In the Akan tradition swearing a great oath is a marked feature of court procedure. Employed as a way of bringing to the notice of a chief, for punishment of a wrong-doer, an offence that has been committed. An oath usually alludes to a misfortune or disaster of the past, which involved a considerable loss of life to the tribe.
In Akwapim, the main oath is called Wukuda ne Sokode and refers to the great loss by the Akwapims in a town called Sokode about a hundred years ago. The Great Oath of Ashanti is Kormante ne Memeneda. It refers to the great loss of lives and defeat of the Ashanti by the Fante in Kormante on a Saturday.
Most oaths refer to tragic events of a kind in the history of an organized group.
For the National Democratic Congress (NDC), “Sunyani-Memeneda ne FONKAR” might come to be their great oath. Party members who wish to declare or challenge truth and falsehood, could be compelled to swear Sunyani-Memeneda ne FONKAR in order to call executives to attention rather than the seizure of KVIPs, burning party offices or locking DCEs out of office.
The next seventeen months to December 2012 will determine whether or not the NDC will ingrain an oath as significant as this in their manifesto. There was no loss of life but the incertitude regarding JJ Rawlings' next game play creates a fall out that could cost them the next four or maybe more years.
Our society still believes that when individuals' actions conform to the norms and values of the society, the Paramount Stool waxes strong. There is abundance of crop and meat, and women are blessed with many children. On the other hand, when individuals depart from the traditional rules of behaviour they defile the stool that is, the values that the Paramount Stool stands for suffer; the vitality of the stool falls; and, plagues, draughts and famines break out and endanger the life of the nation. This belief, that every social action has an immediate utilitarian result, binds all the segments of the nation into a single moral corpus in which the various parts owe it to the whole to conform to the ideals enshrined in the national symbol.
Let me illustrate this.
When the Asantehene purifies and honours the Golden Stool in the Odwira and Adae festivals, he evokes, and reaffirms the Ashanti Nation's belief in, the ideals the observance of which is the condition of an ordered national life. As might be expected, the acts that most seriously injure the spiritual life of the nation and therefore defile the stool are those that infringe the basic principles of social organization: principles that regulate interactions between individuals and categories of individuals.
The key regulator is of course the Great Oath.
As a society that preaches respect of the “presidency” as a first shout, we have elevated the position of the President, a purely western type institution and made that position to acquire the status of our great chiefs.
Our chiefs are the connection between the spirit world and us. We depend on our chiefs to keep the moral compass pointing in the right direction, ensuring that we have a society organized on ethical lines, with respect and commitment to the whole. The Chiefs are custodians of the stool lands for the people and the unborn children, implying that they will by default be more committed to their lands. Of course it does not always work that way in the real world, which is also why our decentralization policy is such a challenge. DCEs are neither seen as the moderators of our civility, nor are they seen as preserving our communities, because their allegiance is directed toward the Western structure and not to our own communal development.
We have somehow extended this obligation of respect by the people to the President, Parliament and Institutional heads. The weak argument by politicians that the Presidency and civil heads MUST be respected, distorts the reverence we have for our Kings and Chiefs and confers on our leaders a right to assimilate authority through spiritual power without earning it.
Yet, where in our society the Omanhene can be questioned for taboo behaviour and can be removed from the stool for specific offences, our politicians have cloaked the President with shrouds from the BNI, National Security, the Police and the Attorney General. And Fear and Panic.
When Nana Konadu Rawlings challenged the sitting President, she disturbed the communal NDC order. Her boldness threatened an unforgiving establishment that was not ready to accept that the spiritually ordained President had committed a destooling offence of non-performance.
It caused an uproar. It was not seen as a popularity contest for the leader of a party. It became an affront to the deified Presidency we promote.
Sunyani-Memeneda ne FONKAR will write the history of the NDC party should President Mills not be re-elected. It will loom larger than all previous NDC in-fights and the casualty list of still living victims could be countless.