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Opinions of Monday, 30 March 2009

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

Gimme His Majesty, King Badu Bonsu’s Head Back.

Where is the beef? No financial dividend from King Badu Bonsu’s brouhaha!

THE SAGA OF KING BADU BONSU can only be summed up as a head- for -head feud, which left three people headless and one’s offspring penniless.

Let the celebration begin!

The media back home is filled with news report about the Ghanaian government’s demand for the return of a 170- year old skull of an ancient king, from the Dutch .And, that has gotten the readers and news -junkies gabbing in Ghana and abroad. Some are even scratching their heads saying, “Is that all we can do?” It conveys a message of people with mixed -up priorities.

It has also pushed down the pedal of our traditional religious beliefs and the debate about our sense of imagination and creativity .Personally; I view the whole episode with jaundiced eyes.

In fact, there are so many reasons to be skeptical of the government’s decision to accept the skull at a face value. First of all, the decision was made without any economic value and the fact that the “head” is going to be buried in Ghana makes us look more prosaic than proficient in a decision-making process

With our way of thinking, I wouldn’t be surprised if we turned this drama into a 170- year anniversary, victory celebration, National holiday, funeral, and a day –of- atonement, all rolled into one.

Let me see if I got it right: Ghana is experiencing its biblical proportion of the topsy-turvy, global economy ---- which also brought a huge unemployment and other social problems. But, the officials at the Ghana embassy in the Netherlands are busy cheer-leading the return of an ancient king’s skull for burial in Ghana. What are they thinking? Where is our creativity?

According to the news report, the skull (the “king’s head”) has been in the Dutch’s possession for 170 years. Right?

Supposedly, King Badu Bonsu’s head was “hacked off in retaliation for the killing of two Dutch emissaries, whose skulls were found hanging from the tribal leader’s throne”, 170 yrs ago.

Have you heard the one about his spirit? We now want to bring the King’s head home for burial because we think the “deceased’s sprit will be hunted in afterlife” say what? Really? .That is a joke, right? Please tell me that is a joke, I would feel much better.

Give me a break! Do we have to worry about the 170 year – old spirit? No, this is just an extreme example of misplaced priority.

Do you want us to protect the king’s spirit? Yeah, explain that to the eight and 10 year- old children in the Ahanta Traditional Area,”Kids, we decided to bury the skull of your great, great, great, great grandfather. (King Badu Bonsu), instead of insisting on getting some financial compensation from the Dutch. So we can not afford to buy you new furniture, computers, or build new classrooms and library. Sorry for disappointing you and your parents”.

The point is we (had) or have the options to define our priorities, but we chose the easy way out .Our circumstances should not determine our choices. Having well –defined priorities can guide us through the inevitable pot- holes in the decision-making process.

Speaking of spirit what about the spirits of the two emissaries? Oh, I got it, they don’t count. Let’s get a life for God’s sake. With all due respect, we’re talking about 170 year -old skull from which we don’t intend to get any financial dividend. However, the Dutch are probably laughing all the way to the bank. Oh, Amma Ghana!

Now here is the part that worries me. We are demanding this skull which has been on display in the Dutch’s museum for almost two centuries, to now be buried in Ghana, just to satisfy our cultural impulses or religious beliefs and promote unnecessary funeral celebrations. I bet we will assign some days to celebrate the king’s funeral once the skull hits on Ghanaian soil.

Halba !, we did not even negotiate with the Dutch to get any financial reward from this historical “artifact” (if I may) .With considerable respect, I think the people of Ahanta Traditional area could have benefited a lot more from this tragic chapter in history if we had the vision to see it from a different perspective .

I personally think taking the skull to Ghana for burial is not going to give us anything other than a boost to our pride and a chance to massage our fragile, deflated egotistical impulses. Instead, we could have asked the Dutch to keep the skull in their museum, and get a percentage of the proceeds from the fees they charge visitors. That money could set up a scholarship foundation in honor of His majesty, Badu Bonsu--- to educate the children of Ahanta traditional area.

Not only that. We could also set up a Dutch-Ahanta Exchange Program---which could allow students from Ghana and Holland to study each country’s historical facts. That will be a step in the right direction.

I sincerely think the King’s death would be more memorable, invaluable and meaningful if we can look at the entire picture, instead of looking at it through our short-sighted prisms----with the tendency to throw in a lavish funeral celebration with all the trimmings.

Trust me, I’m not exaggerating. The burial rituals won’t be complete without an extreme extravagant funeral celebration. Ghanaians know how to spend money wastefully, and that could be the perfect opportunity for them to show off their uncontrollable appetite for celebrations.

I bet the Dutch are having a good belly laugh over the entire episode. Undoubtedly, our actions have probably confirmed to the negative perception they have of us. We’re so unimaginative and uncreative that we look at things one dimensionally.

Forgetting the way the Dutch ancestors treated the black South Africans or the outcry of the world community to end the racist apartheid regime, is probably the real reason for them to hand over the skull to us with no political fanfare ; they want to get rid of an “unwanted Skull” and divert world’s attention away from them ---after all, they have probably made tons of zillion dollars from its exhibition, anyway!

I figure this is only the tip of the iceberg---more of the story is going to emerge in the future .The pundit and historians will no doubt, dissect the issue in years to come.

But, then, what do I know? I’m just an ordinary Ghanaian who thinks too much about our priorities and needs. I think, I have a different way of seeing things and that can be a problem, sometimes!

Listen: we have to learn how to be imaginative and creative .The decision to take the skull home for burial is influenced by traditional religion , culture and perhaps a little bit of politics . We have time for things that yield no economic dividend .Take our church services on Sundays for instance. In Ghana most people spend an average of four hours in churches every Sunday. Can you imagine what we could achieve if we spent half of those hours to invest in productive endeavors to improve our personal growth? We have excessive pointless pursuits.

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to advocate for the commercialization of the king’s skull. All that I’m saying is, in this day and age we have to learn how to think outside the box, for the interest of the nation’s economic well-being. I’m not talking money, money, and more money. Instead how, can we turn this bitter chapter into a better chance for the descendants of the deceased, who suffered the horrific ordeal?

By the way, whose idea is it? And, what is the main reason behind that? Can’t we get some dividend out of that historical episode?

Mandela’s former prison is a “palace” today, ---where visitors pay money to see. Former slaves’ “warehouses” (castles) are now the tourists’ destinations .So why can’t we make something positive out that?

I’m beginning to wonder if our decision to take the skull for burial is not dripping with messages that portray us as people with vision-impaired, with no goals and limited creativity.

What do we value more, the ownership of a 170 year-old skull of a King or a chance to educate hundreds or perhaps thousands of the descendants of King Badu Bonsu?

This is just a thought. What do you think?

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi ( NJ, USA

*The author is a social commentator, and the founder of Adu-Gyamfi Youth Empowerment; Educational and Apprenticeship Foundation of Asuom, in the Kwaebiribrim District, E/R