Asabee, this is your chance!

Mr Stephen Asamoah Boateng has the distinc­tion of being appointed Ghana’s Minister of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs at a time when the institution of chief­taincy is facing perhaps its most serious crisis.

Whether they know it or not, our chiefs are currently viewed with immense scepticism by many of those they regard as their “subjects”.

Are they relevant to the needs of their people? How is that relevance expressed? Is it enough for the people to formally pay obeisance to their chiefs at traditional festivals? What do the chiefs contribute to the provision of amenities for the people, seeing that decisions regarding such things are largely in the hands of politicians elected to Parliament and local assemblies?

These are questions which only the chiefs can answer. But from the outside, observers can deduce that not all is well between many chiefs and the people they have been enstooled to serve.

Related Articles

You see, our traditions and customs were evolved to ensure peace and progress in a community through co-operation and mutual respect between a chief and his people. In the past, a chief and his elders constantly reviewed the conditions under which they lived, in order to take important decisions regarding them.

But now that (as has been pointed out above) it is politicians who are expected to have more to do and say about such things than chiefs, an inevitable vacuum has willy-nilly emerged in our society that threatens to kill off the organic relationship between a chief and his people altogether.

In order to lift this discussion from the abstract realm into the reality of today, I would like to use a town in the Eastern Region as an example. Its chief sadly passed away more than a decade ago. But no new chief has been enstooled in his place. This is obviously because the process of selecting a suitable candidate and obtaining the approval of the kingmakers in order to enstool him, is very complex and often leads to litigation.

But without a chief, what happens not only to the town’s internal affairs but equally important, the role the town should play in the traditional council(s) of the state in which it is situated? Can it be guaranteed that the elders to whom power has passed, in the absence of a substantive chief, will always act with adequate integrity and responsibility, when sensitive issues arise? Especially, now that it is generally accepted that money will necessarily change hands when economically important decisions are being taken, with regard to possession of titles to land in particular?

Matters of that nature make Mr Asamoah- Boateng’s tenure at the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Religious Affairs of crucial importance to the social development of Ghana but more than that, a phenomenon has arisen in Ghana which has, so far, defeated the attempts of whole governments to tackle it and a solution to which would be welcomed and praised to the high heavens, should one be found.

I refer, of course, to the galamsey problem. Both the NDC and the NPP Governments of the past two decades and more, have attempted to end galamsey. But they have failed to do so.

That is because such a problem should not – and probably cannot — be solved, at central government level, but at community level.

The central government has attempted to fight galamsey with “task forces” made up of soldiers and policemen. But soldiers and policemen, no matter how committed they are to the welfare of their fellow citizens, cannot quite experience the fear and desperation which villagers and townspeople whose sources of drinking water, are under threat from bulldozers, excavators, cyanide and mercury (the mechanical and chemical means by which gold is extracted from our rivers and water-bodies as well as food farms, by galamseyers.)

That is where our traditional self-defense mechanism must be summoned to do its duty of guarding or people against potential genocide. Our traditional self-defense mechanism is called the safe. This is a semi-military organisation that was set up to practice self-defense in normal times, so that in case the society was attacked by an enemy, its people, especially its women and children, might not be killed or captured as war captives and sold into slavery or worse.

Although, normally, the society in which an asafo was formed was organised on matrilineal lines (everyone got his/her family through the mother’s line) when it came to the asafo, the organisation was done along the male line. A father took his sons to the practice, and usually bequeathed to his eldest son, any office that he held.

In other words, war was men’s work and no-one had any doubts about that.

we are at war – but with an internal enemy, not an outside force. And we’ve got to reorganise our asafo groups and equip them to fight and defeat those who are determined to deny our descendants water on their God-given land.

Mr Asamoah-Boateng is busy codifying the succession lines of our chiefdoms. That will make it simpler and easier for dead chiefs to be succeeded by the right people. At the same time as he is carrying out this extremely valuable social task that will deter most of the litigation cases that arise when chiefs die, he should make it a condition of official governmental recognition that every chief should reinstitute an asafo group in his town or village.

The Asafo groups will ensure that chiefs seek broad agreement of their subjects before they take decisions that affect the people’s welfare. Such “local democracy” will be probably resented at first by the chiefs. But it will be in their own interest to make local democracy successful.

For NO POWER is greater than that of a people united and ready to fight and die for their god-given rights.

We have seen it in South Africa. We are seeing it in Ukraine

We must see it in a Ghana, where the land obtained for us by our ancestors through their shedding of their blood, will not die at the hands of ruthless malefactors who want to deprive it, forever, of life-giving water.


Show More
Back to top button