Men pouring libation to their Ancestors, their Gods and the Supreme Being.

NTOABOMA—For change, a change we can believe in, a traditional religious ruler is what we need. More, for real change in the way we think and imagine ourselves, a smart, industrious traditional ruler is what Ghana needs. The rest have failed and fallen short of the glory upon which the people who we now call Ghanaians have imagined themselves.

Have you ever wondered why every head of state since Osagyefo Kwame Nkrumah has been a self-identified Christian or Muslim? Even Jerry Rawlings, the soldier-turned-politician who ruled Ghana from 1982 to 2001, is Roman Catholic. How absurd? Catholic, alright, but Roman? You have to wonder why Jerry Rawlings who hails from Dzelukofe in Ewenyigba prefers to kneel before the cross of Jesus and Mary rather than pick up two calabashes—one with water and the other with Akpeteshie, preferably from Ntoaboma—and pour out his heart before his Ancestors, their Gods and his Gods?

Why? Is it perhaps because Christianity and Islam are now ever so pervasive? Or is it the result of the very neocolonial institutions built and often foreign-funded for our continuous subjugation? Why can’t Ghana, now a religiously diverse land, elect a real traditional religious ruler—a self-professed traditional religious man who pours libation to his Ancestors, a man with an Amaga right in the middle of his compound house, a man who frequents Nogokpo, a man who calls upon Tigari, who drinks Akpeteshie with the Okomfo, who hangs around the Hunor and who is in a secret relationship with the Yevesi?

This past presidential election, all our presidential candidates are self-identified or self-proclaimed Christians or Muslims and none pours libation for prayers. In stark contrast to the traditional states that now form Ghana, it would be unheard of in the 1800s that a chief, or a queenmother, or a clan elder, or a linguist, was a kneeling worshipper. Christians kneel before the cross—the symbol for their emancipation from Earthly limitations and suffering. Muslims kneel in the ruku, sadja and jalsa while they supplicate in prayer to their God.

Kneeling, especially kneeling prostrate (even if just on occasion), is a significant part of Christian and Muslim worship. But kneeling is symbolic. Kneeling is in total submission to the God(s). More, kneeling is in complete obedience to another Being—even to another philosophy of life, especially when that philosophy teaches one to hate his own culture, its rituals and its ways of imagining itself. Kneeling is giving up, leaving everything one could control in the hands of another Being.

In parts of Africa, especially the major parts that fought against British Terrorist Occupation, kneeling is not in any part identifiable to our communications with the Ancestral world, Ancestral Gods, our Gods, or to the Supreme Being. We kneel to no spirit. We need not kneel before the Gods, not even before the Supreme Being Himself.

Traditional religion as you might find in Voodoo or Akom, and many others, is a religion of empowerment, not of submission. That is not to say Islam and Christianity are not or cannot become inspirational or even empowering. Certainly, Ghana has yet to show the same level of empowerment—of a matching resolve and an equal hunger for development and for the defense of national interests—when led by Roman Catholics with modern technology, as was shown by our musket wielding traditional religious states that opposed British terrorism on our West African coasts.

A Ghanaian leader who respects his Ancestors, who honors their Gods and who worships his Gods, stands upright in front of them in prayer and supplication. He holds two calabashes, the water signifying peace and the easier parts of life and the Akpeteshie-calabash signifying the more difficult parts of life that he needs help to overcome. Traditional religion teaches dignity; it ensures that the worshipper realizes that he is spirit himself and that when he dies he also joins the spiritual world. Traditional religion does not teach a man that he is lesser than the Spirits but teaches the man that he has more power in the affairs of the physical world and is limited only in the affairs of the spirit.

A traditional religious Ghanaian leader would know that dignity comes from standing upright and tall, from beaming energy and resolve, even in the face of difficulty, and from understanding that in the affairs of the physical realm, even God, the Supreme Being, is incapable of helping! This is key to leading a nation. It’s a lesson learned from infancy to the pouring of libation. It is key to the building of the character and steeliness of a ruler, of a person—that matters in life are to be resolved through human effort and not by divine intervention. That although one needs the help of the spiritual realm to guide one’s spiritual steps, ultimately one needs to do the hard, tough work by himself.

In this sense, traditional religion is more than just a faith; it is the traditional state’s way of life. This is a vital takeaway. In traditional religion, the history, the culture and the rituals of all our peoples are directly linked to the person who practices it. This is not the case for Christianity, at all, nor is it even for Islam. This difference is not insignificant. Since the election of a leader is an important process that we need to take seriously, we must do everything to elect a person whose faith, spirit, soul and heart are in tune with the people of our country. The hearts of our leaders need to fall in tune with who we are, who we were, what we are and what we shall become. Their hearts must be more in harmony with the people than with the hearts and minds of foreigners.

Ghana needs a leader born and raised on this diet of steeliness and dignity! Africa needs leaders with an unflinching resolve and a straight backbone, leaders who don’t buckle before others—not that a leader who’s Christian or Muslim cannot provide this character, but time is running out and Ghana must try a different approach. The traditional man or woman must rise again to challenge all that is foreign that hasn’t worked for our upward mobility to dominate the world. The character of our country, of our states and our resolve, of our dignity as a nation will continue to be torn to shreds if we continue to beat along the same paths to destruction.

Ghanaian women at the Traditional Odwira festival making music and keeping a dying tradition alive.
Ghanaian women at the Traditional Odwira festival making music and keeping a dying tradition alive.

We need a different way of thinking. A different man and woman. Although we like to think about the separation of Church and State as a tenet of our democracy, we hardly connect this mantra to a separation of Church and the Person. And that person is the president. Ghana needs a real Ghanaian. Not a hybrid. Not a half-breed whose mind and heart are torn between two competing philosophies of life.

Obviously, in a culture where a president kneels to images, real or imagined, we as a country kneel to anything—NEPAD, IMF, World Bank, USAFRICOM and Washington in general. It’s time to stop kneeling. It’s time to stop begging God and asking Angels to intervene in our lives and rather set out to do the tough, hard work of building up a prosperous nation from the traditional states of our founding. It’s time to stand upright!

 

21 COMMENTS

  1. You can disagree with Narmer Amenuti, even disagree vehemently with him. One thing however is for sure, he does not shy away from the hot, the cold and the painful rendering of our history and the reverberations and reflections of this history in the mirror. Few speak and write from this position of history: about what the training of a traditional religious person might bring to the presidency of our dear country.

    By underscoring the founding of Ghana as a collection of traditional states of the Gold Coast, Narmer pens this provocative piece about the return to some tradition, some religious tradition, or at the least the maintenance of some tradition at the upper echelons of democratic power. Specifically, can Ghanaians today elect a president who is a self-professed traditional religious person? I personally doubt it. And this is why essays like this are important for perspective. Here Narmer yields neither to hatred nor affection of any religion but is unsparing and unpitying and considers not what this or that man or woman might think. Here in this essay is a fearless and incorruptible narrative imbued with the frankness of a humble historian.

    Enjoy, and by all means disagree!

  2. Narmer paaa!! You will kill us oh. On the whole I agree with the import of the essay, “if not in content then in form.” You raise a higher issue about religion which is key to our collective imagination. We live in a country or better yet a part of the world where we are involved in the excising of our own roots. I know some will say that Islam is African as that Christianity too is African. But they must agree that the cultures surrounding these two religions are really no longer African nor are they even remotely related in philosophy to their founding a long long time ago in Africa. Still yet even if they still retained some Africanness, their founding could not be anywhere traced to the peoples of Ghana today. A complete throwing away of the baby and the bath water of our cultures in our so-called rapid “modernization” is suicide. One day, this country will be nothing! No one will recognize who these people even were!

  3. Are you saying a social or religious or political phenomenon is a chemical reaction? Plus I don’t think you read the essay Kofi Tufuo Afrifa: the central issue is about electing a president who’s is a self-professed traditional religious person. More, it’s a debate about roots and the wiping out of traditional rituals, customs and mores that imbue dignity in people.

  4. Narmer, I would rather say: It’s about time Ghanaians and Africans get educated about our traditional Ghanaian or African religious culture”
    Most of us are lost. Have no idea where we stand. Just following the crowd when it comes to religious beliefs. Since the destruction of the Ghanaian or African traditional culture and religious beliefs; our religious beliefs is term “Paganism ” and it doesn’t look attractive to most people to embrace. But, even those who think they are Christians or Muslims still operate from the African or Ghanian perspective-because it’s the pagan ancestors who are living in us through their genes. And you know what genetics do?
    Most Christians and Muslims reference the Abrahamic inheritance to their claim of beliefs, where is the reference for our African or Ghanian ancestry? They fought so hard to get us where we are today still on the African continent and we turn our backs on them and reject their way of beliefs and worship as ” Pagans ”
    That is why things are not going right. Before colonization what did we believed in, how was our way of ruling and governance? Until we understand our culture and religious beliefs, we will continue to be a mess. For we are copying someone and something before independence and if it is not working, that means we don’t know who we are and what we want or why we are doing what we find ourselves in now.

    I wish Ghanaian or African tradition, culture and religious beliefs are taught in schools and homes for people to understand who we are as a people. Growing up, I knew every bible book and genealogy, but I don’t know even two generations of my own family, tribe, family head, my country, continent and even why I have a black skin and the meaning of my name.
    Now, I know and proud to me. Education is the key to change our perspective about us and how we want to govern ourselves and not what others think we should.

    • Why? Has it come to this? Well think finding out who we r as a people is not a bad idea but sankafa in this sense bothers me. Do u know why? We have come a long way from the ritual killings associated with most of our traditional religions. Adaptation of positive things in a new culture is better than going back to thê negative aspects of old tradition.

      • Emma Ama, traditions are not static and develop and adapt to new situations and we are discerning enough to reject what may be considered inimical to development. However the article should prompt us to question why we quietly look on as all our traditions are marginalised and we, as Africans, are divorced from our traditions /roots

    • Because many of us do not write our own history is precisely why what we have selective memory about our traditional religions and why we only recall negativity in relation to them.

    • Emma, the ritual killings are some of the things that put you off about our culture? What do you think Abraham was going to do to Isaac his son? Human sacrifice! Don’t Christians refer to Jesus is the sacrificial lamb? As the Akan’s says we don’t stand in ants to remove ants. You should live outside your zone to understanding and appreciate being a Ghanaian or African. Why do you think our brothers and sisters in the diaspora want to know their roots?
      Even if we should continue to practice these new found religions that we think are better than our Ghanaian or African traditional way of beliefs, at least we should be made to understand our identity and appreciate our ancestors.

  5. Emma Ama Gladzah, I accept your critique of traditional religion. But your perception, I beg to differ, of traditional African religion in terms of human sacrifices is partly stereotypical and overwhelmingly cooked up in a pot of colonialist terrorist branding. Why? First, Christianity, as well we know it has sacrificed more human beings, often the same people it wanted to save for Christ, than any perversion of Voodoo could ever imagine dreaming about. Islam is equally complicit. But that is besides the point. My argument has nothing to do with which religion is more pious. My argument is that by continually accepting the present packaging of the religions of Islam and Christianity, and now even Buddhism, which rituals are rooted in aspects of other people’s cultures, not African cultures, we do our Ancestors great dishonor. Plus, we are excising at an alarming rate what inspired and moved our great traditional states to exude confidence and hope even in the face of imminent danger. Our country needs the resolve of the traditional state. That resolve had everything to do with the traditional religious state. And of course, the whole idea of growing as a state is to improve upon the past, not to discard it.

  6. You have raised an intersectional issue: one of education, of religion, of the social contract, of governance and of national identity. None of which, I think, that Ghana or any other place in Africa south of the Sahara is really willing to tackle for the long term. You beat a dead horse in my humble opinion. Currently there’s just not the national will, lest the individual will to tackle issues concerning our national identity. Our minds are so warped that it is even difficult for us to even imagine a traditional religious ruler who pours libation in the presidential palace. Thanks to our willingness to accept anything, even Mormonism, when in fact it rails against everything we deem to be our identity. We genuflect before all things so long as someone has organized it and is also funding it while we sit aside and just participate. We are willing participants in our own extinction. On another note, to another generation, this essay would have been hailed as potent, timely and brilliant. I am afraid you missed that generation. Narmer Amenuti, you’ve been born into the wrong century. It’s just too late!

    • Maybe a future generation will make do on this, or like you have suggested, that ship might have sailed decades ago.

  7. Very interesting point about the politics of kneeling. Why do those religions prefer we bow down to a supreme ruler, while African traditional religions treat all as equals? Is part of the critique of Christianity and Islam that they encourage us to follow, and even more submissive—kneel, rather than stand up? May be something there about ideology and the psychology of the ruled, why people think religion is fodder for social control. I wonder what others think about the symbolism of kneeling.

  8. Narmer, I don’t know how a traditional religious person will win an election in present day Ghana. The mere profession of being a true African will disqualify him. In Ghana now, everything African is regarded as backward or savage. If you want to be regarded in any form, you have to run to the bosom of holy mother church and her ways. You have to denounce you roots as primitive and pagan. You have to rattle the English language like the Queen and worship like the Pope, or you have to be a “Man of God” with “anointing”. You have to wear coat and cassocks or go on pilgrimage to Mecca.
    And Narmer, there is nothing you can do about that. We are still slaves. Formal physical slavery has ended in Africa, but mental slavery continues to this day. Mental slavery is invisible violence. In some forms this slavery is worse than physical slavery alone, because people in mental slavery become self-contained. Not only will they fail to question the religious systems that control them, they defend and protect this system virtually with their last dying effort. As a result, we don’t think any more. Our leaders and educated people have become faded carbon-copy Europeans and foreigners. We are given foreign names, marry the foreign ways, and live foreign ways. Our God is white and his messiah son is a white man with blue eyes. The angels that communicate between us and God are white men who fly on white wings. No wonder, religion has become very profitable.

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