Opinions Sat, 17 Sep 2011

Chieftaincy Reform

Following up on the article by Dr. George Oteng Attakora, “Ghaddafi and the Chiefs”, I think the debate has to be escalated so that something gets done. We need reform, Chieftaincy reform and constitutional amendment to bring the Chiefs under the one umbrella of the Constitution. At present the constitution gives Chiefs a free ride under the guise of our multi-variant custom and traditional laws; traditions which are not monolithic across the country and cannot by any stretch of the imagination, be fair. Some of them ran blatantly opposite modern understanding, logic and I dare say common sense.

Imagine the tradition that allows Chiefs to marry underage girls or take them as “stool servants” for the rest of their lives.” We prosecute ordinary citizens who interfere with underage children, why should the Chiefs enjoy protection of such crimes in the guise of tradition under the constitution, (article 11 and 270), Why should a man be forced to marry other women because he is enstooled and needs “stool wives” as demanded by some traditions.

As the author of “Ghaddafi and the Chiefs” rightly illustrated, the essence of our Chiefs has outlived its usefulness in post modern Ghana. The institution of Chieftaincy needs reform if it should survive, and this has nothing to do with not keeping our identity as a people as some commentators have argued.

Chiefs are by tradition enstooled to be worshipped, served, kowtowed and live in palaces as “endangered species”. With some of the traditions, they even have to be bathed and clothed by a third party. In post modern Ghana, I don’t know what moral, economic or even spiritual aspect of life that this imposing lifestyle addresses.

Culture and traditions are not absolute in their own rights; they are ways of life experienced by our ancestors and passed on from generation to generation. Some of them are based on superstition, some dictated by the environment of ancient times, some based on ignorance, some by dictatorship and many more by mere belief. Of course, others are tried and tested, wise, spiritually sound and morally prudent. Culture is not static. It changes over time. As we become more knowledgeable about our environment, about who we are as a people, we should not be averse to adapting our way of life to reflect our time. This is the digital age. Eras in the Bible moved from the Judges, to the Kingss, the Prophets and to self government; with the understanding that, we are created in the image of the Creator. We live in the Creator and the Creator in us. We are all endowed with equal rights, intelligence and invention or creation potentials to reflect the Creator’s powers. We should then remove from our culture those elements that hold us captive and backward to include those that will enhance our future and develop us as people. To this end, the Constitution should be our compass and the tool for the country.

This idea of Chieftaincy and Lordship has become so entrenched in our society that most people in positions of power behave like chiefs. Directors want to take advantage office stuff, using them in some cases to ran personal errands. Why, because he is the boss, the chief. Instead of Ministers serving in their positions, they want to be worshipped. Even the Presidency sometimes gets mixed up with Chieftaincy, that’s why some Presidents want to stay on for life. We as a society have been subliminally influenced by this sense of entitlement and superiority which, I believe has its roots from our culture of Chieftaincy. Our work ethics are misplaced; this something for nothing attitude.

Chieftaincy has to be brought into the modern fold and under the constitution if it is to survive. Preserve the Kingship process to one which renders honor and accountability as an example to the people at the grass roots. Chiefs should serve, defend the constitution and promote human rights, democracy, education and nation building. They should hold accountable local government and government ministers as they are accountable by example and not consume state resources for their opulence lifestyle.

The 1992 Constitution did a terrible job by removing all government oversight from its jurisdiction and not capturing the terms of Chieftaincy into law. After all we should all be governed by one rule of law, which is the Constitution. The law should be no respecter of persons. That is why I believe we need a referendum and the legislature should seek redress to amend the constitution. I STAND WITH THE AUTHOR OF “GHADDAFI AND THE CHIEFS”, WE NO GO SIT DOWN!

Petronella Adomako

Columnist: Adomako, Petronella