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Do we get rid of the chiefs, allow western system of governance to take root? Dr. Santuah digs deep into chieftaincy

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The distinction between constitutional administration and traditional rule in Ghana, particularly in northern Ghana, continues to fuel conflicts. This is according to Dr. Niagia Santuah, Head of the Department of Culture and Development Studies at the Millar Institute for Transdisciplinary and Development Studies (MITDS), Bolgatanga. Dr. Santuah made these comments when he spoke on A1 Radio’s Day Break Upper East Show on November 13, 2023.

Dr. Santuah referenced pre-colonial times when the British introduced Regional Councils, further dividing and confusing the already existing leadership system in the country.

“The tendana is the first settler on the land and the landowner. In northern Ghana, land is everything. This is the system the British came to meet, and it worked for us because once you own the land, you own everything. It is important for us to look at what land means to us as people in Northern Ghana.”

“The Guggisberg Constitution of 1925 created the regional councils that were responsible for administering legislation, helping the British administer their territories, and also serving as the interface between the subjects and the British imperialist interface. Right from the word go, when we had this formalised system, the chief occupied a very controversial position because they are the interface between what the government wants and what the people want—a balanced interest. People say chiefs represent tradition, and tradition is in constant conflict with modernity,” he explained.

Dr. Santuah continued to add that what is being considered as modern is the traditional then colonial masters and as such, there is a direct conflict between choosing what the colonial masters left and what traditionally has existed in the country.

“That is the conflict we are trying to mediate. Do we get rid of the chiefs and allow the western system of governance to take root? Or do we try to marry them? It is this marriage of inconvenience that is creating conflicts all around us; over land, identity, rights over other things. Chiefs aren’t able to balance their roles as being custodians of our culture and also serve the interest of the ruling state.”

Due to the rather precarious positions chiefs occupy now, politicians have taken an interest in who becomes chief. This is according to Dr. Santuah.

“Because they are the interface, the ruling state has an interest in who becomes chief. Now, chiefs are playing the role of promoting development, investment, and all that. They are looking for chiefs they can pass their policies through for implementation. If the government is trying to, through the chief, implement policies that do not align with the wants of the people, as a chief, what do you do? Do you stand with the people and kick against the policy, or do you side with the government?”

In Nkrumah’s time, you dare not side with the people. Chiefs were destooled because they refused orders from the president. That is why any government has been interested in who becomes chief. There’s been consistent involvement of the judiciary and security systems in the installation of chiefs,” he explained.

Source: A1radioonline.com|101.1MHz|Mark Kwasi Ahumah Smith|Ghana

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