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23.01.2020 Feature Article

Should We Begin A National Conversation About The Place Of Chiefs In Ghanaian Society In The Digital Age?

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One needs to make the point, at the onset of penning this piece, that on a purely human level, one respects and admires many traditional rulers in Ghana. One also needs to make the point that it is often said in Ghana that only fools don't change their minds. Fair enough.

One can't help but recall that in 2012, Chiefs, who were members of the Akyem Abuakwa State Council, issued a statement reiteratIng their view that turning the Atewa Forest Reserve into a national park, had their full backing, and was the best option going forward, in their opinion.

Yet, today, some of them are championing the plan to destroy the Atewa Forest Reserve, by mining it's bauxite deposits. How curious. Consequently, and in light of that 2012 joint statement issued by Chiefs of the Akyem Abuakwa State Council, there is a question we must all now ponder over.

The question is: What happened between 2012 and 2020, which has led to this odd and sudden change of mind?

Or is it the case that this new statement is fake news - since some of us don't doubt the Okyenhene's commitment to protecting Okyeman's natural heritage: which is why our motto for environmental conservation is, "Okyenman, yen enma, ensei da!"?

If true, then it is a most unfortunate development. It is also unfortunate that the Concerned Citizens of the ATEWA Landscape demonstrators, campaigning openly by hitting the streets, in a last-ditch-effort to get Ghana's hard-of-hearing government to rescind the unfortunate decision to mine bauxite in the reserve, are referred to as "non-indigenes" by the said Akyem Abuakwa Chiefs. How come?

The legal definition 'Ghanaian citizen', trumps the tribalistic-codewords 'indigenes' and 'non-indigenes''. Always. Anytime. Everywhere. Nationwide. Full stop. The time has come for Chiefs in Ghana to understand clearly that Ghanaian citizens don't have to hail from any particular part of the landmass of the sovereign territory of the Republic of Ghana to take an active interest in what goes on there, and demonstrate in the streets as a matter of priniciple.

That right is non-negotiable. And there is nought that any Chief in this country can do about the exercising of that particular right of the ordinary people in the Republic of Ghana, through public street demonstrations. Period.

Such arrogance makes one recall how India's nationalist leaders dealt with their nation's Maharajahs, many of whom, incidentally, in India's pre-colonial era, were far more significant historical figures than Chiefs in pre-colonial Ghana, bar none, ever were.

Yet, unlike Ghana's nationalist leaders, India's nationalist leaders, moved rapidly to neutralise the power and influence of India's Maharajas, because they understood clearly that inherited privilege, is the greatest enemy of meritocracy.

They therefore moved swiftly to strip the Maharajahs of all their powers, and made them completely irrelevant in the scheme of things, in modern India. Today, India is a global power, which has successfully lifted tens of millions of its citizens, out of poverty.

Meanwhile, in the name of our rich-cultural-heritage, we, on the other hand, have held on to the Chieftaincy institution - a bastion of tribalism: from the ramparts of which tribal-supremacists venture forth to lord it over their fellow humans. "Utter foolishness for an aspirational people to keep retaining such a Dark-Ages-Institution, without radically reforming it, Kofi!" to quote an old fogey I know.

Consequently, and, in sharp contrast to India's place in the comity of technologically advanced nations, we are still a relatively backward (if in doubt, please check the number of rural communities in which according to protesting residents, public lavatories are major public health risks - something so basic for human dignity) and highly-indebted nation, in which vested interests, not the nation's best interests, determine which policies are implemented, in a society that looks on as virtually enslaved human beings, carry their fellow humans, on their heads, in palanquins, in the name of traditional culture. Monstrous. Abominable. Unpardonable. No question.

Finally, if it is actually true that this incredibly foolish and arrogant statement comes from some of the Chiefs in Akyem Abuakwa, then, clearly, if we are unwilling to radically reform it, then the time has definitely come for us to seriously consider finally ridding ourselves of this atavistic-millstone around Mother Ghana's neck. Haaba.

In our democracy, there can be no sacred cows, oooo, Massa. Yoooo... We must start a national conversation about the place of Chiefs in Ghanaian society in the digital age. Immediately. Yooooo... Hmmm, Oman Ghana eyeasem ooooo - asem kesie ebeba debi ankasa !

Kofi Thompson
Kofi Thompson, © 2020

The author has 495 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: KofiThompson

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