I think a lot of our customs, including those related to the chieftaincy institution have pushed themselves out of relevance. Yes, I think some of our customs are senseless but until we properly change them, they remain with us so we should all respect them. The extent to which we tolerate that respect is what we should collectively decide on.
My initial thoughts when i heard about the protests by some chiefs to the appointment of Dr. Henry Seidu Daannaa to the position of Minister for Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs was that ‘yes it makes sense; that is what our customs say’. Then I thought also that perhaps there had not been enough consultation before the appointment. But Dr. Daannaa had actually served in some capacity in the ministry and had dealt with these same chiefs during that time. So what has changed now?
A friend of mine responded to my post on Facebook in a way that I feel I should share. I had expressed the opinion that appointing Dr. Daannaa was going to result in needless confrontation. My friend’s post made nonsense of my thinking at the time and i agreed. Nana Yaw Amponsah said “Kwame one thing I know about culture is that it is dynamic. In as much as I am quite traditional, I think this call is rather unfortunate from any chief. I support you in terms of consultations but it wouldn’t have resolved the issue in the short term nor in the long run I believe. The chiefs would have said NO and that would have ended it. May be we need the confrontation to settle it once and for all. In this day and age when chiefs are on Facebook and twitter what are they talking about? Chiefs own Rolls Royce and still let people carry them in palanquins”.
Nana Yaw added that we need to grow as a people in all aspects of our lives. We must marry culture with modern civilization and education and that is the only way to a better development. May be such confrontations are necessary to eradicate such outmoded cultural practices. “I have just watched a visually impaired man receive an award at the England FA Awards and it is so beautiful. We need to think of the physically challenged in our construction projects and all. I know of a culture that says chiefs do not watch dead bodies but I am sure I saw some chiefs watch Late President Mills laid in state. I hope we move faster in our progression to a better development for our next generations”.
Indeed we have managed to shed a lot of the stupid stuff that came in the form of tradition that we inherited from our ancestors. For example I don’t think we bury chiefs with seven or 14 heads any longer; trokosi is gone and our nieces do not have to worry about paying for the sins of great grand folks even their grannies never met. So we have change; we have moved on. But perhaps we have not moved farther enough.
I do know our people, especially those in smaller towns and villages do show a great deal of reverence to chiefs. Some largely because they are too hooked to traditions and still believe in the overwhelming powers of the stool or skin. I have seen chiefs who are into business and out of greed will use their stools and skins to shamelessly amass contracts on themselves and deny their people from these. So they get richer and do not give a hoot about anyone else. So our chiefs have themselves accepted certain changes that they find convenient.
Much as I agree that we find some gentlemanly way to resolve this, a colleague of mine Sammy Osei states emphatically that history has taught us that consultations, stakeholder engagements, commonsense, bla bla bla dont always don’t work in the fight against an unjust system. I can guarantee you that if we had consulted our chiefs before this appointment no significant results would have been achieved. In short, those chiefs with issues should buzz off if they can’t accept it. We are growing as a people and our chiefs should get on board, or stop derailing our forward march!