Attending the Golden Anniversary ceremony marking the granting of autonomy to the Methodist Church of Ghana by its British institutional parent two Sundays ago, President John Evans Atta-Mills was reported to have urged the forging of “a closer bond between the State and the Church, since [both institutions] have a common agenda in building a better society” (MyJoyOnline.com 7/31/11).
It is not clear precisely what the President means by “the State”; for the latter could either refer to the geopolitical entity of Ghana as a non-partisan polity of citizens or the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government which is headed by President Mills. Still, in neither political context could the President’s characterization of the singular goal of both the Church and the State be deemed to be dead-on accurate.
For starters, while, indeed, both the Church and the State aim to build a better society, the objectives for reaching those goals are hardly the same. For the Church, the primary vehicle for building a better society inheres in the induction of morally and spiritually advanced humans who are theocentric and altruistic. In a secular State such as Fourth-Republican Ghana, interjecting theocracy into our national discourse is tantamount to an unconstitutional cooptation of religion, a purely private and faith-based doctrine, into the mundane affairs of the State.
The preceding is further complicated by the fact that Christianity is only one type of religion that is officially recognized; there are such other recognized religious practices as Animism (or Traditional African Religion), Islam and other non-Judeo-Christian-oriented and/or originated religions.
In sum, unless he also issues similar calls to the other officially recognized religious communities, the President could legitimately be accused of favoring one form of religious practice over the others, especially when he has also been widely reported as describing himself as “the biggest beneficiary of the Methodist Church.”
Then also, the thrust of the President’s call for the Church to partner his government in realizing his “Better Ghana Agenda” could not be more condescending. On the latter score, this is what the National Democratic Congress’ party chief had to say: “The Church is encouraged to criticize, to make suggestions; however, we want these suggestions and criticisms to be constructive because at the end of the day, we want to build and not to destroy.”
In other words, it appears as if the man who has silently and nonchalantly presided over what has been widely described by the Ghanaian media as “the politics of insult,” largely engineered by members of his own cabinet, wants to eat his cake and have it too! In essence, it seems rather paradoxical and outright insolent for the same personality who claims to have benefited greatly from the institutional fare of the Methodist Church to cavalierly presume that, somehow, unless its leaders are provided with clearly defined guidelines, such partnership invitation to the Church is bound to end up in some form of social nihilism.
The Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Ghana, the Most Rev. Emmanuel Kwaku Asante, appears to have remarkably appreciated the central role that President Mills has shamelessly played in the precipitous degeneration of Fourth-Republican Ghanaian politics into a culture of insults and abuse. “We are political animals, so we cannot avoid politics; but we can avoid the politics of insults, the politics of violent hostilities, and the politics that attacks personalities for holding different views.”
Still, it is hardly accurate for Bishop Asante to suggest that partisan politics in postcolonial Ghana “seems to have degenerated over the years, fanned by a desire to get power by hook or crook.” Many of his ardent supporters and fanatics detest to hear this but, in reality, the politics of insults and lies is what differentiated the Nkrumah-led Convention People’s Party (CPP) from the relatively more urbane and staid United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) and the Busia-led United Party (UP). Such lies, of course, began with an upstart Kwame Nkrumah claiming to have been personally called a “Verandah Boy” by Danquah partisans. In reality, Nkrumah had only been accused of deliberately lining up professional and intellectual misfits for cardinal administrative positions in his government.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI) and author of 22 books, including “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (iUniverse.com, 2005).