Ghana’s political leadership and religion

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah – The foremost Pan-Africanist
This article was written and first published elsewhere in 2008.

Ghanaians are compulsively religious. Indeed, with apologies to renowned authority on African religion and Philosophy, John Mbiti, ‘they are notoriously religious’.

Religion is pervasive in Ghanaian society; it brushes the corridors of power including contemporary politics.

Ghanaian political leaders and especially power seekers, play the religious card so often, they play it so openly to the extent that it becomes difficult to separate religion from politics in periods when they are competing for votes.

The question though I intend to raise in this article is how much religion has been able to influence political decisions in Ghana.

Almost all our politicians are religious. Knowing some of the basic tenets of religion, such as honesty, fellow feeling and transparency, as it is written in the Bible for instance, “Let your light shine among men, so that they will see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven,” it is only fair to expect a high sense of honesty and uprightness from our politicians.

The ethical emphasis of religion is so glaring even to the casual observer. Therefore, one cannot claim to adhere to one religion or the other and afford to neglect morality.

I have been following the recent debate in the country about Religious and Moral Education (RME) in our schools. Some of the arguments though, bother on the specious and are clearly fallacious, I think, the issue is not simply about whether we should or should not teach religious and moral education in our schools.

Beyond that, we should ask ourselves whether or not RME is one of the necessary conditions we need to have on our school curriculum as a nation to be able to raise the kind of people we can proudly call Ghanaians. If we agree that it is so, then, what someone or a group of people thinks is irrelevant. 

In other words, if we, as a nation accept the fact that, RME is one of the courses that would lead to our national objective of a sound and healthy nation, then why not, otherwise, we would continue to argue endlessly and needlessly, while our nation plunges into moral decadence – do I need say more with child sex and human trafficking on the ascendancy before our very eyes?

Ghanaian political leaders claim to be religious, but it appears they openly deny the basic tenets of religious demand on the individual.

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was religious 

Ghana’s political landscape is full of politicians with religious training. From the famous Presbyterian training at Osu ‘Salem’ through Akropong on the Akwapim hills to one of the cradle of Catholic discipline at Amisano. But immorality seems to have engulfed this country to the neck and it appears to be choking the country.

From Kwame Nkrumah to John Kufuor, Ghana’s leaders hold firmly to religion, and therefore to moral uprightness as an acceptable rule of conduct. And yet, it is hard to tell if religion has done what it could have done to our nation if indeed our leaders held sincerely to the religious norms they claim to adhere to.

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, received thorough religious education. He was raised by a Roman Catholic Priest, Rev. Father George Vischer. He trained as a teacher at Achimota, and from there he acquired further training at the Roman Catholic Minor Seminary at Amisano near Cape Coast.

In 1939, Nkrumah traveled to the United States of America to study for a Bachelors degree in Pennsylvania, and while there, he made some money by preaching in a Presbyterian Church. So Nkrumah was deeply religious.

However, can we say that as expected of all religious adherents, his religious inclination influenced his political decisions for the good of all and to the glory of God?

Indeed, apart from the degree in Theology, Nkrumah went on to acquire two Masters degrees in Education. He held a Master of Science and Master of Arts degrees in Education.

Dr. Busia and Ofori Atta 

Dr. Kofi Busia undoubtedly was religious. According to Danso-Boafo, Busia’s intellectual prowess was first noticed when he read some biblical lessons in Fante at a camp meeting. He was nine years old then.

He was baptized on Sunday, April 4th 1919 by Rev. James Johnson and christened Joseph Busia.

Busia was raised by the Whittles, a European Missionary couple in Ghana at the time. 

William Ofori Atta, otherwise known as Paa Willie, was undoubtedly a religious figure in Ghana, even though he was into politics.

In spite of the glaring realities of the demands of religion on faithfuls, it does not appear that religion has had the desired impact on political decisions in this country.

Religion in Parliament 

Ghana’s parliament is one of the arms of government that continues to suffer an image crisis. 

Even though, almost all our parliamentarians are religious and they have formed religious groups in parliament with the intent of influencing political decisions and personal conduct in the house, the least said about the moral standing of Ghana’s parliament the better.

It is well documented that a former Member of Ghana’s Parliament is currently in jail awaiting trial in the US on drugs charges.

There is a sitting MP serving time in prison in Ghana for stealing.
There is yet another MP who admitted publicly that he had sexual relations with his sister-in-law because that is acceptable within his culture, and this MP is very Catholic!

As I write, there are two MPs, a male and a female who cannot set foot in the US. If they do, they would be arrested. One is alleged to be wanted for slavery and the other allegedly for stealing.

Religion and Morality 

Religion and morality are like Siamese twins. And morality is about doing right and what is acceptable conduct.

It is high time that Ghanaians demanded high standards of uprightness from political office holders. This beautiful country cannot continue to be ruled by people who believe that they have a right to live anyhow without being questioned by the public or the media.

The rather ambiguous argument over public life and private life of political office holders should be settled once and for all, before morally depraved individuals accede to political power and act in unacceptable ways only to turn round and claim it is their private lives, even though they would have acted under the cover and protection of public office.

Indeed, some of these politicians could act unacceptably and claim, they were acting in the public good, when it would have been obvious that the act could not stand any rule or norm that determines right or wrong behaviour.

We can’t afford to continue to allow infractions on our national conscience with impunity. Let us draw the line and no one, should be allowed to cross it, irrespective of status or connections.

It is one of the consistent ways we can build and develop a sound and safe nation.


Political leaders who are religious have a duty to live up to the expectations of their faith, which if they fail to do, they would have failed not only the religion they adhere to, but the majority of long suffering Ghanaians whose lives to some extent depend on the commissions and omissions of these leaders. 

By: Emmanuel K. Dogbevi 

Email: [email protected]

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