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Opinions of Monday, 16 February 2009

Columnist: Opare-Asamoa, Yaw

RE: Is Asantehene a “Super Chief”?

I came across this article written by one Manasseh Azure Awuni, and I must say it was rather intriguing. I believe others read it too so I am not going to bore readers with a second edition, but there are aspects that cannot and should not go without comment.

The writer, having apparently witnessed the vetting of Mr. Kofi Opoku Manu, minister-designate for Asante, based his write-up on a response (did he really?) that Mr. Opoku Manu had purportedly given to a question. By the fifth paragraph, Mr. Awuni had managed to ‘define’ the nature and character of Mr. Opoku even to the extent of labeling him as ethnocentric. He further deduced, also from the same statement, that Mr. Opoku has a ‘disdain towards minority ethnic groups’ within Asante.

First, I will admit that a lot can be deduced from what someone says, but for the love of Christ, where did Mr. Awuni get all that from? In my life, I have come across a number of ridiculous deductions and this falls right in that category. I do believe in all rights of the individual and so Mr. Awuni has every right to think the way he wants. In the same way I also have the right to disagree with his position on this matter. Second, isn’t it rather fascinating that Mr. Awuni did not find it necessary to use his ‘deductive’ powers to dissect the original question from the Panel that drew such a response? I would have thought that any serious and honest analysis of what transpired would tackle how and why such a question came about in the first place. There was yet another bizarre line of reasoning by Mr. Awuni and that is, by saying that ‘Otumfuo is a chief, a super chief’ Mr. Opoku was implying that Otumfuo’s tribe is a super tribe. And this is coming from a trainee-journalist!!!! ‘God bless our homeland Ghana….’ What was the function of the word ‘super; in that sentence? What was it supposed to qualify? A chief executive of a company is a ‘thief’ suddenly, by Mr. Awuni’s weird stretch of logic, the workers under him are all thieves. Or since this is about chiefs let me stick with that. If, to the question ‘who is Agorkoli? the answer is ‘the wicked king who oppressed the Ewes’ does that imply that Ewes are wicked? So how did he arrive at the conclusion that ‘Otumfuo is a super chief’ translates into ‘…the ethnic group over which that chief lords is a ‘Super Ethnic Group’?

I had no idea that it was taboo to say that a particular region or people of Ghana have always been at the forefront in politics. What is going on in Ghana ‘koraaa’? Thank God the members on the vetting committee knew better. And again, that was a major source of disappointment for Mr. Awuni because in his books such a statement was enough to prove Mr. Opoku Manu’s ‘perceived ethnocentric tendencies of some Asantes’ If an Asante feels the need to say Asantes are always at the forefront when it comes to politics, what prevents a Ga (or a Fante, or anybody from any of the three Northern regions) from also making a similar claim? Absolutely Nothing!!!! So why is Mr. Awuni so worked up about such a statement?

If Mr. Awuni represents a good number of the Ghanaian populace, then we can appreciate what we are setting ourselves up for if nothing is done to address this ‘inter-tribal intolerance’. I don’t know about a super chief or anything of the sort. But I do know this, and Mr. Awuni even asserted to that: the ‘Asantehene’ is a powerful chief. I would even say the most powerful chief in Ghana. In trying to explain why he thinks the Asantehene is a powerful chief, the writer had this to say ‘This is as a result of the large size of his jurisdiction and the fact that he lords over a region with many resources and for that matter, heavy royalties’. I may not know a lot, but this much I do know: that when it comes to chieftaincy the indicators of the power of a chief, among others, are the very things the writer listed. Yes I do agree that there is nothing that makes any chief ‘super’ Maybe Mr. Opoku Manu will have to explain to us what he meant by that. But I also believe that the history, the resources, the extent of his jurisdiction and other factors put the ‘Asantehene’ in a unique position. That’s all. Why is it so difficult for some Ghanaians to acknowledge what is obvious and move on?

I believe the ‘power’ or ‘greatness’ of the Asantehene even goes beyond the occupant of the Golden Stool at any time in point. It all has to do with the ‘position’ and what it represents. As a Ga I have, on so many occasions, wished that we had such a solid structure as the Asantes. If we did we would not be still confronted with this ‘who is the true Ga mantse’ situation that we seem to have on our hands now. I witnessed the nomination process and the subsequent coronation of the current occupier of the Golden Stool and I just had to admit that the structure and order with which it was carried out was unbelievable. I don’t know of any other chief in Ghana who has 33 or so paramountcies under him. These paramountcies are ‘strong entities’ in their own right. Why is it so difficult for Ghanaians to state the obvious? If for nothing at all, I am glad that at a point in our history, when the white imperialist came to make ‘servants’ of us, there was, at least, a group that stood up to fight. And I cannot describe the feeling I had once, when I was able to defend the Black African to some Caucasians (and even some African Americans) who had been taught to believe that the ‘whiteman’ just came over to Africa and took over without any resistance at all. Now these are my personal opinions and they in no way prevent anybody from saying something different. In fact everybody has the right to claim that his or her chief is powerful or the most powerful but such claims should be backed by historical evidence and facts. For me (a ‘mixed breed’) I am convinced, by all evidence, that neither the Ga mantse nor the Okuapemhene is as powerful as the Asantehene, and I have no problem acknowledging that. It does not take anything away from the Ga people or the Akwapem people. We also do have our own unique set of ‘strength’ and ‘quality’.

I have learnt to appreciate what is right and give praise when praise is due. I always recognize my shortcomings and I am not afraid to seek help from those I consider to be in the position to help. In our daily lives, as Ghanaians, we are confronted with this bare truth and yet we just refuse to acknowledge it simply because we are not ready to accept or admit that we are different people, even though we have a lot in common. Let me explain what I mean. God created us all after His likeness and image. That is where the equality starts and ends. In ‘real’ life there are people with different talents and abilities. Some are better at football, others are better at Mathematics. Others excel in painting and drawing and some are ‘wizards’ on the keyboards. I played football for my ‘house’, in secondary school, but never made the school team. Why? Because there were better players than myself. Do I spend the rest of my school-life wishing for the downfall of those who made the team? Or do I refuse to congratulate them, even when they perform excellently, just because I am not on the team?

I can assure the writer that what he experienced with the woman is not peculiar to him. I can almost safely say that, every Ghanaian has experienced, in one way or the other, some form of ‘prejudice’. No tribe is innocent even though some may be more ‘guilty’ than others, but guilty is guilty is guilty!!! He listed ‘names’ he referred to as having negative connotations but are used to describe people of the three Northern regions, but he failed to list any that people from the Northern regions also use for others. I will give him just one: dabonga! I believe the writer knows what that means and the group of people that name is used for. The Fantes have what they refer to as ‘habanasefo’ The Gas have ‘ayigbe dwolu’. The Ewes have ‘eblutor’. Besides these, there are certain ‘characteristics’ that are used to define certain tribes and individual members of the various tribes use them to tease each other. I believe that one of the qualities of a great individual is when that individual is able to make fun of his/her own people and then exhibit great sense of humour when others make fun of his/her people. As for Gas, we are told we put ‘h’s’ where they are not needed and then omit them when they are. We also refer to any hospital as ‘Korle-Bu’. My Akwapem people are never spared whenever they open their mouths and that distinctive Akwapem Twi comes out. The Asantes just don’t get the fact that ‘r’ and ‘l’ are not the same and they cannot be interchanged like how ‘I’ and ‘y’ are, sometimes. When you talk of a heavy’distinctive accent on the English language then it is the turn of the Ewes. When ‘butter’ becomes ‘better’ and ‘brother’ is ‘brele’ then we are at the Fante coast. It is worth noting that it was only in the Northern regions that the great ‘Waterproof’ was attacked for his ‘comedy’. Why? We need to also develop our senses of humour to accommodate some of these things, which are harmless anyway. There is a lot to be gained from unity in diversity and we can all learn to, at the very least, ‘live at peace’ with each other as the Bible says.

His call for mutual respect from all and by all is important and cannot be overstated. The strife for a harmonious and peaceful coexistence will not come by itself. We need to work at it and I believe the first step is for all sides to present their grievances openly, for fair and dispassionate discussion towards finding a lasting solution.

Yaw Opare-Asamoa oasamoa@gmail.com

Written and submitted on February 14, 2009