Indeed, politics has seeped so deep into our national fabric that fetish priests can now predict the outcome of the 2012 elections, clearly eleven months before they are held. One may think that the spiritual powers of such fetish priests are limitless.
Oh, how I wish these fetish priests and their counterparts in other religions claiming to be God’s Messengers can use their spiritual powers to provide the cure for the general malaise that is destroying Ghanaians and the country! Can any of them give us the incontrovertible clue to help us arrest the murderers of the Ya-Naa and all others as well as those behind the missing 77 parcels of cocaine under the Kufuor government? Or any of the
major problems that our governments over the years have failed to solve? We are itching for answers.
The spiritual leader of the Kejebi Shrine at Sagnarigu in Tamale, Chief Naatia Salifu Shiraz, is the fetish priest who was reported to have predicted a one-touch victory for one of the major political parties in this year’s general elections. He won’t get down to the nitty-gritty as to tell us who exactly the winner will be but could caution Ghanaians against violence in that electoral frenzy.
And to imagine that this fetish priest could speak with so much audacity and certainty (claiming that the winner will get away with 51% of the votes) is amazingly intriguing!
It is not as if such a prediction is spectacularly unusual. We’ve heard many more predictions verging on the “weird” and won’t bat an eyelid at this latest one. At least, Chief Shiraz deserves commendation for pinpointing one major drawback—electoral violence—to forewarn us about. Couldn’t he have read such a meaning into all the storm clouds that have been gathering all this while with war-chants verging on “All-die-be-die” and Koku Anyidoho’s brazen threat against those chanting the “All-die-be-die” cacophony? A smart fetish priest at that.
But I write off his prediction as one of the disturbing characteristics of a system threatened by moral decadence. It is just a timely desperate act by a traditional African religious zealot who knows how to get on board the gravy train and is fighting hard to grab the attention of politicians who may be willing to grease his palms. He surely knows the trend and must take advantage of it to survive. I don’t blame him because that’s the order of the day. To get one’s palms greased, one must do something “political” to hook the attention of those who matter. Welcome aboard, Tamale fetish priest. Your prediction will definitely win you a spot in the circus!
For me, though, the real issues stoked by this fetish priest’s audacity go beyond the veracity or otherwise of his prognostication (if it merits this description at all). I can tease out many disturbing implications to suggest how such a conduct is the direct result of our fragile democracy. Of course, at the centre is the overarching tendency to indulge in lying and playing to the gallery for personal gains. Taking a cue from the conduct of our politicians who make effusive promises when seeking the mandate of the people only to use political power for their own self-improvement, it shouldn’t be difficult for us to conclude that our democracy has engendered immorality at the highest level.
Lying, thieving, and unconscionable massaging of the people’s feelings for personal gains have become the order of the day and the major means by which those adept at outwitting the system survive. Bribery and corruption have risen sky-high and been given new sophisticated twists and used as survival tactics. It is pervasive, and no one is bothered because—as Former President Kufuor put it—corruption has been with mankind since the days of Adam.
As currently configured and practised, our democracy can’t help us solve the systemic problems that made it difficult for the country to progress under previous systems (either civilian or military regimes).
The gross political instability, paralyzing moral decadence, and treacherous economic stagnation that clogged the country before the advent of the 4th Republic are still prevalent. The only difference between now and then is that the country has been politically stable for nearly 20 years! Even then, the factors creating needless tension still prevail; hence, the fetish priest’s apt warning against political violence.
The point is that our democracy seems to have given people the opportunity to take on unusual tasks, which goes to suggest that in more than one sense, it is reaching the door-steps of the people. As to how they participate in the politicking to make our democracy serve their interests, needs, and purposes, no one will be deceived into thinking that the people are far removed from the epicenter and become important only when lured into the game by its main protagonists and beneficiaries—the cunning, wily politicians—to be manipulated and exploited. That’s when electioneering campaigns become the beacon to attract the gullible people and for them to root for those making the highest sounding promises all over the place.
I am yet to be persuaded that our democracy has matured beyond gathering years (since the inception of the 4th Republic) to serve the needs of the people. Indeed, it has succeeded in ensuring a stable political environment and allowed for the growth of the mass media (even if we complain about the quality of journalism) and a smooth transition of power from one political camp to the other. That’s all we have to celebrate. The very institutions that should prop up the democracy are still as they were before this 4th Republic. The status quo ante remains the overriding framework for officialdom. The old wine bottle stinks but is filled with new wine every four years. What is there, then, to enthuse over?
The downside far outweighs any positive gains that anybody might want to associate with our democracy. I say so guardedly with the assumption that the ultimate end of any democracy is the improvement of the standards of living of the people. Who will say that Ghanaians have had any relief under this kind of democracy? When the people invest their chosen leaders with political power, the objective is for them to use that mandate to implement policies and programmes for judicious use of natural and human resources to better standards of living. Only then can the democracy stand the test of time.
A mere exercise of political power (through periodic ritualistic polling on Election Day) is unproductive and won’t motivate the people to do anything to sustain the democracy. Any democracy that is geared toward that purpose is sterile and won’t endure, especially if the people begin taking or refusing to take actions with serious consequences for the democratic system.
Apathy is the direct consequence of such an unproductive democracy. Therein lies the danger. In our case, there is the fear of apathy toward voting setting in, which will make it ridiculous for winners of the elections to claim to have overwhelming support. For as long as the people recognize their democracy as a mere veneer covering a moribund and exploitative superstructure, they will remain at the fringes—disillusioned, disaffected, and susceptible to manipulation by those seeking to subvert the system.
And those who delve into the realm of the spiritual will surface to capitalize on the obvious. As the election fever grips the society, we should expect more predictions from such characters. It is part of the gimmick to be where the gravy train passes. And such diviners will certainly be using our subservience to democracy to produce much comic relief. And who says that in difficult times like these such a comic relief will be misplaced? Give us more, those who have the sleight!
By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor