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Opinions of Monday, 9 May 2011

Columnist: Yeboah, Kwaku

An Open Letter on Festivals to the Okyeman Traditional Council

Festival is a powerful tool that identifies and unites a group of people. It brings a sense of fellow feeling and cohesion amongst people, and above all provides an opportune time for people to reflect on their past, honour their heroes and forge ahead in development. In other words, festival is an embodiment of a group of people’s culture. In Ghana as a country, festivals are deemed the highest social event that brings people from all walks of life to a particular geographic location, subsequently, promoting tourism and development in general. It is indeed very sad that Okyeman, one of the most powerful traditional entities and as a matter of fact perhaps only second to Ashanti her cousin, whose power, wealth and prominence predates before colonisation has almost lost her past glory in festivals in that today Akyem Abuakwa is hardly on the festival calendar of the nation. Okyeman celebrates two major festivals, the Odwira kese and the Ohum festivals. However, over the years none and especially the odwira kese festivals have been celebrated in a grand style.

The Odwira and Ohum festivals which have been extended to other parts of the nation and had gained popularity in Akuapem originated from the ancient akyem abuakwa kingdom. It can be recalled that Odehyee Safori, nephew of Okyenhene Owusu Akyem Tenten, of the mid 17th century extended these two festivals to Akuapem when the Okyenhene agreed to Akuapem request for akyem abuakwa warlords led by Safori to stay in Akuapem to protect the people of Akuapem against Akwamu threats. Little history here, the Akuapem state was formed by Akyem Abuakwa, hitherto to its formation, Akuapem was numerous settlements of guans being terrorised by Akwamu, an ethnic group that used to inhabit and terrorize settlements on the Akuapem hills. Upon a request to Okyenhene to help them (Guan settlements) free themselves from Akwamu terrorism, Okyenhene dispatched some of his warriors to Akuapem who defeated Akwamus and drove them away from the Akuapem hills, to show appreciation to the Okyenhene, the Akuapems requested stay of the Akyem warriors to rule and protect Akuapem. That is why today the Okuapemhene and Amanokromhene are the nephew and direct brother of Okyenhene respectively.

However, these festivals have gained prominence amongst the people of Akuapem who mark them annually in a grand style whiles it is almost crippled in Akyem Abuakwa who seldom celebrate them. In fact almost everybody in Ghana attributes Odwira festival to Akuapems rather than Okyeman because the latter hardly marks this festival. In my view, giving the high prominence of Okyenhene in the chieftaincy institution of the country and the people of Okyeman, Akyem Abuakwa can reap the full benefits of tourism when steps are taken to promote these two festivals in a grand style. This would not only bring akyem abuakwa festivals into the limelight but also promote the development of the other numerous tourist attractions in the okyeman area, the eastern region and Ghana as a whole starting from the ancient Ofori Panin Fie (Okyenhene’s palace) to the numerous waterfalls, botanical gardens, ancient shrines housing important traditional relics among others.

In my view, Okyeman which forms a considerable part of southern Ghana with a very rich history, culture, traditions and above all a very influential Okyenhene should not only be referred to when it comes to politics, chieftaincy and business but also festivals, which in itself brings a sense of belongingness, breeds unity and set a platform for further development. I think festivals in Okyeman should not be seen as a rites to be performed only by traditional heads in the kingdom in their various palaces but should rather involve the ordinary citizens of Akyem Abuakwa and even people outside the traditional area, it should also be marked in a grand style with media promotion so that with time the traditional area would become a tourist hub with people trooping in annually to partake in festivals and also visit other tourist sites in the area. To this end, I would make a very humble and passionate appeal to His Royal Majesty, Okyenhene, Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin and his able okyeman traditional council to use their influence and power to promote the ohum and odwira festivals and other tourist attractions in Akyem Abuakwa to forge the development of Okyeman. Okyeman susubiribi! Okyeman te ase! Okyeman NK?SO?!

By Kwaku Yeboah