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Opinions of Tuesday, 25 March 2003

Columnist: Anane, Baffuor Gyau

Chieftaincy Disputes And Land Litigation: How To End Them

The chieftaincy world, unlike the secular world of politics, is purely spiritual. This aspect of Nananom’s world can never be disputed. Rituals, secret and open, attest to this. For this very reason an occupant of a stool must be the true heir to that stool or skin. The spiritual nature of chieftaincy has been downplayed or overlooked by ‘fakes’ who want to occupy these stools because of greed. Afflicted with the sickness of rapaciousness and with their get-rich-quick mentality, these scheming individuals have an irresistible urge to have a royal stool to sit on so that they can sell stool lands. This reprehensible and repugnant behaviour of these ‘fakes’ is tarnishing the image of an otherwise highly respected institution.

Omanpanin, the Honourable John Agyekum Kuffuor, succinctly puts it: “The system of selection and installation of chiefs had been corrupted and the management of the affairs of some stools and skins had been the subject of controversy.” The President goes on to say, “although there had always been rivalry in the process of selecting chiefs, corruption had resulted in the selection and installation of people undeserving in character and lineage.” The ‘fakes’ who want to be called Nana so that they can sell stool lands for peanuts. This is a major reason why chieftaincy disputes and land litigation are becoming as numerous as the uncountable sand. Nonetheless, the society will always adore Nananom, the genuine ones.

It is a big occasion when one ascends a throne. Whether the individual is becoming a king, a queen, a paramount chief, or a village chief, the celebration is beyond description. The euphoria is a clear indication of the people’s love for their new king, queen, or chief. The subjects’ mood is a potpourri of adoration, respect, and appreciation. Why such love for Nananom? The people love and adore them because Nananom’s ancestors, besides being sages and imparting wisdom to their subjects, led and fought gallantly in wars to acquire land for their people and to ward off invaders. The land the people live on and possess today was not given to them for drinking and dancing in the streets. Nananom’s ancestors sacrificed their lives to give their people land to live on. Ghanaians are not land-less people because of this sacrifice.

Nannanom’s ancestors did not go about imposing themselves on the people. They earned the respect and the love of the people. They also earned the stools and skins they occupied which are now being sat on by their progeny. Some of the chiefs got their stools and skins because of feats they performed that brought honour to them and to the society. Others got the stools and skins through marriage to kings. They all earned these stools legitimately and since then their heirs have served their subjects very well.

There is a lot of spirituality involved in chieftaincy affairs. For this very reason the ones who occupy these stools must be the rightful heirs to the throne. It is therefore the responsibility of the kingmakers to make sure that only true heirs occupy the stool. ‘Fakes’ have infiltrated Ghanaian royalty and this is a major reason why chieftaincy disputes have become so rampant.

Ghana has witnessed and continues to witness chieftaincy disputes and from all indications the situation is getting out of hand as one gentleman recently remarked, ”It looks like we have more chieftaincy disputes than the stars in the skies. Another agreed: “Because there are more ‘fakes’ than the real royals.” A young lady walking with the gentlemen gestured to a golden cross she was wearing: “The Institution of Chieftaincy needs a dose of Christian doctrine.” The gentlemen nodded affirmatively.

Why do some individuals want to be chiefs when they are fully aware that they are not of royal birth? Land being tied to these stools factors very well in their desire to ascend a throne besides the respect accorded chiefs. In other words, like drug dealers and plotters of coup d’etats, it is avarice that spurs them on. Does one have to be a chief to give one’s best to this great nation? The answer is a big NO! It is obvious then that these ‘fakes’ want to be chiefs to enrich themselves.

Chieftaincy disputes are springing up here and there and the potential to destabilize the whole society is enormous. These disputes can engender the recruitment of militias by the opposing sides. Guns are as available as roasted peanuts. There are street boys who will join these forces just to disrupt the status quo. These hoodlums delight in chaos. Any affected village or town should be the concern of every Ghanaian since such a situation has the potential to spread like an uncontrolled virus. For that matter no Ghanaian is immune to these disturbances whether they erupt in the north, south, east, or west of the country.

The government and the National House of Chiefs, together with the general public, should take steps to stop chieftaincy disputes. The rampancy of these disputes calls for immediate action from policy makers. People are being killed for no other reason other than a ‘fake’ wants to be called Nana just to have access to stool lands and sell them, especially if the land is near a large urban area or if he could strike a deal with timber merchants or commercial farmers. These ‘fakes’ who may be remotely related to the real heirs get on the stool in cahoots with unscrupulous kingmakers and ‘Abusua Panins’ who also want to benefit financially from the sale of stool lands. Genuine chiefs, unless they are as corrupt as rebels illegally ruling a nation, would hardly sell stool lands. Unfortunately, a few genuine chiefs are profiting from the sale of stool lands. Fortunately for the nation and the Chieftaincy Institution, some of Ghana’s highly respected kings and chiefs are taking measures to stop the illegal sale of stool lands. Kudos to them! If Nananom had sold off stool lands they had fought so hard for, Ghanaians would not have had more than 92,000 square miles of land to live on.

The inspirational lyrics of the great song “Yen Ara Yen Asase Ni,” by the great musician and illustrious son of Ghana, Dr. Ephraim Amoh, should remind every patriotic Ghanaian of the blood, sweat, and tears shed to give them the land they call their own today. Looking at the market value, the sad part about the sale of stool lands is that these “fakes’ and their collaborators sell the lands for pocket change. Land is the heart and soul of the people and this explains the Jewish/Palestinian conflict. To sell stool lands is tantamount to selling the soul of the people. Nevertheless, it is being done to the detriment of the whole society.

Is it a surprise then when the headlines read: “LAND LITIGATION TOPS COURT CASES?” This is happening because these avaricious ‘fakes’ sell land to two or three people. A few genuine chiefs are also doing the same. This is defrauding the buyers and jamming the courts with land litigation. Nothing entitles them to sell these lands to benefit themselves.

Omanpanin has made it clear that “the land problem could only be resolved with the co-operation of chiefs, who were the custodians of the land.” Every support and advice should be given to the Presidential Advisory Committee on Chieftaincy Affairs. The establishment of this Committee underscores the importance the President attaches to chieftaincy affairs. One of the leading lawyers on land issues in Ghana says, “there are cases that are over 30 years old. Yes 30 years!!” Interestingly, he continues, “the Stool Lands Secretariat and Commission have a lot to do with this degenerate tendency.” This prominent lawyer suggests that “policy makers should look into this.”

Cutting edge technology has made record-keeping easier. Nananom, the government, and the Judiciary should work hard to remove all obstacles on the road to smooth ascendancy to thrones. This will ensure getting the rightful heirs to these thrones instead of depending on “his great, great uncle, or great, great grandmother married queen or king so and so.” This will weed out ‘fakes’ who are the reasons behind the chaos that has resulted in killings and maiming of innocent people. Nananom and all the people should give the President all the support he will need to uproot this mess from the Ghanaian society. This will make chieftaincy disputes history and as one gorgeous lady put it: “And it will stop the decapitation of our beloved and respected kings, queens, and chiefs.”

BAFFUOR GYAU ANANE (FREELANCE WRITER)

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of Ghanaweb.