Spiritual healers, men of God take over billboards, Monday, September 17, 2012, pg 32

SPIRITUAL healers have virtually taken over space of billboards across the country.

This new trend is gradually overshadowing billboards of businesses, which used to be their preserve.

From domineering larger-than-life structures through to miniature signposts, the traditional priests and priestesses, mallams and other traditional healers are competing for space with churches and the business community.

Billboards advertising churches and shrines are on the increase along highways across the country, sometimes obstructing pedestrians and motorists alike.


Advertisers Association of Ghana (AAG) figures estimate the minimum cost of producing a billboard at GH¢3,000 while the most priced is GH¢80,000.

Proof that religion is a booming business in Ghana can be found in the increasing number of signposts and billboards advertising temples, churches and shrines promising career success, wealth, status in society, good marriages and problem-free visa acquisition, as well as booming business.

Highways including  Accra-Nsawam, Nkawkaw-Kumasi, Koforidua-Abetifi, Koforidua-Bunso, Kasoa-Cape Coast and dusty-pothole-filled rural areas like Kasoa-Bawjiase are lined with such billboards.

Billboards, especially those belonging to the charismatic and pentecostal churches, defy the conventional church billboard which usually bear the image of Jesus Christ and times of worship. Such billboards either have a smiling face of a general overseer or that of him and his wife.


 On the Accra-Nsawam road, one such noticeable billboard is that of the enigmatic priest, Nana Kwaku Bonsam. Nana Bonsam’s larger-than-life billboard standing defiantly on the Accra-Nsawam road, describes him as a “powerful spiritual man” and “the great authentic man”.

 The billboard, which has two pictures — one with the spiritualist in priestly regalia and in a trance and another with him in a black smock and riding a black horse – lists his litany of services to include seeking vengeance and solutions to bareness, stalled promotion, debt, madness, spiritual attack, marriage problems, poverty, and impotence.


Kwaku Bonsam's billboard

 On the same road, not to be outdone by the intimidating Nana Bonsam’s effigy, there is Nana Ababio, who tags himself the spiritual father and provider of all spiritual problems.

Then in the Islamic fold are Mallam Ibrahim, who tags himself as ‘wonderful man; Mallam Musah, the spiritual and herbal last stop; Kunfayakun Herbal Spiritual Centre operated by Sheikh Dr Black and White; with a rather tall list of remedies for all manner of physical and spiritual ailments.



Others on this highway include Hare Krishna Temple and Mallam Zacharia Ibrahim.
On the Kasoa-Winneba road,  there is a long chain of billboards belonging to Alhaji Baba Fear God, Nana Atia Yaw and Nana Oboanipa, Bobivi Kwame among others.


The row of church billboards and signposts, however, outnumber all the others put together.

While some churches have received commendation for their contribution to society, in some other churches today, prosperity doctrine has taken centre stage resulting in religious doctrines being interpreted far more flexible than the traditional Christianity that was first introduced by the Europeans.

In a similar vein, while some spiritualists have received applause for their efforts in sometimes exposing people in search of quick money, their stock in trade  is faith-based healing and, sometimes, magic which preys upon the gullibility of their wealthier followers and the desperation of the poor.



 The messages of healing, miracles and prosperity easily find sympathetic echoes among a populace down on the economic ladder.

 With the vulnerable at their mercy, the emphasis is on good life, an antidote to the despair that thrives in  society outside the walls of their shrines.

But Nana Bonsam acknowledged that a few bad lots had infiltrated their ranks.

The spiritualists are not limiting the advertising of their trade to only on billboards. They are deploying all forms of technology including radio and social media. Nana Bonsam for instance has close to 3,864 friends on facebook and a website, www.kwakubonsam.com.

That, according to Nana Bonsam, had become necessary because “as society changes you also have to change. As we speak, the Internet is changing the face of communication in the world. We cannot continue to rely on the past and expect it to make any difference”.

“In the past, all these did not exist so our forbearers limited themselves to small corners. We need to expand our frontiers and bring the African traditional religion to our young people who are losing their heritage to foreign cultures because of the myths surrounding the religion. There is no better way to do it than through technology.”

This is a position shared by Gboloho Nyame Bekyere, a septuagenarian spiritualist on the Kasoa-Bawjiase road, whose giant concrete signpost bearing a snake wrapped around a mermaid, acclaim him as a specialist in madness, marriage and any spiritual attack.


“If you are hidden somewhere without being seen, this signpost is the best means of announcing your presence.”

Asked about whether the billboard is licensed, the grin on his face disappeared, replaced by a dreadful look, a high-pitched laughter and with a loud tone, he said “We don’t do anything illegal here. I am not a con man and won’t do anything that will break laws and send me behind the walls of Nsawam.”

Explaining the phenomenon spiritualist advertising billboards, a Social Anthropologist Lecturer of the Ghana Institute of Journalism, Mr Frimpong Manso, observed that it could be explained as social change fuelled by the increasing influence of the traditional and new media.

“Another reason could be that the spiritual leaders have come to realise that if some of the so-called men of God derive their powers from us and then go out there to publicise themselves. So why don’t we tell the world about our prowess.”

He said while the larger society saw the phenomen as strange, there was nothing wrong or strange about the situation as “they are operating within a social context.  They also study society and what society wants is what they provide.”  

Concerns have been raised about the uncontrolled manner in which billboards are mounted around the country.

In May, this year, several billboards in Accra were toppled in a storm with the public calling on the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) and the Advertising Association of Ghana (AAG) to re-examine the specifications for constructing billboards to ensure public safety.

One thing missing on most of these billboards is registration numbers and indications that they had insurance, which are major requirements for outdoor advertising.

That, the AAG Executive Director, Mr Francis Dadzie, stated, was alarming as most of the structures lacked structural integrity.

He had a few questions, “Who gave them the permit, what is the structure integrity of the foundation, what is the size coming up, where is the architectural drawing and are they covered by insurance?”

Comments

  1. Interesting page. I know your perspective but can you also do one about Christian religions too.

    ReplyDelete

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