NDC’s Age Politics and Culture
Regard for old age as the height of wisdom and experience runs deep in Ghanaian culture. Therefore, there cannot be any place in our national discourse to countenance partisan efforts to exploit this shared cultural value. But, sadly, Mr. Asiedu Nketia (General Secretary of the NDC) and the NDC have thrust upon us, the burden to defend our culture by making old age a political issue. It is thus, imperative that we unite to resist this needless abuse because our culture endures long after the partisan bickering fades.
Let me emphasize early that, this article has little to do with Nana Akuffo-Addo’s candidacy. It is at heart, an attempt to register a common dissatisfaction with the partisan political forays into sacred cultural territory.
Mr. Nketia charges that, Nana Akuffo-Addo is ripe for the council of state. And he goes on to add, Nana Akuffo-Addo “could not have been president because he was too old to do so.” The import these statements are calculated to discredit Nana Akuffo-Addo as a viable candidate on account of his age. So, as it were, Mr. Nketia is persuaded that old age disqualifies one from becoming president of the Republic of Ghana though, the Constitutions does not set an upper age limit.
There are two fundamental lessons the NDC General Secretary needs to come to terms with. First, it is not culturally consistent that Nana Akuffo-Addo or anyone for that matter, could not be president because he or she is too old. Secondly, the claim that Nana Akuffo-Addo is ripe for the Council of State does Nana Akuffo-Addo a service rather than a disservice. The second lesson is a free political advice for Mr. Nketia and the NDC to shelve their plans to make old age a political issue.
Ghanaian culture as noted earlier associates experience and wisdom with old age. Therefore, the reverse of Mr. Nketia’s statement is encouraged in our culture. Consider that, Otumfuo Opoku Ware II, led Ashanti till he died at age 79. Otumfuo Osei Tutu Agyeman Prempeh II, also ruled until he passed on at 78. Indeed, had these leaders lived longer than 78 or 79 years, they would have continued to lead their people to higher heights without qualms about their age. One cannot tell, but I doubt strongly that Mr. Nketia would have reasons to question the effectiveness of these distinguished traditional leaders were his opinion sought on the matter.
In attributing experience and wisdom to old age, Ewe traditional arbitration system engages in a practice referred to as “consulting the grey-haired old man.” This practice demonstrates to the feuding parties that the decision in their case enjoys the sanction of the highest available wisdom, the symbolic grey-haired old man. This practice is demonstrable in Western judicial culture though, I shall not deal with examples beyond Ghanaian culture.
The “grey-haired old man” decision-making culture among Ewes, makes Nana Akuffo-Addo or anyone with his age and experience, superior to youthful, inexperienced candidates. In other words, charging that Nana Akuffo-Addo is ripe for the Council of State, suggests that Nana Akuffo-Addo is much more qualified compared with his non-ripe opponent(s). The logic is simple, a ripe fruit is more valuable from a consumption stand point than a non-ripe.
It is difficult to think that Mr. Nketia, believes an individual who is qualified to advise the president is not qualified to be president of the Republic. Assuming Mr. Nketia does believe, then his statement, seeking to forward old age as a presidential ambition disqualifier, amounts to vain rhetoric. This is what we must resist, the kind of wreckless talk that distorts our shared culture. Ours is a cultural society, one that should not condone actions that provide basis for our youth to question elders’ capacity to play the role experience has shaped them for.
There is, however, a desperate logic available for Mr. Nketia to explain away this albatross. And that would be to say the Council of State is a mere assembly of tired old citizens which requires the president’s advice and benevolence to make sense of their retirement. But the truth is that Ghanaians know that the Council of State is a serious institution served by experienced and wise individuals. It is important, therefore, to encourage Mr. Nketia and the NDC to cease the assault on our heritage, and allow Ghanaians to choose their presidents or leaders on the strength of policy rather than age.