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Opinions of Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

In the Name of God

For sometime, and this is nothing new in Ghanaian political life, the word “God” has been on the lips of some politicians either when they face acute challenges or are short of words or reach the limit of their comprehension of Ghana’s development process. Generally, they like to hear themselves mention God – sometimes for nothing so important or indescribable or the word used brainlessly, but that is fine in a culture where God’s name is a daily diet. Most times, God’s name reels a powerful sense of stagecraft by the politicians, more so as the 2008 general elections near.

Most times, the word can mean different things at different places at different times, and though sometimes some Ghanaians may be confused about the use of the word, you may have to be a Ghanaian all the same to grasp it. And because all the politicians come from cosmology-driven ethnic groups that are heavily God-centred, the education and social standing of the politician does not matter in the use of the word in the larger development process. Still, some of the politicians may use God “in an in-your-face, born-again manner” but pretty much of this takes its tone from traditional Ghanaian cosmology that sees God battling major evil personified in fearlessly diabolical figures in a Ghana mired in disturbing poverty and other “drawbacks,” President Kufour says, which some Ghanaians think, wrongly, is the punishment from God.

From Ghana’s President John Kufour, who told technicians at the struggling Akosombo Dam, the Volta River Authority, that God will bring rain to restore the falling water level of the dam, to Ghana's Vice President, Aliu Mahama, saying "It is God who chooses a leader and most often, those people do not regard are those he appoints" and asked his supporters in the northern Ghanaian regional capital of Tamale to “pray for him and not look down on any of the Presidential aspirants” of the ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP), God is a serious business in Ghanaian politics, more so as the 2008 general elections close in. And the politicians business with God can come in all manner of schemes, most times against rational devices. Apart from praying and fasting, the some Ghanaian politicians can go the extra mile by employing the services of Malams, spiritualists, juju priests, marabou mediums, Shamans and “Men of God” to “read” God to know their political standing in a democratic dispensation that is becoming increasingly fierce and competitive. On the flip side, Ghanaians are yet to know whether the same politicians will go the extra mile to utilize services of the spiritual mediums and the “Men of God” to “read” God to know God’s standing on their material well-being – poverty, energy, diseases, ignorance, water, food, education, money troubles, etc.

Circling in the head of Ghanaians are the good God and the bad Satan, and it has been the nature of some politicians exploiting Satan for misfortunes, especially if they could not deliver their developmental eggs. This happens when God is tossed around recklessly. In a culture that sees God as giver in its progress and Satan as not, Primate S.K. Adofo, Spiritual Head of Ghana’s Brotherhood Church, sees God not only as giver but also argues that the blame of Satan, or evil forces, as responsible for the stifling of progress is not only wrong, "but also unacceptable…the tendency for people to always blame all evil deeds and misfortunes that come their way on Satan or the devil" and that "most of such evils and misfortunes, are created by people themselves and not necessarily by the devil as always alleged." All these arguments emanate from Ghanaian cosmology enhanced by the Judeo-Christian tradition.

From the 56 ethnic groups that form the Ghana nation-state, the name God is a big cosmological issue and forms their foundational ethos, and some politicians play into this in the face of developmental challenges – imagine President Kufour feverishly seeking God’s help and inspiring Akosombo Dam technicians, and by extension Ghanaians, who are worried about their worsening energy situation, that God will bring rain to fill the dam. Sometimes, this God-and-politics game is played with traditional politicians – the Paramount Chiefs, the Queen mothers, etc – for all sorts of reasons. To learn how politics and God blur in both traditional and modern Ghana is to get engaged in a complicated struggle toward God in a Ghana that is at the same time unusually religious and extraordinarily devoted to politics of all kinds.

In a world that is increasingly becoming rational - with its technological feats and advancing sciences and booming intelligences and transnationalities and increasing hybridization of all kinds of human endeavours – excessive use of the word “God” not only blurs reasoning, paradoxically, God’s ultimate gift to humankind, but also complicate the situation of majority of Ghanaians who are praying daily, as the highly filled churches and mosques show, to escape painful poverty, some caused by the very politicians who appear not to understand their situations. In this sense, the excessive use of the word “God,” in the face of poverty (most Ghanaians live on $2.00 a day) and diseases and ignorance and backwardness, is seen as “primitive, frightening and atavistic.”

That’s difficult to comprehend in a culture where everything is interpreted from God’s angle. The Sierra Leone would say “na God makam” – it is God’s design - even in the face of dreadful poverty and massive corruption and crumbling infrastructure and brutal civil war with its rapes and amputations and arsons and looting. That pretty much makes God “primitive, frightening and atavistic” Being that should probably be expelled from enlightened Ghanaian discourse. But that cannot be done in Ghana, where God’s name has been tossed around irresponsibly, as the state of Ghana’s progress shows, in contrast to not only Ghanaian cosmology and other traditional values but also their belief in the Judeo-Christian tradition.



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