The Okyehene can do better

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Folks, news reports that the Kyebi Executive Council has banned two Eastern Regional executive members of the NDC from visiting the Okyehene’s palace in Kyebi might be regarded by some as surprising. Not so to me. Inklings from the posturing of Kyebi citizens opposed to the NDC, political events involving them, and the drift of their public utterances could lead nowhere but to this juncture. A careful analysis of such inklings persuaded me long ago that sooner than later, something of the sort would happen to clear doubts about the political dimensions of chieftaincy in that part of Ghana. And the moment has arrived.

According to the Kyebi Executive Council, the two NDC officials (Regional Chairman, Tawiah Boateng, and Youth Organizer, Appaw Haruna Owiredu) had calumniated the Paramount Chief, Osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin; hence, the decision to ban them from entering his palace. Speaking for the Council, D.M. Ofori-Attah (described as Assistant Akyem State Secretary) claimed that Boateng and Owiredu “have consistently defamed the Okyehene”. He cited two instances:

  1. In the course of the 2012 election petition hearing, the Okyehene paid a courtesy call on President Mahama at the Flagstaff House and advised him to help maintain calm and peace in the country by respecting whatever decision the Supreme Court might make. According to him, Boateng and Owiredu opposed that visit and took to the media to make false and malicious claims against the Okyehene. He said they accused the Okyehene of wading into political matters when he had not been invited to do so.
  2. When the Okyehene and some of his council members inspected road construction in the region, especially the Suhum road, he called on President Mahama to expedite action on the road project because of the negative impact on the socio-economic lives of the people. He also urged the government to fulfill “what it has promised the people”. According to Ofori-Attah, both Boateng and Owiredu “lambasted the Okyehene for complaining about the poor roads, arguing that he was involving himself in political matters” (See http://www.myjoyonline.com/politics/2016/April-1st/two-eastern-region-ndc-executives-banned-from-okyehenes-palace.php#sthash.7w4ADClY.dpuf).

What next? The only way Boateng and Owiredu could be “invited to visit the palace would be when they openly apologize to the Okyehene for their actions and utterances”. But Boateng and Owiredu have rejected that push, saying that they didn’t do anything of the sort being imputed to them and won’t apologize. The tug of war has begun and this kind of head-butting won’t serve any useful purpose but muddy the political waters. A planned visit to the Okyehene’s palace by the newly appointed Eastern Regional Minister has already been cancelled in consequence. Meantime, it has been reported that the youth of Akyem are agitating for the scope of the ban to be widened to rope in all NDC officials in the Eastern Region.

MY COMMENTS

The decision by the Kyebi Executive Council is backward and inadmissible, no matter what. Of course, the Okyehene’s palace is either a private space or part of the public sphere, depending on how one sees it and the extent to which it is used in local and national affairs. Indeed, it has been used for purposes other than chieftaincy. So, I can stick my neck out to say that it is part of the public sphere for as long as it continues to host events involving public officials and open discussions bordering on local and national politics. As to who qualifies to enter it, I leave it to the palace officials to determine. But banning party officials from entering there won’t serve any useful purpose other than deepening suspicion and raising needless tension. Are these NDC officials the first and only people to have openly criticized the Okyehene—criticisms that are being misrepresented as insults? Why would the Kyebi Executive Council not consider the spate of insults and unruly behaviour by others as worthy of their attention? Has the Okyehene ever condemned those openly insulting public figures?

Records exist on how some citizens of Akyem took matters into their own hands by organizing to prevent President Mahama from campaigning in Kyebi toward Election 2012. There is also ample evidence of animosity toward President Mahama over his comments regarding “galamsey” in the Akyem area. More exists about the hostility toward the NDC over the years, all because the party is considered a threat to the NPP and just because the NPP’s flagbearer hails from there. So, anything that can tarnish the NDC’s image must be done.

This ban is politically motivated and deserves condemnation. The allegations made by the spokesman for the Kyebi Executive Council are baseless, especially if one places them in context. How many times hasn’t the Okyehene himself made scathing comments about the performance of President Mahama? How many times hasn’t he turned his “gun” on other Ghanaians to create the negative impression that they aren’t worth being in public office? How many times haven’t the Okyehene’s own “subjects” taken him to task regarding happenings in his domain? Do we not remember the ban that he imposed on one of them, whom he fined to provide drinks and 70 rams?

More troubling is the vacuous claim by that Ofori-Attah that Boateng and Owiredu made “false and malicious claims” against the Okyehene. What are these “false and malicious claims”?

Folks, it is wrong for anybody to bad-mouth the other, regardless of the social status of the target. That’s why no one will support Boateng and Owiredu if, indeed, they did what they are being banned for. It is equally important to distinguish aggressive criticisms or comments from insults. By criticizing the Okyehene for inspecting roads and using the occasion to create the impression that the government wasn’t fulfilling its promises to the people, Boateng and Owiredu were merely doing their political work. Questioning the Okeyene’s motive and wondering whether he was the Minister of Roads and Highways to do what he did was only a way of adding humour to that criticism. No insult involved here.

Again, by criticizing the Okyehene for his part in public discourse regarding the NPP’s useless petition, they only sought to open his eyes to the fact that he had been one-sided in his approach. I haven’t come across anything to prove that the Okyehene reached out to Akufo-Addo in that sense. Why would he approach President Mahama that way and leave out Akufo-Addo whose utterances and public posturing portended more danger to Ghana’s stability than President Mahama’s could do? A good political activist would read deeper meanings into such a move by the Okyehene and criticize him as Boateng and Owiredu did. Nothing wrong about that criticism. So, why fault them?

On a more serious note, let us draw the attention of the Okyehene and his supporters to the open denigration and calumniating of President Mahama by all manner of people opposed to him and the NDC. It is all over the place, coming from Akufo-Addo and his NPP and many others who are using insults as a political weapon. What has the Okyehene said about such people? He acts only when hit?

Considering the “explosive” nature of partisan politics in the country, what the Okyehene has set in motion is likely to be taken to disturbing heights if replicated in other traditional areas of the country. Do we not remember the move by the Sunyani Traditional Council against the NPP’s Regional Chairman or the baring of teeth at Kwadwo Owusu Afriyie by queenmothers in that region?

The Kyebi Executive Council has rather slung mud at the Okyehene; and he should look more deeply into the matter to revoke that useless ban. What will Okyeman gain from the ban, anyway? I know that the Okyehene is an educated and enlightened man of substance who shouldn’t have allowed himself to be pulled into this kind of recklessness. The earlier he settles doubts, the better chances are that he will avoid being drawn into any bitter politicking of the sort that is rolling. I advise him to consider his status as all-encompassing, which calls for temperance, tolerance, and dignified public rhetoric. What the Kyebi Executive Council has wrought negates those attributes. He must act decisively to be able to work with all, regardless of political inclinations or differences. For now, the ban says a lot about his own political leaning, which is not good for him. Is that what he wants to be known for?

I shall return…

  • E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com
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