Last week, the Paramount Chief of the Seikwa Traditional Area, Nana Kwaku Dwomoh Ankoan shocked the entire nation when he made what can best be described as a highly disappointing statement against the nomination of Dr. Henry Seidu Daannaa as the Minister designate for Chieftaincy and Culture by President John Dramani Mahama. In condemning the nomination of Dr. Daannaa, Nana Ankoan did not mince words when he stated that the nominee’s disability did not make him a good candidate for the Chieftaincy and Culture Ministry. He went further to threaten that if Parliament goes ahead to approve Dr. Daannaa’s appointment, no chief will be prepared to accept him to their palace because custom does not permit persons with disability to enter chief’s palaces.
We unreservedly condemn the comments by Nana Kwaku Dwomo Ankoan. The statement is uncivilised and an affront to the fundamental human rights of Dr. Daannaa and the inclusive democracy that Ghana has struggled to build over the years. More disappointing is the use of custom as a basis to entrench the marginalisation of vulnerable groups like persons with disability. Our customs and traditions, instead of being used to advance the common good of our societies, have rather become tools for denigrating hard working members of the society merely on the basis of their disability. There is little doubt that the time for change has come!
We find it unacceptable that a traditional ruler, who is an embodiment of the progressive values of society, and who is supposed to be a unifier has become such a divisive character, choosing to discriminate against people on the basis of their disability. By his utterances, Nana Ankoan has succeeded in further marginalising persons with disability in his traditional area.
We are satisfied that Dr. Daannaa, rather than beg for alms by the road side, has risen to such great heights. He has defied societal expectations and broken through the cultural and social barriers to receive education to the highest level, attending no mean an institution than the revered Harvard University in the United States. Rather than mock him and use obviously outmoded customs to push him out of public office, the least we can do as Ghanaians is to encourage him and hold him up as a role model for other persons with disability, especially the youth who find themselves on the streets of the cities as beggars. Dr. Daannaa is a role model worthy of emulation by all Ghanaians.
The Centre for Social Impact Studies (CeSIS), a research and advocacy organisation, and Youth Alliance for Development (YAD) jointly call on Nana Ankoan to offer an unqualified apology to Dr. Daannaa for the huge embarrassment he has caused him.
Furthermore, we call on the National House of Chiefs to issue a statement distancing itself from the unfortunate comments of one of their own. Though at their meeting with President Mahama the House pledged to work with Dr. Daannaa, it has to condemn in no uncertain terms the comments by the Seikwa chief.
The House of Chiefs should move a step further to sensitise its members on modern concepts of democratic governance, including social inclusion. All customs and traditions which are in conflict with these governance principles must be modified or discarded altogether. We want to see our palaces embracing all manner of people, particularly socially disadvantaged groups like persons with disability.
Ali Tanti Robert
Executive Director (YAD)