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Regional News of Monday, 11 July 2016

Source: Maxwell Okamafo Asamani Addo

Conflict looms in Okuapem as factions protest over tattooed Omanhene

The potential Okuapehene in question

Tension is brewing in Akropong – the traditional capital of the Akuapem North municipality of the Eastern Region – over the installation of a new Okuapehene. And indications are that this could be a recipe for a long, protracted litigation in an area in the country noted for its calm and civil co-existence.

But this is not because of the usual controversy and bitter litigation over royal lineage of the contesting candidates and the legitimacy of the royal families vying for the new Okuapehene.

The tension and anxiety this time round is about the legitimacy of installing a candidate decorated with tattooed arms as the next occupant of the sacred seat.

If installed, this would be a radical shift from the immediate past Omanhene, the late Oseadeeyo Addo Dankwa III, who was installed the Paramount Chief of the Akuapem Traditional Area in 1974 at the age of 44 and reigned continuously for 41 years before passing in August 2015.

The late King of the Akuapem Traditional Area held the "sacred seat" of the Akuapem-Asona – one of the seven major Akan clans – for 41 years. He is, therefore, reputed to be the longest reigning Okuapehene since the formation of the Akuapim State.

With the demise of Oseadeeyo Addo Dankwa III, however, it seems the Traditional Area interred the immediate past Okuapehene with the traditional humility associated with the people of Okuapeman.

What is happening in Akropong now portends a dangerous situation. It looks like all is not well and the grounds are being prepared for open confrontation or street fight as the kingmakers prepare to select a successor who will take over the traditional leadership of the area.

Some of kingmakers are ready to defy the time-tested tradition of disqualifying royals ‘tainted’ by scars and marks on the skin. They are defiant and insisting on imposing a young candidate with tattoos on the body, which is considered a sacrilege and forbidden in the traditional area.

Okuapeman has a great opportunity to demonstrate to the rest of the country and the world at large that are more united, have fellow-feeling, orderliness and respect for authority and due process. Indeed, Okuapeman has the opportunity to solidify its reputation as “home of discipline”.

Instead, all the six divisions of the Akuapem State (Gyase at Amanokrom, Adonten at Aburi, Kronti at Akropong, Nifa at Adukrom, Benkum at Larteh and Kyidom at Mamfe) seem to be holding their breath in suspense as the peace in the area is threatened by this defiant stance of imposing a tattooed young man on them as the next Akuapehene.

If care is not taken, the likelihood of violent communal clashes and protracted disputes looks imminent.

The family with the legitimate title to choose the next Omanhene is currently split into two factions. The tension is heightened as the Sakyiabea Royal families of Akropong seek to look for the next Okuapehene.

The legitimate, incumbent Abrewa Tia (Old lady of the house or matriarch custodian of this house), Georgina, is being destooled under mysterious circumstances in spite of the fact that she worked in harmony with the late Okuapehene.

Some traditionalists in the area have been explaining that the process of appointing and enstooling a chief say has been characterized by dispute over the past 100 years.

Once a stool or skin becomes vacant, greed and self-interest take the better part of the kingmakers/elders (the very people who should know better) and we see them slapping truth in the face, side-stepping custom, tradition and laid down process which end up creating confusion on which and from which they gladly feed at the expense of peace and development of their communities.

That is what is happening in Akropong now. Per rotational basis based on the announcement of the demise of the Okuapehene, three royal houses – Nketia, Amma Ogyaa and Sakyiabea – of Akropong clothed with the royal lineage to choose and install the successor.

Currently, it’s the turn of the Sakyiabea royal family to choose the next Okuapehene. This, everybody in Okuapeman accepts.

The current controversy has been ignited by not only the choice of the next Omanhene. There’s also the lingering issue of Abrewa Tia. Some aggrieved parties want to choose a new person to lead the Sakyiabea Royal House. The issue went before Eastern Regional Minister, Ms. Mavis Ama Frimpong, who brokered peace between the warring factions. The outcome of the resolution of the dispute was the appointment of Asonahene who was given the mandate to ensure the installing of a new paramount chief.

Resignation

The Abusaupayin of the Sakyiabea royal families, Nana Obuobisa Newman, of Akropong, resigned his position during the reign of the late Okuapehene, Oseadeeyo Addo Dankwa lll. Soon after the death of the late chief, he came back to saying his mandate was not accepted by the late chief so he is still the Abusuapayin.

After their meeting in Koforidua, the District Chief Executive (DCE) for Akuapem North Mr George Opare Addo, met the parties again in Akropong and re-appointed the resigned Abusuapayin of the Sakyiabea royal families Nana Obuobisa Newman, to take mediate steps and solve the problem. That was a power that the DCE didn’t have.

This did not go down well with some of the family members since the late Okaupehene accepted the resignation of the Abusuapayin and it was documented at the traditional council. Some family members were not happy with this development but they allowed it to pass in the interest of peace.

The resigned Abusaupayin said the issue of resolving the Abrewa Tia was beyond him, so he had to consult a senior divisional chief to help him solve the problem. He subsequently consulted the Aburihene to convene a meeting.

Last week, the Aburinene, Otobuor Gyan Kwasi II – who is also the Adontenhene of the Okuapeman traditional area who is an Aduana – tried bringing an end to the Abrewa Tia saga in the Sakyiabea Royal families, which is an Asona clan. In doing so, he chose the new person, one Lilly, explaining that the newly-nominated person belonged to an older regeneration.

The former Abrewa Tia, madam Georgina who served under the late Okuapehene Oseadeeyo Addo Dankwa lll, accepted this development in good faith to pave the way for the process to go on in peace.

The Aburihene also gave some guidelines that, as the Abrewa Tia, she cannot take unilateral decisions but must consult with the other elder ladies in the family. This ex-Abrewa Tia complied with.

The meeting came off last month and the new Abrewa Tia and another old lady announced the name of her candidate by name Kwesi Ohene Kessieh, that’s the tattoo candidate but five rejected on the grounds that they also had a candidate by name Kwesi Akuffo.

This didn’t go down well with Abrewa Tia Lilly since Kwesi Akuffo was the son of the Abrewtia Georgina who served the late Okuapehene. The old ladies then asked for a vote on the issue but Abrewa Tia Lilly rejected that proposal because she believed they would out-number her.

Now the problem is who to choose-since the five have sent their names to the Asona Hene .The two, led by Abrewa Tia Lilly, has also sent her preferred name to the Asona Hene, all of them in anticipation that he would submit it to the Okuapehemaa, Nana Dokua, for approval and subsequent procedures to kick start. After going to the Okuapehemaa Nana Dokuaa she accepted kwesi Akuffo

Protracted disputes

The Akuapem paramount cry has been characterized by strife and dissension since 1907. Records at the National Archives indicate that in 1895 when Nana F.W. Kwasi Akuffo took over the mantle from his uncle, he struggled to rule until he gave way to Nana Owusu Ansah in October 1907, who also had a difficult tenure till 1914 when he bowed out.

Nana Ofori Kuma II took over in 1914 from his elder brother, Nana Owusu Ansah, and faced similar internal and external wrangling till he bowed out eventually in June 1919.

For four years, there was no king in Akuapem; it was not because there was no qualified candidate but because different groups of Osiahene had their interests. Litigation and dissension followed.

Eventually, Nana F.W. Kwasi Akuffo returned to the stool in 1923. He passed away suddenly in 1927. And for three years, there was no king in Akuapem. The problem was whether to allow Lawyer J.B. Koranteng to return or they should look for another person. In 1930, Nana Addo Dankwa II was given the nod as the Omanhene by the government.

Another problem arose. Three of the divisional chiefs protested against the installation of Nana Addo Dankwa II. Why? They had their preferred candidate. It took the intervention of the district commissioner for the three divisional chiefs to swear the oath of allegiance to the Omanhene in 1931.

Unfortunately, by December 1931, Nana was taken ill. Nana Yaw Boafo (the Senior Divisional Chief) was made to act as Omanhene. By February 1932, Nana was gone.

The one to succeed Nana Addo Dankwa II became another problem. Lawyer J.B. Koranteng was still in the race. Another group also wanted Lawyer Offei Darko Awere.

Sadly, on May 17 while the Asiahenefo had gathered in the palace to present Lawyer Darko Awere as the omanhene elect, another group was parading Lawyer Koranteng in the street as Omanhene.

Lawyer Awere, on May 20, wrote to the district commissioner to decline the offer.

With no option for Asiahenefo now, like Nana Kwasi Akuffo, Nana Ofori Kuma II was reinstalled as Omanhene and, interestingly, within that era, he ruled the longest: from 1932-42. Nana Kwadade II followed and ruled from 1942-1945.

In 1945, with the exit of Nana Kwadade, Lawyer Offei Darko Awere who declined the nomination in 1932 due to disputes, this time accepted the offer as Omanhene with the stool name, Nana Kwame Fori II. Soon afterwards tension mounted. By 1949, he had abdicated.

Nana Twumhene ascended the Ofori Kuma Stool from 1949-1959 and gave way to Nana Kwame Fori II again from 1959. In 1974, which is recent history, many people saw what happened when Oseadeeyo was nominated and enthroned as the paramount chief.

Reign of Oseadeeyo Addo Dankwa

As a scholar interested in the history of his ancestors, Oseadeeyo did his best to preserve that unity even though there were challenges, especially with the imbroglio in Akuapem in 1994. Peace prevailed in Akuapem in 2013 and last year, all chiefs and people celebrated the 40th anniversary of Oseadeeyo's reign together.

The contribution of Oseadeeyo to peace in Akuapem should not be destroyed. We should change the direction of history in our time. Since there is a Declaration Order Customary Law (Akwapim State) Order, 1960 (LI 32) made under Act No 20 of 1958, Let the LI work.

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