Is Asantehene’s Great Oath Losing Its Relevance?

Sun, 7 Sep 2014 Source: Adofo, Rockson

Is Asantehene’s Great Oath (“Asantehene Ntamkesie”) Losing Its Relevance?

The alleged rampant, but reckless invocation of the Asantehene’s Great Oath (Asantehene Ntamkesie) has lately become a cause of insomnia; a disturbing concern of course, to the entire divisional chiefs (Amanhene) of the Asante Confederacy (Asanteman). The paramount chiefs are bemoaning the fact that people are joking with the oath, invoking it haphazardly aimlessly. If they are allowed to carry on with it, the Great Oath will lose its relevance, they acknowledge.

Before proceeding any further, let us find out the origin and significance of the oath. The Great Oath (Ntamkesie Miensa, Kromantse, ne Memenda) was instituted into Asante’s jurisprudence by Katakyie Opoku Ware I (1731-1742), the successor of Nana Osei Tutu I. It was instituted following the calamity that befell the Asante army in 1731 during their war waged against the Akyems.

The Asantes were overwhelmingly defeated. Their warrior King, Nana Osei Tutu I, was also killed at the same battle field at Kromantse near River Pra in Akyem. “The Great Oath is solemnly invoked to mark the defeat and death of Nana Osei Tutu I at Kromantse near Pra River during the war against Akyem”

An oath is always instituted following a natural disaster, or any form of calamity whether natural or artificial, that befalls a nation, a tribe or a society. It is always in remembrance of that unfortunate painful incident or occurrence that such oaths are established. When the current or the future generation invokes the oath, it is to bring back into memory that sad event they normally wouldn’t like to be remembered of.

Who naturally will be happy when reminded of the catastrophic event that befell their society, culminating in the deaths of their important tribesmen or many of their tribesmen as happened to the Asantes in their war with the Akyems? Will your eyes not well up with tears, feeling mournful?

Therefore, people will not want to be needlessly reminded of that occasion which although, is held in high esteem by that society, tribe or nation. People would want to only be reminded of such calamities when only felt necessary and the oath invoked in contentious instances to buttress one’s stance as being truthful.

Therefore, the oath is invoked not with pleasure, but by compulsion. Subsequently, it is expected of all the parties involved to honestly seek to establish the truth. They are duty-bound to. The invoker/swearer of the oath, the one on whom the oath is sworn against, and the elected panel of elders assisting to establish the cause and genuineness of its invocation, depending on the circumstances, must aspire to tell nothing, but the truth.

Failing to tell the truth will be a double slap in the face of those who suffered the documented (in the form of oath) calamity. It will be an insult to their entire descendants and society. It will be disrespect to their memory, and to that of their living descendants, followers or tribesmen.

Going by my attempted explanations, very much acceptable as the norm, why would people not play with the Great Oath if the very overseers charged with ensuring and upholding its sanctity are the very ones abusing its value?

When cases sworn on particularly the Great Oath (Asantehene Ntamkesie), are brought before the Asanteman Council, the chiefs are often known to not tell the truth as it should. They are often seen to be collusive, supporting the side where their bread is buttered.

It is by the despicable actions of the Asanteman Council (amanhene), their propensity to lie to support which side they stand to gain; where their interest is, that the Great Oath has almost lost its value. The oath has almost practically lost its importance. People will invoke it anyhow with its authority becoming less enforceable. It is losing its relevance all because of the unwillingness on the part of the chiefs to tell the truth as it should.

Do they accept bribes to behave irresponsibly as they do, to unconsciously or consciously degrade the oath? When one looks at how they unanimously reached a decision on the Kumawu chieftaincy case on 24th February 2014, amid the self-confused role of declaration of bribe-giving by Kumawuhemaa, one can only hope that the Great Oath is not on its last leg.

The wilful disrespect towards the Great Oath has consequential calamitous effect on those concerned, whether it is the invoker, the person on whom it is invoked, or those sitting to determine the cause, authenticity or recklessness, and consequences of its invocation.

I shall be tackling Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II’s once declared “apae” verdict in relation to this subject matter in another publication.


Rockson Adofo

Columnist: Adofo, Rockson