Ghana: Who else is politicizing chieftaincy but the chiefs themselves? (Part I)
By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
The West Africa Network for Peace (WANEP) has expressed grave concern that politicization of chieftaincy and ethnicity (especially in Northern Ghana) is “a potential source of destabilization.”
In a statement at the opening of a two-day workshop for security agencies in Tamale on Thursday, the WANEP’s Chukwuemeka B. Eze, Programmes Director of WANEP-West Africa, advised politicians to desist from politicization of chieftaincy.
I welcome this statement and will add my voice to that of the WANEP. But the overarching question is: Who is politicizing chieftaincy but the chiefs themselves?
Despite being banned from participating in partisan politics, our traditional rulers continue to ruffle feathers as they take sides and actively display their political bias, which violates the constitutional ban imposed on them. This brazen display of political bias by our traditional rulers is part of the controversy surrounding politicking in this 4th Republic.
They are quick to find ways to circumvent this official restraint aimed at insulating them against politicization. But they can’t afford to be left out. Because politics in our contemporary times has become the goldmine to be exploited, none wants to stand aloof and lose out.
Our chiefs have refused to lie low at the fringes. They can’t bear being left behind by the gravy train and will find justifications for flouting the constitution ban, damn the consequences. And they can be crafty.
Take this cunning approach by Osagyefo Oseadeeyo Agyemang Badu I, the Dormaahene, as a clear instance. When the Running Mate of the CPP (Nana Akosua Frimpomaa II, the Dwantoahemaa of Dormaa Traditional Area) was introduced to him and his elders at Dormaa about two weeks ago, he called on the electorate to vote for the CPP.
Justifying his call, he noted that anybody using his call to conclude that he was flouting the Constitution by indulging in partisan politics was wrong. His explanation? The Constitutional provision is against “active partisan politics,” and not the “partisan politics” that he might be labelled as doing.
Here is what the Constitution says in section 1 of Article 276 (Chapter 22, entitled “Chieftaincy”): “A chief shall not take part in active party politics.”
The key issue is “active party politics,” which is simple and straight-forward. And politics is always active, meaning that the constitutional ban is for all times and all occasions that involve politicking on the basis of political parties!
Certainly, Osagyefo Oseadeeyo Agyemang Badu was seeking refuge in semantics. You see how a crafty chief will indulge in a futile game of semantics to muddy the political waters?
He has had his say but we will cut him to size to say that he wasn’t really being smart enough. What he considered to be “active partisan politics” that the Constitution bans chiefs (including him) from doing is clearly demonstrated in his conduct.
By asking the electorate to vote for the CPP, was he not being “active” in doing partisan politics, betraying his political bias? Didn’t he display partisanship at that time that the CPP was actively campaigning for votes, even using that ceremony as a springboard?
You see, by isolating the CPP and projecting it as the favourite for which the electorate must vote, Nana displayed gross bias, which is exactly what underlies active partisan politics.
In this case, though, there is more to the issue.
The Dormaahene’s partisanship is influenced by selfish interests because he made the call to favour the CPP whose running mate is a native of his traditional area who, hitherto being elevated to that status, had been the Dwantoahemaa of the Dormaa Traditional Area.
Invariably, an electoral victory for the CPP will make her the Vice President. We know what such a juicy appointment entails, especially in terms of the national cake and the likelihood of such a high-ranking government official slicing some for the Traditional Area from where she hails.
He is definitely looking for an opportunity to get his bread buttered THICK. That explains his vehement insiste3nce that the Constitutional provision doesn’t frown on the kind of politicking that he is doing.
He is not alone. There are many others who are behaving the way he has done—or who may be more brazen in orchestrating to favour the political party of their choice. They do so because they know what the rewards are.
Now, back to the main problem—the politicization of chieftaincy and why it is worrisome but insoluble.
By hook or crook, chiefs fall prey to the wily ways of the politicians and get roped into the partisan politics that Article 276 of the Constitution stipulates.
The politicians are persistent—and reckless or feckless in most cases—as they target prominent chiefs to “recruit” for their partisan political game. These chiefs wittingly or unwittingly become willing pawns in the game that these politicians hatch and play with stated self-interests.
If they are lucky to have these patronizing chiefs are lucky to have their preferred party in power, they reap the windfall. Otherwise, they either quickly turn coat or find adroit means to pander to the new King ruling with new laws. They know how to hop onto the gravy train. That’s human nature. Life must go on, right?
Of course, the politicians know full well how to play it fast and definitely knock on the doors of these chiefs, making their residence/palaces the first point of call whenever they visit traditional areas on their campaign trail.
They use such courtesy calls to seek audience with the chiefs, to declare their intentions, and to seek their favour and blessing to be in power. A quid pro quo arrangement often ensues and is kept under wraps; but a careful observer of the political scene can’t miss the reality.
Some of those interactions between the chiefs and the favour-seeking politicians occur in the open during the day and utterances made with the sense of “political correctness” guiding the speakers. Only those who get carried away fail to control their tongues and blurt out what they shouldn’t.
We know what happens under the cover of darkness when the interactions turn into exchange of vows: the politician promising all kinds of assistance (especially development projects and contract awards) while the chiefs effusively pledge to garner support for the politicians’ cause. It is not difficult to know. Even walls have ears.
To be continued…