One step forward, two steps which way?
By: MAX ASSIMENG
For a long time now, the relationship between the institution of chieftaincy and the historical development of the country has been one of intricacy and concern.
Chieftaincy is generally touted as perhaps the most significant and enduring repository and representation of our customs and traditions. There appears to be much evidence to buttress such assertion. This is the reason why foreign visitors to Ghana seek to know why the institution still persists, and what it does for citizens of the country.
Currently, the foundations of Ghana’s cultural fabric are incessantly assailed through the vicissitudes of globalization, trade liberalization, and neo-cultural imperialism. In such situation of agony, the chief has been seen as the sentinel – and citadel-of what now remains as the intrinsic way of life of the people. In the absence of chieftaincy, a serious cultural alternative would surely be needed to keep the cultural embers of the country together?
Let us ignore for the moment, the unending chieftaincy disputes in several parts of the country. And let us ignore, again for the moment, the fact that the way some chiefs carry themselves about, may not be to too ennobling to the institution and its persuades.
The forging caveats notwithstanding, it is expected that when it comes to the task of institution, Nananom should champion the cause of this task as courageous and foresighted Nananom did in days gone by.
It was such Nananom who fought to preserve the territorial integrity, customs, land, and honour of respective native authorities and/or kingdoms of the country.
Where are you now, of Agyeman Prempeh I of Asante, Ofori Attah I of Odumasi-Krobo, Adelajah of Anlo etc. etc.?
In other words, Nananom are expected, fifty years into of nationhood, to do two things:
Firstly, to recall (and learn from) the heroic deeds of their illustrious forebears, some of whom are mentioned above, and,
Secondly, to demonstrate that, within the noble institution, there are courageous, fearless forces that can demonstrate how not to betray well considered aspirations on the altar of political expediency.
Luckily for the institution, chiefs in Ghana now count in their midst seasoned lawyers, accountants, physicians, engineers, etc. I do not know of any profession that is not represented in the institution.
Should I add that there are retired Brigadiers and Colonels? Incidentally, one of the critical qualifications for eligibility for nomination as a chief, is boldness, and with it candour and courage.
What is my worry? My worry relates to the virtually feeble – and almost “we don’t care” – manner in which Nananom appear to have accepted the appointment, by the present government, of a Minister for chieftaincy Affairs.
It is significant that on the assumption of office of the Kufuor government in January 2001, the government deemed it proper not have a Minister for the institution.
Article 270 (2b) of the 1992 Constitution clearly states that:
Parliament shall have no power to enact any law which in any way detracts or derogates from the honour and dignity of the institution of chieftaincy.
To many observers of the fortunes of the institution in Ghanaian history, one would have thought that the above quoted constitutional provision was the epitome of chieftaincy Triumphant.
It is true that it is not Parliament that has appointed a Minster to administer and oversee the affairs of Nananom. It is the Executive arm of the government that has historically turned out to be the most intrusive – and, generally, potentially and actually dangerous.
If we might be permitted an inverted analogy from the Sacred Writ:
Thou shalt not have a ministerial and control over the affairs of chiefs. Period!
Besides, one of the major features of the deepening of democracy, is the conscious and systematic rolling back of the arms of the central government in the day-today affairs of citizens.
Why can’t chiefs be trusted, and indeed encouraged, to run their own affairs? And what circumstances have now called for a Minister when, for about six years, there was none?
I raise the above questions against the background of two significant developments in contemporary chieftaincy discussions of which I am aware. These discussions are matters of public property which should have seen considerable progress by now.
The first development concerns the establishment, in 2001, of a Tripartite Committee to ensure effective and regular coordination on matters concerning the affairs of chiefs. This committee is made up of representatives of the National House of chiefs, members of Parliament, and the government.
The second development relates to recommendations of a high powered committee made up of prominent members of the National House of Chiefs standing committee, the government and some consultants.
(a) Nananom should be allowed and assisted to run their Houses of Chiefs and Traditional councils;
(b) The capacities of Nananom and their organizational structures should be enhanced logistically, financially, and organizationally to enable them carry our their mandated responsibilities; and
(c) The operational arrangements of the chieftaincy institution were to be restructured, so that the
National House of chiefs should become the principal hub of chieftaincy affairs, instead of the Chieftaincy Secretariat.
It is not clear what has happened to the two groundbreaking developments that I have alluded to above. But I should be pleasantly surprised if the impression were created that the appointment of a Minister would be the solution to Nananom’s problems.
Professor Assimeng is with the
The Ghanaian Times - Wednesday, November 7, 2007 Page: 7
University of Ghana, Legon.