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Is it really nobler to be a chief than a politician in Ghana?

Fri, 12 Jun 2015 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Folks, the controversy surrounding the status of Robert Nachinab Doameng Mosore, NPP MP for Talensi, seems to be coming to an end with his choice to be a Paramount Chief of Talensi and not a politician (MP). (See http://www.myjoyonline.com/…/it-is-nobler-to-be-chief-than-…)

The 1992 Constitution is clear on why a traditional ruler shouldn't be involved in partisan politics and why some chiefs seeking to be politicians have quickly relinquished their chiefly status to engage in partisan politics for weal or woe.

Even though the late Dr. Hilla Limann of Gwolu was our President in the Third Republic, we didn't bat our eyelids when he doubled as a chief and a politician before being kicked out of office in the Rawlings-led putsch. Many others in the PNDC era come to mind: Nana Akuoko Sarpong of Asante Agogo; Nana Obuadom (Mr. E.G. Tandoh); former Nandom Naa Konku Polku Chiiri; and many others actively participated in politics for good or bad.

The 1992 Constitution draws the line between what a chief/queenmother should be in terms of partisan politics and his/her status as a traditional ruler. The records have the late Paul Nkensen Arkaah, Nenyi of an area in the Winneba Traditional Area, relinquishing his chiefly status to do active politics, becoming the Vice President of Ghana. When he lost favour in politics, he regained it in chieftaincy.

The former CEO of the National Sports Council (Alhaji Nurudeen Jawula) did same but lost the game. Miscalculations can be disastrous in the turbulent waters of Ghanaian politics.

Some chiefs/queenmothers have done their best to outwit the system, doing partisan politics all over the place but being cunning not to vie for political office. They are known for showing their political colours yet denying everything on that score.

This dichotomy of partisan politics and chieftaincy leaves one wondering whether being a "professional" politician or a chief/queenmother means anything noble at all. Just as politicians attract uncomplimentary public comments so do the chiefs/queenmothers too. Records show how unscrupulous some chiefs/queenmothers can be; and some of our politicians have turned out to be criminals. What makes the difference is difficult to determine. The chieftaincy institution in our time is riddled with impropriety; and politics in Ghana is muddy because of the shadiness surrounding it. So, who determines what is noble about either?

Of course, we know that in the strict conceptualization and practices of chieftaincy in Ghana, the chief is regarded as an embodiment of everything—political, economic, spiritual, moral, social, cultural, ideological—everything that constitutes, shapes and shaves the identity of the people represented by that chiefly authority. In that sense, then, it is difficult to separate the chief/queenmother as a traditional ruler from anything with a political tinge. The chief is already a politician-in-disguise and no one should be fooled that they are not.

The introduction of western-style political administration may have endangered the Ghanaian chieftaincy institution and whittled away the powers of the chiefs/queenmothers; but the truth is that the institution is still heavily invested with politics. That is why all the politicians seek the favour of traditional rulers to remain in contention. Who can, then, say that the chiefs/queenmothers don't matter when it comes to partisan politics?

Whether they personally indulge in politics or use their ventriloquists in many fields of human endeavour (pastors, teachers, herbalists, etc.), their influence is felt. No one in his/her proper frame of mind can under-rate the influence of the traditional rulers and hope to make it in Ghanaian politics. Do the politicians not owe allegiance to their respective chiefs in their hometowns? In effect, then, the chiefs/queenmothers are difficult to take down in partisan politics. Their influence is everywhere

But to the main issue now: Is it more beneficial to the traditional ruler to abstain from politics or to shed off the traditional ruler coat and become a professional politician? What can a chief do alone without recourse to the MP for his area? Can a chief make the desired impact without falling back on the politicians in a symbiotic relationship of sorts? Why isn't chieftaincy mixing with partisan politics? Do we have an oil-and-water paradox here to untangle?

The case of Robert Nachinab Doameng Mosore, NPP MP for Talensi (who is now relishing his new status as the Paramount Chief of Talensi) brings to sharp focus the implications of the dichotomy. He is saying that it is nobler to be a chief than a politician. What has he seen, felt, or heard to make him think this way? Is he confirming long-held negative opinions that Ghanaian politics is full of nonsense? Why now? I wonder, especially because of the controversy surrounding this MP’s about-turn.

When the NDC Majority side in Parliament questioned happenings regarding his metamorphosis from a politician to a traditional ruler and asked that he be removed from Parliament, the NPP Minority cried wolf. It has taken him a long time to come to this decision to leave Parliament and his seat has been declared vacant.

Of course, in our Fourth Republic, politics has become a never-ending series of mudslinging; and our Legislature has particularly drawn attention to itself as a weak link in the chain of democracy. Records show the sordid things done by MPs and the uselessness of Parliament itself in helping solve pertinent problems. Yet, many are abandoning their chosen careers to do politics!!

Should we agree with the Talensi chief that being a paramount chief is nobler than being a politician in Ghana? What is that NOBILITY at all? Folks, here is an MP turning round to cast such a huge slur on Ghanaian politicians. His swipe at Parliament itself is gripping. But over all, what can a chief and a politician do to improve living standards of the people? After all, the essence of leadership—be it in the sense of a chief or a politician—is to use the resources of the land for the good of the people. As the situation is now, neither the chief nor the politician can claim to have succeeded. So, wherein lies nobility? Enough food for thought already?

I shall return…

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Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.