“I went to a garden party
To reminisce with my old friends
A chance to share old memories
And play our songs again.
When I got to the garden party
They all knew my name
No one recognized me,
I didn’t look the same.
All right now, I learn my lesson well
You can’t please everyone
So you got to please yourself”.
Garden Party: Ricky Nelson
IT WAS MEANT TO BE a jolly, gleeful, hilarious night—a night of merriment, gaiety, revelry, frolic and mirth – and so the Friday, 6th May, 2016 night at Manhyia Palace turned out to be. It was the King’s 66th birthday and the 17th anniversary of his ascension to the Asanteman throne.
The Police Band played their hearts out, entertaining the audience, especially the oldies with ‘country music’ – Kenny Rogers, Don Williams, Jim Reeves: ‘We thank thee each morning for a newborn day where we may work the fields of new mown hay. We thank thee for the sunshine and the air that we breathe Oh Lord we thank thee’. We had really gone to the King’s Palace to thank the Almighty for the life of our King, and to dine with him. The songs were so cool and so sentimental that they took the fatigue of the day away and those who had entered the hall at 7:00 pm did not notice that it had drizzled – showers of blessing – and had caused the event to start at 9:00pm. Of course, the Band did not only play ‘country music’, there were also reggae songs – Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Lucky Dube: ‘We wanna thank you father’.
Then too were the lovely highlife songs of C.K. Mann, A.B. Crentsil, Pat Thomas, Amakye Dede, Daddy Lumba, Ramblers and of course , the new kid on the block, K Dei, whose sensational and captivating song, ‘Mansa’, is enjoyed by the young generation and the old folks alike. Bisa K Dei’s fans need not have worried over his having been robbed by Charterhouse. ‘Mansa’ and ‘Brother’ should have earned K. Dei the ‘Artiste of the Year’ award, they aver. Like ‘Aposor’, whoever is holding the title this year will definitely relinquish it ‘wobegyae mu’.
When the King majestically walked in, he was accompanied by His Excellency John Agyekum Kufuor, the former President of Ghana, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, the former First lady. There were also Dr Donkor – Fordjour as well as the Ashanti Regional Minister, Mr Ackon and Mr Sam Jonah. Nananom were there: our learned friends, the Atipinhene and Baafuor Anantahene. Paul Afoko was at home with Sammy Crabbe, Asamoah Boateng was enjoying the cool breeze and if President Mahama was busy on his ‘Accounting to the People Tour’, his brother Ibrahim Mahama could not miss the conviviality. Kojo Yankah who had been a darling Ashanti Regional Minister chaperoned his lovely wife, and you could see the camaraderie when like-minded people met. The big men and women of the Golf Club were there in their numbers.
Proceedings went orderly and as protocol would have it, Dr Donkor Fordjour proposed the toast, solemnly done after a brief eulogy of the King. Sam Jonah had only five minutes to lace his boots to respond to the toast and he did what he knows to do best – speak extempore at such events. It was remarkable that, generally, speeches were postponed for another day and another occasion.
Dance time and the King took intricate steps with his lovely wife, Lady Julia. The steps were calculated—stately and regally done. It was lovely to see ex-President Kufuor ‘digging’ with Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, his niece. The dexterity with which the Former First Lady took intricate steps with DCOP Kofi Boakye, the Regional Police Commander, was so captivating that all present sought to snap a shot. One could remember the discos and the afternoon jumps of the 60s and 70s—and Naana was then a charming sweetie who had caught the eye of an air-man. If votes were to be cast to select the best dancers for the night, guess who would have won!
Food – the dinner was deliciously prepared and one would not be surprised that the meals were prepared from the kitchen of Golden Bean Hotel, one of the latest Hotels in town. Those who would not ordinarily eat so late disregarded the self – imposed ban and took platefuls of the abundant meals dished out by well-groomed servers. Nana Amoamanhene was there to ensure that this was exquisitely done.
Drinks were plentiful: wine, whiskey, beer, Guinness and of course, ‘softer’ ones for those who preferred to go it mellow. It was a formal dinner, so the invitation had spelt out: Attire: Black Tie / Evening Dress. There seemed to be no way any of the guests could have missed this sartorial dictum, because having been invited to a dinner by His Royal Majesty to mark his 66TH birthday, was itself an honour – not to be abused by the invitees.
The MC, that is to say, the Master of Ceremonies rolled out the best of his calling. He would not let the ceremony end without extolling the King: the Otumfuo Education Fund which has taken care of the education needs of people from all the nooks and cranny of our motherland, that is to say, the fund is not limited to Asantes alone. How about the Serwaa Ampem Fund to support people with disabilities…the estate programmes. The MC could have said more…
When the occasion came for the invitees to pay homage to the King, there was a deep sense of hilarity – the King had a smile for everyone who curtsied before him. But – some people could not help shaking hands with him. The atmosphere was as contagious as it was ecstatic. It was simply aromatic and all present had a pleasant outing.
Around 1:00am, the following day, Saturday, the scenic atmosphere began to ebb and wane. There were tell – tale signs that all present had enjoyed the best of the times. As the personalities on the high table promenaded out of the hall, the King characteristically took his time to wave and shake hands with the guests. It was all smiles.
Outside the hall, guests had to contend with a ‘dum’, that is a ‘black – out ‘, not the making of President Mahama who had ‘fixed’ the ‘dumsor’; this was a new feature – and only the Electricity Company of Ghana with their present high tariffs could explain why they should make the atmosphere conducive for armed robbers and highwaymen.
On bed or in bed, one could not easily get a wink of sleep without internalizing the events of the night before. The prayer was for a quick pace of the 365 days to make a year, so that another similar invitation would be extended to Ghanaman when the King celebrates his 67th birthday in similar grand style – to once again bring in a medley of personalities: doctors, lawyers, politicians, government officials, private businessmen and women, the young and the old. He, the King, is above politics, or, he does not do partisan politics. He is expected to demonstrate his non-partisan mood, and the opportunity offered itself at his 66th birthday bash—it was simply marvelous.