Dancing in the rain at Manhyia

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Mon, 17 Oct 2016 Source: Ebo Quansah

Anytime I use the Accra-Kumasi road, undoubtedly the busiest network in the country, I come back annoyed.

I get angry because of what I detect as a deliberate policy of this administration, not to bring the construction of the 31.7 kilometre Teacher-Mante-Suhum-Apedwa stretch of the 250 kilometre Accra-Kumasi road, to a definite conclusion.

There are no road signs on this stretch, and the edges of the road are far from smooth. The decision not to worry about that stretch is boldly emphasised all over, with no contractor and no workmen in sight.

At the weekend, I had an added provocation to go bananas. That stretch of road is still advertising the avowed aim of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration to spite those of us complaining about the poor quality of job done. To add insult to injury, the effigy of President John Dramani Mahama decorates every joint and corner on the road. At every town and village on the way, the effigy of President Mahama, and the four colours of the ruling National Democratic Congress, decorate the various signposts advertising the names of the various settlements.

It looks like this society has suddenly embraced communism in its worst form, and resolved to extol the virtues in the ‘Great Leader’, together with the political party that props him up.

If you are looking for the name of a town or village on the way, you would be greeted by the smiling face of the Head of State before sighting the name of the settlement on top of the signpost.

It tells much about how desperation has set in, as we head for the polls. To state that incumbency is being abused, is to beg the question. Officialdom is behaving as if those who have been given temporary charge of national resources believe the nation is their bona fide property. It is as if this oligarchy has seized power by force of arms, and all good citizens of Ghana condemned to looking on as if we are prisoners of war.

I returned from Kumasi on Sunday night, after attending the funeral of Ms. Elizabeth Osei, sister of Mrs. Akosua Frema Opare-Osei, former Member of Parliament for Ayawaso West (Wuogon), who died aged 67. The mortal remains of Auntie Elizabeth Osei were interred at the Tafo Cemetery in Kumasi on Saturday.

The top brass of the New Patriotic Party, including presidential candidate Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, his running mate, Alhaji Dr. Mahamudu Bawumiah, Campaign Manager Peter Mac Manu, former First Deputy Chairman of the NPP Fred Oware and other party officials, attended the Church Service at the St. Cyprian Anglican Church, near the Prempeh Assembly Hall in Kumasi. They also attended the final funeral rites for the departed at Ashanti New Town.

Like the typical Asante man would tell you; ‘Asem Baako Mfa Nipa Nante,’ it takes more than a single issue to send a person on an errand. I was also at the Manhyia Palace to pay homage to Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the Asantehene, and to participate in the Akwasidae Festival of the chiefs and people.

I was in Kumasi as a member of a four-man delegation which represented the Vikings Alumni of the Mensah Sarbah Hall Association of the University of Ghana, Legon, to the Palace of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II.

The delegation was led by ‘Odeneho’ Kofi Dua-Adonteng, and included Mr. Obeng Boateng, President of the Ashanti Regional Branch of the Viking family, and Mrs. Naana Yaa Asenso-Okyere, widow of the deceased former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana. Otumfuo, the Asantehene is an Honourary Fellow of the hall.

Akwasidae is usually a glamorous occasion, and in spite of the heavy rains that fell throughout the day, the ceremony was never marred. In fact, last Sunday’s Akwasidae turned out to be a grand celebration. Naturally, the rains delayed proceedings for some time, but when drumbeats and the sounding of horns announced the arrival of the royal cortege, the whole grounds became animated.

One of the unique features of Otumfuo, the Asantehene, entering any durbar grounds, is the kind of rites performed with every step of the royal feet. After every few steps, the royal cortege comes to a stop, with drummers and horn-blowers sounding in reverence of the occupant of the Golden Stool.

On taking his seat on Sunday, various appellation singers competed with each other to recite poems of bravery, extolling the power of the King. Last Sunday’s Akwasidae featured only the Kumasi Traditional Council. The ceremony began with ‘Abrempong’, those born into royalty in Kumasi, queuing to shake hands with the King or bowing before him, as tradition requires.

The new Bantamahene, Nana Owusu Amankwatia VI, was the first royal to greet Otumfuo. With his cloth tied around his chest, Nana Amankwatia, known in private life as Sylvester Asare-Owusu, bowed before the great King, who blessed him by rubbing his head and body with Otumfuo’s Royal Whisk.

As the leading warrior in the Ashanti Nation, the Bantamahene is required by tradition to be in ‘Kuntukuni’, mourning clothes, at durbars like the Akwasidae cerebrations. On Sunday, the new Bantamahene was resplendent in a specially woven black cloth.

There was Mr. Kwabena Kesse, known to many as Kesben, a big business tycoon in Kumasi, who presented assorted drinks to mark the great occasion. When the Master of Ceremonies announced the presence of President John Dramani Mahama at the durbar grounds, one expected the crowd to get animated and cheer. Strangely, not a bird stirred.

For me, it told everything about the mood of the people, especially, in the opposition heartland of the Ashanti Region. After eight years of managing an economy that has failed to respond to treatment, the Head of State must realise by now that many are the Ghanaians willing him on to leave Government House. The mood of the people told the story of Ghanaian nationals who have resolved to get the whole governance system out of Jubilee House.

On Sunday, the only time Mr. Mahama raised a semblance of cheers was when it was announced that the President’s presence was to thank the Asantehene for his brilliant presentation when the Asantehene was invited to the British House of Parliament to address the House, not too long ago.

At the Adae ceremony, President Mahama made a donation of assorted drinks and cash to the King and his household. The President warmed the mood of the people, when he said Otumfuo’s eloquent presentation before British parliamentarians had projected the image of Ghana in the international comity of nations.

The Head of State was grateful to Otumfuo for the way he has projected this country since ascending to the Golden Stool in 1999.

The presidential entourage sported Commander One, COP Nathan Kofi Boakye, Ashanti Regional Police Commander, Mr. Alexander Ackon, Ashanti Regional Minister, and regional executives of the National Democratic Congress in the Ashanti Region.

The reception, accorded President Mahama at the Manhyia Palace, contrasted sharply with the mood of the people who cheered Nana Akufo-Addo and his entourage at the funeral of deceased Elizabeth Osei, at the Funeral Service at the St. Cyprian Anglican Church, and the funeral grounds at Asante New Town, the day before the Akwasidae Festival.

The cheers that welcomed the opposition leader, when he and his entourage were introduced at the funeral, were so loud that one might reasonably think it was a political rally, and not a solemn occasion like a funeral.

The reception accorded the Head of State contrasted with the hilarious occasion that saw many ordinary people and royalty dancing to Fontomfrom drum beats, and rendition of authentic Adowa music from various cultural groups at Manhyia.

The rain came down in its torrents, but did not take away the festivities of the occasion. Manhyia was in full voice. The people would not let the rains dampen their spirits, even when the heavens opened up. Rather, those who jam-packed the headquarters of the Kumasi Traditional Council to participate in the last but one Akwasidae before the end of the year had every reason to let their hair down.

Manhyia has never disappointed in holding onto the tradition of the chiefs and people of Asanteman. Apart from the uniqueness of the Adae Festival itself, last Sunday’s event offered the chiefs and people of the Kumasi Traditional Council, the opportunity to welcome back their King from his recent trips abroad.

From Britain, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II went to South Africa on an official invitation. Sunday’s Akwasidae ceremony marked the first time the King of Ashanti has been seen in public, since he undertook those trips. Naturally, the people rejoiced, thanking God Almighty for the safe return of their Monarch. That is one reason why drumming and dancing never ceased till late in the night, in spite of the torrential rainfall.

Columnist: Ebo Quansah