NEWS COMMENTARY ADVOCATES THE CREATION OF A SECOND CHAMBER TO ALLOW CHIEFS TO ACTIVELY PARTICIPATE IN GOVERNANCE
The 1992 Constitution of Ghana clearly places a ban on chiefs from engaging in active partisan politics. Whereas some chiefs have heeded the ban, others see it as discriminatory and against their human rights. Some chiefs see the injunction not to actively participate in partisan politics as devastating, and for the sake of protecting their interests and political self-preservation, they seem to have thrown caution to the wind. Today, some traditional leaders remain divided over the constitutional provision that prohibits them from participating in active partisan politics. Some of them flout the ban either with impunity or inadvertently. It is now common to see chiefs at rallies adorned in party paraphernalia and sometimes declaring support for politicians and aspirants of various positions. Some chiefs influence their sub-chiefs and people in a subtle way to cast their ballot for particular candidates and political parties. It is unfortunate that such events are happening under this contemporary modernization of a thriving democracy. The traditional system appears to be losing its relevance and symbol of authority among the people.
Chiefs who take part in active partisan politics clearly compromise their revered status and destroy their legitimacy by allowing themselves to be used as political tools. Let us not be too quick to condemn chiefs at hind sight, but consider their concerns and reasons for at times flouting the ban. They may have legitimate reasons for their nonchalance considering the fact that modernity is making them to lose their relevance. During the colonial period, in Ghana, excellent relationship existed between chiefs and the colonial masters. They were very powerful people and the British sought to rule the people indirectly through them. Indeed, chiefs were the focal point for the exercise of Executive, Legislative and Judicial powers of State. However, with the advent of modern-day democracy in Ghana and the rest of the world, the Executive, Legislative and Judicial roles of chiefs appear to have been taken over by the state. These functions are now performed by the three arms of government leaving the chief with virtually no political role in governance.
So, what is the solution to this web of political complication? Some scholars posit that if decentralization is to succeed in promoting true grass root participation in Africa, it cannot ignore indigenous knowledge. Since traditional rulers are the embodiment of this knowledge, they should be constituted into pillars of local government. The undeniable fact is that some chiefs would still want to bring their influence to bear on national politics either publicly or behind the scenes. The way forward therefore is to heed their calls for an independent second chamber whose membership must include chiefs elected by the Regional House of Chiefs on a non-competitive and non-partisan electoral basis. This will help to bring their influence and rich experiences to bear on policies and bills before forwarding them for Presidential assent. Chiefs must be given the opportunity to play their role in national politics without subjecting themselves to the taunts and mockery characteristic of electoral or partisan politics.
By: Jonathan Thompson, a Journalist.