Odododiodio, Tradition And Democracy

Sat, 10 Sep 2005 Source: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Kofi Akosah-Sarpong gives a cultural interpretation of the Odododiodio by-elections of which the main opposition, the National Democratic Party, won

Anybody who thinks democracy is a Western-only-and-imposed political concept is dead wrong. As Ghana's Odododiodioo constituency demonstrated on the August 30 by-election, before the Europeans set foot on Africa, Africans have being practicing democracy of various forms directed by their values. At Odododiodioo, as the Accra, Ghana-based research group Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) and "Palavar" newspaper reported, the culture and tradition (of the Ga ethnic groups as is the culture and tradition of all the over 2,000 African ethnic groups) of the constituency dictated who won and who lost, deeply informed by ethnic group's tried and tested values.

Despite the battle line had been squarely between the ruling National Patriotic Party (NPP) and the main opposition National Democratic Party (NDC), the Odododiodio culture informed the battle strategy. The by-election had come about because the Member of Parliament for the constituency, Samuel Nii Ayi Mankattah, of the NDC died. With some political finesse, the NPP grabbed the late Mankattah's son, Lennox Asafoatse, as their candidate. Despite his late father being a NDC, Lenonox went for the NPP. That was his fundamental human right though and informs the core political plurality of the Ghanaian/African political culture. But Lennox, like most novice African politicians, forgot that the African values/traditions will be driving her emerging democracy. And so Lennox lost the by-elections, even in his own area of the constituency, not because his ruling NPP is facing some policy and democratic challenges, but because, as the "Palavar" reported, "this development, it is believed, stemmed from the fact that Lennox had done the abominable "act" of "rejecting" his father?s NDC party, while he lays in the morgue, unburied."

While becoming a NPP despite his late father being a NDC was African and universal, and not necessarily Western, since he has the right to do so, the Odododiodioo by-elections reveals repeatedly that democracy is not only a Greek thing, it is purely an African thing driven African values. Democracy has been an African ethos as it has been the Greek or European for long, long time. In fact, at certain levels, African democracy is much more developed, much human than what the Europeans are making noise about today as the Asante, Sudan, Yoruba, Mali empires, among others, show. What stifled democracy driven by African innate values, history and experiences, as the Odododiodioo by-election shows, was that with the slave trade (by both Arabs and the Europeans - the Arab slave trade was much more brutal) and later colonialism, the well-developed and fastly evolving African democracy and rule of law was disrupted and stifled, and branded all kinds of unpalatable names by the European colonisers fronted by their anthropologists who viewed Africa from their European lens.

In the interim, African democracy became latent (more so as a result of negative complexes developed by her elites), waiting in the wings to be unearth, and played openly at the national level for healthy growth, as Odododiodioo by-election proved. African elites and leaders who came after the colonialists could not resurrect, mix, or reconcile Africa's latent democratic ethos in modern daylight but continued with the colonialists' policies, which did not help open up Africa's values for democratic development. They also imported all kinds of Western and Eastern value-orientated democratic concepts such Capitalism or Socialism or Marxism, as if Africa has existed without any democratic values. For almost 30 years, this created sharp schisms resulting in unwarranted troublesd, unprogressive one party system, tribalism, military coups, social stagnations and disarrays, unnecessary tensions and civil wars, weak civic virtues, twisted patiotism and confusion.

Much of these unAfrican political confusion was experienced in the 1970s and the 1980s, where the elites were at their lowest thinking caps and arrogance, thinking that their European acquired educational values are better than Africa's well tried and tested ones. Like the proverbial African who cannot think well and points his/her finger at an imaginery witch or wizard for his/her problems, most African elites, right or wrong, pointed their fingers at colonialism for all of Africa's troubles without realising that the other four fingers was pointing at them, waiting for them to think holistically in terms of the finger pointing at the European colonialists and the other four fingers piointing at them. Gradually, the elites are thinking well, making the earlier slogans of "Colonialism, down with colonialism" giving way to the Dr. George Ayitteh-phrased "African solutions for African problems." By sounding African solutions for African problems, Africans, interpretatively, are saying African experiences, histories, cultures and traditions should inform policy development, decision making, as the constituents at Odododiodioo demonstrated in their by-elections, in the development of their continent.

The recent Western governments and their institutions telling Africans to democratize not only appear painful but also make the African look dumb in the facing of her rich democratic values. Just recall with the Europeans having became ex-colonial masters and ex-slave masters and having horned their democratic values, some copied from Africa and re-branded to fit their environment, decided to roll off their so-called democratic values on Africa. Once again, as they did during the colonial period, the Europeans, with international trade and communications under their massive grip decided to preach, or rather imposed, their democratic ethos on Africa as if Africa has no iota of democratic value. From the 1990s to now, this has been the practice. But in the little corner of Africa's Odododiodioo constituency, tradition purely interpreted democracy and influenced who won the by-elections directed by policies of the political parties.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.
Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi