Live from the Woods: We need a National Cathedral, not National Hencoop

As an avowed Presbyterian, I support the construction of the National Cathedral not because it conveniently favours me as a Christian but that it will favour all Ghanaians – Christians, Muslims and Traditionalists. But I am against a National Hencoop that would seat only 5,000 people.

The fallout of the government’s decision to facilitate the construction of a National Cathedral has exposed us as a dishonest nation. I don’t think we need to agree on everything as a people but we need to learn when to compromise and when not to do that. Every argument I have heard advanced in favour of and opposition to the project has been politically and religious tainted. None has been honest, so far.

It’s surprising to learn that Christians aligned to the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) support the project whilst those with the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) are opposed to it. Also, government supporters, including appointees who are Muslims are for the project but those with the opposition NDC are against it.

Isn’t this funny? How come the same group of people behave differently in the very same situation? Must we oppose everything because it’s not politically and religiously convenient?

For several decades, psychologists have sought to explain why people behave differently in the same situation. Whilst some believe it is ‘personality’ that determines a person’s behaviour, others think ‘circumstances’ play a major role in what people do. And the famous studies carried out by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram has helped to solidify the position of the proponents of the circumstances theory.

Milgram in 1963 examined justifications for acts of genocide proffered by persons accused at the World War II, Nuremberg War Criminal trials. The studies began in July 1961, nearly a year after the trial of one of the accused Adolf Eichmann.

The experiment was to answer the question: Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices? (Milgram, 1974).

Milgram wanted to determine if Germans were particularly obedient to authority commonly given for the many killings carried out. Volunteers recruited for the experiment were paired and drew straws to determine their roles – learner or teacher. The teacher was told to administer an electric shock every time the learner made mistakes.

There were 30 switches in all on the shock generator from 15 volts (slight shock) to 450 volts (danger shock). On many occasions, the learner gave wrong answers on purpose and the teacher applied the shock. But anytime the teacher refused to apply the shock after a wrong answer had been given, the experimenter would order him to do that.

Milgram varied the experiment 18 times by altering the situation (IV) on each occasion to see how that would affect the behaviour of the participants. But the overwhelming conclusion of the experiment was that people are likely to follow orders given by an authority figure even when they have dare consequences.

Over the years, the reaction of some of our people, especially the youth, to issues in the country has largely been influenced by the position of authority figures and their political circumstances. This has had nothing to do with a well-thought-out reason self-generated. It’s as if we don’t know where politics ends and where national interest starts.

The borderline is blurred to all of us and one’s position on the political spectrum determines how he reacts to decisions and projects of the ruling government. There’s the belief that the major role of any opposition party in Ghana is simply to oppose everything and anything the government brings on board. And you don’t need to do too much thinking to oppose anything. This learned reaction comes with a change in political status.

Arguments For National Cathedral:

Some government supporters say America and other handful nation have National Cathedrals, so Ghana deserves to have one. They also claim the project is a “befitting thank you” to God for walking Ghana through independence to today. Really? These arguments are as illogical as the people who came up with them.

If the arguments are valid why can’t the same people advise the government to push a Gun Control Bill through Parliament to legalise the purchase and ownership of shotguns or rifles by Ghanaians from 18 above? American has it, so wouldn’t it make “sense” that we also have it?

Arguments Against National Cathedral:

The brainless arguments I have heard in the whole cacophony are those advanced by some Ghanaians, including mushroom Islamic groups opposed to the project. In their faltering minds, they claim Ghana is a secular state and therefore the government has no business “interfering” in religion. But I don’t see the government’s role as a facilitator for the construction of the National Cathedral as an interference. It doesn’t constitute one the last time I checked the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary for the meaning of interference.

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and his men are not unnecessarily meddling in the religion of Ghanaians if that’s what the naysayers mean by their noise. Why didn’t anyone, including the so-called Islamic groups say anything about the role the government plays in facilitating the Hajj pilgrimage? How come today they see the help being rendered to a religious group as bad or evil?

Genuine Issues Against National Cathedral:

Perhaps the genuine points made by some of those opposed to the project are the issues of location and capacity. Seriously why would the government pull down some key structures to make room for a Cathedral that would seat only 5,000 people? Why? It doesn’t make both economic and political sense to raze residences of nine judges, the Judicial Training Institute, Scholarship Secretariat, residence of the Greater Accra Region Minister, the Passport Office among others to put up a project whose capacity is inadequate. We can’t develop the entire country if we want to situate every key structure in already overchoked Accra. I support any other location apart from Accra.

Government can’t lie its way into the project:

Is the building of the National Cathedral a bad idea? Nope! It’s the way to go if we want to be serious as a nation but the issue of location, capacity and funding must be addressed. There are some basic facilities that we need to have such as a National Cathedral and Mosque. And the relevance of these monuments goes beyond political and religious considerations. They’re national in character! But the government cannot lie its way into the project. Why can’t the project be relocated and why can’t the capacity of the National Cathedral be 25,000 or more? Why do we fancy mediocre thoughts anytime we’re carrying out projects?

It’s worrying when a government is interested in getting its voice heard on any issue but refuses to listen to others. And it hurts to learn how dishonest we have become as a people. We will sometimes in the future pay dearly as a nation for our dishonest politics.

I support the project because it would help to ease pressure on places such as the State House and Black Star Square (Independence Square) that have become grounds for many high-profile national events, including prayer events. But it must be relocated from Accra and it’s capacity must be upgraded from 5,000 to 25,000 or more. It’s only then that we can confidently call it a National Cathedral but at the moment it is a National Hencoop.

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About Author:

Kwabena Brakopowers is a journalist, novelist and essayist whose works focus on politics, migration, social situation, economic and environmental issues. He spends his time writing either in Accra or Monrovia, where he calls his second home. He could be reached at Brakomen@outlook.com or visit www.brakopowers.com to read about him.

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