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Opinions of Saturday, 2 July 2011

Columnist: Amoah, Anthony Kwaku

When Chiefs Are Used As Propaganda Tools

By Anthony Kwaku Amoah

“The main objective of chiefs is to ensure that their areas are developed. And to achieve this objective, they have to partner government without necessarily engaging in active politics”-Naa Professor Nabila, the President for the Ghana National House of Chiefs.

The 1992 Constitution of Ghana debars traditional rulers from taking active or leading role in partisan politics. By this, it is illegitimate for a king, chief or queen mother to declare any form of open support for any particular candidate or party that is vying for any national or local-based political position. But it appears this restriction, in most instances, is being tampered upon by some unscrupulous politicians, who often resort to foul and crude means of procuring power by falling on some traditional rulers who, they (politicians) think, could wield their influences on their subjects in order to garner support for them towards victory.

However, The Ghanaian Chronicle (Wednesday, April 27, 2011) editorial has this to say: “We do not begrudge people who sympathise with the ruling government wishing that the President (referring to Atta Mills) is not challenged at the party's (i.e. NDC) primary. But, when traditional rulers are seen openly exhibiting their support for a particular political party, it creates a problem or two for themselves”, reminding that, “Chiefs are not supposed to dabble in partisan politics. The laws of the land are unequivocal about that”. The Editorial further stated, “Chiefs seen to be following particular political parties are likely to alienate some of their subjects, who do not follow the political parties these chiefs have sympathies for”.

A news item captioned, “Ave-Avenor Chiefs Rescue Doe Adjaho” in The Ghanaian Observer (April 6-8, 2011), attributing a statement to the Ave-Avenor Council of Chiefs that, “The current MP (referring to Hon Doe Adjaho) has served the constituency (i.e. Ave-Avenor) for eighteen years during which period he has spearheaded numerous developmental projects” in a rejoinder to a story earlier published by The New Crusading Guide (Monday, March 14, 2011) with the caption, “After 20yrs in Parliament, Popular ‘Uprising’ To Hit Doe Adjaho, …In Ave-Avenor NDC, But He is Unperturbed!” really muddied the political waters within the Constituency, as a section of the public accused the said traditional rulers of trying to dabble in active politics.

The accusation was contained in a press release published in The Ghanaian Observer (April 8-11, 2011) with the headline, “NDC Youth Activists Blast Ave-Avenor Chiefs …For Dabbling In Partisan Politics” where the said youth group was reported to have described the action of the their own chiefs as nothing more than hypocritical.

They moved further to articulate a series of what they stated as “serious developmental challenges bedeviling the people of Ave-Avenor” and which, they claimed, had been ignored by their member of parliament, who has served them for about eighteen years and was indirectly calling for his removal, if the MP should present himself again in 2012.

The group again lashed their traditional leaders when they said, “those chiefs who think that the incumbent MP is the best person to represent the people of Ave-Avenor should rather mount political platform to rally support for him instead of hiding behind the so-called Council of Chiefs to achieve their political and parochial interests”.

In fact, these developments involving some of our traditional rulers are ugly and indecent, which must be stopped by urging chiefs and queen mothers to dance according to the tune of the Republic’s Constitution. What must be understood here is that politics is politics and should reverends like traditional leaders try to tinker with it, it could dent their image and put their reputations in jeopardy.

In my opinion, there is nothing wrong for chiefs or queen mothers to appreciate any good work done by political leaders for their communities and continue to demand for more, especially during durbars and when these political leaders make courtesy calls on them (chiefs) but that must be done carefully. If the editorial of The Ghanaian Chronicle (Wednesday, April 27, 2011) is any to consider at this juncture, then I think a report quoting an Accra-based bi-weekly newspaper that the Paramount Chief of the Gomoa Akyempim Traditional Area, Obrifo Ahumako Ahor Ankobea II has charged former President Jerry John Rawlings to convince his wife, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, to throw away her intention to contest the National Democratic Congress (NDC) presidential primary in July this year and further warning her “to stay out of the contest if she did not want to be humiliated at the NDC primary” is inappropriate and condemnable. A couple of days after the launch of Konadu’s campaign team in May, the Member of Parliament for Lower Manya Krobo and the Campaign Director for Konadu 2012, Mr. Michael Teye Nyaunu was in the news to have said that the Overload of the Ashanti Kingdom, Nana Otumfuor Osei Tutu II has endorsed the former First Lady over the sitting President Mills because the former is an Ashanti. The issue became a topical one as some ‘lovers’ of President Mills started making damning comments about His Highness, Nana Otumfour. The information did not go down well with the Ashantehene, who personally came out to deny the report.

As if that could bring to an end any attempt by politicians to bring traditional rulers into mainstream body politic, that appears to have rather set the tone for more unhealthy activities. Under the guise of commissioning projects in some parts of the country, some unsuspecting chiefs were being dragged to do one form of propaganda work or the other for the ruling NDC under the watch of President John Evans Atta Mills.

Just a few days ago, with the aid of a section of the Ghanaian media, the Okyeman Council of Chiefs, was reported to have endorsed the Government of the NDC.

In fact, all those who were in the country and monitoring events within the media landscape would agree with me that if the Okyeman Council of Chiefs had not quickly come out to debunk the report, they would have been reduced to a pulp completely by individuals who are not sympathetic to the ruling NDC. I do not believe my treasured reader has yet forgotten the way the Goasohene, in the Brong Ahafo Region was nearly plunged into the dirty mud of Ghanaian politics when he was also maliciously reported to have endorsed President Mills and his government for 2012.

What must be clear here is that politics is for the politicians and should any other individual have an interest in venturing into it then there is the need for him/her to come out well rather than say, hiding under the cover of chieftaincy to be doing what is unacceptable.

Left to me alone, a convention should be made so that at durbars and public gatherings, after the lead chief or traditional ruler pours the libation for the commencement of proceedings, any speech that will be delivered on behalf the community must be done by the Assembly member of the area, who usually represents his electoral area at most external meetings.

In terms of courtesy calls on chiefs, which some smart politicians use as a bait to push unsuspecting traditional rulers into declaring support for them, I would like to suggest to chiefs to recruit brilliant and wise people as Secretaries or Public Relations Officers (PROs) who will be doing professional presentations on their behalf whenever these politicians pay them visits. Or if they themselves still want to speak, then they must be very calculative in the selection of words to be uttered.

With this, I hope some scrap of sanity can be injected into our body politic for our chiefs and traditional rulers to also live in peace and in harmony with their people and be able to maintain the reverence we bestow on them.