Come Again, Asantehene!

Thu, 18 Mar 2010 Source: Bokor, Michael J. K.

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com

March 16, 2010

After staying away from the spotlight for a few months, the Asantehene has returned as if with a special vengeance. He is reported to have asked the President to remove the Brong-Ahafo Regional Minister (Kwadwo Nyamekye-Marfo) and the Regional Police Commander (DCOP Seth Oteng) from post. His reason? For their alleged role in the recent chaos in Tuobodom, a settlement in the Brong-Ahafo Region that owes allegiance to the Asantehene.

After an emergency meeting of the Asanteman Council, the Asantehene blamed the Brong Ahafo regional minister as well as DCOP Seth Oteng for not being circumspect in their conduct and accused them of taking sides in the matter (Source: Joy News/Myjoyonline.com/Ghana, March 15, 2010).

Specifically, the Asantehene accused the two of being “biased and unprofessional in their conduct, culminating in needless clashes within the region”. And he was even reported as calling on the Mills government to declare its stance on the matter.

I disagree with the Asantehene on this score. He is dead wrong! Once again, he is stoking the fires and entering a fray that will not simply evaporate even if President Mills heeds his call. To me, he is part of the problem and should assist the government look for better ways to solve it than making this politically motivated call.

Reports emanating from that part of the Brong-Ahafo Region did not leave me in doubt that the events preceding the arrest of the Tuobodom chief and the consequent social strife in Tuobodom did not happen overnight nor did they not have any remote cause. At the centre was a criminal element that the police have investigated and begun prosecuting suspects on. The Asantehene’s own parochial interests in the status of Tuobodom belie whatever “genuine” motivation he might have for making this call.

Is the Asantehene saying that he is dissatisfied with the arrest and prosecution of those Tuobodom elements who had attempted murdering the Techimanhene and will instead blame the Regional Minister and the Police Commander for seeking to enforce law and order in the area? Or would he have made this call had the table turned the other way to make the Techimanhene the one being prosecuted? I am no lawyer to attempt dissecting the legal ramifications of the arrest of the Tuobodomhene by the so-called bodyguards of the Techimanhene, which might have provoked the disturbances at Tuobodom. I leave that to the appropriate quarters; but let me say that the Asantehene’s call is mischievous.

This is not the first time that that part of the Brong-Ahafo Region has been thrown into turmoil as a result of the tension over allegiance to the Asantehene or the intrigues resulting from the stiff opposition of the Techimanhene to this chieftaincy debacle. Two rams appear to be drinking water from the same bucket and cannot avoid locking horns. Now, it is the law enforcement agencies that must unlock them. Why is the Asantehene, then, crying foul?

More overarching questions are: Why didn’t Tuobodom and the other areas owing allegiance to the Golden Stool see any disturbance under the reign of the previous two Asantehene (Nana Sir Osei Agyemang-Prempeh II and Otumfuo Opoku Ware II) but this current Otumfuo Osei Tutu II? What is it about the reign of the previous two that ensured peaceful co-existence between those Asante enclaves in Brong-Ahafo and their neighbouring Paramountcies not under the Asantehene? Why can’t this current Asantehene build on whatever he inherited to maintain that atmosphere of peaceful co-existence?

Doubtless, these trouble-spots in Brong-Ahafo reflect the “petty hegemonistic interests” of this Asantehene, which he has accentuated by pronouncements and public posture. I recall very well such similar moves toward some parts in Northern Volta Region (especially the Hohoe area), which created the impression that he considered those areas too as vassals of his Asante chieftain. The furore that such an imperial quest provoked could have degenerated into communal violence but for the patience and tolerance of the Volta Regional House of Chiefs, political interests, and the people of those areas.

The Asantehene should pause to reflect on some of the onerous responsibilities given him, which he has not been done conclusively, and seek better ways to announce his presence:

• As the Chairman of the Committee of Eminent Chiefs tasked by the Kufuor administration to resolve the Dagbon crisis, what has he done to assuage all doubts and fears and to help the government resolve that crisis?

• Again, having declared his intention to settle the bad-blood relationship between Jerry Rawlings and John Kufuor before the latter’s term in office ended, what could he do?

• Furthermore, after being helped by the Kufuor government to secure a World Bank loan (which some claim to be 35 million Dollars and others put at 5 million Dollars) ostensibly for development projects in the Ashanti Region, what has he done so far? Where is the money? For someone who publicly declared that he was the head of the Oyoko clan and that whatever he chose couldn’t be spurned by his fellow Oyoko clansmen (indicating his support for Akufo Addo and the NPP before the December 2008 general elections), he has an arduous task to cleanse himself of political filth. Yet, he is adding more to it. He cannot tell me that he doesn’t harbour any favourable feelings towards the NPP as against the disdain that he has for the NDC. Hence, his call is nothing but part of the political ploy to push the NDC government to the wall and place spokes in its wheels to enhance the NPP’s political agenda.

I want to stick my neck out to say that what he has called for now is just an adroit way of creating tension between him (and the political interests he represents) and the NDC administration. Here is the likely outcome: If the Mills government refuses to obey his call, he will use it as a trump-card to do all he can to create a bad name for it. In that sense, he will be doing politics against the NDC.

Regarded by his Asante subjects as the custodian of all that they represent, what this tension between the Asantehene and the NDC government (and party) will mean is that those Asante subjects seeing things through his eyes will also pit camp against the NDC. What will we have then? More anti-NDC sentiments in the Ashanti Region.

The flip side of the Asantehene’s call has its own dire implications. If President Mills heeds his call to remove the Regional Minister and the Police Commander from office, his opponents will find good cause to continue castigating him as a “poodle.” Within the Police and the NDC ranks, he will create bad blood.

So, trying to politicize a matter that is already regarded as criminal and for which some people are standing trial smacks of a mischievous agenda that I will not countenance. The Asantehene should spare himself further tongue-lashing and do what he is best known for. At least, his first few years on the throne earned him much respect and respect as someone interested in uplifting standards. He should go back to it and leave the dirty game of politics to those who have no shame.

His Otumfuo Education Endowment Fund earned him unparalleled and remarkable goodwill as a traditional ruler. Even if now beset with management problems, that Fund still has its place in the hearts of many people. He should concentrate on such issues and keep himself out of purely political or criminal issues that have only one upshot: to get him embroiled in a needless wordy warfare that will not redound to his public image. The Asantehene must expend his energy on other issues.

It is time for him to draw the visible line between what he is (a traditional ruler) and that of the partisan politician that his pronouncements and public posture make him. There is a good reason why chiefs are debarred from partisan politics. Both are not good bed fellows.

As a traditional ruler, he doesn’t have to look over his shoulders for fear of losing his office. The Asantes are not known for destooling an Asantehene. In other words, the security of his tenure is assured and he must recline in that safety to function as a traditional ruler of Asante.

Unlike him, a politician is always haunted by the fear of losing power and does things for parochial personal advantage. Rather intriguingly, though, Ghanaian politicians always fail to learn the lesson that history teaches and end up sowing the seeds of their own destruction on the very first day that they enter office. They leave their consciences at home when they enter political office until their self-serving agenda explodes in their faces.

The Asantehene must rise above such a partisan political tragedy. Rough-housing shouldn’t become part of his interests. Those who are close to him should help him rediscover his bearings. Those who regard him as their sacred cow and fear to tell him as it is are not helping him at all. Some of us will step forward to call him to order even if we attract venom and vain threats from him and his subjects.

Appointments to or removal from public office must not depend on any “powerful” chief’s sentiments. Let us not grow our democracy that way.

Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.