African News

Journalism, Superstitution and National Development in Ghana

23 September 2005 at 00:42 | 531 views

In this piece, The Patriotic Vanguard’s Ottawa correspondent Kofi Akosah-Sarpong argues that Ghanaian journalists should open up their journalistic inquiry on the growing activities of prophets and other spiritualists

In a society mired in massive superstition, more so helped by its culture
where belief in witchcraft, juju-marabou mediums, spiritualist of all
brands and the interpretation of many events by unseen and omnipresent
forces, the power of prophets and other spiritual mediums to influence the
gullible and influence even state affairs is troubling. The other day a
prophet said the Ghanaian presidency should have an Office of Prophecy to
intervene in unsual affairs such the sharp increases in vehicular
accidents. Another one said all Ghanaians will die if they don’t repent
and that the spate vehicular accidents occuring are the work of evil
forces. For the spiritualists, and there are plenty of them and growing,
there are gravity of evil, unseen forces pulling Ghanaians into dark
orbits, hence the increases in vehicular accidents and other misfortunes

While the Ghanaian/African is very religious and spiritual, which emanates
from within the Ghanaian/African culture, no one seems to question
desirability of such unseen forces pulling Ghana down, especially the
journalists, who are supposed to be the frontline elites in scanning
through unbalanced/unobjective revelations by the growing prophets. All
intellectual laziness aside, what worries me, and I have a lot of worries
as a Ghanaian/African development journalist, is a lack of a questioning,
critical response to such supernatual interpretation of events that
affects practically all that matters in Ghana/Africa. This is the bad
visions that democratic, free societies fear and should avoid. For the
unseen forces that impel Ghanaians in their daily lives are supposed to be
visible. In this sense, Ghanaian/African journalists are supoposed to
assist not only expose the uncritical statements by the prophets but also
educate Ghanaians, most of whom are entrapped in the prophetic haze of
their culture, so they can be weighed, debated, and directed.

In Ghana’s real world, where the ever increasing prophets, juju-marabou
mediums and other spiritualists hold sway over an increasingly
supertstitious and gullible people, reality bites, creating a nightmare of
huge, unquestioned influence over Ghanaians activities. A critical
manifestation is the Ghanaian journalists simply ignoring - aware or
deliberate - their pervasive force on Ghanaian public life while seeming
to be preoccupied otherwise in the face of growing superstition spinned by
the prophets and other spiritualists. Nowhere is this better demonstrated
than in the case of the prophets, spiritualists, and juju-marabou mediums,
the grand gravitational force of minds and morals. When coup makers and
armed robbers dabble in juju-marabou and other spiritualists in their
operations, they are being pulled by the gravitational force of
juju-marabou and other spiritual mediums mired in the Ghanaian culture;
demonstrating the consequences of such irrational beliefs in the
development process since beliefs in all of these supernatual realms have
effect on quality of Ghanaian lives. So, importantly, Ghanaian journalists
examining the implications of the prophets and the development process is
necessary to care where Ghana’s progress is going. Is Ghana moving back to
the ancient era, where superstition rule supreme, or moving forward with
the rest of the world into modernization, where reason, rationality rule

Ghanaian newspapers are abuzzed with coverage of wild talks and scandals
of prophets and other spiritual mediums. "Everybody in Ghana will die, If
...’Prophet’ warns unrepentant Ghanaians," "Pastor whips woman,"
"Worshippers abandon service to beat up thief," "Pastor in court for
fondling breast," "I am national chief executioner" - Wizard confesses,"
"Fetish Priest in court for fraud," "Man says he killed woman on suspicion
she bewitched him." Almost all of these headlines and many more from
Ghanaian newspapers and other media outlets avoid serious discussion of
vital cognitive core of superstitious beliefs which emanate from within
the Ghanaian culture. While most Ghanaians accept journalistic inquiry into
various wrong doings or oversights or the implications of petroluem prices
on the average Ghanaian, journalists have failed in asking about the
implications of the rain of prophetic and other spiritual activities in
Ghana’s development process. In Ghana, which brand itself as the light,
ideal and hope of Africa, the sea of belief in supernaturals and their
implications on the gullible society still washes heavily, unlike the
Western world where such waters have long since receded, probing questions
about prophets, juju-marabou mediums, spiritualists and even religious
activities are way below the radar of most journalists and the Ghanaians
they serve.

As the Ghanaian journalists work to open up the development process from
within Ghanaian values first and other values second, they have not done
so by analysing, with the help of the best thinking by the best scholars
on every important religious, prophetic and other spiritual propositions
grounded in journalistic objectivity and fairness. Like good
enviromental/science/business writers, Ghanaian journalists who write
about the prophets, religion, juju-marabou mediums and other spiritual
activities should not only report the news but also should offer an
assessment of what the experts know and don’t know given the evidence at
hand. Aware of a society deeply superstitious, this approach could
enlighten the Ghanaian society and help Ghanaians think better, in part
because of agreement or disagreement among theologians, philosophers, and
other scholars on many religious, prophetic, juju-marabou and other
spiritual activities. This, in the atmosphere that religion and other
spirtual activities are subjective, personal and experiential; and
contention among theologians and philosophers whether reason (or
rationality) can reveal the truth about things prophetic, religious or
spiritual, especially in Ghana’s on-going development process.

One would think that after years of the prophets, juju-marabou mediums and
other spiritualists having helped stifle Ghana’s development via coup
detats, armed robberies, corruption, Pull-Him/Her-Down-for-me syndrome and
other destructive activities, Ghanaians would deal less with such unhelpful
spiritual activities, and let rational thinking and reasoning drive their
development activities. As directors of morality and the carriers of the
general public good, Ghanaian journalist should develop a new critical
journalism that is epistemologically suspect in the context of Ghana’s
history, culture, tradition, and experiences; taking on the prophets,
juju-marabou mediums and other spirituialists as they will do for
politicians and other figures or values in the development process as they
did against the "trokosi" practice, where teenage girls are enslaved to
shrines for sins committed by their parents. By campaigning with other
non-governmental organizations against "trokosi," Ghanaian journalist took
journalistic inquiry into its logical conclusion, exposing the moral
outrages of "trokosi" including its human rights violations of the young
enslaved girls.

By throwing journalistic inquiry on prophetic, juju-marabou mediums,
religion and other spiritual activities that are inhibiting the Ghanaian
development process, Ghanaian journalists will help open up the dark
recesses of the paranoids and conspiracy theorists who feed on Ghanaians
deep-seated beliefs in the superstitions such as witchcraft and prophetic
revelations that block people from finding rational, reasonable solutions
to their problems. For the Ghanaian society, ever superstitious, is
permeated by powerful forces that pull Ghanaians into different path but
is never called into account, and then impact unprogressively on the
Ghanaian society. And so publicly criticising, driven by the journalists,
of the juju-marbou mediums, prophets, certain religious and spiritual
activities is honest scholarship, public debate, informed
experience, and informed disagreement. They are all indispensable to
Ghana’s growing democracy and moral progress.