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Opinions of Sunday, 7 April 2019

Columnist: Toyibu Wumbei

Dagbon chieftaincy: Mr. president, call Alhaji Haruna Tia Sulemana to order

Your Excellency President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo,I write as a concerned citizen of Ghana, and a Dagomba resident in Tamale, to advise you against the actions of some NPP party members in the Northern region, and specifically, Dagbon. The NPP is a national party, whose philosophy many adore, and which promots liberal democratic principles.

However, the actions and activities of some NPP members here leaves much to be desired because, they are not good examples of party members who promote the image NPP.

As a reputable lawyer and a former attorney general, I know the Dagbon chieftaincy matter is no longer a strange subject to you.

Upon assumption of office as president of Ghana in January 2017, you left no stone unturned in resolving the Dagbon chieftaincy problems, and your extraordinary efforts to bring lasting peace to Dagbon is commendable.

Many people here were sceptical of your moves, because you are known to be very close to some fanatical leaders of the Abudu Family, yet they gave you the benefit of the doubt. You acted boldly and courageously, both by word and action, after the Committee of Eminent Chiefs presented their report to you in November 2018 at the Flagstaff House in Accra.

You won the hearts of many Dagombas by implementing the Road Map especially with the performance of the landmark funerals of the late Kings of Dagbon - Ya-Na Yakubu Andani II and former Ya-Na Mahamadu Abdulai - and the coronation of His Royal Majesty Ya-Na Abukari II as the new overlord of Dagbon.

At both the coronation of Ya-Na Abukari II and the historic 62nd Independence Day celebration, you were very emphatic in supporting the new Ya-Na to unite Dagbon and make the Kingdom regain its past glory. You spent millions of Ghana cedis of the tax payers cash to support Dagbon to make peace. Your actions and will-power are admirable. Despite some people’s skepticism about your actions, majority of our people still believe your actions to be genuine. I recall one lady by name Afishata, a known Abudu fanatic saying she was leaving the NPP because you failed to support the Bolin-lana to become the Ya-Na. I also heard one Kande said she was leaving NDC to join the NPP because President Akufo-Addo is walking his talk on Dagbon.

Despite your soaring public confidence in Dagbon by your strict implementation of the Road Map, your rating is gradually nose-diving in Dagbon and many who hailed you some few months ago are beginning to think that all your efforts on Dagbon were cosmetic, and geared towards facilitating the Abudus to use the back-door to claim what they are not entitled.

On Sunday 31st March 2019, about 22 contenders to the vacant position of Nanton assembled outside the Gbewaa Palace for the Ya-Na to select his choice for the next Nanton-Naa, after the demise of Nanton-Naa Sulley Alhassan, who ruled Nanton for about 30years.

Through rigorous screening and customary consultations on all contestants, the Overlord of Dagbon, Ya-Na Abukari II, emerged at 1pm, to declare Vo-Naa Bawah, chief of Voggu, as the next Nanton-Naa.He was enskinned as the Nanton-Naa under a traditional title Nanton-Bawah.
In furtherance, and in the spirit of unity, he announced the regent of Nanton, Alhaji Saaka Sulley as the new Chief of Voggu to take over from Vo-Naa Bawah who is exalted as the Nanton-Naa.

All the 22 contestants except Alhaji Haruna Tia Sulemana, chief of Zoosali, were gracious to the Ya-Na for his choice and congratulated the new Nanton-Naa Bawah and the new Vo-Naa Sulley Saaka. Alhaji Haruna Tia Sulemana immediately left Yendi, the event grounds for the enskinnement ceremonies, and rushed back to the Nanton Township ( 115km distance), to mobilize thugs from various parts of Tamale, Nanton, Diare and Gushiegu to destabilised the township and prevent the smooth entry of the new Nanton-Naa. They burnt lorry tyres, erected unlawful road barriers and wielding guns, harassing road users, all under the pretext that they do not like the Ya-Na’s choice as the new Nanton Naa. Alhaji Haruna Tia Sulemana influenced the some of the youth of Nanton to declare their support for him as the Nanton –Naa.

Alhaji Haruna Tia Sulemana usurped the Skin and personally declared himself the Chief of Nanton in apparent disregard to law and custom and in flagrant attempt to destroy the current Dagbon Peace process we all fought hard to achieve.

According to Alhaji Haruna Tia Sulemana and his supporters:

1. The Nanton Skin is exclusively for the Abudu Family, therefore no Andani should be allowed to become the Chief of Nanton

2. The youth and people of Nanton prefer him to the current choice of the Ya-Na

3. The president asked the Ya-Na to give Nanton to one senior Abudu member and the Ya-Na refused.

Even before the Ya-Na made his choice for the people of Nanton, Alhaji Haruna Tia Suleman instigated the writing of many letters by some Nanton people, all to support his inordinate bid for Nanton chieftain.

Mr. President, the three assertions made by Alhaji Haruna Tia Sulemana are palpable falsehood and cannot be supported by any evidence. In Dagbon history, there is no any specific Skin or title that is reserved for Abudu or Andani families. However, there could be coincidence where members of one gate, be it Abudu or Andani could occupy a particular village or skin for many consecutive times. This does not provide reasons for such skins or titles to be exclusive to that gate. Again, by our custom and tradition, the youth or opinion leaders of a village do not chose a chief by themselves or recommend a chief for consideration and endorsement by the Ya-Na. Doing so means delegating the powers of the Ya-Na to an outside body that is not answerable to our customs and traditions. Finally, I do not know for a fact whether there was a presidential intervention by the Flagstaff House in favour of any particular contestant as alleged by Alhaji Haruna Tia Sulemana, the refusal of which could provide him with the license to usurp the authority of the Ya-Na and pretend to have your support, Mr. President.

In any case, I take your oath seriously and your declarations both at the coronation of Ya-Na Abukari II and at the 62nd Independence anniversary that, you are the last person who will twist the hands of the Ya-Na for any particular group or person’s benefit at the expense of peace and unity of Dagbon. I still do not believe you had a role in the Nanton chieftaincy, despite the alleged rumours across Dagbon that most of the contenders to Nanton were all over the Flagstaff House lobbying you, instead of them being in Yendi, the seat of Ya-Na to lobby him.

Mr. President, aside of the historic commitments you made in your two speeches referred above on the future of Dagbon, I would like to remind you that you fought three hard battles – 2008, 2012 and 2016 elections before becoming the president of Ghana in 2017. You know the worth of your office. You were prepared with worthwhile experience before assumption of office.

Therefore, the splendid work of the CEC and the beauty of the 62nd independence anniversary in Tamale should not be destroyed by one individual backed by other shameless friends for their parochial interest.

Mr. President, you are gradually gaining solid grounds in Dagbon as AbuDani I and some of these lawlessness by some of your party members are increasing suspicion between the government and the people of Dagbon and creating doubts about your sincerity in genuinely and impartially dealing with the Dagbon chieftaincy issue.

You are well aware that the Abudu Family is in the minority in Dagbon, and they rely heavily on NPP governments anytime the party is in office to showcase their bravado.

Let me also use this medium to advise you about the covert role of the Northern Regional Minister, Hon Salifu Saeed in both the Dagbon and Nanung chieftaincy matters. Be wary of his feedbacks to government as his enthusiasm is clothed in fanatism.

The relative progress in Dagbon State will return to ground zero if NPP party members believe they are above the laws of arrest and prosecution.

The Ya-Na has proved so far to be uniting Dagbon by his selection of some Abudus to the skins of Tolon, Zoosali, Diare and Voggu. Your support to his administration would engender peace in Dagbon. Supporting the Ya-Na and the Otumfuo led Committee of Eminent Kings will ensure the total recovery of Dagbon to sustainable peace and prove to all and sundry that there is no place for impunity whether as an NPP member or otherwise .

I therefore hope you will caution NPP members not to be lawless in Dagbon by relying on your government for protection. They should be told in plain language that your government will not shield any trouble maker. The refusal of the law enforcement agencies to deal swiftly with Alhaji Haruna Tia Sulemana for instigating violence and lawlessness is sending a wrong signal and confirmation of government’s role in some of these activities by some NPP members in Dagbon. For the Ministers of Chieftaincy, National Security and Northern Region, together with army commanders to travel from Accra to Dagbon to meet with Alhaji Tia Sulemana smacks of a tactical move to support impunity, since his action primarily is a criminal matter and should be treated as such. Many more of his types will surface again because the government is creating a hero out of impunity.

Mr. President, crack the whip and save Dagbon and your efforts. Do not support impunity; treat criminals accordingly to discourage lawlessness and impunity in Dagbon. Alhaji Haruna Tia Sulemana’s action is more like a crime than chieftaincy dispute.