What will the Asantehene do now?

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016

Folks, the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, is on record as having sternly warned chiefs in his Asante domain not to openly align themselves with any politician or face his wrath. He was reported as decrying the rush by traditional rulers in some parts of the country to declare support for politicians, especially the two main contenders for the Presidency at Election 2016 (President Mahama and the NPP’s Akufo-Addo).

Probably appalled by the violation of the constitutional provision debarring chiefs from participating in partisan politics, the Asantehene chose to take the fight to chiefs under his control in Asanteman. His warning doesn’t prevent the chiefs from hosting or interacting with politicians visiting them for permission or their “blessing” to campaign in their traditional areas. He has himself been interacting with the politicians; so why not his subordinates?

His warning has substance; but is now being challenged by what has been reported in the news: “At least 58 chiefs of the Asanteman Traditional Council have thrown their support behind the flagbearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, barely 47 days to the presidential polls.

Senior traditional leader in the Region, Nana Yaw Owusu who also doubles as the Mpabuahene of Otumfuo Osei Tutu made this declaration on behalf of his colleagues, Wednesday.” (See http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/58-chiefs-in-Ashanti-Region-declare-support-for-Akufo-Addo-479006).

This show of support for Akufo-Addo from the chiefs isn’t new or particularly disturbing because chiefs in other parts of the country have already set the pace. Many others have also gone for President Mahama.

What, however, makes it ridiculous and challenging is the duplicity underlying the declaration. Let’s unpack it, then.

  1. Addressing a gathering of chiefs and supporters of the NPP, the respected chief said even though the Constitution bars them from engaging in active politics, their ability to comment on political developments has not been curtailed.

Does an open declaration for Akufo-Addo constitute “the ability to comment on political developments” that this chief claims has not been curtailed by the constitution? Definitely not because openly declaring support for Akufo-Addo as he did with the consent of his colleagues in the gathering of NPP supporters is no “comment on political developments” but a glaring violation of the very injunction that the Asantehene had placed on them.

  1. He told the audience that the Ashanti Region has been victimized by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in terms of development projects because of the massive support the NPP enjoys in the Region, adding that they are not deterred.

Really? It is amazing how such a chief living in Kumasi will make such a claim in direct contrast with the reality that almost every Ghanaian knows. True, Kumasi (and for that matter, the Ashanti Region) is the birthplace of the NPP, its incubator, and safe haven; but the truth sticks out that the NDC has its own swathes of support therein. Otherwise, it won’t grab the four constituencies that it is doing everything to retain at Election 2016 and possibly add more to it. That the NDC could win and retain Asawase in the heart of Kumasi explains the party’s strength in the NPP’s stronghold. That the Mahama-led administration has not left out the Ashanti Region in its agenda for the massive infrastructural development of the country is undeniable.

Major capital-intensive projects being done in Kumasi alone (Kumasi Airport, Kejetia Market and the Ratray Recreational Park, not to talk about the military hospital) and many others spread throughout the Region attest to the attention that the NDC administration has given Asanteman. So, on what basis would this Mpabuahene make that wild claim as if he just descended from an extra-terrestrial realm to make that allegation?

In fact, what this Mpaboahene (the chief in charge of the Asantehene’s footwear) has said is a direct insult to the Asantehene in many ways, especially when the Asantehene is on record as having commended President Mahama for doing a lot to uplift standards in his domain through such development projects. It is a direct affront to the Asantehene’s integrity and authority.

We wait for what follows, even as we remind these NPP-aligned chiefs that they have a single vote each just as others elsewhere have. I don’t think that 58 votes from them will make any huge difference on Election Day. Neither do I think that their open declaration of support for Akufo-Addo will have any significant impact on the electoral decision that any voter will make in that part of Ghana.

At best, their violation of their own Asantehene’s injunction will pit them against him if he decides to act on his own word in principle and truth. At worst, they will remain caught up in the time warp that has defined the NPP’s ill-fate at the polls. Eventually, when the bubble bursts, they will be lucky to emerge unscathed.

Like the proverbial hen fed to the full, they are out scratching their beaks on the ground, complaining that they haven’t eaten anything at all throughout the whole day. Those with eyes to see what the Mahama-led administration has done for the Asante Region so far outnumber them and will make their decisions known in the polling booth.

The question provoked by this Mpaboahene’s mischief is: What will the Asantehene do in this circumstance, especially when his own overseer of footwear has led 57 of his colleague chiefs to break bounds this way? Nobody forced him to warn his chiefs not to declare support for any politician; he did so at his own volition and must know why. Thus, if any of his subordinate chiefs goes against him, he must deal with him as warranted by that warning.

We are waiting for him to act as such, even though the latest news report projects the Mpaboahene denying ever leading the 58 chiefs to declare support for Akufo-Addo (See http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/58-Ashanti-Chiefs-never-endorsed-Nana-Addo-Otumfuo-s-Mpaboahene-479173). I don’t believe him in any way. Why has it taken him so long to come out this way? Afraid of sanctions from Manhyia or his own people for the mischief? Or what else?

What baffles me all the more is why these chiefs “see the light” only after the real implications of their misguided and unguarded pronouncements sink to scare them?

I shall return…

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