The Asantehene, Cocaine-Tape and Wood

Thu, 28 Sep 2006 Source: Asare-Donkoh, Frankie

A Ghanaian Times story of Wednesday, September 27 2006, which was also published on the www.ghanaweb.com carries the banner – Asantehene is angry.

The Asantehene’s anger is said to be over comments by some journalists and other individual Ghanaians over issues linking him to the 77-parcel-cocaine scandal.

The paper also reports the Asantehene’s caution to journalists, politicians and social commentators, as well as a stern warning to Nananom of the Asanteman Council and questioned the silence of his various paramount chiefs over the adverse comments being made against him and the Manhyia Palace in connection with the cocaine scandal.

According to the story, he told the chiefs that “he is monitoring them and if it is discovered that any of them is in league with politicians to bring the name of Manhyia into disrepute, that chief would have himself to blame”.

From reports that some of us have read from the sittings of the Georgina Wood Committee appointed by the government to investigate the scandal and find out the whereabouts of the missing parcels of cocaine indicate that the name of the Asantehene was mentioned a number of times by Mr. Kofi Boakye on the now infamous ‘cocaine tape’, as well as other names.

To be fair to the Asantehene and all those implicated in the scandal in one way or the other, it is not their duty to determine whether they should be invited to appear before the committee or who must be arrested by the police. That duty belongs to those who are paid to do that – the committee and the police. Therefore if my name was mentioned on the tape or before the committee and no one invited me or arrested me, I cannot be blamed for not appearing before the committee or for not being arrested.

However, the society would expects all those implicated to take other routes to clear their names, especially considering the gravity of the offence and the implications it has for their reputation and the institutions they represent. In this vein, I think the Otumfuo’s method of clearing his name, in my view, was very inappropriate and very ineffective, and that his advisers and counsellors had failed him.

According to the Times story, the Asantehene “described the situation as an anti-Ashanti hate campaign which must be resisted”. How can the Asantehene genuinely claim that the concerns being expressed by people over the appearance of his name on the ‘cocaine tape’ is an anti-Ashanti campaign and therefore holds all the paramount and other chiefs under Asanteman to account for not taking their arms to shoot the campaigners?

One thing I know for a fact is that a chief in any part of Ghana is not only respected in their own small town, area or paramountcy irrespective of their ethnic or tribal locations. A chief is a chief respected anywhere in Ghana. That is a fact, showing the respect and reverence Ghanaians give to the age-old chieftaincy institution, despite the fact that over the recent years certain questionable characters have infiltrated the institution and damaged its reputation.

It is from this basis that the Asantehene commands so much respect not only among Ashantis, but all Ghanaians. Therefore it would be a very sad reflection on the Asantehene if he is seen to be the one trumpeting tribalism and negative ethnic propaganda such as his linking of genuine concerns by Ghanaians who have respect for his throne as anti-Ashanti. I expect such effusions to come from some junior chiefs or one of his linguists, for him to chastise them, even if in his heart he supported them, but not he himself leading the crusade. How can the Asantehene condemn tribalism and at the same time lead a crusade that all other ethnic groups are anti-Ashanti?

One thing the Asantehene has still not addressed is the alleged mentioning of his name on the cocaine tape. And if indeed, his name was mentioned as is being spread, then he must see it as a sacred duty and for the sake of Asanteman and the institution of chieftaincy to formally come out with a denial and challenge the person who mentioned his name to prove his link with the dealer or apologise.

Again, the Asantehene ought to be aware that his reputation is at stake not only in Ghana but the world at large, and therefore trying to gloss over the issue by issuing threats to journalists, politicians and chiefs of Asanteman does not do him any good. Despite the high respect for him and his throne, the principle of rule of law, which the Ghanaian constitution enshrines does not put him above the law and therefore if it was indeed true that his name was mentioned by any of the cocaine suspects, then fairness and equity demands an explanation from him, and anybody who has a concern would express it.

My greatest worry however, is the silence of the Wood Committee and the Police Service. Did the committee invite other people mentioned on the tape? Did the police arrest or invite other people mentioned on the tape? If the answers to these questions are yes, then on what basis was the Asantehene not invited if his name was mentioned? I do not for one moment infer that on mere mention of his name the Asantehene should be put in the dock in the Fast Track Court. No! Nevertheless, the Asantehene could have been heard in camera and the public made aware of this. This is where I see a failure in the work of the Wood Committee and the already bruised Police Service.

Whether the Asantehene was invited by the Wood Committee or the police, he owes the people of Asanteman, and indeed all Ghanaians an explanation and a formal denial which will challenge whoever is alleged to have mentioned his name to prove him wrong. The Asanteman Council and all the advisers of the Otumfuo, with all due respect, is not helping this great King by being over-subservient in this issue by keeping quiet and not calling on the him (even if in private) to do the right thing instead of supporting him (impliedly) to issue threats that do not do him and the council any good.

For the Wood Committee and the Police Service, their reason for their selective justice is what would continue to gauge the level of credibility they have among Ghanaians and the international community. Let’s not forget that the reputation of our dear country Ghana is at stake and we as a nation need to act and act fast if we are not to be permanently bruised.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Asare-Donkoh, Frankie