Letter to Nyaaba: Vitriol, Violence and Invective suffice

Dear Nyaaba,

Even today I am not going to bother you with the intricacies of our system of governance except to say that we have borrowed it from or better still we are copying it from the Whiteman.

I will not even waste your time telling you that we are doing a rather pitiable job at copying.

What should be interesting to you, however, is that this new system seems to have supplanted the authority of the chiefs and headmen, at least in intent. To this twist I shall return, if time and space permit.

The new system has three branches, the Chiefship proper, aided in its functions by mini-chiefs called ministers who superintend many matters of concern, an assembly of elders, some of whom possess neither the age of an elder nor the wisdom thereof and a collection of learned men and women whose job it is to adjudicate conflict and dispute. This collection of ‘sages’ have for some reason persisted in wearing some headgear that is at once outdated and uncomfortable. On this side matter, I am sure the purists will contend.

They together are laden with the task of keeping the chiefdom in order.

Nyaaba, there is also a loose coalition of other men and women whose job it is to indulge in glorified gossip. By their actions they are supposed to keep the general body of Ghanaians informed of the decisions of the entire Chiefship and the body of adjudicators and most importantly apprise us of their mistakes. This way the first three are hopefully to be kept in check, for the general wellbeing and welfare of the rest of us.

Then there is the body of soldiers whose purpose is to defend the motherland in case of war, they however have paradoxically excelled in peacekeeping and are everyday applauded for it from far and near.

Then there are the folks in black whose job though multifaceted, consists chiefly in helping keep the chiefdom in order. Their inappropriate attire aside, this army of people has managed to gather some ill-will, though not totally undeserved, but that too will have to wait for another day.

Nyaaba, then there are the motley collection of tax-collectors, some are positioned at the sea ports and others on the land frontiers. Others actually go snooping from work place to workplace, to assess and collect excise duties.  Nyaaba, do not ask me what they are. Do not ask me also of the lot that sit in their air-conditioned offices while our complicit paymasters deduct large sums of money from our meagre pay and send to them in the name of income tax.

Nyaaba, the machinery is complex, the logic sound but the justification dubious. On this assertion too I expect some bad press.

Nyaaba, joined in the general extortion drive is an unusual suspect, the men and women of God. I have told you many times before that they are in the tax-less business of trading hope for real hard cash. They are the bunch I reported to you were in the business of asking people to postpone their enjoyment till after death while maximising their vulgar opulence here on Earth. Nyaaba, I cannot seriously begrudge this group except to posit that they are exploiting the ignorance and desperation of my brothers and sisters for all who fall victim must first have gone to them voluntarily.

At the apex of this convoluted structure is the National Chief, followed by the Assembly of Elders and these together wield extensive authority over the whole system and they alone are the ones who owe the citizenry some accounting being that they renew their ostensible stewardship every four years. They are the ones who come promising milk, heaven and honey in exchange for our otherwise worthless thumbprints.

Interestingly unlike the rest, their positions require neither previous experience nor formal training. In fact it appears that any training at all or none for that matter constitutes neither advantage nor handicap.

One dozen and three years ago, Nyaaba, I happened to find myself in a pito bar where two elders, of the asafo company that has an umbrella for totem, were also quenching their thirst. On account of their renewed humility that arose out of having lost power, they suffered my company and attendant effrontery, for I was all opinion that day, aided in no small measure by the contents of the many bottles I had ingested.

As is usual of such a state, I was waxing philosophical and got to tell them my opinion on why they most probably lost power. Fast forward to present, my comments are very relevant yet. In sum I told them that the political parties in this country have no organised format for identifying and grooming or nurturing leaders. Without exception, the bigwigs concern themselves with the spoils of victory or the woes of defeat while ambitious youth manage to etch out reputations for themselves as foot soldiers or student leaders. Unfortunately, this route to visibility normally entails vitriol and invective and sometimes violence, the more insults one could unleash, the better, the more elders one could challenge using unsavoury speak, the better. Once that reputation is built, one then gets accepted as a full grown mosquito into the coterie of bloodsuckers. During this stage too, one’s ability to ply the behinds of the godfathers with one’s tongue, will greatly enhance their vertical mobility.


Nyaaba, do you now see why our chiefdom stands in want of leadership? Every National Chief to date has been let down by their men, and why not? These men and women, in the majority, owe their positions to personal effort and so quite naturally cannot subordinate themselves to another mortal.

Nyaaba, the motherland has no shortage of skill or will, just that the processes appear to require an abandonment of principles. Until vitriol and invective cease to be a measure of will and verve, we will continue to restrict ourselves to a very small pool in our vast human resource. Until the asafo companies deliberately strategize in the area of attracting followers and identifying and building upon the strengths of new adherents, we will be perpetually stuck with recycling old professional politicians who have ran out of ideas and whose only motivation may well just be to do their last swoop in readiness for non-negotiable retirement.

Nyaaba, the eruptions of hooliganism and vigilantism that we are witnessing these days did not just happen. The have roots in the past when politicians enlisted and or endorsed their activities or at worst failed to condemn said activities. All of the asafo companies are at least guilty of making promises, admittedly some more than others. Nyaaba that is why I find the perfunctory condemnations yet another activity in disrespect of the discerning people of Ghana.

Now to the matter of the erosion of the authority of the traditional leadership, Nyaaba, wily as they are, they have reconstituted themselves into power brokers and procurers of goodwill and votes, in return for handsome metal horses.

So you see there is not conflict and Ghana is fine.

This wave of deviance will soon subside and we will resume our old un-mended ways, giving everything to God.

Until next market day,

I remain yours sincerely


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