Resurgent chiefdom (2)

 Both scenarios tend­ed to intimidate with show-tough –vio­lence. That Kumasi radio appears on hindsight, to exempli­fy in abstract immediate aftermath of told to have crossed a ‘no-go’.

I should explain professional­ly the obligation of an electronic broadcaster in such as happened. The Anchor of the program cau­tion-stops the remarks and apologiz­es to distance the station. Immediate failure is remedied via later ‘special’ announcement.

In reality though the episode leaves undefined, an increasing­ly widening ancient hocus-pocus diktats of traditional rule, effectively confusing cultural DON’Ts with huffs. Added on are the nibbling of power- cues which complicate an otherwise simple solution of reference-attention to the limits in the constitution, discarding strong egos per se and among chiefs and or traditional councils up the national House of Chiefs, accused whisper­ingly for being politicized said to feel sufficiently insulated by the politics in situ.

I date this egos-darts’ develop­ment to incidents [decade back] which occurred at the funeral rights for Nana Wereko Ampem II (Amanokrom] historically the bravest government Statitician, later Commissioner for economic Affairs [NLC] and Chairman of Barclays Bank] [AFRC/PNDC era] on the heels of the Tuobodom rows, me­andered into the un-regal exchanges between Dormaa and Manhyia and now galamsay — partly admitted. The contention is that we had either been collectively naïve not to care to abort the silhouettes at the embryo stage; or we passed it off because that advent coincided with the heat­ed debates country-wide, over re-lit whether to abolish chieftaincy.

The arguments were erudite and balanced-poised into between fizzle and put on hold, erupting like the occasionally in Britain and more often in the Dominions—Canada, Australia and New Zealand—until recently gone muted. What we had initially before independence was that same dilemma. But we sensi­bly unlike elsewhere in Afica , the Kabakaship in Uganda for example where the independence leadership headed by Milton Obote wished it away but couldn’t. Indeed all the then contemporary leaderships felt uncomfortable about the prospect of two-power centers post-indepen­dence.

The Founder/Financier Paa Grant in his inaugural address of his UGCC 4 Aug. 1947 at Mankesim near Saltpond [Central region] said ‘’If anyone were to tell me that the chiefs are not among the people of the Gold Coast but are foreigners, I would not believe him. Non- Chiefs and Chiefs are all our people.

No one can stand outside…’’ This inclusiveness is what con­vinced Nkrumah to disagree with the abolitionists. It is truth that the Chiefs were opposed to him and Dr Danquah after he had railed against the chiefs as lackeys of the British colonial administra­tion in supportive speech at that UGCC-launch, encamped with the chiefs against Nkrumah who echoed K.A.Gbedemah’s ‘’the chiefs will run away and leave their sandals behind. ’’

But as panned out, Dr Nkru­mah was not generally, such an affable ruler to those chiefs labeled ‘’anti-CPP’’ though he irrespec­tively engaged talented chiefs like Nana Sir Tsibu Darko IX, Kobena Nketsia II and Nana Sir Osei Agyeman Prempeh II whose close friendship, death-broken disap­pointingly to Nkrumah, shunned worrying about the secessionist NLM, being its titular-head, as the Asantehene. [Baffour Osei Akoto, his chief linguist, was the real power].

The remarkable factor in rifts caused by the non-gelling pow­ers between traditional royalty and central government was that Nkrumah contained them with firmness– the fall outs, influences off and on the governance chess-board and alongside upsetting succession processes which have come back to bedevil chieftaincy including tangential subversives, maintained a ruthless hold on assertiveness of central author­ity—called: ‘’show where power lies’’ theoretically and practically; and that bravery was right fight for unified country and kept. The main difference then and now is muted emphasis of central constitutional supremacy, looks like compromised as in the politics of recent years here, creating Owerllian ‘’untouchables and touchables in chieftaincy, perhaps unintendedly.

The earlier had polarized families and church—not altered much since 1949. It has cascaded on apparently to undermine now pollutes relationships between royalty and stately institutions today. Aggravating a nation so traumatized by roll-on cash-strap hardship, I fumble for the author­ship of a quote to attribute duly as resonates aptly: ‘’what starts not as a misunderstanding, often ends in angry stand-offs’’. This is what we have to grapple facedly—remove the creeping barricades, strength­en the renaissance for restoring peaceful co- existence—feasible, if good-willed.

Working through the problem of chiefdom is not going to be cheap. The ultimate goal is :[a] bring it up to par constitutionally; [ii] without prejudice to their status and eminence in the scheme of all things — obligations and power limits vis-à-vis governance in a unitary Republic; [iii]allegiance and place of ethnic minority-sojourn­ers; [iv] clean out the ever-en­larging succession litigations; [v] reversible reactions; [vi] system of continuous parallel education on dos and don’ts within the labyrinths to settle the in-built discriminations too.

As an optimist, I find through this media versus the tradition­al rulers to portend something great in the air. It will transcend mere relations between the two exclusively. That is no prediction emphatically .

But it is just that the dynamics before and after are persistent for rule change because of the conversation which have evolved behind closed doors and on in the open public court. All along, it had appeared like chiefs and the press had been fighting for their separate corners. The turning point lies in what an agreement means to both symbolically and reality countrywide and for multi­ple generations, probably a lasting legacy.

Either pleasantly or awkwardly, there is a fortuitous chance also to battle re-crafting into line the delivery of justice at the palace where there are courts which exact fines and punishment in­cluding banishment by fiat, even today–the constitution aside. I should illustrate: the mandate of the NMC is that it cannot impose fines, lest that creates a parallel court in the land.

The arguable, yet un-discussed, is, in one part leaves any order(s) of the commission at close of arduous mediation toothless; because it carries a denied forte constitutionally.

And the commission is strand­ed for the other part, a misera­ble beggar-persuader—chased by respectively, complainant(s) pursuing fairness; and adamant defendants correspondingly. I can next explain how we have an archipelago in the case of chief­taincy, freezing the NMC’s for the simple reason that the cause is the gyrations of tit-for-tat in the succession of political-ruler-brands.

A very significant stratagem in the colonial offerings of carrot and stick to defuse or dilute the power of chiefs to obtain full control of legal jurisdiction was the gradual fading out the effec­tiveness of the rulings of palace courts and firstly, the gradual subordination through supervi­sion and overruled decisions as if from appeals.

Secondly indeed, Clause 1among the only three in the Bond of 1844—the enslavement of the Gold Coast for 113 years as a British colony stipulated: ‘’Whereas power and jurisdiction have been for and on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland within divers countries and places adjacent to Her Majesty’s forts and settle­ment on the Gold Coast: we , hereby acknowledge that power and jurisdiction , and declare that the first objectives of the law are the protection of individuals and property.’’

There is a matter of deep in­terpretation to arrive at the tie-up which I have. Practically and more than probably forgotten is that the CPP’s bastion in Cape Coast then backed-had that overriding law to sweep off an Ahenfie arrest, handcuffed and detention of a popular activist declared unlawful by Magistrate’s court at the Cape Coastal castle. She had been jailed for offensive language against the reigning chief.

The era of Nana Mbra IV was fractious for the town — lingering post-breakup of ARPS and hectic politicking [intelligentsia versus the ‘veranda boys’ and embroiled in chieftaincy and the ‘’chiefs Coker- Moore-Tufuhene” wrangling, all complicated legalities and tradi­tional succession orders. That was not the exceptional weakening of the supreme overlordship of traditional rulers.

The greater puncture was in the chiefs allowing themselves to be graded [gazetted] and put on monthly state payroll, styled as stipends and with which they basked to boast superiority among themselves—an exact epitome of English “divide and rule policy”. The state of chieftaincy today has that strong contributory presence, looking embedded to uproot.

That is going the full hog to disentangle [i] the predicament of the institution through national engagement which [ii] gives us the spiritual and practical senses to demonstrate that chieftaincy is our finite bedrock, a sine qua none both as tradition-bound people and modern cultured country striv­ing relentlessly to survive develop­ing. It requires a holistic effort. And I belief the National House of chiefs should initiate to lead. That takes away dependence on government of day, depoliticizes it and authenticates it identically..

By Prof. Nana Essilfie-Conduah

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