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Opinions of Sunday, 27 June 2004

Columnist: Alhassan, Amin Dr.

The NPP Government and Dagbon?s Problems

The author of this article is neither Abudu nor Andani, but resolutely a Dagomba

These days it is very difficult to make a statement on the Dagbon crisis without being labeled as an Abudu or Andani sympathizer. The risk of making a statement becomes more acute when one is a Dagomba. But the recurrent developments in Dagbon, especially the recent announcement of the extension of the State of Emergency in Tamale and Yendi, and more especially the statement of the Minister of Interior at Parliament provoke some commentary.

There are thousands of well meaning Dagombas who genuinely want to be identified as Dagombas and never as Abudu or Andani for the simple sensible reason that Dagbon is older and greater that any of the two gates. This category, to which I must confess to belonging, do not really care which of the two sides wins in the struggle for the office of the Ya Na, and is simply sick and tired of the price the people of Dagbon have collectively paid and continue to pay for this age-old struggle.

Obviously Dagbon is suffering from a crisis of leadership. The elite who must figure out how to lead the people out of the crisis is unfortunately divided into the two camps and is not capable of thinking beyond the binary of the Abudu and Andani. So the pressure on the government to find a solution is even more urgent. The justification for expecting a solution through a mature and determined agency of the government is grounded on the logic that it has the monopoly of dispensing justice, upon which a durable peace is can only be founded.

The frustrations that Mr. Hackman Owusu-Agyemang, the Minister of Interior is reported to have showed in parliament over his inability to secure the burial of the murdered Ya Na was probably intended to tell Ghanaians that the NPP administration is willing to work towards a lasting solution, it is the people of Dagbon who are not interested.

He did say: "Government is more than anxious to put the crisis behind it - but are the people of Dagbon anxious to do the same?" And added that: "How long would the chiefs and the people of Dagbon hold themselves to ransom by a lack of genuine goodwill and desire to face the sun and not see the shadow behind them?"

One does not need to visit Tamale or Yendi in order to understand why the people of Dagbon are not really playing according to the song that the Minister of Interior and his government are singing. What the NPP is gingerly working towards is the burial of the Ya Na. According to this logic, once that is achieved, peace will rollout in Dagbon. Or better still, they want the Ya Na to be buried so that the most spectacular evidence of the NPP government's failure in Dagbon (exhibit A = Ya Na's body) gets buried.

It is very simple to understand why the people of Dagbon, who are most hungry for peace, do not want to cook with the recipe for peace that the NPP is providing. The ingredients for peace do not include the answers to the following questions:

1. How can the Police and the BNI sit by in the three fateful days of March 2001 for the Ya Na and 40 others be murdered in their own home? Remember it took three days! Forget about the broken phonelines during the crisis. These security organizations do not use only phones to communicate. 2. How can the NPP government, with all the resources of the Ghana Police CID division, our well trained BNI investigators, and our well respected Military at its disposal, be unable to find out who committed the regicide? 3. How come that the NPP government's Minister of Interior at the time of the regicide was also the MP for the area of the crime scene, and yet we cannot hold him accountable for the crime. And when the BBC was reporting about the first day of the troubles at Yendi, the said Minister, Mr. Malik Al-Hassan Yakubu, was publicly denying it, and saying there was peace in Yendi. 4. Why did the then Director of the BNI resign his job at the prodding of the then National Security Advisor, Gen. Joshua Hamidu, who evidently had an axe to grind with the murdered Ya Na?

These are questions that all reasonable Dagombas want answered. The answers to these questions will form the bedrock upon which peace can rollout in Dagbon. As for the burial of the Ya Na, it is a problem for the Dagombas and not the NPP government. The government is not a funeral coordinator. The government has the monopoly over dispensing justice by virtue of its control over the police, the BNI, the military and by virtue of the fact that only the Ministries of Justice and Interior can approve the investigations and the trial of the criminals who plunged Dagbon into its current crisis. These ministries should therefore do their constitutionally mandated responsibilities of finding the criminals and bringing them to justice. That is what the peace loving people of Dagbon expect of their constitutionally elected government.

The peace loving people of Dagbon know very well that the Wuakko Commission was an insult to their intelligence and so do not see it as helping in the peace process. They also know that the responsibility of the burial of Ya Nas is not the cup of tea of governments. If Dagbon needs help outside its traditional boundaries for the handling of the burial, it can constitute a delegation to approach the Nayiri (the paramount chief of Mamprusi) or the Asantehene for support.

The NPP government still has the golden opportunity to rethink its handling of the Dagbon crisis and endear itself to the people of Dagbon. Mr. Owusu-Agyemang is reported to have told parliament that: "The full rigors of the law will be applied. The rest of the country cannot and will not be held to ransom." Indeed the people of Dagbon have always waited, to no avail, for the NPP government to apply the full rigors of the law. You cannot refuse to account for the death of over 40 people and say you have applied the full rigors of the law. Applying the full rigors of the law should lead to publicly authorizing and equipping the police and the BNI to bring the murderers to book. If the government lacks ideas as to how to go about this investigation, it should consult the BNI frankly. I mean frankly.

During the discussion in Parliament, the MP for Kumbungu, Mr. Mohammed Mumuni is said to have urged the Minister of Interior to look for peace by facilitating the criminal aspect of the case. I hope Mr. Owusu-Agyemang listened. Else members of his government may have the displeasure of appearing in court in future when they are out of power. No one wish to see the crisis unresolved now. No one wish to see long years of litigation over this regicide. But given the NPP governments refusal to look straight in the eyes of the law and ensure that justice be done, the people of Dagbon will continue their hunger for peace until someone is ready to listen.

By Dr. Amin Alhassan, Assist Professor,
York University,
Toronto Canada.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.