13 February 2013

Ghana: Dilemma of a President

President John Dramani Mahama was highly commended when he appointed Dr. Henry Seidu Daannaa, a barrister at law as Minister designate for Chieftaincy and Traditional Affairs. The reason for the praise is based on the fact that in the political history of this country, no president has ever appointed a blind or visually impaired man to head a ministry and also become a member of cabinet.

"The fact that somebody is disabled does not mean the person is not capable of functioning in society, since everybody has a place in society to contribute to national development", Dr. Peter Obeng-Asamoa, the elated president of the Ghana Blind Union argued in a recent interview he granted to the GNA.

To Dr. Obeng-Asamoa the appointment showed that the President believed in the competence and capability of persons with disability, which signified an all-inclusive government that would add to the beauty of democracy.

According to him, the appointment also showed that the President believed in the competence and capability of persons with disability, adding "The President's appointment would send a signal to other organizations to give opportunities to competent persons with disability".

But before Dr. Daanaa, who is said to have extensive knowledge in chieftaincy matters proceeds to the Appointments Committee of Parliament on Friday for vetting and subsequently approval to become a minister to fulfill the desire of the disabled society of having a say in the governance of the country, some chiefs have started raising red flags over the appointment based on their customs and traditions.

The paramount chief of Seikwa Traditional Area, Nana Kwaku Dwomo Ankoana II, recently told ARK FM, a Sunyani based private radio station that the nomination of the visually impaired lawyer was abomination.

Though the 1992 constitution does not discriminate against such appointments, the Seikwa chief thinks chieftaincy is a sacred institution which should be revered by all and, therefore, appealed to President John Mahama to immediately change Dr. Daanaa, by re-assigning him to a different ministry to appease chiefs in the country.

But before the president could either reject or accept the call from the chief, the national Chairman of the United Front Party (UFP), Nana Agyenim Boateng, had already joined the fray in protesting vehemently against the appointment.

"I have nothing personal against Dr. Daannaa, I have known him since my days at the Ashanti Regional House of Chiefs, his competence is not in doubt, but we are talking about realities here, it is no secret that blind people or visually-impaired persons are not allowed to enter Palaces, let alone have direct contact with rulers, how can he therefore work," Gyataba told The Chronicle in Kumasi.

Mr. Ebo Quansah, the Editor of the Chronicle, who also spoke to this reporter on the subject, shared the views of the chief and the politician contending that under Akan's customs and traditions, a blind man is not supposed to see a chief. This, he noted, would make the work of Dr. Daanaa very difficult, since he is supposed to work with the same chiefs.

But Human Rights group, Amnesty International Ghana, does not subscribe to this line of argument, insisting that those calling on the president to withdrawal the nomination of Dr. Daanaa were abusing the nominee's right to occupy the position.

The Director of Amnesty International Ghana, Mr. Lawrence Amesu told Citi FM, an Accra based Radio station that Dr. Danaa's condition did not mean that he was incapable of running the chieftaincy Ministry.

Amenu contended that the fact that the culture of a certain group did not allow a blind person into their fold, did not mean that the minister designate cannot perform.

Speaking to the same radio station, Mr. Obiri Yeboah, a Sociologist lecturer from the University of Ghana, Legon, noted that it is a taboo for some chiefs to meet a blind man or woman because of the fear that the chief might cry against customs and traditions that he should not cry in public about.

Meanwhile, the National House of Chiefs has expressed the desire to work with Dr. Daanaa and urged the Appointments Committee to ensure that the nominee was approved.

At a meeting with President Mahama yesterday, the national President of the House, Professor Naa Nabila said they (chiefs) have confidence in the visually impaired man to lead the chieftaincy ministry.

Dr. Daannaa, whose appointment has become a subject for debate was born in 1955 in Tuaha in the Upper West Region. He is recognized by the General Legal Council as the First Blind Barrister in Ghana.

He obtained a Doctorate and a Degree in Law from the London School of Economics and Political Science between 1986 and 1992, and a Masters' degree in Law from the same University in 1982, after completing undergraduate law program at the University of Ghana between 1979 and 1981.

Dr. Daannaa worked on the codification of chieftaincy lines of succession for 21 paramount stools in the country, and on October 3, 1997, the General Legal Counsel, conferred a special prize award on him in recognition of his achievement as the first blind man to be trained as a lawyer at the Ghana School of Law. Dr. Daanaa currently serves as the National Director of Research at the Ministry of Culture and Chieftaincy.

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