Kanji, the Asantehene and Sowa

20 September 2006 at 23:42 | 550 views

"During my school days, the teachers use to set questions that read thus: Compare and contrast’....., which of course referred to similar things or issues. You cannot compare issue or things that are in different categories, which have nothing in common. I wonder if Kanji realises that even in Ghana, the Ashantehene is NOT A COMMON paramount chief."

By Tony Sheriff, PMDC Media Committee, UK & Ireland branch

Kanji Daramy(Sierra Leone’s Presidential Spokesman) tried to defend the invitation of the Ashantehene to Sierra Leone (as an example of) globalisation, then he went on to say ‘think global act local’.

Kanji has used several catch phrases that expose his lack of sound knowledge of globalisation, which he is using to justify the activities of President Kabbah in linking our traditional chieftaincy issues with those of Ghana. The two systems appear similar on the surface, but they are different in characteristics, which are politically poles apart, if not opposing to one another.

The issues surrounding Chieftaincy in Ghana are very different from ours in Sierra Leone in many ways, some of which I will briefly mention here.

Chieftaincy in Ghana, together with its traditional councils as established by customary law and usage is an Institution guaranteed by the Ghanaian Constitution and
Parliament has no power to enact any law to confer on any person or authority the right to accord or withdraw recognition to or from a chief for any purpose; or in any way detract or derogate from the honour and dignity of the Institution of chieftaincy.

The Paramount Chiefs of Ghana are bound by their Constitution NOT to take part in ACTIVE PARTY POLITICS (chapter 22. article 276). A chief may only be appointed to any public office for which he is otherwise qualified.
A ‘Chief ‘ is a person, hailing from the appropriate family and lineage, validly nominated, elected or selected and enstooled, enskinned or installed as a chief or Queen-mother in accordance with the relevant law and usage (Ch.22. article 277).

I will stop here because it makes one wonder why President Kabbah decided to open this Pandora’s Box, which exposes a lack of proper consideration and commitment to achieving something from the visit, instead of making things happen just for the sake of having the facility. The experience sharing, which Kanji talks about is meant for himself and his boss who invited the Ashantehene.

Let me make it clear that I have nothing against the visit. My point is about the label given to the exercise and the fact that it does not yield dividends as it would have, if properly thought out.

During my school days, the teachers use to set questions that read thus: Compare and contrast’....., which of course referred to similar things or issues. You cannot compare issue or things that are in different categories, which have nothing in common. I wonder if Kanji realises that even in Ghana, the Ashantehene is NOT A COMMON paramount chief.

This is an ancient crown descending from the Ashanti Kings with the Golden Stool, that it is why it is so widely revered. Kanji himself has no sense of the historical values of our own chiefs, such as Bai Bureh, Kailondo, and Ndawa to name a few, whose powers were stifled by the imperial colonial masters for the resistances they put up to them.

If the agenda was truly for experience sharing, President Kabbah should have ordered some quick research into these details that I am talking about, brought our own chiefs together to initially share their own experience at home with the younger paramount chiefs newly elected before introducing them to this historical name, which is not Paramount Chieftaincy. The Ashanti King and the Songhai King were very powerful kings in West Africa that won battles against the invading Arabs from the North. Our paramount chiefs and the Ashantehene are not in the same league to share an experience.

What is required here is for the government to recognise the needs to be accredited or bestowed on our chiefs (by the President himself and Parliament). The immunity which chiefs have in Ghana were in force in Sierra Leone until Siaka Stevens decided in vengeance to erode their powers, when he passed the decree that Paramount chieftaincy was no longer a hereditary right. Our chiefs DO NOT need to learn from elsewhere, they must be protected and given their customary rights which they deserve, and then our culture will flourish through their own form of capacity building. We have elders they could learn from.

President Kabbah should have invited a couple of regional commissioners from Ghana, who are like our paramount chiefs, active partisan politicians, to share their experience with our chiefs. The commissioners replaced the paramount chiefs and are active in party politics. Again Kanji does not know that the capital of the Ashanti region is Kumasi, as such he refers to the Ashantehene being headquartered in a place called Kumasi. Cape coast is the capital of the Central region.

Talking about the vision of President Kabbah, Kanji as spin master should have avoided this mis-representation by comparing likes to likes, and ensuring that our chiefs have same or similar statute protection given to chiefs in Ghana, which is not in place for our chiefs in Sierra Leone. Therefore the first task to address is to restore the customary rights and protection by constitutional law to our chiefs. The government should look into this aspect and declare the neutrality of our chiefs instead of having them blindly dragged into politics. This exposure throws some light on the failings of key people in the governing SLPP.

I believe somebody could have looked into this issue and made the necessary corrections. Someone here in a key position failed in his duty, which exposed the President to this ridicule.

While President Kabbah is thinking of patching things around him, the government has its own agenda. Only committed people could have thought of investigating fully what was required to make President Kabba’s thinking effective, by seeking answers to simple questions: the outcome (advantages and disadvantages), and how do you convert the disadvantage into an advantage before implementation of the new idea. Experienced research fellows will agree with me that a haph-hazard attitude at work always ends in failure or disaster.

True members of SLPP should know the party’s link with Paramount Chiefs, (SLPP foundation at a conference in Bo, chaired by AJ Momoh). Originally this party was founded by all the paramount chiefs of the protectorate, hence the initial name Sierra Leone Protectorate Party. If the paramount chiefs are to become apolitical, that will break the link with the Party, although many do not know this connection.

Can SLPP stand firm to see this break for the good of the country? Knowledge of what is going on in another country will be good to share, so I will challenge Kanji to set the example of his Globalisation, if this is not just a talking shop. The right thing to do will be to correct the wrongs of the Vice President, who is engaged in trying to involve the paramount chiefs in active politics. Foreign imports and cosmetic changes will not suffice; do the right thing for a matter of good principles.

If President Kabbah had worked in all the districts as recounted by Kanji, the spin doctor, then he is bound to know that Sierra Leone has a wide ranging diversity of Paramount Chiefs with diverse customs and tribal cultures.

He should also know how properly this institution was functioning, and he should be in a better position to educate our own chiefs from his experience instead of bringing a descendant to the throne of a king to tell paramount chiefs how to rule. When and HOW did Kabbah then change from being a District Commissioner to the ruins of the Beoku-Betts Commission - 30,000 bags of rice devoured by rats? Another Pandora’s Box? Kanji, be careful with your spin, otherwise you will go into over spin and eventual blow-out.

The term "Globalisation" is mis-applied to the ‘Invitation’ of the Ashantehene. Paramount Chieftaincy is a globally accepted rank in the clan/tribes of people, subjective to respective tribes. It is like STANDARDS in science, having a common purpose but different in nature, for example VHS and NTSC are video encoding standards which are different in nature but apply to image recording aspects.

In Sierra Leone alone, we have as many different characteristics of Paramount Chieftaincy as the tribes from which the chief is hailing. The traditions or customs are different like the regions of lineage. For instance, it is common place to have women paramount chiefs in the South, but this is NOT the case in the North. Only male Paramount chiefs are elected in the North for reasons enshrined in the customs of the region.

The Universal value to be attached to globalisation is misplaced in the Paramount Chieftaincy act as head (ruler) of the tribe/clan. Globalisation best used with trade issues is not adequate with culture since that exposes the true negative outcome. The sense of globalisation expressed by Kanji is more of Ideoscapism, the ideological contexts of which do not have anything in common.

In terms of globalisation, the government could have made better attempts by first bringing together all the PCS and discussing their role as guardians of ‘the rule of law’ in their various localities, and then announcing to them the visit of the Ashantehene and its purpose. Maybe the chiefs could have been better prepared to discuss issues with the king, who was mistaken for a paramount chief. Can you beat that? Communication is very important in globalisation, but this looks more like ’Kanjilisation’, as globalisation is highly subjective.

What ever definitions Kanji wants, he failed to meet one of the crucial parameters of globalisation - interdependence (none whatsoever between PCs of Sierra Leone and Ghana) through previous inter-relations or communications relating to either both or individual cultures or the basic, common understanding between the chiefs (Paramount Chieftaincy). Without establishing any link between the two parties, the President was imposing one party on the other, which interprets as global imperialism, sometimes referred to as Para-globalisation.

True, the king was imposed on the chiefs. Even in Ghana, the paramount chiefs do not have anything in common with the Ashantehene. One is a chief and the other is a king. This is a paradigm of attempting to use the discourse of globalisation to justify a personal agenda, the Biriwa agenda, which Kanji mentions. The Biriwa argument compounds the mess already made of a plausible adventure, which was short on planning, badly thought out, and vaguely implemented.

Tell us now, ‘Who is the Charlatan’? Kanji’s ideas on globalisation were vague. Culturally, there was no cultural exchange between the two parties. Was there any learning process or just confusion between the Ashanti King and the paramount chiefs ? Has the Government learned something after all that the chiefs should remain neutral?

Since it seems nobody learned from the visit, it is widely looked upon as an imported culture to supplant the local culture, hence the inauspicious views about the visit.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, it is high time the laws in Sierra Leone are changed to reflect the very much admired Ghanaian aspect, which stipulates the non-active partisan participation of paramount chiefs in active politics. This should be the fundamental approach that must be adopted to bring our chiefs together with a common consensus devoid of active partisan politics. This will promote stability and a common agenda of unity in the country. With the implications of the Biriwa election escapade, the Paramount Chiefs are aware that they are being used.

It is a disgrace that Kanji should accuse the NEC of refusing to conduct the Biriwa elections, when in reality the government by-passed the NEC to elect their choice candidate. This is an attempt at eroding the national culture of the people of Biriwa, subsuming them into the culture of SLPPism (corruption). If you claim that it has not being uncommon for institutions to call on the NEC even when those elections were not legally public, why did the government not continue with the good practice that had been developed? Is it because there was a hidden agenda? - as you rightly said ‘Think global, act local’, which is definitely NOT GLOBALISATION. I may call this Kanjilisation - a new theory in globalisation (according to Kanji).

Worrying implications cross my mind when a Madingo becomes Paramount Chief in a Limba dominated region. What about the traditional Secret Society Ceremonies? Will he understand and join his people or run away to Freetown when the society is in session? Will he rule the clan by remote control or share their customs?

Thank you

Photo: Kanji Daramy (middle).