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Asantehene: new progress philosophy

Wed, 27 May 2009 Source: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong

The significance of Asantehene (King), Otumfuo Osei Tutu II’s year-long 10th anniversary festivity on his ascension to the Asanteman Golden Stool goes beyond the remarkable cultural displays, the high sounding speeches, the need to deepen the Ghanaian democracy, and the bestowing of honours on persons deemed to have contributed to Ghana and human progress.

At the deeper developmental level, the Asantehene, over the past 10 years, have exhibited what is inadequate in Ghana’s and Africa’s progress – exposed lack of firm confidence and psychology, weak grasp of the interplay between Ghanaian traditional values and the global neo-liberal ones.

At the philosophical level, the Asantehene’s 10th anniversary also reflects the gradual emergence of a new progress philosophy that attempts to blend or juggle the traditional with the neo-liberal, with equal respect and dignity, where the traditional work with the neo-liberal in resolving the contradictions within the development process as means of pushing the frontiers of Ghana’s progress.

The Asantehene is here exuding understanding for motivation, against pressure to progress, that is in short supply, in Ghana’s progress. The thinking here is that you can’t adequately develop Ghana without factoring in its traditional values, in all moral considerations, as Botswana will tell you, that have served as the basis for meaning and value for the 56 ethnic groups that form Ghana, most of whom still function traditionally, for more than a thousand years. To do that, as the Asantehene is attempting to avoid, is to loss any hardcore traditional perspectives on Ghanaian progress, and along with it any coherent sense of objective truth that emanates from within the Ghanaian culture as part of the global prosperity act.

Whether from his projects, in concert with global development agencies such as the World Bank, such as the Otumfuo Osei Tutu Charity Foundation that attempts to tackle the nitty-gritty of local economic problems using traditional mechanisms or using traditional methods to resolve modern conflicts, the Asantehene, over the past ten years, has been able to rationalize from within the Ghanaian culture, and practicalize his thinking that durable progress will occur fully by playing with the two values any time it is necessary. In the Asantehene, the Ghanaian culture, as development fodder, isn’t alienated but used as bridge between the traditional and the neo-liberal (that heavily runs Ghana still), thus making the Asantehene the tunnel for balanced progress based on his enormous credence.

The Manhyia Place as think tank

The German thinker Friedrich Nietzsche argued that the privilege class, or in Africa the “Big Man,” have the luxury of thinking or contemplating about progress issues because they aren’t part of the struggling class that do not have the comfort and time to contemplate. By his station and immense gravitas, the Asantehene has the luxury to contemplate about how to play with the development values running Ghana, using his ancient Manhyia Palace as laboratory. The Asantehene becomes the master player of the traditional and the neo-liberal. But as the master player, the Asantehene operates from his deep grasp of the Ghanaian traditional values, appropriating the good parts while attempting to refine the inhibiting ones.

Part of Asantehene’s luxury in using his Manhyia Palace to brew an enhanced and balanced Ghanaian development values is his vast contacts with academia, civil society, traditional institutions, bureaucrats, journalists, Big Men/Women, international institutions, and ordinary people. The Asantehene can easily lobby the National House of Chiefs, currently toothless and the key convergence of Ghanaian cultural values, as a rallying cry in his new progress thinking – it will be part of the awakening of traditional institutions and values for progress.

By playing with all these diverse people, institutions and values to hatch an enhanced new progress paradigms, the Asantehene would be re-enacting and appropriating what the co-founder of the Asante Kingdom, the legendary chief priest Okomfo Anokye, who had the dexterity to juggle and mix varying and disparaging values and institutions of clans, families, tribes, ethnic groups and peoples to form the Asante Kingdom (established from 1701-1896). Active till late 17th century, Okomfo Anokye used traditional values and institutions to helped establish not only constitution, laws, and customs but a vast empire stretching from central Ghana to present day Togo and Cote d' Ivoire, bordered by the Dagomba kingdom to the north and Dahomey to the east.

What informs the King Osei Tutu 1 (the other Asante Kingdom co-founder) and Okomfo Anokye to create a vast empire was their ability to play with diverse values of ethnic groups they ruled as progress acts and constantly enhancing it. As the Asante ethnic groups increasing becomes an all Ghanaian group through intermarriages and migration, the Asantehene has the historical platform to use Manhyia Palace as laboratory to hatch new progress models, philosophically and practically, that partners Ghanaian traditional values with that of the neo-liberal ones.

Asantehene as Mustafa Kemal Atatürk

Pretty much of the progresses of nations are driven by how its elites work from within their core values and histories up to the universal level. But to do that is to have a thorough grasp of one’s values and history, and how to operationalize them to the global prosperity level. The schisms between the Ghanaian traditional values and the neo-liberal ones show this haven’t been done. The Asantehene is positioned in this stance by his actions, conducts and inclinations as progress driver to radiate a new development philosophy and practices that emanate from Ghanaian values in concert with the global neo-liberal ones.

The case of the Asantehene using his Manhyia Palace as traditional-values-determined think tank brings to mind what Turkey’s modern founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk did some 73 years ago. Using his gravitas, his military discipline, his grasp of Turkish traditional values and history, and the circles of some enlightened associates, Atatürk used Western neo-liberal values to reform reasonable number of Turkey’s traditional values, mixing here and there, and juggling where appropriate, hatched new progress paradigms, and in the process opened Turkey to greater progress drawn from within itself, from within its soul, from within its traditional values, and creatively making Turkey as the bridge between Western and Turkish civilizations, as progress act.

Among Atatürk’s work of juggling and mixing of Turkish traditional and neo-liberal values is passing, on October 4, 1926, the new Turkish civil code that was modeled after the Swiss Civil Code under which women gained equality with men in such matters as inheritance and divorce. Turkey’s Ottoman traditional practice had discouraged the social interaction between men and women and the practice of sex segregation. Atatürk was able to do this simply because he had scrupulous grab of Turkey’s cultural values and the global ones, and how to skillfully juggle the two values appropriately for progress.

In all measure, there is the Ataturk progress philosophy in Asantehene that is gradually emerging, but need to be grasped deeply and holistically and worked out in the cool comfort of his Manhyia Palace, as a development philosophy.

Asantehene as transformer As Ataturk did, the Asantehene has all the room to hatch a new or enhance development paradigm using his immense gravitas as networks. By boldly touting the rule of law, democracy and freedoms as the cornerstones of his 10th anniversary, and simultaneously condemning Africa’s “Big Men” syndrome, which are deemed the cause of all that have stifled Africa’s progress for the past 50 years, the Asantehene has set the trend for the transformation of Africa as progress act. Here the Asantehene, unlike years ago where Africa’s traditional institutions and values were suppressed and demeaned, courageously appropriates traditional values as the springing board for progress by working with the global neo-liberal values.

In Asantehene’s transformational progress game, there is nothing wrong with the global neo-liberal values, what is problematic are Africans elites not having enough grasp of their environment and weaving it with the neo-liberal, as confidence and psychological acts, that has created developmental predicaments in Africa.

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi