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Opinions of Sunday, 4 July 2004

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Expanding Otumfuo?s Development Initiative

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong says the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu 11, should expand and deepen his development initiativs by creating outreach communication ventures and globalising his development projects by reaching out to diasporan Asantes and Ghanaians



The relevance of Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu 11?s development initiatives is not only the recognition by Ghanaians, West Africans (Sierra Leone?s President Ahmed Tejan Kabba was at the latest Akwasidae festival), the World Bank (it honoured him and his development initiatives this week) and the King?s meetings and interactions with development but the demonstrated convictions of courage and conviction. Conviction led Asantehene to initiate his development initiatives. Courage allowed him not to flinch in the face of the daunting tasks he has embarked on.

Asantehene?s challenge, which should be driven by his courage and conviction, is to modernize the socio-cultural values he has inherited, especially unnecessary cultural burdens or beliefs that have implications in poverty alleviations. This will free much needed resources for the development process, for a lot of wealth are entrapped in unnecessary cultural practices such funeral cerebrations. Otumfuo should be able to juggle positive elements of globalization and modernization to put daylight into the dark recesses of the culture, and in doing so, brighten up the development process. This means expanding his traditional role of counseling and arbitrating into formal development issues he has embarked on and venturing into the complex effort of dealing with the issues of under-development. In doing this, Otumfuo will demonstrate genius in restoring confidence in the development process. I am convinced conviction told him to compliment the development process of the central government and that the proper way to deal with the distressful cycle of poverty is not just watching from the sidelines, as other traditional leaders have been doing since time immemorial, but getting involved in the tough and complex struggle against poverty and ignorance. Again, I am convinced as the media objectively look at his development process campaigns, courage will allow him to be open-minded about criticisms, and this will help him constantly refine, rationalize and integrate such criticisms into the on-going development process, for the development process in general is an intensely broad, dynamic, and all-encompassing process.

In this regard, the Otumfuo?s development projects are seen, positively, by the way people are trying to let the development projects stay on course, informed by our history and experiences. One such concern is the Accra-based Chronicle editorial last week advising the Otumfuo to embed sustainability and trust in the development projects by making it transparent. This is laudable and will brighten the King?s development initiatives since the birth of the Asante Kingship many a good intentioned development project, analysts and observers say, has fizzled out because they lacked the structures of sustainability. Otumfuo should know that these are different times where Ghanaians are increasingly critical of their leaders, be they politicians or traditional rulers, and transparency boldly written into his development initiatives will enhance his status and potency, and move him above reproach. After all, the funds for his development projects are people?s money, and so sound and clean public accountability is the norm. This is the practice everywhere in the world where public development projects receive donations from the public they publish list of donors.

I am convinced by history, globalization, and Asante cosmology that the Asantehene?s development projects will not fizzle out but rather with time they will grow and have multiplier effect on other traditional rulers in Ghana and the distressed West African region. In some historical and cosmological design the Otumfuo Osei Tutu 11 embody the development spirit and designs of King Osei Tutu 1 of ancient times, who through his good friend, the awakened Okomfo Anokye, the master chief priest, created the Asante Empire by bringing together diverse and difficult tribes, slaves, families, friends, clans and freelance travelers through Anokye?s Golden Stool, which was commanded from the heavens during the empire creating ceremony, to create one of the largest ethnic groups in the world. That was a master development process feat by King Osei Tutu 1 and Okomfo Anokye. That was courage and conviction by King Osei Tutu 1 via Okomfo Anokye. And Otumfuo Osei Tutu 11 is demonstrating same convictions and courage today in his development process.

The existence of the Asante state up till now demonstrates the King Osei Tutu 1 development process. Since King Osei Tutu 1 no Asantehene after him has initiated such a massive and visionary development process with global reach to the extent of the World Bank being dazzled than Otumfuo Osei Tutu 11. And apart from the King Osei Tutu 1, the only Asante King the Asantes have come to see as wise and sensitive to their development needs is Osei Tutu 11. In the believe of Asante cosmology, Osei Tutu 11 could be seen as the reincarnation of Osei Tutu 1 to continue his development process. If King Osei Tutu 1 was able to create an empire in such difficult times, Osei Tutu 11 development initiatives today should be a piece of cake. Today?s Osei Tutu 11 has all the national, global and diasporan elements to drive home his development initiatives. As he has started, the challenge is how Otumfuo plays with these elements with boldness and creativity. It is these development actions that will bring him closer to the greatness of King Osei Tutu 1. For a ruler?s greatness is revealed by the challenges his poses. As Time magazine?s Charles Krauthammer says of America?s great presidents: ?the greatest luck any American President can have? is ?trouble, serious trouble?the best chance any President has for greatness is to be in power during war or disaster.? That?s challenges, serious challenges. In the context of Asantehene, the trouble, serious trouble is confronting head-on, as he has started, the ?disaster? or ?war? against under-development and ignorance, and as is becoming increasingly clear, certain inhibiting elements within the cultural that have been slowing down the development process. If not dealt with now, these unnecessary cultural beliefs will in the long run weaken Otumfuo?s on-going development initiatives.

An increasingly progressive minded Asantes means Otumfuo Osei Tutu 11 has all the room to maneuver his development projects. Himself a well traveled man, having lived and study in Britain and Canada, Otumfuo has seen the good life and how other ethnic groups and nations did it, he is, therefore equipped globally to captain his development process with open-mindedness surrounded by sound advisers and the progressive mass media. Still, his residences overseas, his international travels and contacts have revealed to him the increasing Asante diaspora population with Asante associations scattered throughout the world. He has to harness this large progressive Asante diasporan groups and their associations for development initiatives. The Asantehene should go the way of the World Jewish Congress, who for the past 50 years continue to help in the development process of the state of Israel, by creating a World Asante Association or Congress made up of all the diasporan Asante associations from Britain to Canada to Japan, Australia Germany to to USA to New Zealand. Like the World Jewish Congress, which receives annual contributions from diasporan Jewish communities, each Asante in the diaspora could be asked to contribute say $2 or $3 or$5 every month through their local diasporan associations and transferred to the main Asanteman Council in Kumasi. The Asantehene and his team of managers will work out the detail of operations with the diasporan Asante association/communities. In doing so the Asantehene will incorporate the increasingly hardworking Asante diasporans into his development initiative and tap into their wealth, connections and experiences. The World Asante Congress or Association could also be a lobbying body in lobbying institutions, multinational corporations and ventures for development assistance.

Somehow some of these initiatives are in the works among many the Asante groups who are contributing to development projects in their respective villages and towns. Added to this, all secondary schools and other institutions in the Asante Region old students associations and alumnus could be asked to participate in the Asantehene?s development initiatives in a way that the Asantehene and his management team could work out.

Through some of the annual Asante traditional festivities such as the Akwasidae or Odwira, the Asanteman Council could stage annual development jamborees that will bring representatives of the various Asante diasporan associations, institutions and multinationals involve in the Asantehene?s development initiative together to brainstorm and clarify the directions of the development process. This could also be a forum to preach to Asante paramount chiefs and sub-chiefs the virtues of the development process. As Dr. Sam Jona did and as the Chronicle is advising the Asantehene to do in terms of transparency, during this annual meeting all those who have contributed significantly to the Asantehene?s development process will be made public and published in major newspapers and Ghanaian-owned Internet outlets such as www.ghanaweb.com or www.ghanareview.com. This will create a culture of trust in the Asantehene?s development venture since trust is one of the key pillars of the development process.

And having thoroughly researched and planned all that will make the World Asante Congress or Association workable (rooted in Asante culture and trust), the Asantehene will need sharp communication gears, once again, taking advantage of the international communication networks. Since the whole development process is driven by mass communication - radio, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, Internet, etc - the Asantehene and his team should set up a web site that will channel his development initiatives and the activities of the purported World Asante Congress or Association. The web site will deal with development news, feature Asante history, profile of Asante Kings and Queens, Asante traditional rulers, Asanteman Council-central government relations, issues of people helping out, prominent Asantes who have been helping in the development process, institutions involved in the development process, local and diasporan Asante associations, their leaders and their works. In a way, this will be a communication center of the Asantehene?s development initiatives and should be used not only to connect with Asantes at home and abroad but also to fight ignorance and poverty.

Through Asantehene?s communication network and the increasingly open mass media the Otumfuo should seize the initiative in the on-going campaigns by Ghanaian elites and journalists to refine the inhibiting aspects within the Ghanaian culture. If successful this will have a multiplier effect nationally and help the on-gong elites and journalists campaigns to refine aspects of the Ghanaian culture that are deemed inhibiting the development process. In this regard, the Asantehene should expand his advises to include development experts and anthropologists who will be able to dissect the culture, diagnose it and come out with suggestions that will unburden most of the unnecessary beliefs that have for long held people back in their development process. This, in the long run, will help in the sustainability of the Asantehene?s development process since it will disentangle most of the inhibiting cultural values entangling the development process. Short of these, in the long run, most of what the Asantehene is doing, developmentally, will be weakened since the little he has gained will be entangled by the negative cultural values. For instance, the Otumfuo as part of his development process should heed the appeal by opinion makers that traditional rulers should institute more strict measures to curb the colossal spending on funeral celebrations instead of channeling most of these monies for development initiatives.

With his huge status both locally and internationally, and by the dint of the immense power and prestige of his stool or office, such development actions by Otumfuo Osei Tutu 11 are expected to vibrate nationally and regionally. This will help in the overall development process of Ghana and West Africa, and help minimize most of the unnecessary troubles Ghana and West Africa is going through.


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