Ghana: Understanding the Paradoxes in Ghanaian Society

Many Ghanaian institutions, especially chieftaincy, are a “paradox” personified.

For when a person is fingered by the elders of a town or village to become their chief, he normally runs away.

The operative word in that last sentence is “normally”. A person, who would run away rather than be enstooled as a chief, is usually a “normal” person. He knows that becoming a chief will bring him a lifestyle that he has seen and admired, but that it will be enjoyed at a great cost to his personal liberty.

Eventually, though, he is “caught” and enstooled (if the people really want him to be chief.)

Now, the interesting fact is that ” is that at the same time as the favourite heir to a stool might be trying to run away, some members of his own family ( ambitious brothers or cousins) would be paying bribes to some kingmakers to influence them to give the stool to the bribe-giver!

In other words, the institution of chieftaincy contains — sἑbe o tafrakyἑ — elements of schizophrenia, no less. So, a few chiefs may have — sἑbe o tafrakyἑ — suffered, at one time or another, from a psychological ailment that urged them, simultaneously, “to want it, but not to want it!”

Anticipating the confusion that this element of trauma can, subsequently, produce in the person who is put on a stool, our ancestors went to great lengths to offer such s person psychological support, on a continuing basis.

His drummers would urge tell him to be eternally sagacious because:

Asaasetrἑtrἑtrἑἑntrἑkwa!

Yἑmmfrἑ wo ↄhenekwa

Ↄpaninkwa,

Ↄhenkwa,

Ↄpaninkwa!

(TRANSLATION: “The earth is wide, wide, wide; It’s not wide for nothing; We don’t call you a Chief for nothing; We don’t you an Elder for nothing!)

For good measure, the chief is also reminded that:

Wo ho baabiyἑOdum,

WohobaabiyἑOnyina

WohobaabiyἑↃfἑtἑfrἑ

Wohobaabi yἑBrↄfrἑ

Yἑtena wo so a

Na yἑtoafↄ!

(TRANSLATION: Part of you is like the Odum tree (proper hardwood). Part of you is like the Onyina (composed of soft pith but thorny on the outside); Part of you is like the soft-softↃfἑtἑfrἑ, While part of you is like the fallen pawpaw stem That wets the bottom if sat upon!)

I submit that these two verses conjure for us, all the qualities and opposing weaknesses that can help a chief to try and “be all things to all men”; in much the same way that (in the English-speaking world) “justice” is said to be “blind”.

In either case, resort is made to the biological sciences to implant the view that the fabric of chieftaincy is rooted in biochemistry itself – the source of all life on Planet Earth.

How can mere humans cope with such contradictions that are innate in Nature, and thereby, in our genes?

That is why our Chiefs are not allowed, by custom, to speak in public but to pass everything through their official spokesman or Ↄkyeame. And, conversely, no person may address the Chief, as he sits in stated, directly, but is required to first ask, “Ↄkyeame wↄ hↄ”? and only unburden himself of what he’s got to say, on being assured that the Ↄkyeame is all ears.

I have gone to great lengths to lay bare these verbal techniques, which are embedded in Akan culture, to call a halt to the unnecessary constitutional crisis that the Kumase Traditional Council, in the absence of Otumfoↄ Ↄsἑe Tutu The Second, is creating between his nation and Mother Ghana.

Yes, Asante is a Nation but at no time have I ever heard anyone, offered, sἑbe o tafrakyἑ, an ambassadorship or other important job, and reject it on the grounds that he or she is an “Asante” and not a “Ghanaian.” Similarly, all laws passed by the Parliament of Ghana apply, equally, in all parts of the Ghana that was given its instruments of statehood by the Government of the United Kingdom, on 6 March 1957.

That is why the Executive Director of the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), Professor Henry Kwasi Prempeh, has described the directive by the Kumasi Traditional Council to the Management of Oyerepa FM radio station to shut down, as amounting to an “abuse of power.”

Prof. Prempeh said on the NewsFile programme of JoyNews TV that even though the Kumase Traditional Council is clothed with powers to exercise authority within its jurisdiction, the move to halt the broadcasts of the station is not grounded in law.

The law Professor explained that customary laws are indeed part of the legitimate sources of law, as enshrined in the 1992 Constitution. He noted, however, that the implementation of such laws must be done in conformity with other relevant provisions of the Constitution, “to ensure harmonisation between customary powers and the authority of the state.”

“To actually arrogate to yourself, the power to basically overstep the constitutional limits, because you have the considerable local support, I think really borders on abuse of power, and I think we should not encourage it”, Prof Prempeh said.

But he also cautioned the media particularly the local FM stations, to be “circumspect” in their reportage, of events. Even though traditional authorities must not overstep their powers, there is the need for the media to also demonstrate professionalism and responsibility in its line of duty.

Prof Prempeh’s comments were made in the light of an order by the Kumasi Traditional Council on Thursday, 25 August 2022, directing Oyerepa FM to halt its operations. The order followed comments made on the station by Mr Akwasi Addai ‘Odike’. Speaking as a guest on the station’s political talk show, MrOdikecriticised the traditional chiefs in the Ashanti Region, for failing to combat galamsey in their areas. He accused the Chiefs of aiding those engaged in galamsey and looking on unconcerned while forests and water bodies were destroyed.

He also threatened to lead the youth to stage a “massive demonstration” against the chiefs if the galamsey menace continued.

Subsequently, the Kumasi Traditional Council declared Odike’s statement to be a form of “rebellion against Asanteman” and “banished” him from setting foot at Manhyia.

Meanwhile, Mr George Mireku Duker Deputy Minister for Lands and Natural Resources and Member of Parliament for Tarkwa Nsuam, has given an indication of the high price that has tgo be paid to fight galamseyl.

According to the Minister, that fight almost cost him his Parliamentary seat. Speaking on the Joy News programme, Upfront, Mr. Mireku Duker revealed that the illegal miners ere making the fight very difficult

“Fighting galamsey is a continuous fight”, he disclosed. “After arresting one group, another comes in to continue .So you need to really get the people off the place before reclaiming the lands,” he said.

He added: “The illegal miners wait and start their activities at night, when the security operatives are away. We have now strategically asked the Navy to intensify their patrol of the river bodies”.

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