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Opinions of Sunday, 6 September 2009

Columnist: Awuni, Manasseh Azure

The Neglect of the Ga Mantse is Justifiable

By Manasseh Azure Awuni

The Ga Mantse, King Tackie Tawiah, is not a happy man. He thinks the government is clamping his authority as the overlord of the Ga Traditional Area, which houses the seat of government and the headquarters of almost all organizations and social institutions in Ghana. King Tackie Tawiah rarely makes front-page headlines but he was recently made a lot of dishonourable front-page headlines of newspapers. The Ghana Times (which prefers to be called the Times) captioned it, “Ga Mantse Curses Government.” This was after a press conference in which accused and cursed government for trying clip his wings and the apparent neglect of him by the president. He was particularly not happy that the Greater Accra Regional Security Council had issued a directive regarding how this year’s Homowo should be celebrated because of security concerns in some parts of the Ga State. He cited instances to justify his statement. And I think he was 101% right.

My news editor handed that press release to me on 5th August 2009 to do a story and I was surprised when I got to know the content of it. On the 14th of August 2008, I was asked by the same editor to write a news story on a similar or perhaps the same press statement. The only differences between the two press statements were that the one issued in 2008 was signed by the then Greater Accra Regional Minister Sheikh I.C. Quaye while this one was signed by Mr. Fat Nartey, the Chief Director of the Greater Accra Regional Coordinating Council. The second difference is that the 2008 press statement was issued on the first day of the Homowo while this year’s one was issued two days before the first celebration. When I got home and took the story I did the exactly a year ago, the content was the same. The Regional Security Council had directed that the sprinkling of kpokpoi in trouble spots within the Ga State be limited to family homes. The statement also directed the regional police command to ensure that no one took the laws into their own hands.

It therefore came to me as a surprise when the Ga Mantse, King Tackie Tawiah, held a news conference and cursed government for unnecessary interference. Was it the first time such an order was coming from the regional security council? Is the presence of riot police and armoured vehicles at Ga Mashie during Homowo anything new? Or does King Tackie Tawiah have his own problems with President Mills and his government? One may not be a millimeter farther away from the truth to draw this conclusion.

On the neglect, the Ga Mantse may be right. When the NPP was in power, there were concerns that Manhyia Palace was the next point of call of most important visitors after the Osu Castle. When Obama came, the Chief of Ogua, Osabarima Kwesi Atta II hosted him, thanks to Atta Mills. If Akuffo Addo had won, Okyehene might have hosted Obama. If I win the presidency one day, the Bongo Naba will host a visiting head of state. (If wishes were donkeys…) That is if Albert Abongo, the greatest beneficiary of the controversial ex-gratia, is able to extend potable drinking water to the people of Bongo. What about the Ga Mantse on whose land the Kotoka International Airport is built? So the King is right! But I still think the neglect he has suffered is justifiable.

It is children who wash their hands well that dine with nobles. The behaviour Chiefs in the Ga State are not different from some chiefs from my part of the country – the north. I’m sometimes tempted to think that a PhD in Advanced Litigation is one of the qualifications needed to occupy the thrones they occupy.

The Ga state is the most volatile traditional area in the country. It is more volatile than Dagbon or Bawku. What masks its volatility is the fact that the headquarters of the security personnel are ahere and the men in monkey jackets are always there in time to quell bizarre scenes the be BBC would be interested in. It is not like my area where you can go and murder a paramount chief in broad day light and go untouched. The Ga Mantse and his people have not being able to settle their differences and do what will bring honour to the Ga State. Examples abound.

There is a faction which believes that King Tackie Tawiah is not the legitimate ruler of the Gas and has on several occasions warned the state protocol department from treating him as such. Besides, in the evening of the NPP government’s rule, the Gas sung in unison, “Give us our land!” when the NDC came and released the land to them, it became a curse rather than a blessing. Factions have emerged in Nungua and other parts all claiming to be the right custodians of the land. That is not all. Another embarrassing behaviour in recent times is what happened on the 28th of February this year at a ceremony to mark the 28th February 1948 shootings in Accra. The respectable men from Burma Camp decided respect tradition by inviting the elders to offer traditional prayers. Who was the legitimate person to do that? Not even the presence of the military deterred these chiefs who proved that the likes of Ike Quartey and Joshua Clottey inherited their boxing talents and not that they learnt them. With all these happening, which responsible government will sit down and allow people to do what they in the name of tradition. The Yendi incident is still fresh in our minds and we are still counting the cost of the inactions of those in authority then. The Ga Mantse should therefore not blame government. A man, they say, may fail so many times but he is not a failure until he begins to blame someone else of his failure.

Recently, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II proved those who think that the chieftaincy institution has outlived its significance wrong. The Okeyehene, osagyefo Amoatia Ofori Panin whose 10th anniversary is celebrated on the theme, “A green decade, a brighter future,” has chosen a noble cause – the defense of our environment. Togbe Afede of the Asogli State has made a mark in the energy sector. A lot more traditional rulers who are not able to do great things are doing their own small things in a great way. It is about time chiefs within the Ga State realised that posterity will not forgive them if they fail the future generation. The typical Ga communities in the national capital are faced with what I see as a catastrophe in twenty years to come. Passing through Ga Mashie, one would think every household owned a baby-hatching machine. The overcrowding is obvious. I don’t live in such communities to know what transpires in night but anybody with a good sense of imagination should be able to see in his mind’s eyes, human beings huddled together like slaves being shipped to the Americas in those slum-like apartments of human settlements. This is a problem leaders must find a solution to, perhaps by utilizing the lands well.

Better late, we often say, is better than never. The Ga Mantse has launched and educational endowment fund and organisations are responding positively by donating massively to the fund. This is a very laudable initiative and must be supported by all well meaning Gas.

All the factions must unite, for hounds of the same owner do not tear the game apart.

Credit: Manasseh Azure Awuni [] The writer is the SRC President of the Ghana Institute of Journalism.