National” Cathedral Please ignore Ken Ofori-Atta’s provocation – Part 1

Honestly, one is unable to tell whether they are deliberately thrusting their middle fingers at us or are simply lacking the deft hands of sophistication to run a country. Not just the arrogance but the impunity of behaving as though Ghana belonged to them. Or else how could they indulge this inordinate proselytizing of, and bigoted attempt at imposing their faith on all of us? This same Ofori-Atta even once had the temerity to travel to Israel to solicit for funds for their so called “national” cathedral: And Israel, a country that is implacably non-Christian and does not accept Jesus Christ as a Lord and Saviour. How naively presumptuous!

On that one, I had expected our sovereign parliament to take him on, but trust the House, I doubt if they even took notice of that one – he got away with it, and now, he is insulting Ghanaians, (in a budget review) with an “appeal” for us to contribute to the construction of their “national” cathedral. Can you imagine? This is basically like conscripting an entire nation into a crusade for one faith. I thought such things ended centuries ago with the likes of Saladin and Richard the Lionheart! Why, Ken, if you do not respect us as individual citizens, do you have to extend it to our nation? The budget review is meant for us all – our nation, not your sectarian agenda. It is unfair and sucks!

Ghana’s constitution looks very favourable towards the practice of religion, which in no way allows for religious discrimination by the State – direct or indirect. It prohibits any acts that would put one faith in favour against others. This cathedral does exactly that. In fact, when it was announced in 2017, it was met with general disapproval, which was captured in a US Report on Ghana: “In March the president unveiled design plans for an interdenominational Christian cathedral, to be built in Accra. Several groups, including Christian ones, spoke against the proposal, citing reasons such as wasting public lands, the relocation of judges residing on the plot, and undue government involvement in the affairs of religious groups. The Coalition of Muslim Organizations issued a statement saying it did not object to the construction of a cathedral but government should not play a role. National Chief Imam spokes-person Sheikh Shaibu Aremeyaw said an interfaith edifice would have been more appropriate.”

In fact, the influential Catholic Church, most diplomatically, but firmly, asked a number of questions that could not be answered and so has stayed away. A citizen, in August of that year, went to court to challenge the construction of the cathedral on constitutional groundsbut the pliant Unanimous FC kicked it out. Amidst all the protestations, and despite the more pressing priority needs of the country, Mr. Akufo-Addo has pressed on with this pet sectarian project and now, they are adding insult to injury by trying to swindle Ghanaians of their hard-to-get GhC 100 each for this totally nugatory caper. They should account first for all the monies they have since collected. If there is one institution in need of a forensic audit or the scrutiny of the so called Special Prosecutor, it is this cathedral.

According to the same report, “The president’s liaison for the cathedral denied the government was playing favorites, citing the government’s donation of land for the construction of the national mosque, financed by international donors.” This is a blatant lie! Akufo-Addo’s government did not donate any land for the construction of the new mosque in Accra. That government was not even in existence. The land it is situated on was a neighbour to a mountainous rubbish dump for years. It was reclaimed for the visit of President Clinton in 1998. If that was a donation, it was to correct an injustice caused in 1979, but for this so called national cathedral, it is a forceful sequestration.

This attempt at equalization is an insult to the Islamic ummah and they deserve an unqualified public apology. For the avoidance of doubt, I am putting below an except from a commentary I wrote on the same subject a few opinions ago: “The mosque, variously referred to as the “National” or “Central” mosque, has been long in planning and execution. It goes as far back as 1979 when the ancient mosque in the centre of the Accra Business District was demolished by the hell fire days of the June 4 1979 coup. Though old and decrepit, and in truth, in search of a new image, the demolition scandalised the Ghanaian Islamic Ummah. The need for a new site and building became an urgent matter for Muslims in that part of Accra who used it as the site for regular but especially Friday Prayers. Land was provided at Abbosey Okae, where the intermediate mosque is sited and later, the administration of the late Flight Lt. Rawlings finally offered the site at Kawu Kudi Junction for a new modern place of prayer. The rest is a long history of many individuals and Islamic countries’ efforts to midwife it to the magnificent edifice it is today. The choice of the spot cannot be lost to residents of Accra, that is very close to Nima, Nima being the best known concentration of Muslims in the metropolis.

The reference to it as a “National Mosque” is something of a misnomer: There are three great mosques in Islam, namely The Masjid al-Haram, the great mosque that surrounds the Holy Kaaba in Mecca; Al Masjid an Nabawi or Al Haram al Medina in the city of Medina (in English, the Prophet’s Mosque) and then the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The King of Saudi Arabia is often referred to as “The Guardian/Custodian of the Two Mosques”. Many great and grand mosques litter the surface of the planet, some being general in nature and others specific to any number of sects in Islam. A grand mosque it certainly is, and could have adopted the name of the submetropolis of Nima in honour of the place. Eyes have been raised in disbelief by sections of the Ummah on why the centenarian NCI was not made the centre of the consecration ceremony, but a sectarian politician who is already challenging Islam with his so-called “National Cathedral”.

He never misses the opportunity to tell Ghanaians about how his religion outnumbers all other religions in Ghana. Was it a kind of pathetic fallacy therefore, that he missed the tape a couple of times as he tried to snip it? Whatever it is, it is a holy space as a mosque, in no way more important or more consecrated than a 20-seater “masallachi” in your neighbourhood. Indeed, other subsidiaries, like the Shi’a, Ibadi, Ahmadiyya, Sufi and Tijaniya may take a rather dim view of the “national” mosque, its magnificence notwithstanding, just as others – including Christians – are taking an even dimmer view of the so called “national” cathedral.” 

They cannot use this mosque as a foil for their cathedral. It is not only disingenuous, but a complete scam! The issue of worship and religion, have been dealt with fairly widely in the 1992 constitution and nowhere does the constitution allow the State to discriminate between the different faiths:

Directive Principles of State Policy Human Rights provisions – Articles 5, 6, 12, 21, 35

This “national” cathedral falls squarely in that category. It is unconstitutional; the State has no business in participating in competitive religion, especially if it is to satisfy an individual politician’s “promise” to his God!This is a case in which Nana Addo could have driven about 100 miles on the Accra-Kumai road to Kyebi for land to put up a basilica to rival the one in Yamoussoukro in Cote d’Ivoire.

The politicians pushing through this agenda are undermining the constitution and those “men and women of God lining up behind it are abetting an illegality and the judges who threw the challenge out were wrong in that decision! By their actions, they are building a quite, but formidable resentful army of citizens that will strike back at them for their contemptuous behaviour towards the people of Ghana.

This “national” cathedral agenda is nothing but a future source of major sectarian flexing… Let’s call a spade a spade: This is a classic case of abuse of office and bad judgement, never before witnessed in our post-independence history – not even during the military regimes. And where has been the required wise counsel of the Council of State? The outrage keeps piling up: what am I hearing about the commandeering of our collective heritage of the “Rosewood” to add to the construction of the cathedral? …And a final heartbreaking thought: When the entire planet is in an existential uncertainty due to Covid-19, all that the government of Ghana, my country, can offer, is to hold aloft the construction of a carbuncular sectarian cathedral as a priority of priorities. Such a pity, such a shame…Let us rally behind our country and ignore the provocation by treating the “appeal” with the contempt it deserves…I hope parliament would be up and doing. Let us watch them too…

By Amb. Alhaji Abdul-Rahman Harruna Attah, MOV

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