A sociologist at the University of Ghana has jumped to the defence of chiefs who have come under criticism for publicly declaring support for and endorsing presidential candidates in the December 7 elections, pointing out the practice is not in breach of the constitution.
Ahead of the elections, some chiefs across the country have openly declared support for and endorsed the candidature of mainly President John Mahama and Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo despite a constitutional provision barring them from engaging in active politics.
Per Article 276 of Ghana’s constitution, “a chief shall not take part in active party politics; and any chief wishing to do so and seeking election to Parliament shall abdicate his stool or skin”.
Quoting this constitutional provision, some people have condemned the practice by the chiefs, which they say, is in breach of the constitution and has the potential to erode the reputation of the chieftaincy institution. However, the sociologist, Dr Alhassan Sulemana Anamzoya has disagreed with critics on claim that the chiefs are clearly violating the constitution.
“Campaign for a particular political party and you stand on their platform and support the party, declare for the party without yourself as a chief, wanting to assume public office, per the constitution, is not active politics,” he told TV3’s Eben Agyekum-Boateng.
He argued insofar as those chiefs are not putting themselves up for election into political office, their action couldn’t constitute “active politics,” hence cautioned against what he said is the misinterpretation of that provision.
Rather, he has faulted the wording of that provision in the constitution. “I see something wrong with the constitution that says that chiefs must not take part in active politics unless they want to assume public office.
That means that it has given a leeway; lot of leverage to chiefs to play politics without us being able to label that one as active politics,” he told our reporter. Dr Anamzoya contended that the misinterpretation could cause the chieftaincy institution lose its credibility and eventually Ghana will lose the expertise that some traditional rulers can provide for national development.
He attributed the current practice to the chief’s zeal to be in the good books of the candidates they endorse in the event they win the election to become president but warned it has consequences should their choice lose.
“If a chief declares support for a party and the party comes to power you can be sure that you are going to be seen in the good books of that party.
The danger, however, is that when you support party A openly, if a new party comes to your palace, what do you tell the person? You might support a party, which might not win. In that case, people know this chief supported party A, now party B has come to power, what do you tell party B?” he explained.