You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2016 04 27Article 434097

Opinions of Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Columnist: Abdul Malik Kwaku Baako

Kweku Baako re-states his case in defence of wise chiefs

Article 276(1) of the 1992 Constitution is categorical that
“A chief shall not shall not take part in active party politics; and any chief wishing to do so and seeking election to Parliament shall abdicate his stool or skin”

If the provision is given its ordinary meaning, it will mean that a chief is at liberty to take part in party politics. No chief is debarred from taking part in politics.

In so far that every chief votes at political elections, the chief takes part in politics. When he enters the ballot box to vote, he votes for a candidate standing on the ticket of a party or one standing as an independent candidate.

But he votes all the same. As long as he votes, he takes part in politics.

The overriding prohibition on chiefs is that they should not take part in active party politics.

The provision has not been defined in the Constitution or any other enactment. But its connotation is obvious. It can easily be determined from a consideration of the genesis of chieftaincy.

History has it that chiefs came about when it became necessary for groups of people to select one of their lot to be their leader. Obviously, the person selected was the one endowed with the attributes required to be able to head or lead his people in all things and at all times.

He was the one strong enough to fight their wars or battles. He was the person who united his people to fight the common enemy. He was the one whose word was enough to rally his people to fight any body or any person perceived to be enemy of the people. He was thus a unifier who was capable of bringing his people together at all times. He was the custodian of custom and culture.

TO BE ABLE TO ACHIEVE OR IMPLEMENT ALL THAT WAS REQUIRED OF HIM, THE CHIEF MUST BE WISE. IT IS FOR THESE AND MANY OTHER REASONS THAT THE CHIEF HAS ALWAYS BEEN CONSIDERED OR REGARDED AS THE PARAGON OF KNOWLEDGE AS WELL AS THE MICROCOSM OF WISDOM AND GOOD SENSE.

A wise chief is one who displays these and other attributes expected of chiefs.

The very mention or concept of a chief excludes any notion that the chief can under any circumstances be a fool.

This is because a fool cannot lead his people and so will not be selected or elected or installed as a chief.

But, after his installation, if the chief does not do what his people expect of him or behave in the manner expected of a chief, he will not manifest the attributes that his people expect to see in him.

If a chief displays attributes opposite what his position entails he will not be the wise man that he is expected to be. If a person is not wise, he can properly be described as unwise; not a fool because no fool will be elected as a chief.

The provision in the 1992 Constitution, art 276(1) is premised on the perception of people about the status of chiefs in society.

No chief can claim that he displays the attributes above if he publicly declares his support for any political party. He worsens his position as a chief if he declares that his people will give certain percentage of votes to any political party. The reasons are inter alia the following:

*1. Dictatorial tendencies

A chief making such declaration will only display dictatorial tendencies if he means that he will force his people to vote for the political party that the declaration favours. Only a dictator can ensure that this declaration materializes. A dictator is surely an unwise ruler.

*2. Unrealistic utterances with the semblance of jokes

The 1992 Constitution, art 21(1) enshrines that:

“All persons shall have the right to- freedom of association, which shall include freedom to form or join trade unions or other associations, national and international, for the protection of their interest.”
If the Constitution allows every person to join “other associations for the protection of his interest,” it follows that people will join parties that will promote their interests. Interests of people differ from person to person.

The interest of the chief may not necessarily be the same as the interest of all or majority of the people he rules.

Those parties that the people may take to espouse their interests may not be the same party that the chief prefers.

How can the chief ensure that the percentage of his people will join the party he favours so that they will all join him to vote for that party?

No chief can get all his people to join the one party of his choice. If he cannot get them all to join the party of his choice, how can he be taken seriously when he declares that the majority of his people will vote for the political party of his choice?

Such statements can only be taken derisively or as jokes which are not to be taken seriously. The chief making such statement knows that he cannot achieve the feat which he declares.

A wise chief does not make statements he cannot implement or statements meant to be taken as jokes.

*3. Statements amounting to offences

Voting is by secret ballot. To declare that the chief and his people will vote for any particular party will amount to disclosing the party they will vote for. That is not voting by secret ballot. That itself is an offence in that it contravenes the voting laws in this country. A wise chief does not make statements which will give ground for criminal sanction to be pursued against him.

*4. Constraints on freedom of conscience

The 1992 Constitution, art. 21(1) (b) provides that:

“All persons shall have the right to –

(b) freedom of thought, conscience and belief, which shall include academic freedom.”
The chief may believe in that political party in whose favour he makes his declaration. What makes him believe that all the people or the majority of his people also believe in the same political party for him to assert that they will vote for his party of choice? Is such a chief aware that by that declaration he is trying to constrain the beliefs of his people in that he will be urging them to vote for a particular party and not the party in which they believe? The declaration of such a chief amounts to breaching the constitutional provision on freedom of conscience.

*5. Affront and loss of respect for chiefs

A statement by a chief pledging support or committing votes to a political party which purports to give the impression that the chief is thinking for his people may amount to an affront to the sensibilities of his people. That feeling may lead to loss of respect and dignity of the chief for his people. In chieftaincy parlance, a chief swears to be respectful to his people at all times. Lack of respect to his people may constitute a ground for his destoolment. A wise chief will not make declarations which will so undermine confidence in him that those declarations will provide grounds for his destoolment.

*6. Divisive utterances

There is no doubt that a chief who makes statements to the effect that his people will vote for a particular party of his choice will divide his people among those who support his party of choice and those who support other parties. A chief who is wise will not make utterances that that will divide his people instead of uniting them.

*7. Breach of electoral laws

The electoral laws mandate that all parties have offices in certain number of districts before they can be registered. That necessarily presupposes that the chief who makes those utterances knows or ought to know that of the 25 political parties, those with certificates to operate have offices in his area. How can he ignore their presence in his areas which is a mandatory statutory requirement under the law? If they are present in his area, there are officers of those parties who are part of his citizenry in his community. A wise chief will not close his eyes to such obvious facts while making these declarations?

*8. Grounds for destoolment

It is obvious that a chief who makes such open declaration of support for any political party breaches the 1992 Constitution, art 276(1) on active party politics and is liable to be destooled. The fact that his people have not desired to embarrass him with destoolment does not mean that he is right or wise. A wise chief will not make utterances which will undermine his position and give grounds for his destoolment.

ALLTHESE ARE AMPLE PROOF OF THE STATEMENT THAT A CHIEF WHO DECLARES THAT HIS PEOPLE WILL VOTE FOR ANY PARTICULAR PARTY OR CANDIDATE IS NOT WISE OR, IN SIMPLE TERMS UNWISE CHIEF.

THE MOST SERIOUS INDICTMENT ON SUCH CHEIFS IS THAT THEIR UTTERANCES AMOUNT TO BREACHING SOME OF THE PROVISIONS IN THE 1992 CONSTITUTION.

THOSE UTTERANCES ARE CLEARLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

NO WISE CHIEF WILL MAKE SUCH UTTERNCES.

PUT DIFFERENTLY, ANY CHIEF WHO DOES NOT WANT TO SHOW THAT HE IS UNWISE SHOULD DESIST FROM MAKING UTTERANCES THAT HIS PEOPLE WILL VOTE FOR ANY PARTICULAR PARTY/CANDIDATE OR THAT HE COMMITS VOTES OF HIS PEOPLE TO ANY POLITCAL PARTY/CANDIDATE.