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Opinions of Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Columnist: Dugbazah, Mawuetornam Apostle

Ghana’s Chieftaincy Debate (Part 3)

The Injustices of Chieftaincy as an Institution My last piece on chieftaincy addressed some of the accusations that are leveled against this African leadership framework. In this final piece I will try to expose some of the double standards and flawed perspectives used in judging chieftaincy.

Chieftaincy’s Questionable or Backward Practices: Trokosi is sometimes the reference point of those who seek to defame African chieftaincy. Having been blinded by a deep sense of hatred for the chieftaincy institution, these individuals may not have realised how instrumental some traditional chiefs of E?enyigba (Evheland) were in abolishing trokosi.

In the case of some chiefs, trokosi as a practice predated their occupying the stool on which they sit. We must therefore interpret the trokosi case against chieftaincy (in the name of outmoded or “bad” tradition) using more just considerations; first, not all chiefs engage in trokosi related activity. Secondly, neither do all chiefs support it. It is also worth mentioning that in the case of E?e chiefs, they are generally not required to oblige all d?konuwo (customs) that are practiced in their local areas. In other words E?e fiawo (male polity heads) are, under modern developments in the chieftaincy institution, permitted to opt out of practices that may conflict with their personal spiritual or other beliefs.

Let me reiterate the meat of the preceding argument in the context of the brand of European imported “democracy” that is currently being practiced in various parts of Africa. You see, just as the President of a Republic may abhor corruption, one may nonetheless, find that there are corrupt associates in his or her government, as well as nation at large. Again, a President may abhor practices of the occult even though members of his or her government and nation engage in such practices. Likewise there are E?e Togbes who do not see eye-to-eye with some of the traditions and beliefs that groups and secret religious societies among their people hold. In some cases our chiefs have addressed these issues with their people. This does not mean that groups involved will comply with the views or recommendations of their nunolawo and fiagãwo (male polity heads). Things are very similar in those grey areas of governance where there is limited enforcement of norms by the executive branch of government in Ghana’s modern democraZY.

The previous realities I have described should provide ample evidence that some Ghanaians are without understanding, tact or facts in their writings on chieftaincy. If they are honest men and women, they will investigate, or cease from their unfounded statements about chieftaincy. When analysing chieftaincy as an institution, we should be circumspect to divorce the ideals of the institution (relative to the nation in question) from the failures and shortcomings of the institution’s actors. Otherwise, room is left for agents of western bigotry to work wonders in further maligning African governance institutions and using this as a propaganda platform to promote policy that can culminate in the quiet theft of assets like lands that belong to future generations.

As you and I know, when there is confusion in Africa, the west’s media propaganda machinery begins to offer overtime pay to its staff. Just kidding. However, you should understand that the west mostly uses a predetermined angle of vilification to portray African descendant leaders that do not tow the line of its white supremacist and supposed “freedom and liberty” viewpoint. This angle of vilification is rooted in terminologies like African “dictator”, “warlord” and “military ruler”, along with the type of negatively flavoured cinematography that usually accompanies reports, documentaries and other films on Africa. These labels form an integral part of a larger “afro-pessimist” angle that is enforced by the western media.

Let me continue by stating that modern democracy’s actors are also frequently guilty of certain questionable practices. Why have they not been brought up in conjunction with the Ghana chieftaincy debate? Maybe the anti-chieftaincy camp is blind? Maybe they cannot discern. Well, since their tongues have been silent on this matter, let nukopla (seer) “shine” the eyes of them whose eyes are dim with Europe inspired bias. The Hidden Evils of Democracy: Democratically elected officials are perhaps more guilty of certain questionable or backward practices than African chieftains. I say “perhaps” because democratic election largely leaves the spiritual and moral practices of leaders unexamined and therefore unscrutinised in favour of cosmetic qualifications like degrees (MA and PhD) from a university or years of work experience in the (often corrupt) western multinational corporation.

Since the moral practices and the spiritual dispositions of elected officials often go unexamined, citizens of republics usually end up finding out at the last minute that some of their idealised and idolised political candidates are simply a bevy of fibbers and in some cases, blatantly evil and hypocritical men and women.

The example of the September 11 attack in the US, where certain American political leaders and business people conspired to create the conditions for shedding blood in conjunction with “ritual” murder should be enough evidence (for the discerning) that the occurrence of what Africans would call ritual killings is not exclusive to traditional African chieftaincy. Yes, ay?vu (E?e language term: European) is guilty of “akpasu” (E?e language term: a type of sorcery used for monetary gain) too. This and other occult related practices happen in the western world (probably) more than you or the average Ghanaian would care to think. I have chosen to leave out writing about the close association of British-descendant politicians with the well known free mason societies of both England and America.

In the case of America, as you can see, many are yet to figure out that ritual murder was the motive behind the planting of bombs in the World Trade Center. Many are the blind who still believe that it was a plane crash that caused the damages which building inspections have proven that bombs (planted internally) caused. Some are even of the belief that September 11 actually had something to do with Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaida. For the record, let it be recalled that North America’s building tradition requires that architectural specifications (written documents, which I just so happen to prepare as part of my communications profession) accompany technical drawings for any structure that goes up (especially skyscrapers).

So what are the details of the September 11 blast based on architectural specifications of the World Trade Center? Ghana’s ante-chieftaincy camp should find out. In time, the result may be that they will learn just how evil elected officials of modern democratic systems can be. This evil applies also to ay?vu who some love to glorify as kpoð??u gbagb? að? (E?e language term: a proper example), without having critically made him and his culture a study.

Unfortunately, the exclusion of, and cosmetic approach to viewing the “inspirational” and “spiritual” dimension of modern democracy works to create the opportunity for elected officials to hide the hocus-pocus, lies and sorcery that they engage in from public view. Despite this, some are watching.

Ritual killing and foul play is common to modern democratic politics. However, it takes the discerning eye to see this. To add, in regards to those who used “Kofi Kyintoh” to stir up biases against the chieftaincy institution, let me say that I seem to recall from a Ghanaian tabloid daily (Fun Time) that the 80s case of Kofi Kyintoh—where a Ghanaian youth was beheaded and his body parts sold in the locality of Sefwi-Bekwai, Western region—was not related to any activities of chiefs. Rather, the story was related to what Akan culture calls “sika aduro” (money charm or wealth juju).

I also seem to recall that the story of Kofi Kyintoh identified one of the conspirators in the murder as an uncle of the boy. I am therefore wondering how and why some (like Esi Begyina) dragged chieftaincy into that over 20-year-old case. Whether this is a dishonest attempt by Esi Begyina to misbrand chieftaincy or I am wrong in my recollections of the Kofi Kyintoh story, we live to see. If I am correct, then this will partly buttress my thesis that you and others like Nii Bannerman have ulterior motives for defaming chieftaincy. I am yet to prove that this “evil” is rooted in the “love” or service of money, the basis of so much that western culture offers and has inspired in African societies of today.

Absence of Meritocracy in Chieftaincy Institutions: If there were ever a bogus claim about Ghanaian chieftaincy and African chieftaincy in general, then the idea that chieftaincy is void of meritocracy is perhaps the most bogus.

The writings of Nii Bannerman suggest that perhaps he is largely ignorant of meritocracy in indigenous African governance systems. Let me illustrate. Among E?es for example, those who qualified to use the title Togbe, were in old times expected to know and be able to recall the histories and customs of their people. These histories and customs played a role in things like national defence, wealth distribution, land management and family and lineage governance.

In fact, it is based on this knowledge that many of the migration stories of E?es and other groups like the Ga-Adangme were written down and can be found in some of the African history textbooks of today. If I am to refer to just national defence as an area where meritocracy counts, I could pose this question. Could any of the academy trained elected politicians of Ghana effectively defend the peoples of Ghana from foreign attack? How would they do it, since, for the most part, their knowledge of defence comes from nations that have a proven track record of political, economic and judicial wickedness towards African peoples.

Let me go further. Could any of these academy trained elected officials apply E?e war formation strategies in today’s world if it ever happened that, God forbid, segments of the Republic of Ghana came under attack? In the larger Ghanaian nation state context, would any of these academy trained types even risk their lives to defend the republic if it came under some form of external attack? I truly wonder if they could even properly mobilise the national armed forces. This is especially considering that they cannot even effectively defend the economic interests of their nationals, how much more defence proper?

I have discussed meritocracy with respect to E?e chieftaincy. Now let me proceed to deal with the intrusion of the west’s “false” terms of merit into the meritocracy of indigenous African government.

I already noted in Part 2 of this series that this was the substance of Europe’s introduction of warrant chiefs into the African governance equation during European occupation of Africa. This intrusion of the west’s idea of merit (through the appointment of stooges) now comes in the form of “academy” educated Africans who, without relevant merit, seek to be given the reigns of power in various spheres of African governance affairs because of their…foreign qualifications? As you can see, I have not even touched on the occurrence of regime-change operations by western governments like Britain and US during their many fishing expeditions for Africa based resources. But suffice it to say that regime-change is simply an extension of the tradition of Europe’s installing warrant chiefs among African societies and nations.

It is rather unfortunate that some university educated Ghanaians, after spending a few years in the west being funded by ay?vu’s “higher” education establishment, return home with the expectation that they merit a place in land management; chieftaincy is a land management institution. You may want to explain to the traditional governance oriented Ghanaians and other Africans how they know whether you can be trusted with their community resources. And while you are at it, help them understand where your “meritocracy” (I mean your degrees and work experience) comes in as relevant qualification to handle such a task.

After all, experience informs us that Africans of the western higher educated classes often come home from ablotsi (overseas) broke and posing as “wealthy”, even though they are really no more than credit card wielding, bank-line-of-credit, “successes”? Their credit cards and loans prove that they have learned to live on debt as the story goes in the west. For this class, land could be a quick way to riches by replicating the real estate and mortgage madness of the western world they are used to. It takes real understanding and wisdom to create wealth outside of the western debt system. And so because many of Africa’s foreign university educated elites have been unable to do this, we can say that according to African standards, they do not qualify to lead or even control land resources. Simply put, this class cannot be trusted with African land resources because they lack the relevant qualifications.

Again, how do locals in the rural areas know that this camp with western merit can be trusted with African land resources? Another question is how can they lead or even rule over a people whose customs and traditions of merit they have no concept of or as is sometimes the case, they have no regard for? Or don’t they think that Africa’s indigenous traditions of how one achieves merit—knowing, understanding and learning to apply African wisdom and knowledge systems—are valid? Hopefully the African continent still has chiefs who merit the positions they hold according to what their cultures consider important.

At this stage I would like to request that Nii Bannerman qualify for readers what he and others who share his views (on chieftaincy) really mean by meritocracy. Also, will this class which loves to engage in the “compare and contrast” form of debate—where Europe or even North America is compared to Africa in a mostly skewed and hideous fashion—accept that unelected senators in Canada’s government machinery could very well, also fall into the category of the meritoriously unqualified (since they are not elected to office)? This is of course if your idea of “meritocracy” is rooted in “election” as opposed to royal or priestly birth or appointment. Let us see what this class has to say about the case of Canadian senators.

There are other aspects of merit associated with Ghanaian chieftaincy. One of them is training in human communications: the art of listening and speaking proverbially so as to develop the habit of basing decision-making on time tested knowledge as opposed to the subjective and often inconclusive “research” and “academic studies” that are the substance of the historically racist European university institutions. I am talking about the situation where after receiving huge sums of tax dollars in the form of grants, or receiving corporate sponsorships, professors churn out volumes that either facilitate evil, lies, and chaos or just try to tell us something that we already know. Do the many studies that tell us milk is good for us today, and the opposite tomorrow, ring a bell? I did not need to read this type of academic juju to know the golden adage of “everything in moderation” in the case of studies on whether milk is good for me or not.

Let me move on to matters dealing with what I sometimes refer to as “the personality factor” of leadership in my writings. As empirical people of the sixth millennium (according to the ancient Hebrew calendar), we may want to solicit the participation of an African chief and a democratically elected official. The occasion? A listening contest of course. We might learn a great deal about the listening deficiencies of elected officials when compared to hereditary chiefs in the modern republic of Ghana.

There are also various forms of “spiritual” training associated with grooming the demeanor of a chief. This is done in order to enable the chief to develop his ability to discern motives and intentions of those he comes into contact with. Does anyone remember the IFC loan fiasco? Would some of Ghana’s chiefs have fallen for the same bogus loan scam that the Kufuor government fell for? I wonder.

Among the E?e, in old times, the merits of what could be called “spiritual training”, having been attained to, suggested that a person was mentally ready to deal with the psychological implications of being a chief (such as threats on his life, pressures to pervert justice, or how to respond to unruly speech being directed at him). Today, admittedly we see that both chiefs and elected politicians of the democratic and European funded political machinery sometimes demonstrate deficiencies in dealing with those who oppose them.

Retarding Modern Development: Some anti-chieftaincy agitators believe that chieftaincy retards “development”. There is a need to scrutinise these beliefs, study the situation on the ground and bring out the truth. I will start this part of my discussion by saying that the west mainly measures development according to its own self-serving standards. Then it uses cunning to weave these standards into the cultures of other countries. Its army of academically trained classes (according to European standards) also works to aid the west. Ghanaians must ask, “how relevant are the west’s development standards?” to the well being of Ghanaians and other Africans? Can these standards work for Ghana? Can they work for Africa? I wonder and so I will proceed to explore the west’s mortgage culture.

In North American cities, there is the growing problem of homelessness as a testimony against the west’s so called development. There has also been an increase in a modern form of institutionalised slavery that is practiced in the western world. By institutionalised slavery, I mean the situation where land developers and property managers—businesses that are largely comprised of the European descendant classes that are documented to have swindled native peoples of Canada, Australia, America and New Zealand out of their lands—systematically develop land resources in such a way as to keep recent immigrant populations (many from Africa) and other classes on the slaving end of local economics.

The situation usually sees Africans (among other groups) working (or slaving) in menial positions and factories just to keep up rent payments for these property management corporations. In fact, there are Africans who will attest to the fact that these corporations will sometimes even use the North American credit-rating system to deny citizens and permanent residents a place to rent. The creation of ethnic ghettos or “projects” in Canada and the US is part of the result of such socio-economic realities.

In other cases, despite qualifications in institutions like universities, Africans remain in the lower end of the slaving cycle because they are unable to find work that meets their qualifications. I have mentioned this and other associated socio-economic realities in North America in order to begin to assess whether putting rural land to the whims of commodification and the free market as some of the lazy (and greedy for that matter) academy educated folks, who are looking for real estate investment opportunities would suggest, is really beneficial. Too many times our semi-ay?vu “book longs” come home after living overseas looking to change the local situation to suit their egos, foreign lifestyles and alliances made with foreign interests. In other words, some of them think that their education should afford them the responsibility of land control. On a personal note, I say, “to heaven with that.” And when it gets there, I believe that God will judge justly.

Let me point out that with all of the flaws of chieftaincy’s actors (not necessarily the institution or framework itself), how often do we hear of homelessness in Africa’s rural areas? Yet we hear of homelessness in all of Ghana’s European planned and built cities where the European model for city planning (in line with land commodification) is the norm. We also see other negative implications of the western land commodification tradition.

The fact that Professor Dominic Fobih (former Minister of Lands, Forestry and Mines) announced the earmarking of three of Ghana’s national parks for privatization in February 2006 is ample evidence that some of those of who would consider MA or PhD holders in government as “meritoriously” qualified may be full of Wisconsin-made Oscar-Mayer luncheon meat, a.k.a. baloney!

The case where Professor Fobih oversaw processes that were to lead to privatization of Ghanaian national parks for the benefit of foreign interests is serious business to people such as yours truly. Why? Because it tells of things to come…more injustices because western higher education has done a serious number on the African mind. Perhaps it is true that western education has made the African unfeeling, individualistic or even too influential in his or her society, without moral merit? Hmmm, this reminds me of how Europeans used to behave towards Africans during European occupation of Africa. That is, before the self-serving television camera of today wasn’t always rolling to capture “benevolence footage”. Thank you for reading. If need be, I will say more about chieftaincy later.

Mawuetornam Dugbazah is the Editor of the re-branded Kingdom Insight (KI) Newspaper (formerly Our Insight, a quarterly published in western Canada). The Kingdom Insight is scheduled to be out in October 2008. Dugbazah's articles usually deal with African affairs, Health and Science issues and Business. To subscribe please write Our Insight c/o D-COMM at Suite 1428, 5328 Calgary Trail NW, Edmonton AB Canada T6H 4J8.