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By: Kobina Antobam
Let me state at the outset that Asantehene is not my direct focus today. As someone who has a quarter Asante blood coursing through my arteries, and especially through my aorta to keep my heart pumping, simply because my maternal grandfather was a full-blooded Asante, I understand very well and maintain due respect and the expected sensibility for the very important leadership of Asantes.
My intent here is to discuss the narrow traditionalist policies of ex-President John Agyekum Kufuor and the New Patriotic Party when they were in charge from 2000 through 2007. So, anyone who will miss a heartbeat or experience a debilitating heartburn simply because I mention the name of the Asantehene, all I can say is that there is little to nothing I can do to alleviate your condition. I have great respect for the man, so calm down and let’s have a conversation.
Also, for those who will misconstrue my position and find it difficult to separate their overt ethnic divisiveness and tribal pretentiousness, extreme egocentrism and parochial exclusivity that were blatantly and shamelessly practiced by the NPP during its eight-year chance reign, let it be known that you will make a grievous blunder if you ever misinterpret my observations as any form of attack on the Asantehene.
This is all about Mr. John Agyekum Kufuor and the NPP and not the Asantehene. The Otumfuo’s mention here is only because he became a pawn of the NPP and he was carelessly used to advance Kufuor cabal’s divisive arrogant attempt at laying a foundation of ethnocentric supremacy. Mr. Kufuor undertook an impossible task of calculatingly thrusting upon all Ghanaians a dominant singular tradition and culture, but ended up digging a tribal schism large enough to bury every Ghanaian in it except his select group. Now we, the rest of us Ghanaians, are doing all that we can everyday to repair the damage.
I would also like to point out here that the NPP should listen carefully to advice and opinions of people like me, especially about how the party arrived at this stage where it is unable to recapture Ghana’s most prestigious top prize, the presidency. Despite the large but hardly a cross-sectional support of the NPP and despite the narrow margin of votes in the last two presidential elections, NPP cannot easily overcome the combined disgust of the National Democratic Congress party, which has a better ethnic integration, and the rest of Ghanaians, who are unanimously apprehensive about the return of the NPP, an NPP that will pick up from where Kufuor left off. So far we have no evidence of a clear articulation of a departure from Kufuor’s cultural policies coming from the new crop of NPP leaders.
Indeed, it was Mr. Kufuor who was quoted as having said the following just around the time he first became the President of Ghana in 2000: “Asantes are fond of making certain pronouncements that affect the sensibility of other tribes.” If it is true that he proposed such admonition for circumspection to his people, then this clear exculpatory admission gives credence to what we have known all along about the ethnocentric superiority complex and the sad diffidence of some Ghanaians. Was he preaching what he intended practicing when he became president? His actions proved otherwise.
Also, being verbally reticent about this suitable advice to his people did not mean that Mr. Kufuor was going to hold in check a long-suppressed desire for a national cultural transformation that had simmered in him and his group for decades. So seriously determined as he was, Mr. Kufuor, together with all his influential cronies, became reckless and adventurous with our delicate sensibilities, and couldn’t make a radical distinction between cultural reality, that is, a clean unsullied apolitical chieftaincy institution, versus what he desired for the nation, that is, an insane and incestuous marriage of political and monarchical discharge of national duties.
Kufuor, the sly divisive traditionalist parading around currently as a cool retired gentleman, and his cronies, were the worst tribo-centric Ghanaians ever to run the country. To the muffled amazement of all other chiefs in the country, from the smallest village chiefs to the metropolitan paramount chiefs, Kufuor made the Asantehene the supreme King of Ghana for good eight years. By doing so, he quietly pushed all other chiefs to the backroom and held up high the Asantehene as the only King of Ghana.
Financed by state funds, Mr. Kufuor awarded the Asantehene foreign ambassadorial roles and never considered other chiefs for any equally prestigious foreign or local representations. Allow me to reiterate that, Mr. Kufuor, in his delusions, couldn’t separate chieftaincy, as a long-standing neutral traditional institution, from the political duties and requirements of the country. He had to find a way to muddy both. And now we are cleaning up the crap after him!
For example, during Kufuor’s period in office, the Asantehene was singled out, among other prestigious roles that were delegated to him by the NPP government, to having audiences with the Queen of England and the King of Morocco, not as a King of a single ethnic group in Ghana, the Asantes, but as the King of Ghana. In the meantime, all other Ghanaian chiefs, of the smallest villages up to the paramount chiefs of the largest metropolitan areas, were quietly lamenting over their debasement to second-class chiefs while, during those eight years, they waited and wondered when their equal time would come. It never did.
Meanwhile, the eminent Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, being an astute, prudent, wiser leader, with his hawkish awareness and broader outlook on the multiplicity and complications of ethnic relationships in the country, and politically savvier than Kufuor, played along with the NPP’s eight years of reckless unrestrained “happy-days-are-here-again” profligacy. Eventually, the wise Otumfuo carefully and propitiously pulled back to the well-grounded neutral position during the 2008 election campaign period and watched and waited. The Otumfuo has always been a better observer and predictor of the direction of political winds in the country.
Consequently, when the final election results proved that a majority of Ghanaians did not want the NPP back in office and that the National Democratic Congress was the winner of both the presidential and representative elections, the foresightedness of the Asantehene skyrocketed his prestige and held his honor intact despite Kufuor’s carelessness which could have derailed the standing of any other chief in the country right after the election results were confirmed. Surely, the credit for such astuteness goes only to the Asantehene and none to Kufuor.
If you also haven’t thought about it, you might as well realize that since the NDC has been in power the last five years, both the NDC and the Manhyia Palace, being cognizant of the seriousness of the political climate in the country and the feelings of the rest of the chiefs in the country, have been careful not to continue Kufuor’s careless fronting of the Otumfuo as the King of Ghana, while at the same time respecting and handling with due deference the stature of the Asantehene among his people, the rest of Ghanaians, and the world outside. Now, it has come to pass that the Otumfuo’s unwavering position of neutrality has become the paddle or whipping cane with which NPP supporters are using to attack and beat down on him.
Of course, during Kufuor’s government, many of the chiefs, though not necessarily unhappy, privately and quietly mumbled and grumbled inside the compounds of their palaces about Kufuor’s destructive, tribally hegemonic, lopsided rankings of the totality of chiefs in the country. Kufuor cunningly lumped en-masse into one his own predetermined underclass of Ghana’s chiefs and relegated or swept them into his imaginary dustbin and went ahead and paid fawning attention to only a select number of chiefs. My regular discussions with a former secondary school classmate, who has been a chief in the Central Region for quite a few decades, provided me with a good insight into this one of Kufuor’s damaging ethnocentric screwups.
I had just resettled back in Ghana in the early years of the NPP government after being away for a long time for my education, work and professional experience. In the early years of my return to Ghana, I was super gung-ho about Kufuor and the NPP when I and many Ghanaians had honestly gotten tired of Rawlings. But it did not take long for me to begin to critically examine and arrive at the realization that the Kufuor government was made up of a bunch of careless but die-hard ethno-centrists, who, by their own admission, had waited fifty years for their chance in order to implement a long, long-repressed agenda, which included a caste acculturation of the whole country. A predetermined transformation that would have ensured that we all behaved as a boring one; that is, a type of homogeneity mirroring only Kufuor’s chosen tradition.
As I said earlier, I am a couple of branches down on the Asante family tree, or blood ties, but I want Ghana equally for all Ghanaians. To disabuse readers’ minds about my being an NDC member or sympathizer, let me let Ghanaians in on one secret: I am not a card-carrying member of the NDC and I don’t intend to apply for one anytime soon. I have never ever voted for any NDC candidate. I was successful overseas before coming back to Ghana and I do not need anyone’s party card in order to survive in my own homeland. I am staunchly independent.
So, considering what we have come to realize about the performance and the happy-go-lucky carryings-on of Kufuor’s government, the cliquish thefts, the arrogance, and the narrowly conservative traditionalist behavior of that government, I would prefer NDC over NPP, as a choice of a lesser of two evils, at least in the interest of ethnic diversity, national unity and coexistence.
Conversely, as I have indicated at least once before, that being well aware that I am just a drop-in-the-bucket individual among over twenty million Ghanaians and that my opinions or positions might be inconsequential and may make no difference one way or the other, I may accept an NPP for president of Ghana again someday, that is, if only I am convinced of a real dramatic turnaround in the party away from the entrenched ethnocentric belligerence.
Since I have shown that I am in a reflective mood today, I would like to add that rabid partisan allegiances often give birth to self-righteousness and always make political arguments a zero-sum contest. What I propose as a rational appraisal of the divergence of what Mr. Kufuor says and does will be, misconstrued, without fail, as subversive and inappropriate by his immodest blind supporters. I can’t help them, so I will continue to “speak.”
Here is an excellent example: Not even counting his numerous visits and contacts with the Otumfuo between 2000 and 2007, it is remarkable the countless number of direct interactions Mr. Kufuor has had with the Asantehene in his retirement, not only here in Ghana but outside the country, too, to the obvious exclusion of other influential chiefs in the country.
Nothing is wrong with that. Nothing is wrong with Kufuor attending all of the Asantehene’s public events and ceremonies. But I would think that all former presidents of the REPUBLIC OF GHANA should be duty-bound to stay in regular consistent touch with all regions, and, particularly, all chiefs spread out in the four corners of the country. I don’t think a Ghanaian ex-President’s job is done when he leaves office.
Ours is not an American or a European country. Our cultural and traditional composition is peculiar only to us. So it is not unreasonable to ask our leaders to carry with them into their retirements their ethnic relations experiences and their sense of duty to the nation. An extraordinary effort like that would go a long way to diminish parochial, political, and any lingering leftovers of ethnocentrism created during their periods in office that continues to polarize our political, economic and social interactions.
That said, Mr. Kufuor, your legacy continues to damage Mr. Akufo-Addo’s presidential chances! Your failed absurd, confusing, quirky singular monarchical attempts have been particularly destructive to Mr. Akufo-Addo. We do not need a King of Ghana. The duplicitous, sneaky, and conspiratorial way you went about it has also made the NPP largely distasteful to many Ghanaians. You have inadvertently killed Akufo-Addo’s presidential chances and put the NPP in an inextricable rut.
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