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Opinions of Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Columnist: Akosah-sarpong, Kofi

Development Around the Necks of Chiefs

The plea by Sampson Kwaku Boafo, the key culture-development point-man, that traditional rulers and institutions cooperate with his Chieftaincy and Culture Ministry to “identify tourist sites in their communities for development” reveal attempts to weave traditional authority or the chieftaincy institution into the development process.

The implications are twofold: to help tie and modernize traditional institutions in the development process and to correct the long-running practice where both colonial and post-colonial Ghanaian regimes used traditional authorities and discarded them without actually integrating them into the development process. Despite the much hyped decentralization programs, Ghanaians are yet to see skilled and urbane integration of the chieftaincy institution into the democratization and development process driven by core traditional values as the Botswanans and Southeast Asians have done. Orville Schell, the Arthur Ross director of the Centre on US-China at the Asia Society, argues in “Time” magazine that part of the reason for China’s economic dynamism is that its leaders depend on both their traditional ancient wisdom (or values) and communist doctrine as guides to their development process. No doubt, traditional exhortations, which come in the form of quotes from Confucianism, from President Hu Jintao to rally the development process are a common feature.

Boafo’s thinking reveals elites who are painstakingly grasping the nuances of post-colonial Ghana as a development project – with frustrations and despair flying here and there; where its elites have not thought deeply about the nation-state’s progress from within its traditional values and norms; where its elites have taken it too easy thinking they know the nation-state because they were born there and know the place but practically are betrayed by their lack of knowledge and understanding of the nation-state; and their level of thinking in relation to their level of sophistication and depth of their policy-making demonstrate elites who are to show whether they reflect, policy-wise, their core values and norms as Botswana and Southeast Asian countries have done.

For historical, ethnic, structural and developmental reasons, Boafo and his bureaucrats should be the nerve centre for inter- and intra-ministry system that tie all the ministries, departments, bureau, agencies, regions, constituencies, villages, and non-governmental organizations into a holistic assemble that radiate Ghanaian traditional norms, values and development paradigms as part of the broader progress of Ghana. Simply said, Boafo and his bureaucrats should be the central emission of Ghana’s decentralization program rooted in Ghanaian norms and values.

As Boafo indicated, one aspect is his Culture Ministry coordinating “the conduct of research into archaeological and historic sites to determine their viability for wealth creation and in collaboration with the Ministry of Tourism and Diaspora Relations to explore the tourism potential of other sites.” Another aspect is ensuring “that public education on economic, social, cultural, political and civil rights of citizenry will be carried out as well as promoting inter-cultural dialogue and participate in cultural exchange programmes and international experience.”

That’s remarkable, for it will integrate Ghanaians, particularly the over 80 percent in the informal sector who appear marginalized in the larger progress of Ghana and who depend hugely on traditional values and practices, into deeper participation of the nation-state’s development process. In “Citizen and Subject: Cotemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism,” Mahmood Mamdani argues controversially in a situation that more or less obtains today that in colonial Africa most Africans were governed by traditional customary values under “decentralized despotism.” For this reason, most Africans were “ill prepared to participate as citizens in the modern states that have succeeded colonialism.”

For cultural and progress reasons, Boafo’s tying of culture to the broader democratization and the development process will help harmonize the traditional with the modern, and resolve some of the bumps along the way of progress. The thinking here shouldn’t be one or two Ministries but the whole Ghanaian Ministries, where practicable, working from the Cultural Ministry, as the reality centre, for the larger progress of Ghana. The issues here are as psychological as they are material for historical, logical, developmental and structural reasons. And that means new elites thinking that draws from these facts and Ghanaians’ traditions in relation to the global development process as the Southeast Asian countries have done.

Nowhere do we see this more than the Japanese management system called "Kaizen," which is a mixture of Japanese traditional norms and cultural intelligence and modern management values. The import here is how to mix and play with traditional Ghanaian values/norms, the ex-colonial heritage and the global prosperity values as a way of developing an authentic Ghanaian bureaucracy and policy-making that works from within Ghanaian norms and values as the Japanese and other Southeast Asians have done in their management of their countries’ development process.

In wrapping the development process and democratization around the necks of traditional rulers and institutions most Ghanaians will participate as citizens in the modern nation-state and balance the contending values or forces serving Ghanaians, and by this boldly address Ghana’s formidable problems.



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