By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
May 8, 2011
If there is one thing that irks me about President Mills’ conduct in office, it is nothing but his tendency to irritate some of us with his Christian religious zeal to create the impression that he is cementing the bond between the State and the Church instead of separating both to prevent any friction in the country. He is constantly privileging Christianity over all other faiths in the country and creating the impression that all we need to solve our country’s problems is to look up to his Christian God.
This “Adom Wo Wim” (Help-comes-from-above) politics is dangerous for Ghana. He must stop it before he plunges the country into the kind of religious riots that erupts perennially in Nigeria, among others.
The latest irksome utterance from him confirms my fears that he is carrying his Christian religious fervour too far. He is reported to have declared that “Christ is the President of Ghana.” To worsen the situation, he was reported to have added that he “owes no one any apologies for the statement which, according to him, is his guiding principle as head of state.” President Mills made these utterances in a speech he delivered at the 39th General Council Meeting of the Church of Pentecost at Sowutuom in Accra. The theme of the event was “Being Led by the Spirit of God.”
President Mills might have made those utterances to suggest his submissiveness to a Supreme Deity and to draw inspiration for his political work; but he has goofed big time. In his private life, Christ may be the head of his home but extending that conviction to the Presidency is untenable. He has allowed his private religious faith to interfere with national interests and must be condemned outright. I disagree strongly with him that “Christ is the President of Ghana” and want to tell him straight to his face that he is wrong for several reasons, which I will soon explain. He must retract this statement or clarify it to undo the harm that it has already done in the minds of those who don’t subscribe to his Christian faith and feel alienated, debased, or discriminated against. Obviously, no one at the Presidency has so far reacted to the news report, which confirms that President Mills did, indeed, make those utterances and still stands by them. Furthermore, he has to apologize to the large majority of Ghanaians who feel offended by his utterances if he wants to claw back their goodwill and reassure them that he is, indeed, a “Father-for-all-Ghanaians.” He shouldn’t allow his religious fervour to propel him into any weird flight of fantasy to create tension with this privileging of his Christian religious faith.
I want to make it clear to President Mills that his utterances have dire implications at several levels—for his personal political interests and those of the party he leads, the Presidency, and the country, generally. He comes across as either frustrated or desperate. He seems not to know that marrying the Church to the State is a very good recipe for disaster. Ghana is not practising theocracy, let alone a theocracy based on only his Christian religious sect for him to impose “Christ” as the President of the country.
His utterances are divisive, for that matter. Ghana is a secular state, where all faiths exist and the believers are allowed to practise their faith provided that practice is in consonance with the laws of the land. Privileging one religion over the other is dangerous, especially if that privileging comes from the President of the country and serves the interest of his preferred religion to the disadvantage of all others.
A clear example of the divisive nature of President Mills’ bias against the other religious faiths was demonstrated at this year’s celebration of Ghana’s independence anniversary at the Independence Square in Accra when traditional African religionists, for example, were excluded from participating in the ceremony. Many of us protested against this alienation and opined that it had very serious negative implications for President Mills’ own political fortunes and threatened peaceful co-existence among the adherents of the various sects operating in the country. Ghana hasn’t had any serious conflict arising from religious intolerance; but it doesn’t mean that no cause exists and can be created for it. What President Mills has set in motion is a catalyst for such riots—and he must be condemned to the hilt.
The fallouts from this skewed attitude to matters of the faith have serious political implications for President Mills himself. He has already stepped on the toes of Ghanaians subscribing to other faiths who feel hurt and alienated by his prejudice against them. Comments that I have heard so far indicate that unless he stops ruffling people’s emotions, he will surely lose the vote of such people. Undoubtedly, too, it is not as if all Christians will vote for him just because he is one of them. More consequentially, he will serve no serious agenda but create needless tension. He shouldn’t be the one to trigger religious riots. There are viewpoints indicating that President Mills’ fixation on “God” is impolitic also because he seems to be creating the impression that he doesn’t know that there is a difference between hardline politics and religion. Or that he is totally confused to be meshing both and creating the unfortunate impression that he can’t handle affairs competently and use the Presidency (a human institution) to solve existential problems. Indeed, he is faulted for confusing matters, contrary to the injunction that Jesus Christ himself established: “Give unto Caesar (the earthly political authority) what belongs to Caesar and unto God (the inscrutable, unknowable Supreme Deity) what belongs to God.”
In fact, Jesus made sure that he separated the political realm from the spiritual one as he constantly reminded his followers to seek the spiritual benefits, not the earthly political ones. Jesus was not the political Messiah to deliver the Jews from Roman domination, contrary to what they had believed—and for which they framed him up and crucified him. Who is President Mills, then, to cede Ghana’s Presidency to a Christ who himself didn’t accept the attribution made to him by a member of the Sanhedrin trying him that he was the “King of the Jews”?
President Mills is either confused or paralyzed by his Christian religious inclinations to further demoralize his followers who see things differently and arm his opponents with the tool with which to undercut him. Either way, he is at risk.
The Ghanaian electorate know that at election time, they will be called upon to vote for a human being whose picture and name (together with the party’s emblem) are on the ballot paper. Jesus Christ’s name will not be on that ballot to be voted into the Presidency. So, why should President Mills take matters to that extent and privilege his Christian theology this way?
Some are arguing that the Presidency is a public institution, not a private domain for President Mills to project that way. They note that a visit to a Christian’s home may show a portrait hanging on the wall with the inscription “Christ is the Head of this Home”; but that should not be confused with the Presidency because a home is a private space. I hope that there are no such artefacts dotting the perimeters of the Presidency. If there are, I implore the staff there to tear them down before they worsen the situation. We must not allow an individual Ghanaian’s Christian religious preferences to create any national crisis.
President Mills is being lazy, to say the least. God has endowed us all with the faculties that he thinks will help us live our lives productively on earth. That’s why we assume that we are made in his image. This assumption is at the center of whatever we are expected to do to be able to enjoy the benefits of the natural and material endowments on this earth. When we die, we have no means to return to this troubled, sickened world to do so. That’s why the common saying has it, “Do something before you die!”
And that is why I like this maxim by the former South African Black Consciousness Movement leader, Steve Biko, whom the wicked Apartheid system killed on September 30, 1977 (“Black Friday”). And here is what he says in his book (I Like What I Write): “God is not in the habit of coming down from the heavens to help men solve their problems of existence.”
President Mills’ flight into the Christian religious realm is nothing new. We have heard and read about all that he has done to become heavily invested in his faith. We have no problem with this investment. It has very good implications, especially to portray him as a humble, unassuming, and God-fearing man. It also shows that he recognizes the source of his strength and spiritual nourishment. He knows where his earthly power comes from and defers to the Transcendental. His demeanour and public posturing (calling himself and being installed by the chiefs of Brong-Ahafo as “Asomdwehene”—Man of Peace) says much even though it doesn’t put food in the plates of Ghanaians.
Indeed, it is already evident that President Mills cherishes peaceful co-existence and fellow-feeling among Ghanaians. At least, we can tell from the way he hesitates to act on promptings to persecute his political opponents that he is guided by principles that are rooted in his faith. That’s clear and not in doubt. But what will he say is the impact of his Christian religious zeal on his government, the party he leads, or the country?
President Mills’ association with the Nigerian Bishop T.B. Joshua in the early days of his rule created many problems, especially when the so-called Nigerian Man-of-God was reported to have made utterances concerning his influence over President Mills and Ghanaian politics. We heard that he had claimed responsibility for the junior national team’s (Black Starlets) World Cup victory. Many tongues wagged to indicate fears that by wielding that kind of influence over the President, this Nigerian preacherman might be eliciting vital national secrets, which would damage Ghana’s interests.
I was particularly alarmed at this development. Fortunately, we no more hear anything about the President’s contacts with T.B. Joshua, even though he may still be seeking spiritual healing or enrichment from the Synagogue that T.B. Joshua superintends over. That’s his own private matter; but we will take him on if word leaks to suggest that he is carrying his religious zeal too far to harm the interests of the country.
Religion is the individual’s own affair. That’s why the Ghanaian musician says that when someone is worshipping or is in a communion with his God, nobody else feels it. We acknowledge that the individual has a religious part. When individuals have a common religious faith, doctrine, mindset, and approaches for worshipping that spiritual entity, they come together to form a social network for that purpose.
That’s why we have different groupings—Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Traditional African religionists, and many more. Even within these groupings, there are many irreconcilable doctrines and denominations, indicating that recognition exists for differences. No one has seen God before and no one should be allowed to play God or to impose any faith on the other.
Even the Jews do not place that kind of faith in God’s ability to rain down manna for them. They use their endowments to make their country one of the best agricultural countries in the world despite the harsh and arid desert conditions. Has God ever dealt with us in Ghana as he did the Israelites? President Mills must stop this “Adom Wo Wim” politics and realize that he has all the powers and endowments he needs to help Ghanaians actualize God’s presence in the agenda for developing the country without necessarily irritating us with the constant professions of his preferred Christian religious faith. Christianity is designed to be practised, not merely professed by word of mouth.