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Opinions of Friday, 30 March 2012

Columnist: Akuaku, Bennett

Throwing Chieftaincy To The Dogs In Southern Volta

The sacrilegious aura that had surrounded the chieftaincy institution in Ghana, and for which reason it continues to attract accolades such as ‘Kantamanto’, ‘Otumfuor’, Osagyefo’, ‘Oseadeayo’ etc. is highly being desecrated to the extent that some chiefs have failed to realize that they no longer possess the ‘limitless power’ they used to have in the yesteryears. Some of them have also failed to realize that as society and governance become more complex every passing day, anyone who calls himself a chief in these times requires more than the mere ability to lead in battles. And for some of us Ghanaians who hail from the fringes of the ‘Lower Volta River’, I think it is about time we sat some of our traditional leaders down before their embarrassing interferences in national/global issues are turned into our shame. I remember in 2001 when John Agyekum Kufuor just took over the mantle as President and was putting his government together. A group of chiefs from Akatsi were in the midst of sending a request to him to retain the incumbent NDC District Chief Executive (DCE) had they not been stopped by the then regional minister. What happened was that, during the elections that brought the NPP to power, Kufuor polled just a little over 300 votes in the entire Ave-Avenor Constituency (Akatsi District), and when he decided to appoint Mr. Nicholas Negble, the NPP parliamentary candidate who virtually fought as a lone ranger to garner the 300 votes for Kufuor, as the Akatsi DCE there was public outcry. Things got to such a stage that an entourage of chiefs and queen mothers from the area thronged the Regional Coordinating Council (RCC) offices in Ho, with a letter in hand for the president. Their request was that Kufuor should retain the previous DCE of the area, who had served under former president Jerry John Rawlings’ regime, because according to them, the people liked him. It took the tenacity of the regional minister, Hon. Nana Owusu-Yeboa, to explain to them the relevant constitutional provision on the appointment of DCEs. “Togbiwo, this is why it is good that we allow our children to join any political party of their choice so that whichever way a general elections goes, we will always have whoever we want in the new government”, he advised them. They left the RCC well-schooled on constitutional matters, while at the same time a number of their sons and daughters outside the region felt very embarrassed. Then in February, 2009, Togbe Afede XIV, the Agbogbomefia of the Asogli Traditional Area, read some strong-worded text messages purported to have been sent to him by some of his the residents asking the newly-sworn-in Mills administration to reward them for their support in the December 2008 general elections. “The Volta Region is not a World Bank, we are the king makers. Please let the president know that we of the Volta Region trust him, that is why we will not remind him of his promises to us,” some of the text messages read. According to the paramount chief’s address, “for the past eight years the people of the Volta Region were made to feel like outsiders,” and called on the new government to stem the tide. Because of this unpopular statement, which was described as the most divisive and unacceptable address by any Ghanaian chief in the last forty years, Togbe Afede XIV received a lot of castigations from all spheres of life, some of which are simply unprintable in this write-up. Today many chiefs and queen mothers in the same region say they are not in any way ‘homelier’ under Mills than under Kufuor. As would be expected, this development brought yet another embarrassment to some noble ‘Voltarians’. And for Christ sake what are we hearing again in the media about another embarrassment? That ‘Volta Chiefs Beg Mills To Pardon Woyome’? According to a publication on myjoyonline, a delegation of chiefs from the Volta Region recently stormed the CID headquarters in Accra to express good-will to businessman, Alfred Agbesi Woyome, and to appeal to President John Evans Atta Mills to pardon him’. The 15 chiefs reportedly told Joy News’ Eric Ahianyo that their ‘illustrious child’ has not been treated fairly by the ruling party of which he is a staunch member. ‘They said since it is within the powers of the President to grant pardon to prisoners, in spite of the fact that the chiefs are in the known that the case is before a competent court of law, President Mills was being asked to exercise his powers and pardon him on the basis that he has “played a great role in the running of the affairs of this country. They were openly appalled by the treatment meted out to Mr Woyome since he is a known member of the National Democratic Congress, and should not have been arrested in the streets and put behind bars’, the report said. Togbui Ahli II, Avadado of Fieve Traditional Area was the leader of the delegation, whose membership comprised Togbui Ahadzi Dodo, Chief Kingmaker of Agare Traditional Area; Togbui Peniklo-Adelah of Adutoh; Togbui Abudada IV of Adaklu; Mama Adenya, Queenmother of Lavi-Agare Traditional area; and Togbui Aheto Kpeglah Hlortatoh of Fieve Traditional Area. In the case of the Akatsi chiefs and their DCE concerns narrated above, one would have expected them to know, just as any ordinary Ghanaian, that even if President Kufuor had polled zero votes in their traditional area, he still had the sole authority to nominate a DCE for their district assembly. Coming to Togbe Afede’s address, the fact that he gleefully made the purported text messages his core points in his address to welcome the president to the regional capital strongly suggested that he agreed with the letter and spirit of the contents of the text messages and possibly in solidarity with those who sent them, and that is where the slant is. Again, how will he now compare those text messages with recent concerns by Togbe Gabusu VI (Hohoe) and The Queenmother of Alavanyo Traditional Area, Mamaga Ametor II, to the effect that the region, under president Mills, is one of the most rejected in the country? As for the appeal to the president to pardon a suspect who is under investigation because he is an active member of the president’s political party is just unfortunate, or simply shameful. These chiefs needed to have been told long before they crossed the Sogakope Bridge on their journey to Accra that the president can only pardon a convicted person, and not a suspect who had expressed his readiness to contest and prove his innocence in court. At any rate how do you go to the CID headquarters to make an appeal to the president, when we all know the Castle is where the president’s office is? Can you imagine a scenario where dozens of traditional leaders from northern Ghana troop on Accra simply because their son, say Malam Issa, was being tried for theft? There is already a standing humour all over the place that if care is not taken, another batch of chiefs will soon be sending a petition to David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, to as it were ‘pardon’ master Kweku M. Adoboli, the 31-year old ‘rogue trader’ currently under prosecution in Britain for some $2 billion financial impropriety on the grounds that he is also an ‘illustrious son’ of their traditional area. This is not to say all the chiefs in southern Volta are ‘like that’, no, far from that. Torgbui Addo VIII of Klikor Traditional Area is one leader everyone will love to listen to because of his broad-mindedness. Torgbui Kwao Anipati, IV Fiaga of Mepe Traditional Area is another great, great, leader. But honestly, someone needs to guide the large number of other chiefs, who are always goofing, on what issue to dabble in, when and where to make themselves relevant, and above all when to ‘shut up’. For whatever motivation, it is more productive to sleep than make vain efforts at showing political sympathy, which oftentimes turn to cast a slur on their people. Until we do that, we will be seen to be throwing the noble institution of chieftaincy to the dogs. Being a good and powerful chief goes far beyond ‘kente, beads and sandals’. I rest my case……FOR NOW.

Bennett Akuaku (Negative Realities) E-mail: Blog: