The Chieftaincy institution in Gonjaland at the crossroad

Mon, 17 Mar 2014 Source: Haruna, Mahama

-Part I

The Chieftaincy institution in Gonjaland is not only an integral part but is also a vital element in our social and cultural establishment. It is a dynamic institution that reflects and also responds to the evolving social transformations of society. The importance of the institution’s historic role in the socio-economic development of our people cannot be overemphasized.

Chieftaincy has been the embodiment of the soul, culture, authority, socio-economic and political lives of the people of Gonjaland for centuries. It is a source of hope, pride and aspiration, as well as a unifying factor of Gonjas in general. In other words, the institution has been an important aspect in the lives of the people of Gonjaland. The positive meaningful role the institution of chieftaincy in Gonjaland has played is countless. It provided the society with public safety, judicial and other important social functions when we needed it the most.

However, the relevance of the institution in recent times has been questioned by many people especially on the basis of some recent happenings in Gonjaland. For many people, the institution has outlived its usefulness and must therefore be scrapped. This position is due to the fact that, the characteristics of the institution is not commensurate with modern times, thus making it a look backward and irrelevant.

As leaders, Chiefs are supposed to care for the well?being of the people. In a nutshell, they are supposed to help bring development to their people. If we insist on having a chieftaincy institution devoid of the challenges of contemporary times and away from money-minded persons who find in it a rare opportunity to perpetuate trouble at the expense of the whole society, then a rethink would be necessary by all stakeholders.

In other parts of Ghana, Traditional rulers have contributed immensely to the development of their respective lands. It appears that the current style of traditional leadership in Gonjaland poses a big threat to our chieftaincy institution. In fact this is an era of very low image for the institution in Gonjaland.

Let it be made clear that I am not "attacking" the dignity and integrity of the chieftaincy institution in Gonjaland. What I am suggesting here is that our traditional rulers ought to live above reproach, or we might just as well proscribe the entire Chieftaincy institution in Gonjaland and hand over all traditional duties to the government administrators.

I am a diehard proponent of our traditions and heritage but I think there is a need to transform and modernise the chieftaincy institution to reflect on our everyday needs if we want maximum mileage and dividend out of our chieftaincy institution.

But I also think there is an urgent need for a re-engineering of the chieftaincy institution in Gonjaland to meet the aspirations of our times. Gonjaland Chiefs owe it a duty to galvanise the people for development. It is as a result of the inability of our Chiefs to engage in acts that promotes development that some people regard the chieftaincy institution as archaic, autocratic and irrelevant in modern times.

While their counterparts in Southern Ghana are forming NGOs and Foundations, and attracting millions of dollars from the World Bank and other organizations to promote development in their areas, nothing much is seen about Gonjaland chiefs in this direction. In the south, the Tema Educational Fund, the Kwahu Educational Fund, the Asantehene Educational Fund, the Ga Educational Endowment Fund among others, are some of the foundations established by chiefs to enhance and promote the development of their areas. Yes we have the Yagbon Foundation established in March this year. Much as we need to commend the Yagbonwura for that initiative, I wish to asked whyt Gonjaland can only boast of the Yagbon Foundation which for now is just on paper. In any case did we need to wait for compensation money before establishing a Foundation?

I really wonder why some of our Chiefs have turned themselves into “Compensation Contractors”. Some are more interested in environmental menace such as the cutting down of trees all, illegal small scale mining (galamsey), and aiding in the menace of alien Fulani herds men.

Some of our chiefs are just there to make money and do not care about the consequences of their actions be it environment pollution, undermining the authority of their sub chiefs, taking unpopular and unwise decisions and breaking traditions and customs with the ultimate aim filling their pockets with dirty money.

The Chieftaincy institution is supposed to meet the needs of the people. A lot needs to be done to reform our Chieftaincy institution in order to complement the modern democratic governance system to advance the development agenda of Gonjaland.

In the olden days, the Chieftaincy institution was the preserve of honest and upright people who were role models in society. The recent accusations over some Chieftaincy matters in the Gonjaland perhaps points to one thing; our skins being "auctioned" to the highest bidder because of anticipated gains.

It is increasingly becoming clear that some of our most influential and powerful traditional rulers prefer to play the patently undignified role of confusionists and working for their selfish and parochial interest.

While other traditional areas suffer for lack of paramount chiefs due to death and subsequent chieftaincy disputation as to who is eligible to ascend the throne as successor, we have always been fortunate and highly praised for peaceful transitions especially at the Yagbon level. But have we turned this into an advantage?

People are calling on some of us to defend our Chiefs in the name of Gonjaland? I will rather defend the interests of the poor Gonjaland masses than any Chief who is unpopular because of his selfishness, greed, immoral lifestyle and short-sightedness. How do you expect me to respect, let alone, defend Chiefs who are so shameless to the extent of snatching the girlfriends of young men, who are neck deep into compensation money issues and who are alleged to be taking bribes on traditional cases brought before them for adjudication?

All citizens of Gonjaland must only defend Gonjaland and themselves against their common enemy or enemies. Who are their enemies then?

They are those people and things that intentionally or inadvertently militate against their wellbeing. Some of these things in my opinion are the failure of their “Chiefs” to pursue policies of collective interest to the people of Gonjaland and the selfishness of our Chiefs who see the wealth of the entire area of their various jurisdictions as their personal bonafide property and hence, can use them as and when they like without anyone having the right to question them. A typical example is looting and squandering of “compensation money’ meant for all Gonjalanders which I will deliberate more in the Part Three of this feature.

The darkness of Gonjaland chieftaincy feuds and disputes and the squandering of “compensation money’ meant for development are holding the progress of our towns and villages across the land in their clutches but, we only talk about them behind closed doors—like leprosy disease.

The Chieftaincy institution in Gonjaland must help to give itself the best image.

Long Live Gonjaland!!

By Mahama Haruna

(PRO, Gonjaland Youth Association)

Columnist: Haruna, Mahama