What should be the Role of Chieftaincy in Ghana

Tue, 3 Dec 2013 Source: Bonna, Okyere

A good traditional ruler/leader will galvanize his people to focus on rural developments that will transform village life into city life without losing the cultural values. He help shape the future of his chiefdom or kingdom by

I. Recognizing the diversity in his community and uniting them for economic and social development

II. Integrating communities and drawing strength from their distinctive identities towards national unity. He teaches his people “country first” and to have a common appreciation of their history and heritage.

But, what do we see today? Most chiefs in Ghana (and elsewhere in Africa) ascend their thrones only to abuse wealth and sell stool lands with impunity and void of conscience.

Some Role Models for African chiefs

Notwithstanding there are a few chiefs in Africa, like the following whose contribution to the state are worthy of mention and emulation. Please allow me to cite the contributions of Agbogbomefia, Togbe Afede XIV, and Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin, Okyehene (besides the Otumfour Osei Tutu, the Asante King) as epitomes of modernization of the honorable traditional institution of chieftaincy.

Agbogbomefia, Togbe Afede XIV:

Togbe Afede XIV has recognized that development should not be the sole responsibility of politicians or government alone. Since his installation in October 2003, as king for the people of the Asogli, Torgbe Afede XIV has helped in the development and progress of Volta region and Ghana as a whole. As a traditional ruler, Togbe Afede XIV believes in the progress and development of the Volta Land.

Achacha (2012[i]) in his feature article looked at the tremendous works and services Togbe Afede is rendering to the people of Asogli as a chief, and to the whole of Ghana as a statesman.

i. In 2006, Togbe led a twenty-two member team, including businessmen and the officials of the Asogli state to China. He achieved his aim of attracting investments to Ghana, learning ways China has made progress in areas of agriculture, estate development, energy, ICT, etc. Having identified the goodwill in China, Togbe went to China for the second time in August 2006. It was during this visit that he established contact with Shenzhen Energy Group Co. Ltd., to assess the possibility of the company establishing a power plant in Ghana.

ii. In November, 2006, Togbe Afede XIV hosted a delegation from China, representing China Africa Business council and the Shenzhen Energy group Co. Ltd. During the visit, Togbe brought together Chinese government officials and Ghanaian energy and business experts, as well as representatives of the ministries of Works and Housing and Energy to discuss ways of investing in and improving Ghana’s energy sectors

iii. In May 2007, Togbe Afede XIV secured a deal for the injection of 560 megawatts of energy into Ghana’s supply system. This project is valued at more than $500 million and is located at Kpone. This Thermal plant at Kpone, Ghana, is believed to be the first major initiative of a traditional ruler (and one of the biggest sources of electricity after Akosombo Dam).

By his modest initiative, Togbe Afede XIV has made pathway for an economic development in the Volta Region. This comes in the form of a 5-year development plan for the Volta region, which focuses on moving from strategy building to implementation. His objective is to build a region that is more prosperous, healthier, and more cohesive. The construction phase will provide about 1000 jobs for Ghanaians, notably in the Volta Region.

Togbe Afede’s great interest in Agric sector, education, health, and sports, has made him invest so much time and finance into these fields. It all began (as a dream) before it started. He had a plan and knew what he was going to do to improve the plight of his community and region. On the day of his installation Torgbe Afede XIV stated that, “through my oath, I have marked a new beginning of Asogli state, for, the deplorable state of our education and health infrastructure are problems of our time and they deserve solutions during our time.” Togbe stated in his speech that, “our children are our future, and he will institute programs to ensure that their needs are provided for and help the youths to develop their character and self-appreciation, and to teach them to understand and uphold the principles of true citizenship, lest they grow into apathetic spectators” (Achacha 2012).

Togbe Afede’s large efforts have not gone unnoticed. On August 19, 2005, at the Millennium Excellence Awards, he received the personality of the year award. On July 3, 2008 he received the Order of the Volta Officer from President J.A. Kufuor. On July 20, 2011 he received Golden Image Award from her Excellency, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. The Alumni of Commonwealth Hall of the University of Ghana, Legon, has honoured him for his tremendous contributions to the progress of society. The Ho Development Association (HODA), has also honoured him in appreciation of his good works.

Achacha (2012) concludes his article by saying: “The testimonies of these achievements are open secrets that, a child of school going age in Anlo state is aware off”.

Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin:

Declining water and environmental sanitation in Ghana has resulted in major public health hazards that are retarding economic development.

Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin, Okyehene of the Akyim Abuakwa Traditional area, acknowledges that the country’s problems could hardly be handled by the government alone. The Overlord of the Akyem Abuakwa State, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin II, has not only called on traditional rulers within his kingdom and Ghana at large, to put their shoulders to the wheel to dispense socio-economic development for their traditional areas but he is also taking the lead role. On sanitation and hygiene the Okyehene acknowledges that Government has genuine limitations and capacity constraints to finding sustainable solution to the water and sanitation problems “For these reasons and more, the solution to the country’s intractable water and sanitation problems required concerted efforts and commitments by civil society, business community and government,” he said. "Our duty as individuals citizens and as corporations isn’t to simply wait for government to do everything for us, but to recognize government’s limitations and our own strengths, and pitch in to offer what we do best to help our fellow citizens.” the Okyenhene said (Ghana News Agency October 10, 2013).

Therefore, on Oct. 9 2013, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin launched a fundraising campaign in Accra aimed at mobilizing funds from the public to help salvage the deplorable sanitation situation in the country. The campaign is part of the Okyehene Sanitation Project, aimed at complementing government efforts in improving the sanitation situation by involving civil society, the business community and the public in funding solutions. Dubbed “Let’s Team up to Clean up”, the fundraising campaign, will be held annually over the next five years and executed over a three-month period. It will require the public to donate through the sending of Short Messaging Service (SMS) texts to a specific Short Code on all mobile telephone networks at a pegged tariff. There would also be weekly draws to reward the highest ‘texter’ and a grand prize of a Kia Sorento 4 Wheel vehicle for the overall winner at the end of the three-month period.[ii]

Chieftaincy reformation would make a profound difference in Ghana. To give hand out is one thing but to provide the people a lasting legacy is more gracious. Like many crowned monarch (or chiefdom), the influence of Agbogbomefia’s office, the extent of his power, the love and admiration that emanates from his throne, and the support that he naturally commands among the people make the chief/king unique in using his stature to raise funds to address what is indeed a national emergency; and this is exactly what Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin, Agbogbomefia, and Togbe Afede XIV have done in Ghana to some extent.

Let all the chiefs and kings follow suit.

Okyere Bonna (www.okyerebonna.com)

Co-author of Traditional Institutions and Public Administration in Democratic Africa

[i] Achacha, Charles (July 4, 2012)Torgbe Afede XIV, The Annointed Paramount King. https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=243742

[ii] Ghana News Agency (October 10,2013)Okyehene Sanitation project Launched http://www.ghananewsagency.org/science/okyehene-sanitation-campaign-project-launched-65802

Columnist: Bonna, Okyere