|My great grandfather, Chief Aharli, was the founding chief of Eikwe, a coastal town in the Western Region of Ghana famous for its Catholic Hospital, which, for decades, has served thousands of patients in Ghana and from as far as Cote d’Ivoire.Rremember Chief Aharli whom I never saw; for a simple reason:his foresight and initiative in
welcoming Catholic Missionaries, who not only set up a Church but built a school and a hospital in the town that to date has made Eikwe a town of commercial activity and an educational as well as employment centre for youth in the areaIn the 40s, 50s and 60s, Eikwe made its reputation as a learning centre, where pupils from neigbouring towns and villages attended primary and middle schools, and eventually sat for their Middle School Certificate.
Along the line of succession, another Chief emerged, Chief Kofi Amihere II, who would freely give land to anybody who wanted to build a modern edifice or set up a business. Many folks in the village built their homes from raffia and straw. Chief Amihere II welcomed the new architecture because they brought an air of modernity and beauty.
From these ancestors of mine, I learnt firsthand that our traditional leaders have a place in our society and could be agents of change, of development.
Yes, it is true that a lot of negativity surrounds the chieftaincy institution in Ghana and other parts of Africa—disputes over succession, land and sometimes open armed conflict—but there are many positives to take from this great institution around which African societies have survived in the past and spurred on by which they can move forward.
In Ghana’s history, a number of illustrious
The current occupant of the Golden Stool of the Asante Kingdom, OtumfuoOsei Tutu II, in many ways, exemplifies and embodies this contribution and image of progressive royalty.
One high point in my stint as an Ambassador for Ghana was the facilitation of a visit by the Asantehne to Sierra Leone at the invitation of the country’s leader, Alhaji Dr. Ahmad TejanKabbah.
It may be recalled that the Asantehene at the start of his reign gave a new image and purpose to chieftaincy when he set up an Educational Endowment Fund, which has since helped to educate thousands of Ghanaians and successfully negotiated funding from the World Bank for a project to benefit communities in and outside his own jurisdiction.
President TejanKabbah, on a visit to Kumasi, saw, as they say in Ghana, filifilli for himself, the progressive initiatives of the Asantehene and wanted him to use his visit to share his rich experience with the people and chiefs of Sierra Leone.
At the Conference attended by about one thousand chiefs in Bo, a regional capital, the Asantehene thrilled his audience and excited their imagination by telling them how much chiefs could do to help their people instead of depending on the often unfulfilled promises of vote–seeking politicians.
I could tell, watching the chiefs and talking to them, that they suddenly realized the rich potential of their regal status.
Another Ghanaian Chief, the Okyenhene, OsagyefoAmoatiaOforiPanin II, has, with his passion for environmental and developmental issues, shown another way forward for the chieftaincy institution, building on the nationalist credentials of his illustrious lineage.
The Omanhene of Essikado, Nana KobinaNketsiah V, a historian and academic par excellence, following the footprints of his equally erudite uncle, the nationalist Oxford-educated Nana KobinaNketsiah IV, in various public discourse and writings, has shown that the soul and future of Ghana can be protected and enriched by the wisdom and leadership of our chiefs.
We can also mention TogbeAfede XIV, Agbogbomefiaof Asogli, who is combining his traditional role with successful strategic ventures in the business world that once again shows the modern face of the traditional ruler.
Chieftaincy has a lot to offer for the business world and Ghanaís development. The issue of rural unemployment and resultant rural-urban migration can be tackled through the establishment of businesses in rural Ghana.
Many projects have stalled over the issue of land, which our chiefs are custodians of. For a pittance land is dished out, offering no benefit to communities who ultimately are the owners of the land.
Then I remember what my great grandfather, Chief Aharli did for Eikwe and what chiefs of today can offer in leadership to educate their people and create enabling conditions for businesses to thrive in their communities.
“Elected officials in modern governance structures come and go, but traditional leaders stay and outlast them. The permanency associated with chieftaincy should make chiefs regard themselves as leaders for progress at all times.”