By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Friday, May 3, 2013
My good friends, I am overwhelmed with mixed emotions following the news report that chiefs of the Abudu and Andani royal gates in the Dagbon traditional area have indicated their resolve to amicably settle the protracted Yendi skin dispute between them.
Both sides have acknowledged the fact that many Dagomba localities in the Northern region have remained underdeveloped largely because of the conflict.
They made the pledge to coexist peacefully during a courtesy call on the Northern Regional Minister, Bede Ziedeng on Thursday.
The high-powered delegation was sent by the Regent of Dagbon, Kampakuya-Naa, to welcome the new minister and also pledge the support of the people to his administration, especially efforts towards ensuring lasting peace in Dagbon.
I am highly touched by this realization, the first bold public declaration by these feuding factions that acknowledges the futility of the Yendi crisis. This realization really touches my heart.
The Andani-Abudu conflict is made more disturbing by the fact that it is an internal family crisis that could have been resolved without bloodshed and the kind of calamity that has torn the members apart.
In fact, the problem may have its origin rooted in a protracted chieftaincy dispute, but it wouldn’t have festered to this alarming extent had the family not paved the way for the enmity to be politicized. Indeed, the politicization has worsened the conflict and pitted not only the family heads against each other but it has also deepened the gulf between the individual rival family members.
Since the events in 1969 that destabilized Dagbon at the behest of the politicians and saw the removal and subsequent death of Ya Na Abdulahi Yakubu, the seed of enmity has blossomed into the dangerous fruit harvested on March 26, 2002, as the Yendi Massacre in which the Ya Na Andani Yakubu II and over 40 of his loyalists were murdered in broad daylight.
We have heard of how the heavy hand of the politicians manipulated the situation and the extent to which the deplorable rivalry characterizing contemporary Ghanaian politics (the NDC versus the NPP, particularly) has made it difficult for the matter to be resolved either legally or through mediation.
The circumstances surrounding the Yendi Massacre might be spawned by the bitter struggle for occupancy of the Yendi skin but the manner in which it was heavily tainted by rival political interests—and the dishonesty surrounding the handling of the aftermath—leads to only one conclusion: that the two families have not been fair to each other.
The conflict can be resolved only by the Andanis and Abudus themselves. And these two families are recognized as well established with a long, rich history of accomplishments at several levels. They are endowed with successful individuals whose renown in their chosen fields is unquestionable. For many years, members of the Andani and Abudu families have registered themselves on local and national politics and caught public attention as such.
Many others are involved in local, national, and international activities that redound to the image of Dagbon and Ghana, generally. There is much to acknowledge about these two families.
Much of their successful accomplishments cannot be directly attributed to chieftaincy. It is their individual initiatives that have established them in life.
Although it is undeniable that the Yendi skin is a rallying point for them, there is no tangible evidence to suggest that the accomplishments were spurred or enhanced by the “skin”. The “skin” is only an intangible traditional icon that gives nothing but bragging rights.
We acknowledge the overarching influence of chieftaincy on our lives as Ghanaians but can’t attribute our personal achievements to it. As an institution, chieftaincy has its merits and demerits.
In the case of the Dagbon crisis, the demerits of chieftaincy are obviously being felt, which is why it is incumbent on the family heads to do all they can to resolve the crisis and turn the institution into a productive venture to unite all the factions and restore dignity to Dagbon.
Clearly, the problem can be solved only by the feuding factions themselves. The government may want to take official action because of the implications for national security but it can’t resolve the conflict (because of how it has been heavily politicized up to this stage).
The Committee of Eminent Chiefs (headed by the Asantehene) can’t resolve it either. The permanent solution doesn’t lie with a committee that is not rooted in the Abudu-Andani tradition.
It is only when the Abudus and Andanis rediscover themselves as one people belonging to one family with a common destiny that they can find a permanent solution to this crisis.
Within this context, the realization that has dawned on them now, which was revealed at the meeting with the Regional Minister, is heartwarming. It must not end in smoke but be translated into practical action to bring these two families together for their own good and that of Dagbon and Ghana, generally.
There is nothing to gain from this long-drawn-out crisis nor can the Andani-Abudu families come together for mutual benefits if they don’t eschew acrimony and other negative tendencies. The future of these two families should be secured today by those who have the knowledge and acumen to restore peace, harmony, and unity. After all, the viability of the family heritage is at stake.
These chiefs have already been bold enough to identify the cause of their disunity. What they have to do now is to take practical action to bring the two families together without any further hesitation or suspicion. Practical action must begin just after the declaration of this realization. Here are some measures to take to actualize that intention:
• Convening a conference of prominent Abudus and Andanis to smoke the peace pipe will be a bold step to take immediately. Then, a unity rally can be held to celebrate the restoration of peace and oneness. Thereafter, house visits can be encouraged for the various constituents of the two family lineages to concretize the peace efforts. Goodwill messages should be spread and shared.
• Committees made up of members of both families can be appointed to dig into other pertinent issues for peace to be reinforced and any seed of discord nipped in the bud to prevent a future resurgence of this bad-blood relationship. This approach calls for honesty and a genuine desire for peace. Unless something concrete is done to translate the words of the chiefs into action, nothing profitable can be achieved.
• Any outstanding problem related to the celebration of the lives of the former Ya-Na (Abdulai Yakubu) should be tackled and the funeral for the slain Ya Na Andani Yakubu II be held. Thereafter, the two families should concertedly look for a new candidate to enskin as the Dagbonwura (Overlord) to sustain the atmosphere of peace and unity.
Now that the chiefs have realized the harm that the conflict has caused Dagbon, it is important for them to put behind them all that engendered the crisis and lay the foundation for a lasting peace so that Dagbon can be developed to keep pace with the rest of the country.
I am confident that a new chapter has just been opened and the Abudus and Andanis should show much love for their own kith and kin and respect the memory of their forebears. It is only when they come together that they can plug all the loopholes that outsiders and politicians use to divide their ranks.
This fratricidal feud will only destroy the two families to the advantage of others. Will the Andanis and Abudus seize this initiative to restore peace and unity for the sake of posterity?
I shall return…
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