effect if we work assiduously through the law courts, as well as via pro bono legal services for those who cannot afford their own attorneys. Sometimes, the joy of unapologetically pursuing the truth and making sure that everyone is held to the same standards can provide greater satisfaction that wads of cash.
I wish to throw a challenge to pro bono lawyers in Ghana: Please take Selassie Kartey's case and sue Nana Bosomprah and his legion of brutes for bodily harm and the other relevant charges for which the victim could receive compensation. The time has come for Ghanaians to reject the desecration of their basic rights by a privileged few, irrespective of where these offenses emanate, for no one is above the law!
The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, holds a master's degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at [email protected]
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