As the 2016 general election draws nearer with the campaign trail of the various political parties in full gear, one main item that keeps popping up for discussion on social and traditional media platforms is the endorsement of either of the two main political parties by chiefs and other traditional rulers. Chieftaincy is a revered institution and all those who occupy the position of chiefs are accorded due respect as leaders of the society. Chiefs are so important in our traditional setting, that the framers of the national constitution deemed it fit not only to guarantee the continuous existence of the institution, but also preserve its sanctity. The entire Chapter 22 of the constitution is devoted to chieftaincy and Clause Two of Article 270 goes further to insulate them from control; stating thus: “Parliament shall have no power to enact any law which (a) confers on any person or authority the right to accord or withdraw recognition to or from a chief for any purpose whatsoever; or (b) in any way detracts or derogates from the honour and dignity of the institution of chieftaincy”. That is why it is troubling that some chiefs are engaging in this endorsement of presidential candidates, an act that can easily bring the institution into disrepute, especially when the constitution precludes them from dabbling in politics.
Article 276 clause one states: “A chief shall not take part in active party politics; and any chief wishing to do so and seeking election to parliament shall abdicate his stool or skin”. It is true that the constitution is not explicit about endorsement of candidates, but the inference is obvious, because any chief, who endorses a candidate openly, is being partisan in his outlook. The chiefs who have already endorsed any candidate or those contemplating doing so, need to be guided by the advice of the President of the National House of Chiefs, Professor John S. Nabila, who said and I quote “chiefs are the fathers and mothers of the people who belong to different political parties.” unquote. It is therefore clear, that when a chief declares support for one candidate or party, he automatically loses the respect of those his subjects who support the other candidate or party. Prof. Nabila's position is supported by the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu who has warned chiefs under his jurisdiction to desist from endorsing political parties and candidates.
According to the Ashanti monarch, although the law does not bar chiefs from voting, they must not compromise their neutrality in the eyes of their subjects. It is unfortunate that in spite of these warnings, a lot of chiefs are still going ahead to endorse the two leading candidates, President John Mahama of the NDC and Nana Akufo Addo of the NPP. What appears scary is that, it appears as if the chiefs are in a competition to outdoor each other in this endorsement enterprise. So far, the Omanhene of Yeji, Nana Pemapin Yaw Kagbrese who doubles as the President of the Brong Ahafo regional house of chiefs, the Chief of Sunyani, Nana Bosoma Asor Nkrawiri, and the President of the Northern Regional House of Chiefs, Nayire Naa Bohugu Mahami Abdulai, and many chiefs from the Volta, Eastern and Brong Ahafo regions have endorsed the second term bid of President Mahama. Nana Akufo Addo, on the other hand has also received massive endorsements from chiefs in Ashanti, Western and Volta regions, including the Chief of Tuobodom, Nana Obeng Ameyaw Barimah, the Paramount Chief of the Tumu Traditional Area, Kuoro Richard Babini Kanton VI, the Chief of Garu, Naba Asuguru Akuntam Wini, the Chief of Bawku, Naba Asigiri Azoka Abugrago II, the Gyasehene of the Peki Traditional area in the Volta Region, Togbui Takon Tutu Brempong and some fifty chiefs in Atwima Kwanwoma in the Ashanti Region.
It is important that these chiefs rethink their position and take steps to repair the damage their actions and utterances might have caused. There is no doubt that chiefs are also Ghanaians and they have opinions but they are a special group of people who should not let their opinions on political issues known in the manner they are doing. It is dangerous and threatens the very institution which they must help protect, safeguard and promote. The chiefs must be guided by the code of ethics developed by the National House of Chiefs to regulate activities of traditional leaders to ensure that they do not bring the name of the institution into disrepute.
BY CHIEFS BY GEORGE DARLINGTON, A STUDENT OF POLITICS AND HISTORY.