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Letter From The President: Chieftaincy madness spreads

Mon, 12 Nov 2007 Source: Daily Dispatch

Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, I’m getting the very distinct impression that someone somewhere is using ‘African electronics’ to taint my reputation by sparking intractable chieftaincy disputes in different parts of the country. If this is not the situation, someone should kindly explain to me why under my administration, we’ve seen so many major, blood-letting chieftaincy disputes. Under my predecessor, there were chieftaincy disputes. No doubt about that. But I don’t recall any of them getting so out of hand and leading to bloodshed as has happened in the past seven years or so in Dagbon, Ga Mashie and, recently, in Anlo.

There’s no other way to explain my misfortune in dealing with the rampant cases of chieftaincy disputes which cause me great embarrassment than to blame them on witches and wizards (from my family, of course) who do not want me to leave office with nothing like a perfect record. They are the ones who have been going around screwing the minds of people and making it difficult for them to access even the lowest realms of reasoning where human beings decide “that there is no point in killing ourselves over a chieftaincy title.”

After all, what’s the fun in being a chief anyway? You get carried in a palanquin about two times a year and you get to settle disputes over stolen goats and chicken. What else? Perhaps, in some cases you get to receive some royalties and engage in multiple sales of lands. Besides that how much power and influence do chiefs really have? And if it’s as low as I imagine it to be, why do we see so many supposedly educated men, mostly with a lot of wealth at their disposal, clamouring for chieftaincy titles even when they know that they have no claim whatsoever to the titles? And why on earth will supposedly sensible and knowledgeable human beings instigate fighting between their tribesmen just to be able to get a stool to sit on? If the witches are not responsible, I don’t know who is. All this crap did not happen under Jerry Boom. So why me? Or is it because the chieftaincy affairs minister under Jerry Boom did a better job than my own?

Well, that’s a thought! Forget about the witches for the time being. I don’t think they are as powerful as I initially thought. In the particular case of the recent chieftaincy clashes in Anlo, I wonder where SK was when the signs started showing all was not well in that area. The whole nation heard about the claims and counterclaims from the two factions. I think even the blind saw the signs and even the deaf heard about the media war the two sides waged for more than three years. It should have been evident to everyone that Anlo was about to be set on fire. Yet, SK, the chieftaincy affairs minister, paid no heed. Instead of calling the factions to a meeting and trying to knock some sense into their heads, he was busy hopping from one radio station to another promoting his idea of a cultural renaissance and urging people to attend the national festival of arts and culture, which he was organising.

Such an unperceptive man! Now that the situation has almost gotten out of hand with five people dead, a state of emergency declared and our country greatly embarrassed (you should have read how the international media reported on the clashes in Anlo), I’ve heard him speaking on radio and calling for an amendment to the chieftaincy law to make it possible for governments to intervene in chieftaincy disputes to avert situations like the one in Anlo.

Hello? I think SK has lost it. The guy doesn’t think that even under the current law he (and government for that matter) can ‘intervene’ when a chieftaincy dispute is getting out of hand. Perhaps, he doesn’t understand the difference between ‘intervene’ and ‘interfere’. The law, as my fickle mind understands it, stipulates that politicians should not ‘interfere’ in chieftaincy disputes. That’s to say that politicians should not arrogate unto themselves the power of deciding who has the right to be chief and who does not. On the hand, I believe that under the law it is the duty of the politician in power, (that is my good, excellent self and my assigns like SK) to ‘intervene’ when matters seem to be getting out of hand. In this case, we are intervening not as arbiters or judges but as voices of reason, telling the factions that nothing they do should endanger lives, destroy property and/or cause embarrassment to the state. In the case of Anlo, SK could have done this very easily by visiting with and talking with the factions regularly. But, he had other more important things on his mind. Perhaps, the witches took away his powers of perception and reasoning. And so, I’m back at square one; the witches are powerful after all, aren’t they?

As they say, there is no need to cry over spilt milk. So let’s look ahead. For God’s sake, someone should tell that Sri man who is causing all the trouble in Anlo that he should not allow his quest to fulfil his chieftaincy ambitions to cause mayhem. I will even suggest to him that he should simply go back to his oil business and leave the people alone. He should not give me any crap about seeking the welfare of his people. This has everything to do with his selfish ambitions and not the welfare of the people. If Sri is the leader he claims to be, he should sit down with his opponents and talk. There is no point forcing himself on the other half of Anlo, which believes he’s not the right heir to the stool. Secondly, the opponents of Sri, who have been calling for bloodshed, should hold their guns and shut up. Pointless talk and all these threats will not do anyone any good. If they have anything constructive to say, they should be ready to sit down to negotiate.

From experience, I know that chieftaincy litigants are amongst the most obstinate souls on earth and so it will be very difficult (almost impossible) to get the two sides to see eye to eye. Things can get even worse, when the mediator happens to be an unperceptive man like SK has proved himself to be. But that should not stop us from trying. We must try, even if it means SK has to be sacked.

My thinking is that Anlo is going to become another Dagbon in the sense that the conflict will not be resolved anytime soon… perhaps never at all. Everyone will take an entrenched position and we’d talk and talk and talk for years to no avail. That should not surprise anyone though. It’s all part of a self-fulfilling prophecy that the institution of chieftaincy is doomed to collapse. As we build our democratic institutions and modernity comes our way, we wouldn’t need these chiefs anymore. Instead of going to the chief to decide whether the stolen goat belongs to you or not, you’d go to the court with a lawyer who will argue your case and the judge will deliver a verdict which will not be a whimsical one like that of a chief. Even the so-called role of chiefs as custodians of our cultural heritage (that is drumming and dancing at the least opportunity) is being eroded because an increasing number of us do not care about culture anymore. Just take a look around at the things we eat and wear, the way we organise our funerals as well as our wedding ceremonies and you’d realise that the custodians of our culture have either failed or have been overwhelmed by a more powerful force. So, going back to my question, what’s the fun in being a chief? And do we need them at all? Only time will tell. From the way things are going, I will bet my last pesewa that they will become extinct and absolutely useless in the not too distant future.

Countrymen and women, loyalists and opponents, I’m getting the very distinct impression that someone somewhere is using ‘African electronics’ to taint my reputation by sparking intractable chieftaincy disputes in different parts of the country. If this is not the situation, someone should kindly explain to me why under my administration, we’ve seen so many major, blood-letting chieftaincy disputes. Under my predecessor, there were chieftaincy disputes. No doubt about that. But I don’t recall any of them getting so out of hand and leading to bloodshed as has happened in the past seven years or so in Dagbon, Ga Mashie and, recently, in Anlo.

There’s no other way to explain my misfortune in dealing with the rampant cases of chieftaincy disputes which cause me great embarrassment than to blame them on witches and wizards (from my family, of course) who do not want me to leave office with nothing like a perfect record. They are the ones who have been going around screwing the minds of people and making it difficult for them to access even the lowest realms of reasoning where human beings decide “that there is no point in killing ourselves over a chieftaincy title.”

After all, what’s the fun in being a chief anyway? You get carried in a palanquin about two times a year and you get to settle disputes over stolen goats and chicken. What else? Perhaps, in some cases you get to receive some royalties and engage in multiple sales of lands. Besides that how much power and influence do chiefs really have? And if it’s as low as I imagine it to be, why do we see so many supposedly educated men, mostly with a lot of wealth at their disposal, clamouring for chieftaincy titles even when they know that they have no claim whatsoever to the titles? And why on earth will supposedly sensible and knowledgeable human beings instigate fighting between their tribesmen just to be able to get a stool to sit on? If the witches are not responsible, I don’t know who is. All this crap did not happen under Jerry Boom. So why me? Or is it because the chieftaincy affairs minister under Jerry Boom did a better job than my own?

Well, that’s a thought! Forget about the witches for the time being. I don’t think they are as powerful as I initially thought. In the particular case of the recent chieftaincy clashes in Anlo, I wonder where SK was when the signs started showing all was not well in that area. The whole nation heard about the claims and counterclaims from the two factions. I think even the blind saw the signs and even the deaf heard about the media war the two sides waged for more than three years. It should have been evident to everyone that Anlo was about to be set on fire. Yet, SK, the chieftaincy affairs minister, paid no heed. Instead of calling the factions to a meeting and trying to knock some sense into their heads, he was busy hopping from one radio station to another promoting his idea of a cultural renaissance and urging people to attend the national festival of arts and culture, which he was organising.

Such an unperceptive man! Now that the situation has almost gotten out of hand with five people dead, a state of emergency declared and our country greatly embarrassed (you should have read how the international media reported on the clashes in Anlo), I’ve heard him speaking on radio and calling for an amendment to the chieftaincy law to make it possible for governments to intervene in chieftaincy disputes to avert situations like the one in Anlo.

Hello? I think SK has lost it. The guy doesn’t think that even under the current law he (and government for that matter) can ‘intervene’ when a chieftaincy dispute is getting out of hand. Perhaps, he doesn’t understand the difference between ‘intervene’ and ‘interfere’. The law, as my fickle mind understands it, stipulates that politicians should not ‘interfere’ in chieftaincy disputes. That’s to say that politicians should not arrogate unto themselves the power of deciding who has the right to be chief and who does not. On the hand, I believe that under the law it is the duty of the politician in power, (that is my good, excellent self and my assigns like SK) to ‘intervene’ when matters seem to be getting out of hand. In this case, we are intervening not as arbiters or judges but as voices of reason, telling the factions that nothing they do should endanger lives, destroy property and/or cause embarrassment to the state. In the case of Anlo, SK could have done this very easily by visiting with and talking with the factions regularly. But, he had other more important things on his mind. Perhaps, the witches took away his powers of perception and reasoning. And so, I’m back at square one; the witches are powerful after all, aren’t they?

As they say, there is no need to cry over spilt milk. So let’s look ahead. For God’s sake, someone should tell that Sri man who is causing all the trouble in Anlo that he should not allow his quest to fulfil his chieftaincy ambitions to cause mayhem. I will even suggest to him that he should simply go back to his oil business and leave the people alone. He should not give me any crap about seeking the welfare of his people. This has everything to do with his selfish ambitions and not the welfare of the people. If Sri is the leader he claims to be, he should sit down with his opponents and talk. There is no point forcing himself on the other half of Anlo, which believes he’s not the right heir to the stool. Secondly, the opponents of Sri, who have been calling for bloodshed, should hold their guns and shut up. Pointless talk and all these threats will not do anyone any good. If they have anything constructive to say, they should be ready to sit down to negotiate.

From experience, I know that chieftaincy litigants are amongst the most obstinate souls on earth and so it will be very difficult (almost impossible) to get the two sides to see eye to eye. Things can get even worse, when the mediator happens to be an unperceptive man like SK has proved himself to be. But that should not stop us from trying. We must try, even if it means SK has to be sacked.

My thinking is that Anlo is going to become another Dagbon in the sense that the conflict will not be resolved anytime soon… perhaps never at all. Everyone will take an entrenched position and we’d talk and talk and talk for years to no avail. That should not surprise anyone though. It’s all part of a self-fulfilling prophecy that the institution of chieftaincy is doomed to collapse. As we build our democratic institutions and modernity comes our way, we wouldn’t need these chiefs anymore. Instead of going to the chief to decide whether the stolen goat belongs to you or not, you’d go to the court with a lawyer who will argue your case and the judge will deliver a verdict which will not be a whimsical one like that of a chief. Even the so-called role of chiefs as custodians of our cultural heritage (that is drumming and dancing at the least opportunity) is being eroded because an increasing number of us do not care about culture anymore. Just take a look around at the things we eat and wear, the way we organise our funerals as well as our wedding ceremonies and you’d realise that the custodians of our culture have either failed or have been overwhelmed by a more powerful force. So, going back to my question, what’s the fun in being a chief? And do we need them at all? Only time will tell. From the way things are going, I will bet my last pesewa that they will become extinct and absolutely useless in the not too distant future.

Excellently yours,
J. A. Fukuor
(fukuor@gmail.com)

Columnist: Daily Dispatch