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Opinions Wed, 30 Oct 2013

How politics has divided two royal families in Wenchi

The tragedy of an Akan paramount, how politics has divided the two royal families in Wenchi- Brong Ahafo region

Tradition was at display when on June 25th 2013 Professor Albert Owusu Sarpong swore

allegiance to the people of Wenchi as

their new Omanhene under the stool name Nana Anye Amanpong Tabrako II. Amid the

display of rich Akan culture and tradition one notable exception was the

absence of members of Sofoase Yefre royal family.

This is the question I put to

the Akyeamehene of Wenchi traditional area Nana Dr. Damoah Koasane Adisi-Poku

Fakobaye IV when I sat down with him on his return from Ghana following the

installation of the new Omanhene.

After listening

through this painful narrative of the tragedy of two families, I tiered up and

completely agreed with him when he advised families going through such crisis to

avoid using the court system to settle their differences however possible.

These were two royal families have at various times lived under one roof, they loved

and adored each other greatly. Ask Nana Darkoaa Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia’s aunt

who raised him and the rest of his siblings and she remembers Nana Kwame Attakora

the son of her

cousin Nana Aduofua of Ahenfi Yefri as the one who protected her children from

bullies of Wenchi Township in their youth.

The giant looking Kwame Attakora

will stop by his aunt’s house everyday to check on his cousins oftentimes

electing to pound fufu on their behalf so that his smallish looking Busia siblings

will not suffer blisters on their palms. Those of us who grew up around their

children saw the special bound and love that existed between these families.

Even at the height of their bitter family feud, children from Ahenfi Yefre

would sneak out at night to study and party with their Sofoase Yefre cousins. I

cannot recount the many blackmail gifts and favors I took from my cousin Mr.

Kwame Attakora Gyan for not to tell on him that he was at Busia quarters

partying the night out with Mr. Spencer Kwaku Kusi Appiah and his other siblings.

Nana Kusi Appiah’s children were frequent visitors at Attakora compound and never

felt themselves as strangers nor unwelcomed at any time. You should have seen Mr.

Obeng Gyan Busia and Mr. Kwadwo Wiafe Akenteng Busia the sons of Nana Kusi

Appiah engaging in a healthy conversation with Nana Kwame Attakora and you will

not believe that only a day after that encounter, Attakora and their father

will be snaring at each other at the court.

The partnership between the

children of Ahenfi Yefri and Sofoase Yefri that sometimes bordered on sheer competition

for academic excellence is the reason why Wenchi has such a high number of

scholars for a town of its size in Ghana. So how did two families who seemed to

care for each other deeply fall off out so tragically and drag the development

of a whole town with it. POLITICS.

Education is

the key that opens the door to opportunities in life and fortunately the

British brought it to us in Ghana. But they also brought us competitive political

party system of governance for our young democracy. If you think the present political

bickering between NPP and NDC is tearing Ghana apart, wait until you talk to

people who lived through the CPP and UP era.

Nana Abrefa Mbore Bediatour IV was

a man with a great sense of humor, one of the many jokes he made about himself

when asked why he did not go to school was his first day in the classroom that

turned out to be the last time of any formal education for him.

Young Anthony Kofi

Adomako (Nana Abrefa Mbore Bediatour IV) was enrolled to start school the same

day as Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia. The two cousins sat next to each other in the

classroom on their first day at school but before the teacher could finish

introducing himself to the class, there was a palace linguists standing at the

door, to excuse Kofi Adomakoh for the day.

An important traditional ceremony

was about to commence and his uncle the chief insists that he should be present

to witness it. That will be the last time of any formal education for this

future chief of Wenchi. Even at such an early age, Nana Kofi Adomako was being

groomed to become the chief of Wenchi one day.

But his cousin Kofi Abrefa Busia

stayed on and returned day after day to receive academic instructions from his

teachers. This man from Sofoase Yefri rose

from a humble background to achieve such academic laurels that would be the talk

of legends;

The first person of African descent to study at Oxford University;

The first African to be conferred with a professorship at that citadel of

academic excellence in Ghana; Legon. Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia became one of the

only two Africans to be appointed to the British Colonial Service as District

Commissioner a position reserved for a person with a white skin at the time.

When Dr. Kofi Abrefa

returned from studies in Oxford, his family and the small little town of Wenchi

were ecstatic for this illustrious son who has put Wenchi on the map of Ghana.

His achievement was not lost to his cousins from Ahenfi Yefri who together with

the whole town began to wonder how they could honor this extraordinary

achievement from one of their own.

How about being conferred the chief of

Wenchi, after all he was a royal. But there was a catch; Wenchi had a

substantive chief in the person of Nana Kwame Abrefa (a.k.a Nana Kwame Yoguo)

of Ahenfi Yefri.

But such was the love that Ahenfi Yefri had for their cousin

that they were willing to support the ouster of their uncle for Busia to be

crowned the chief of Wenchi.

And that is what they did, in 1949 Nana Kwame Abrefa

was asked to abdicate his thrown and the stool was offered to Dr. Kofi Abrefa

Busia. Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia accepted the offer but he had other interest

lurking in mind that will not let him assume the position as the chief of

Wenchi.

For Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia had a burning desire to run for national

political office therefore accepting to become a traditional ruler did not either

appeal to him or it could as well be unconstitutional. He therefore offered the

stool to his younger brother Nana Kwame Kusi Appiah. “Tofiakwa” come again thundered

Ahenfi Yefri, give us back our stool they demanded.

Nana Kwame Kusi Appiah was

a royal alright but not in the circumstance where they have destooled their own

uncle will Ahenfi Yefri elders sign off on a Nana Kwame Kusi Appiah nomination.

But that was too late for preparation was well underway to present Nana Kwame

Kusi Appiah before Otumfuo Prempeh I to swear allegiance before the Golden

Stool as was the custom during the period of Ashanti Confederacy when the

Ashanti monarchy held Bono as her vassal state.

Seething with rage and betrayal,

Ahenfi Yefri family will boycott the installation of Nana Kwame Kusi Appiah.

They baited their time for the opportunity to destool him and take back their

stool.

Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia went into

national politics alright but in the political contest between his UP and CPP,

it was the latter that gained ascendency to usher Ghana into independence. Dr.

Kofi Abrefa Busia will have to contend with being the leader of opposition party

in parliament.

The immediate period preceding independence and the decade after

that was particularly perilous in Ghana’s history. The contest between CPP and

UP was literally a fight between perceived real enemy combatants.

A traumatized

nation could only watch on in dismay as CPP supporters were being chased out of

communities where UP had majority.

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah himself survived numerous assassination

attempts on his life. In response he unleashed his attack dogs “the valender

Boys” against his enemies. Legislation was enacted to stifle opposition, Dr. JB

Dankwah was thrown in jail, Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia fled into exile. Ghana will

eventually be declared a one party state.

The persecution against his political

enemies got even more intense, chiefs who were perceived to be supporters of UP

risk destoolment. With his brother out of the country and CPP government firmly

in control, Nana Kusi Appiah’s detractors descended on him. Destoolment charges

were brought against him and in 1958 he was destooled.

Fearing for his life and

the possibility of political persecution, he fled into exile with his family to

Lagos Nigeria. A son born while in exile still bears his famous Nigerian

childhood nickname Mr. Olu Bame Busia. That same year, Nana Kofi Adomako was

installed as the new chief of Wenchi under the stool name Nana Abrefa Mbore IV.

The new chief quickly found himself embroiled in the heated Bono political

struggle of the time. A group of Bono chiefs led by Techiman, Dormaa, Kukuom

Abase and Domase have started agitations to break the Ashanti monarch’s stranglehold

and or hegemony over Bono lands by advocating for secession from Ashanti

Confederacy.

These chiefs became his protégés as he fully embraced their

struggle. Nana Abrefa Mbore Bediatour IV will become the first Bono chief to openly

defy the tradition of swearing the oath of office before Asantehene. All the

aforementioned chiefs had strong CPP credentials and the new Wenchi chief became

their faithful disciple, he led his Ahenfi Yefri royal family to become staunch

supporters of Convention Peoples Party.

And with that, the destiny of these two

families swung precipitously to the opposite ends of Ghana’s political divide;

Busia and his Sofose Yefri became UP members while Abrefa Mbore Bediatuo IV and

Ahenfi Yefri went for CPP.

But Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s government will not rule

for ever, on 24th February 1966 while on his way to bring peace to

the warring factions in Vietnam, the peace that he has denied his own citizens

will become his Waterloo. A group of soldiers led by General E. A. Kotoka besieged

his flagstaff house residence and overthrew his CPP government.

The new

military junta set out to pacify the nation of the excesses of Nkrumah’s rule.

Chiefs who were thought to have been destooled because of their affiliation

with UP party were asked to come and reclaim their stool. With the NLC Decree

112, Nana Abrefa Mbore Bediatuo IV was destooled and Nana Kwame Kusi Appiah

became the chief of Wenchi for the second time. Dr Kofi Abrefa Busia returned

from exile to win the first post Nkrumah era election and became the Prime

Minister of Ghana in 1969.

For a time, the position of Nana Kusi Appiah as the chief

seemed unassailable but that was not for long. In 1972 Colonel Kuti Acheampong

the man who led the security detail of Prime Minster Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia

overthrew his government three years into his administration.

When Colonel

Acheampong proclaimed himself the Head of State and commissioner of Chieftaincy

affairs, Nana Abrefa Mbore Bediatuo IV reemerged and appealed to the government

to restore him back to his stool. Colonel Acheampong tasked the National House

of Chiefs to work with the chief state Attorney Mr. A. E. A Aikins to establish

the true claimants of Wenchi stool.

Thus began an excruciating process of

probing the genealogy of the families, something that no one should wish even

on their worst enemy. By the end of the trial, every myth that the two families

have held about their blood relation over a millennium was broken

. Ahenfi Yefri

and Sofoase Yefri will not see themselves as blood cousins again. The courts finally

ruled that Ahenfi Yefri was the true legitimate claimants of the Wenchi Stool.

A government issued white paper will permanently exclude Sofoase Yefri as

royals in Wenchi.

The biggest victims of the bitter family feud were the

hapless people of Wenchi who were left with the psychological trauma of divided

loyalty. Nana Abrefa Mbore Bediatuo IV was reinstated in 1975 and continued his

rule over a very divided town. He died in 2004. Nine years after the death of

Nana Bediatuo IV, the Queenmother has nominated Professor Albert Owusu Sarpong

as the next Omanhene of Wenchi.

The people of Wenchi will want nothing from the

new Chief than to bring peace and reconciliation between their feuding families.

The two families have lived with this pain of separation for far too long, the

time has come to bring an end this sad chapter of Wenchi history. For all the

public show of antipathy toward each other, those of us who lived in Nana Kwame

Attakora’s compound for example rather saw a very tormented old man.

The fact

that as the patriarch of Ahenfi Yefri he has presided over the estrangement of

Ahenfi Yefri and Sofoase Yefri troubled the old man greatly. He would be heard

murmuring to himself “I will bring our families together before I die”.

When

Dr. Kofi Abrefa body was brought to Wenchi in 1978 for burial, Nana Abrafe

Mbore Bediatuo IV then chief of Wenchi was prevented from attending the funeral

but you should have seen a distraught chief at his palace. I was at his palace

and saw Nana Abrefa Mbore Bediatuo cry like a baby over the death of his

cousin, he had to be whisked away to his private quarters because chiefs are

not supposed to cry in public.

Mr. Nelson Mandela in one of his famous quotes

about love said “No one is born hating another person, people must learn to

hate….” Unfortunately for Ahenfi Yefri and Sofoase Yefri families, they dragged

themselves before the courts and were aptly thought how to hate each another.

Looking

back at what the families have gone through over five decades, this is the time

for somber reflection to give peace a chance. For the sake of this beautiful

city on the hill and in the words of Rodney King “can we all get along”. As

painful as it was, we may

not be able to change the past, but we sure can at least change our attitude

toward it.

Thomas Kofi Kyeremeh

Germantown Maryland,

USA

Kofipat25@gmail.com

Columnist: Kyeremeh, Thomas Kofi