Ideology - Akan, Eʋe concepts of God, Christian democracy for Ghana
In Governance: Ghana must have an Ideology (Daily Graphic, Monday, March 27, 2023), we established the basis for a national ideology and said that whatever ideology we adopt or evolve must, among other things, satisfy the following conditions:
• It must fulfill Ghana’s goal of freedom and justice, and define the relationships amongst the arms of Government and between the Government and the people;
• It must economically promote and reward individual initiative and industry, while at the same time serve the corporate needs of the nation;
• It must uphold the sanctity of the family, and foster ethnic and social integration;
• It must seek the highest moral and spiritual elevation of Ghanaians through a monotheistic religion;
• It must preserve the cultural legacy of the nation, while protecting it from cultural decadence;
• It must determine the technological and scientific path to Ghana’s ultimate industrialisation;
• It must be holistic to affect the creative nurturing and flowering of Ghanaian genius.
The dominant socio-linguistic group in Ghana is the Akan, comprising almost half of the nation.
A study of their worldview provides a wealth of knowledge that deserves respect and attentive study by Ghanaians.
And, I must add, we are talking of indigenous conceptualisation and ownership of knowledge that preceded the colonisation of Ghana by the turn of the 15th century.
It is that originality of knowledge that provides the foundation of power and makes it a suitable vehicle for the adoption of Christian democracy in Ghana.
Essentially, the Akan society is what could be described as a theocentric society.
Theocentric means God-centred. So religious is the Akan (Ghanaian) that a Ghanaian scholar, Pobee J.S. describes the Ghanaian as “homo religious”.
He adds, “In Ghana, to be is to be religious.”
The religious worldview of the Akan informs their organisation of society, intercourse with the spiritual world, relationship with nature, and interpersonal human conduct and management of affairs.
The universe of the Akan is reflected in the treasures of their proverbs that encompass a whole spectrum of things: from the spiritual to the mundane.
Knowledge of these proverbs animates the Akan with the wisdom and confidence to manage their life.
The Akan perceive God as the Creator ɔbɔadeɛ) of the world and also the owner (Asaase Wura).
He is the Supreme Being (Onyamea); the Supreme Being who alone is (Onyankopon); the Powerful One (Otuamafoao); the Dependable One to lean on (Tweaaduampon).
God is omniscient (Brekyirihuanuaadea); He is the eternal, unchangeable God (Tetekwafraamoaaa).
There are several other attributes.
God being the source of life, His spirit (sunsum) animates all things: human and non-human.
This means all things have a sacredness to the Akan and he must thus establish a harmonious relationship with the spiritual, human and non-human things.
God is conceived as fire of which the rest are sparks of the fire.
Beneath the Supreme God are lesser deities (abosom) created to serve his Will and to minister unto his creatures, especially human beings.
The abosom have natural jurisdictions under their control, to wit: rivers, the sea, forests, mountains and the rest.
Ancestors also feature prominently within the hierarchy of the spiritual pantheon.
The average Ghanaian knows of ancestors of whom J.B. Danquah wrote: “…they act as friends at the court to intervene between man and the Supreme God and to get prayers and petitions answered more quickly and effectively.”
Lesser spiritual entities are dwarfs (motia) and demons.
The world view of Akan is also evident in their paremiology (study of proverbs).
A study of these reveals God as the dominant persona in Akan idea of God.
The proverbs show the attributes of God in Akan ontology.
Samuel Amoh, Isaac Nyarkoh, Nicholas Obeng Agyekum (Divinity in Akan Proverbs: The Concept of God) offer the following examples:
Worepɛ asɛm aka akyerɛ Onyankopɔn a, na woka kyerɛ mframa. (If you wish to tell anything to the Supreme Being, tell it to the winds).
Sɛ wodwane Onyame a, wohyɛ no ase. (If you run away from God, you are still under him).
These proverbs attest to God’s presence everywhere (omnipresence), just like the wind which is invisible but felt.
The all-knowingness of God, His omniscience, is evident in these proverbs:
Wodwane Nyankopɔn a wohyɛ no ase. (Absconding from God brings you to him).
Onyame mmerɛ na ɛyɛ mmerɛ pa. (God’s time is the best).
God is everywhere present, so no one can escape his knowledge.
He knows all things: past, present, future; such that He knows the best time for the occurrence of any event to effect the best results for one.
As a caring God, He provides lavishly for the needs of humanity and even animals.
Onyame ma wo yare a, ɔma wo aduro.
(If the Supreme Being gives you sickness, He also gives you medicine).
Aboa a ɔnni dua, Onyame na ɔpra ne ho.
(It is God who cleans up the tailless animal)
These few examples are adequate to establish Akan proverbs as inclusive of the existentiality of God.
Since God is everywhere, the Akan do not erect temples for His worship.
The theocentrism of the Akan has ramifications for man’s salvation, environmental protection and intercourse with the spirit world.
These shall be elaborated on when we discuss further the marriage between indigenous (Ghanaian) theocentrism and Christian democracy.
What of the Ewes (Anlo)? Anlo means “curled up” as in a fetal position (unborn baby), as well as ‘unfolded’ (Metaphysical Doctrines of the Anlo of Ghana and Process Philosophy by Roseline Elorm Ageble).
These two symbols are very profound. “Curled up” connotes genesis, innocence, potentiality; whereas “unfolded” connotes maturity, attainment of higher consciousness, growth.
Before the arrival of German missionaries to the Volta Region in or about 1847, the Ewe (Anlo), just like the Akan, have their own understanding and knowledge of the spiritual universe.
In their cosmology, God (Mawu) is the creator of the universe and at its head.
He is the cause of all things; He is unmovable and also transcendent, that is, beyond space and time.
His other attributes are: Gbedegbleme (Almighty), Sogbolisa (Creator), Kitikata (Sustainer of creation), magblẽmagblẽ (incorruptibility), and Blemavo (ancientness).
In Ewe metaphysics, God is conceived as not only transcendent, but also immanent in both nature and the human person.
An aspect of God is what is termed Se.
Seɛ, according to Roseline Adzogble, is the aspect of Mawu within each person.
She writes: For the Anlos, God was an intimate part of humans. Among the Yewe group, they gave names like “Huenyeame”, meaning, “God is the embodiment of the human” (see Nyamuame).
As such, the Divine is an active force coexisting in humans. ..Se, as God through a human, was responsible for strength, character and will, as well as destiny and directionality.
The fulfillment of these aims, however, involves a constant interface of entities and Se.
In God’s physical pole, Se sets the aims or laws and nudges a human into the fulfillment of those temporal aims.
The awareness of those aims, how they are fulfilled and their results, are then taken in by God to create other objectives.”
Simplified, she is saying that Se is the Divine power in man by which he achieves whatever he aspires to do.
By such achievement, the person accomplishes a deed that could be seen as God doing that thing.
This is a positive deed and not negative deed. In a sense, Se could also be construed as one’s destiny.
Amongst the Ewe, the lower deities and the ancestral entities become the means of reaching out to God.
However, since they conceive of them as messengers of God, as servants to humans, the numerous shrines that exit in households must then be understood as the Ewe’s communicative link with God.
The religious outlook of the Ewe is evident in their naming system.
We have names attesting to the existence of God and partly suggestive of His attributes. For example:
Mawulɔm: God loves me; Mawunya: God knows; Mawutɔ: God’s own; Nɔkplim: Abide with me; Enyonam: It’s good for me; Enam: He (God) gives me; Mawuwɔe: God has done it.
It is obvious that before colonisation and missionary work in Ghana, Ghanaians knew God.
What remains to be done now is the marriage between our knowledge of God and the Christian doctrines which have affinity with our ontology and epistemology.
It is from this that the ideology of Christian democracy shall emerge.
The writer is a lawyer