Feature Article of Friday, 15 February 2013
Columnist: Bannerman, Nii Lantey Okunka
Is chieftaincy a key road block to progress in Ghana? I sincerely believe that Ghana’s potential is terribly stymied by the ineffectual shenanigans of the chieftaincy system. The problem with chieftaincy is that it puts in power and position of leadership, individuals who are ill-informed and completely incompetent. Tag on the archaic and evil practices that govern this contextually irrelevant institution and you have a dead-on-arrival system at hand.
We must not choose our leaders based on gender, tribe and what family one is born into. Merit, based on competence, should critically inform our choice of leadership. Now, more than ever, it is becoming evident, that, not even the dysfunctional elite can reason and act responsibly, when installed as chiefs.
In Ghanaian society, there seem to be a subconscious that is often filed away in the dark abyss of our minds. This subconscious, dark in nature and impervious to conflict points, tends to consistently influence our thought process in dealing with one another and societal issues. Every now and then, a public event cues our collective sub-consciousness, prodding it to take a stab into the open, exposing in the process, dark aspects of our culture that persist. It is there and then, that, we realize how possibly sick a subconscious mind we nurse within the universal cultural prism of Ghana. The recent appointment of Dr. Daannaa exposed such suppressed dark sub-consciousness.
Leadership, as far as I can tell, is about harnessing and garnering all the resources available to advance the greater good. Leadership is not about the vested interest of a privileged selfish few in society. If the latter assertion holds true, and I believe it does, with what nerve, I mean crass nerve, did these misguide chiefs balk at the president’s appointment of Dr Daanaa? If I had my way, there will never be a ministry in charge of chieftaincy to start with. Instead, I will invest every pesewa that will otherwise go to chieftaincy, into education and health. Let chieftaincy wither on the vine. After all, education and health are inordinately more tangential to our development than chieftaincy is or will ever be. Indeed, chieftaincy does not only slow progress but steals precious resources from us.
The insensitivity of our chiefs to a visually impaired but mentally sharp individual in the name of Dr. Daannaa is astounding. In advanced societies, one could easily lose his position for taking the position of the chiefs. In Ghana, these chiefs are in for life and no one holds them accountable for performance or appropriate behavior. Indeed, the backlash from the chiefs is yet another measure, if not marker, of their troglodytic state of rot and immaturity. If these chiefs, in this day and age, do not understand that impairments ought not to be a stigma and therefore a reason to sideline some in our society, how can they be called leaders? If such commonsense elude them, how can we count on them to exhibit such in other crucial matters? This is mind numbing to say the least. What really are our expectations of chiefs? Is the bar so low? Will chieftaincy ever transition from the dark ages into modernity? If so, when will the change occur?
Let us for a moment, peel the onion and get to the crux of the resentments exhibited by the chiefs. What really is the logic or rationale behind the notion, that, if a chief deals with a blind person, he automatically lapses into an abomination? What is it about the blind person that is dirty? So, these chiefs want us to believe that it is holier to collect bribes, father numerous children, sit on their fat and lazy asses, than to deal with a blind or hearing impaired person? Who came up with this idea and why? This belief system smacks of cruelty, ignorance and rank insensitivity. Geeze!!
Why should a chief that engages an albino or deals with a hunchback, commit a moral sin not worthy of his dingy palace or fake stool? I see the with palpable anger even as I find ways to dull my flaming anxieties. When will these chiefs learn? When will they work on behalf of the people instead of their own bloated egos? When will these chiefs stop defying God and learn to love all of God’s children, regardless of what form and shape they come in? And where the hell are the religious leaders, speaking and marching, on behalf of the physically and mentally impaired?
I believe Ghana is at a crossroad. We face a future that continues to be increasingly intolerant and belligerent towards the weak, vulnerable, impaired, sick and social outcast. Minorities in our society, continue to be marginalized. There is a caste system in full effect in Ghana. We have untouchable in our midst. Such marginalizations are often based on specious reasons, steeped in cave mentality. Everyone, regardless of what shape and form they come in, is God’s creation. We are morally bound to be tolerant and accepting of all, regardless of sin, sexual persuasion, physical impairment and genetic mutation. Jesus did not abandon the sinners nor ostracize the impaired. He embraced them! Whatever happened to loving thy neighbor as thyself? Where are the preachers?
On the practical front, we ought to harness all our resources towards development. Now is not the time to pick and choose what talent to leave behind and what to incorporate in our endeavors. We literally need all hands on deck! Instead of continuously showing our ignorance and fighting a losing battle, we ought to find clever ways to tap, if not leverage, our vast human resource. In addition, we really help ourselves by making the challenged and impaired, independent and productive. In the US for example, it is not unusual to see one with Down Syndrome, loading groceries. Such endeavors, create win/win solutions for all stakeholders. To be called a civilized society, we must find ways to treat the less fortunate amongst us civilly. This is why the reaction of the chiefs must be condemned in the strongest terms. Any chief that scuffed at President Mahama’s appointment of Dr Daannaa ought to be ashamed. They’ve exposed their myopia and ignorance in no small way. Shame on them!!!
I want end with the story about O. J. Brigance. He played in the first Super Bowl won by the Baltimore Ravens. Later, he developed ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. In Ghana, OJ would be considered an invalid and sent to his untimely death. In Baltimore, Maryland, OJ is in charge of player development for this year’s Super Bowl winning Ravens. It takes OJ three hours to get ready for work. Yet every day, he goes to work and gets the job done. He is mentally sharp and I bet puts in a must heftier work day than any of these lazy, corrupt and progress-challenged chiefs. So I say, shame on all the chiefs that claim that by virtue of the fiat that made them chiefs, they cannot work with nor does custom condone, their touching of the so called untouchables.
Thanks for reminding us that Ghana has its own version of a caste system. I hope all well meaning Ghanaians will rally around the effort to beat back the intolerance and ignorance of these chiefs. I wish and pray that the president will be bold enough to appoint more like Dr Daannaa. Kudos Mr. President! Please, let’s encourage and hold each other responsible for being sensitive and caring for the least fortunate and physically impaired. It is a sacred responsibility! Viva Ghana!
Nii Lantey Okunka Bannerman (Affectionately dubbed the double edge sword)Akyere@aol.com
I don’t give them hell, I just tell the truth and they think it is hell. Harry Truman