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Opinions of Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Columnist: Frimpong-Manso, Kwadwo

Is Otumfuo Opoku Ware II Otumfuo Or Otofuo?

Literally speaking, otumfuo translates into powerful monarch; whiles otofuo goes for unscrupulous, conscienceless person. The use of pun in the title above is meant to underscore my surprise at what I see to be double standard used by the Asantehene in the Toubodom crisis. Isn’t it this same Asantehene who played the role of arbiter or peace broker in the Dagbon chieftaincy dispute? Is it true he hired thugs to harass innocent drivers and travelers in Kumasi yet was previously referred to by Bantamahene as “divine”? Why then should he so poorly conduct himself? Why should he try to put a wedge between the Brongs and Ashantis who live like siblings and share so much in common?

Doesn’t threatening to attack the Techiman manhene if he dared set his foot in Kumasi sound preposterous considering the anarchy that would have ensued had the other omanhene not exercised restraint?

What is most stupefying is the fact that none of his sub-chiefs had the moral courage to point it out that his misconduct flies in the face of the lofty image Ghanaians harbor about what he represents? Could someone draw his attention to the grave inconsistencies between his position and conduct?

The sad thing is, some journalists refer to Nana Baffour Asare as Tuobodomhene, as though unaware that he has only about 1/3 of that small town under his rule. The rest of the people of Tuobobom look on with awe as the chief of a traditional area as distant and remote as Kumasi flexes his muscles in this act of political grandstanding. The resulting polarization of the Brong Ahafo region, especially the areas affected by the conflict, is awful giving the fact that the Brongs and Asantes share a lot in common due mainly to intermarriage, commerce, ethnic lineage and religion.

It could be laughably true, though, that Nana Baffour Asare claimed, by his own volition, allegiance to the golden or diamond stool, but could not traditional wisdom help him to show respect to the Techimanhene domiciling a few blocks away? And could not the Asantehene encourage him to be circumspect in his dealing with the Techimanhene for the sake of peace? What is Asantehene’s take on the claim made by Techimanhene that Nana Asare hired gangs to attack him? Doesn’t the fact that Asantehene put all the blame on Techimanhene speak volumes of his support of the dumb decision taken by his predecessor to raise Nana Baffour Asare, a ruler of a community as small as a third of the land of Tuobodom to paramountcy? Why doesn’t he, following suit, raise Akomadanhene or Nkenkaasuhene, occupying towns twice or three times as big as that of Nana Baffour Asare to paramountcy under Offinsohene? Do you see where this character stands exposed?

Can’t common sense and the knowledge of events that led to the creation of Brong Ahafo region teach the Asantehene to not meddle in the affairs of the Brongs since they were previously part of the Asante confederacy? Could someone show me the benefits of pledging allegiance to the golden or diamond, stool? I would believe it brought a lot of benefits to the people, or contributed to the peaceful development of that part of Tuobodom had I not worked or lived in those communities myself. I would think owing allegiance to the “diamond stool,” helped some children from these villages to benefit from Otumfuo’s educational scholarships offered exclusively to Asante kids had I not been in Ghana when the funds were disbursed. I wish the Otumfuo would soberly reflect on the downside of his actions which include but not limited to:

1. Loss of lives and property.

2. Smear on the reputation of the Asantehene.

3. Political repercussions especially on NPP.

4. Effects on national cohesion and the economy.

5. The effect on the image of well meaning Asantes or Akans abroad; my sister got thrown out of her house in Monrovia for looking like a Kumasi girl. I know this is an isolated case but, trust me, effects of actions like that of Otumfuo have ripples that transcend national boundaries.

6. Distrust of Asantes in domestic affairs due to the highfalutin nature of their chief.

7. Loss of moral right by the Asantehene as a peace broker in the Ghanaian body politic.

8. Perpetuation of acrimony among children of the two groups of people.

9. The betrayal and disgrace of the chieftaincy as an institution of trust and nation building.

At the end of the day, I hope peace would return, by God’s grace. Asantehene could achieve superficial glory. And both his critics and bootlickers would be silenced. But the ripples will continue to be felt as long as the memory lingers in peoples’ minds.

Although it is up to the Asantes to decide whether their chief is a drag or an asset, I think all Ghanaians have a duty in this. An Irish poet Bendan Kennelly, an Irish poet, had a line in one of his poems: If you want to serve the age, betray it. And scholars believe the best way to betray the age is to expose its conceits, its foibles, and its phony moral certitudes. This is our age, and the Asantehene, a powerful political figure in this age, who loves to be referred to as “King Solomon,” has allegedly issued unguarded statements and ignominiously conducted himself following the alleged missteps of Techimanhene. Do we condone his action because of his position? No, we should unequivocally condemn it. It is time to tell him:

“Much as we love you, we also wish you could emulate the shining example of Nelson Mandela, or Gandhi, or Abraham Lincoln, who, not seeking personal glory, put his life on the line against the wrath of the people of the United States simply because he wanted slaves to have their freedom. Nana, we wish your deeds would depict you as Otumfuo, not as Otofuo.”