Don’t Cheapen Christianity, Mr. President!
There is absolutely nothing wrong for President John Evans Atta-Mills to invite the leadership of the Christian Council of Ghana to his Osu-Castle office in order to broach matters of conscience and ethics. However, his rather facile and at once brazen attempt to get the established Christian Church of Ghana to institute an annual week of prayer flagrantly violates his constitutional role as President of the august Republic of Ghana (See “National Prayer Day: Prez Seeks Support of Clergy” MyJoyOnline.com 1/30/10).
And on the preceding score, of course, the reference is to the time-honored constitutional tenet, or principle, of the Separation of Church and State. It also appears that the President is mischievously attempting to play on the emotions of the Ghanaian Christian majority populace. It is also rather strange that knowing fully well that the font of modern Christianity is Israel – most notably the Israeli cities and towns of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth – the President, during his meeting with the Christian church leaders, had not productively suggested that his government of the so-called National Democratic Congress (NDC) would be prepared to sponsor an annual pilgrimage of Ghanaian Christians to the Holy Land, beginning in March of this year, when another week of National Prayer and Thanksgiving is scheduled for the Independence Square.
Or perhaps the former law professor of the University of Ghana supposes that simply corralling the leadership of the mega Ghanaian Christian community for prayer rituals every year is sufficient enough to constitute a realistic substitute for the kind of esoteric and transformative experience apt to be gained by an actual visit to the Holy Land.
We register the preceding plaint because just late last year, the NDC government threw massive financial and other material resources behind Ghanaian Muslims embarking on the Hajj, at about exactly the same time that the Atta-Mills administration was bitterly complaining about the government of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) having bequeathed Ghanaians an unprecedented budgetary deficit.
We also vividly recall the previous year, in the heat of the 2008 presidential campaign, when the NDC attempted to luridly politicize a confusion that arose over planning glitches in the Hajj among the leadership of the Ghanaian Muslim community. Then also, we breathtakingly witnessed the Olympian acrobatics performed, more notoriously by the Rawlings-chaperoned NDC, to curry favor with the Ghanaian Muslim community.
What is intriguing in all this, though, is the fact that in calling for the permanent institutionalization of an annual Christian week of prayer, President Atta-Mills is merely borrowing a page from the rulebook of the brutally assassinated General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, former Ghanaian head-of-state and junta head of both the National Redemption Council (NRC) and the Supreme Military Council I (SMC I). And not surprisingly, the prayer venue of the Independence Square, we must observe in passing, also remains pretty much the same.
We must also wistfully hasten to add the grim fact that being prayerful did not save the noggins of the Atwima-Trabuom native (I personally met Opanyin Kutu, the elder Mr. Acheampong, shortly after his son's execution) when President Atta-Mills' own former boss and mentor decided that, indeed, the professionally dishonored Mr. I. K. Acheampong was unarguably the most corrupt leader to have emerged on the postcolonial Ghanaian landscape. We must also add that just as President Atta-Mills is widely known to have his Rev. T. B. Joshua, then-General Acheampong was also known to have his Rev. Love.
In other words, our convicted contention here is that the President would do himself and the Ghanaian people who crowned him their premier far better service by studiously concentrating his efforts on the momentous affairs of the electorate, rather than impishly presuming to distract them by acting ultra vires. The President also needs to bear in mind that tired Akan dictum regarding punitive equity: “Abaa a yede bo Baah no, eno ara na yede bo Takyi,” which loosely translates as: “The same whip that is used in whipping Baah may also be used in whipping Takyi in turn.”
To be certain, the most appropriate moment for President Atta-Mills to have called for a national Christian week of prayer was just before he flagrantly breached his constitutional trust and authority by unilaterally appointing a 9-member Constitutional Review Commission, with a whopping budget of $ 3 million, to go about the business of attempting to revise Ghana's Fourth-Republican Constitution over and above the heads of the members of our National Assembly. In sum, perhaps somebody ought to remind President Atta-Mills of the fact that for those of us staunch believers in Christian precepts and tenets, prayer is not something one undertakes as a lark or hobby, after real and serious work has been done.
On the question of the government facilitating the permanent institutionalization of an annual Christian pilgrimage to Jerusalem, as well as elsewhere in the Holy Land, we firmly believe that such a move will be no crippling burden at all, since on the eve of the final soccer match between Ghana and Egypt at the African Nations Cup, hosted by Angola, the Atta-Mills government announced that it was flying in a 200-person cheering squad to back up the national team, the Black Stars, in their quest for the golden fleece.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI), the pro-democracy think tank, and the author of 21 books, including “Ama Sefa” (iUniverse.com, 2005). E-mail: [email protected]
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