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Opinions of Tuesday, 9 November 2004

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

God, Juju, Marabou And The Ghanaian Elections

One month into the impending Ghanaian general elections all aspects of the Ghanaian culture and religion, both positive and negative, are in full gear, coming into the forefront of the political competition. Political gift giving and communalism, teleguided by native sipirituality, are on the rise, albeit temporarily. All politicians and their supporters are invoking God to say He has ordained them to win. Prophets are predicting this or that.

Spiritualists, marabous and juju mediums are seeing boom in business from the political class. As Africanist Jean-Francois Bayart would analyse in ?The State in Africa: Politics of the Belly? (Longman, London, UK, 1993) some poor folks are enjoying from the crumbs of rituals sacrifices such as cows, sheep and goats falling out from all these spiritual practices from politicians. While the Ghanaian civil society have been cautioning the public and politicians to campaign in a civilized manner and avoid insulting and threatening language, they have not advised politicians not to appropriate the negative aspects of the culture to the detriment of undermining the infant democratic and development process. How Ghanaian politicians drive the democratic and development processes, in a complex society of Ghana?s and West Africa?s embedded in ancient juju-marabou and deadly superstitious culture, is determined by how they think. And how they think is driven by their culture first, any other value that influence their thinking is secondary.

Ever since the creation of Ghana, God has been associated with politics and almost all facets of life, like elsewhere in the world. This is normally seen in a deeply religious country where God-centred interpretation of events flow through prophets and other religious leaders. ?Prophet predicts peaceful elections,? screamed the state-owned Ghana News Agency (GNA). ?Prophet David H. Kaiser of the Apostolic Church, Ghana has predicted peaceful Presidential and Parliamentary elections this year.? The GNA quoted the prophet as saying, ?God had revealed to him that any conspiracy of the devil to create confusion would be destroyed. There could be attempts to cause commotion but the foundations of the culprits would be reduced to dust?Lord expect Christians not allow themselves to be used as scapegoats for any demonic plot against the state?Such culprits would be publicly disgraced.?

However, not all prophets in Ghana go for such political prophetic talks. Some have been cautioning their colleagues not to use their trade in politics since it blurs the large illiterate population from seeing politicians in relation to everyday issues that confront them. The Accra Daily Mail has reported that the Pentecostal Church ?has said it was unethical for some prophets to attempt to predict the outcome of the impending general elections? and that ?such predictions were not healthy for our democratic process? since ?it would only unduly influence people to vote in a certain direction and thereby draw the church into partisan politics.?

Prophets and their God-talk may enter into politics but most Ghanaian politicians are not alone globally in invoking God?s name in their practices compared to, say, American presidents or politicians. In ?Undivine Double Standard,? carried in America?s Wall Street Journal, journalist Paul Kengor, researching America?s ?Presidential Documents? (the official collection of every public presidential statement), examines the mention of Jesus Christ by George W. Bush and Bill Clinton showed that ?through 2003, Bush cited Jesus, or Jesus Christ, or Christ in 14 separate statements, compared to 41 by Clinton. On average, Clinton mentioned Christ in 5.1 statements per year, which exceeded Bush's 4.7.?

What concern Ghanaians, as the society becomes increasingly critical in its development process, and put all values that drive their development process under scrutiny, are the implications of the negative aspects of their culture/spirituality in the political process. From the one-party regime of the first president Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to the no-party long-running military juntas that shoot up in the first coup in 1966 to the current democratically elected regime of President John Kuffour, juju-marabou mediums, prophets and other spiritualists have increasingly been the cornerstone of many a politician, despite their seemingly open display of either being Christian or Muslim.

Largely emanating from the culture, opposition or not, Ghanaians talked about President Nkrumah of having juju from Guinea?s Kankan (some prophets are said to have advised Nkrumah against traveling to Hanoi, Vietnam for the mediation of the Vietnamese conflict least he will be overthrown. He is said to have ignored them and was toppled by Gen. Emmanuel Kotoka and Gen. Akwesi Amankwah Afrifa in February 1966 with the help of America?s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)). The key figures that overthrew Nkrumah, Gen Kotoka and Gen. Afrifa are discussed as massive juju-marabou dabblers. While Prime Minister Dr. Kofi Busia?s academics-studded short-lived regime was not known publicly for juju-marabou dabbling some of his ministers was reported to be low-key dabblers. Ghanaians concern about juju-marabou and national progress came remarkably in the forefront under Gen. Kutu Acheampong?s military junta. Acheampong himself was reported to have a juju pot suspended in mid air in his Osu Castle office that was smashed into pieces by Gen. Odartey Wellington, one of the senior officers that invaded in his office to overthrow him. Gen. Odartey is said to have charged that juju-marabou blinded Acheampong from problems on the ground.

Flt. Lt. Jerry Rawlings short-lived six-month old Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) military junta is not reported to have dabbled massively in juju-marabou and so was Dr. Hilla Liman?s short-lived administration. Rawlings return to the Ghanaian political scene for almost 12 years after toppling Liman in 1981 was reported to be heavy juju-marabou mired, with ghoulish stories that are unbelievable and would come from a culture that practices such. Rawlings 8-year old civilian regime was rumoured not to be as juju-marabou mired as his military regimes though there was high belief in such practices. President Kuffour?s four-year regime is reported by opposition newspapers as going to Togo for juju help and so are pro-Kuffour newspapers reporting that Rawlings man, Prof. John Atta Mills, the main opposition figure, importing juju-marabou mediums from other West African states to help him win the impending elections. Despite sometimes the contentious nature of such reports it demonstrate what emanates from the Ghanaian/West African culture.

The on-going reports by newspapers, including the national news agency, GNA, of politicians dabbling in juju-marabou, spiritualists, and other indigenous occult practices is a departure from yesteryears, where the implications of such practices were scarcely reported or discussed in relation to Ghana?s development process. Ghana?s developmental history and her ensuing experiences teaches that the media, as one of the key pillars of the development process, discusses all aspects of Ghana?s culture, positive and negative, fully in relation to her development journey. Despite the seemingly partisan nature of some of the reports either by the Palavar, which leans towards the main opposition National Democratic Party (NDC), or the Accra Daily Mail, which leans towards the ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP), about politicians and their juju-marabou/native occult dabbling, they reflect attempts to open up the Ghanaian culture for developmental scrutiny.

The relevance of this in terms of Ghana?s development process is that for over 100 years colonialism suppressed Ghana/African culture in her development process and imposed the colonialists? culture or values on Ghana/Africa. The result is Ghanaian/African culture not opened fully in the development process, thus making the inhibiting aspects of the culture such as juju-marabou entangling the development process till today. Unlike years past, Ghanaian newspapers and the public now talk openly and critically about all facets of their culture in relation to their culture just as they do with economics, tribalism, corruption, sex, politics, civic issues, personalities, morality, gender, environment, colonialism, international development/relations, education, science, technology and all other issues and values that drive the country?s development.


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