Truth, Facts and Objectivity

Sun, 21 Mar 2010 Source: Opare-Asamoa, Yaw

Yaw Opare-Asamoa


The Takyimanhene decided it was within his ‘power’ to kidnap and assault another individual (never mind that the individual is also a paramount chief just like him); government and the security forces took no action; the kidnapped and assaulted paramount chief happens to pay allegiance to the Golden Stool; the Asantehene states his displeasure at the inaction of the government and security forces; and now and all hell seems to have broken loose. We’ve had commentary from almost everybody and anybody on the matter. On ghanaweb and elsewhere, one comes across opinions and comments of varied contents. I will look at the ‘situation’ through words or pages of an article “Come Again, Asantehene” posted on the internet. It was written by one Michael Bokor (PhD).

Asantehene’s reaction, to me, was not so out of place as some like Kwesi Pratt and others would want us believe. What was he to do under the circumstances? People need to understand that there is more to being a King than just sitting on a Stool. Yes I know there are those who think Chieftaincy has no place in Ghana today and would even go as far as attributing many of our problems to that institution. I believe that there is still a vital role that the institution plays and should continue to play in our society. That is not to say that I don’t have any problems at all with the institution. So back to Asantehene’s reaction: It was a reaction from an angry man-really angry man. What was the message that the government and security forces were trying to send to him and the rest of us? That any of his Paramount chiefs (and for that matter anybody at all) could be attacked for whatever reason and the attacker would go free just because the attacker claims affiliation to the NDC? Certainly that is not the kind of society we want to build.

So after waiting for days with no action from the government he needed to do something and that was the statement that he issued. He needed to let the powers that be understand that he was not going to accept such a situation. Crimes have to be punished in any civilized society. How many of us would sit unconcerned after hearing that a son or daughter had been attacked by a neighbor? It is a similar situation. Being the Asantehene, he has responsibility for his chiefs and ‘subjects’. I have used the word ‘subjects’ as is understood in customary practice; if there is anybody out there who does not identify with the word that’s fine, don’t sweat over it. Again he had sworn the great oath of Asante to defend and protect his people, was he expected to keep quiet and let this play out anyhow? If you are no fan of his, that’s fine but can you really fault the man for “rising to the occasion”, to do what he was enthroned to do-protect and defend the integrity of the Golden Stool?

Let’s try to draw a parallel here: when the Yaa Naa and forty others were massacred in cold blood, what was the NDC’s position as regards the then ruling NPP government’s roles and responsibilities? The NPP was the government of the day; in charge of the state’s security apparatus and therefore the NDC told anybody who would listen that the NPP was directly responsible for that atrocity. Didn’t they blame the government of the NPP for dereliction of duty? If you don’t believe the government and security forces could have acted in time to avert this violence, ask the National Security Advisor.

With the violence that ensued and the consequent loss of lives notwithstanding, Dr. Michael Bokor would rather focus on what he refers to as “petty hegemonistic interests” of the Asantehene. There was not one single sentence in his write-up about the criminality of Takyimanhene’s actions. That was very intriguing! Let me take this opportunity to address an issue I see as a ‘cancer’ in our society: Let’s say Mr. A and Mr. B both work at the same place. Both of them know the rules and regulations governing employee behavior and the consequences for flouting any of them. When there is a theft of any kind at the workplace and nobody owns up, all those working in the entire section would be fired. It so happens that Mr. A ‘takes’ some company supplies home. Mr. B sees him do it. It is not the responsibility of Mr. B to tell Mr. A to stop since they are both adults and each responsible for his own actions. Now the theft is discovered and management is threatening to sack everybody if nobody comes forward with any knowledge about the theft. Mr. B is a family man and has responsibilities. Should he loose his job because Mr. A did something that he knew was wrong? Why should Mr. B become an enemy for going forward with the information he has? In Ghana the ‘victim’ rather becomes the ‘villain’ The entire family and friends of Mr. A would blame Mr. B for causing Mr. A to loose his job; but was that really Mr. B’s fault? Didn’t Mr. A cause his own firing? Didn’t he take that risk the very instant he decided to steal from the company? This is what we deal with everyday in Ghana. A driver undertakes a dangerous manoeuver (overtaking) on the road which endangers the lives of the passengers. As a passenger whose life was put in danger by this reckless driver, don’t I have the right to complain? In Ghana, the moment I attempt to voice my reservations, there would arise other passengers to the defense of the driver. If I decide to report the incident to the police so the driver is arrested, I immediately become ‘public enemy’ responsible for the arrest of the driver. Nobody would even talk about the lawless and reckless behavior of the driver. In much the same way, when the Takyimanhene decides to engage in criminal behavior, you don’t hear a word against that; but the moment the Asantehene calls attention to it then everybody suddenly find their voices. If we are talking of passing laws such as the Right to Information Act and the Whistleblower Act, we may as well deal with these ‘structural distortions’ in our way of thinking or otherwise forget it. True to form and just as night follows day I knew Dr. Bokor would have ‘something’ to say and I had an idea which direction that comment would go. I was not disappointed! To Dr. Bokor, the Asantehene is “part of the problem and should assist the government look for better ways to solve it than making this politically motivated call” Which problem are you talking about, Dr. Bokor? And why is the call to justice and accountability a politically motivated one? Chieftaincy and Customary laws in this country make it possible for a group of people to declare their allegiance to any Stool of their choice irrespective of the geographical location of their settlement. That is the law! Period!! If Dr. Bokor believes that “the arrest of the Tuobodom chief and the consequent social strife in Tuobodom did not happen overnight nor did they not have any remote cause” he is right. The remote cause is the elevation to paramount status granted the stools of Tuobodom and others by the late Otumfuo Opoku WareII. Right from the start Takyimanhene decided to fight it but he couldn’t because he had no legal nor historical basis to. For starters nobody can force a group of people to pay allegiance to him (her) except under the conditions of war. So in peacetime, the decision is purely that of personal or collective choice. Now anybody who knows anything about the history of this land we call Ghana knows that Bono Ahafo was part of Asante. Again, while the Bono people are of a different ‘tribe’, the Ahafos are Asantes. Let Michael Bokor tell us how the name Ahafo came about. The Ahafos were Asantes sent to that part of the then Asante Kingdom to hunt for game for the Asantehene, hence the name Ahafo literally meaning ‘game-hunting people’. That is how come they got to be there and how they got the name. So there are Asantes in the Bono Ahafo region. These Asantes, despite being in the administrative and political region known as Bono Ahafo still remain Asantes and therefore are subjects of the Golden Stool!! When Nkrumah carved the Bono Ahafo region out of Asante, it did not transform the people from being Asantes into Bonos. And that is the crux of the matter. So the stools of Tuobodom, Tanoboase, and others are all under the Golden Stool. The paramountcies of Kukuom, Bechem, Mim and others are also under the Golden Stool. The Takyimanhene does not decide which stool to be elevated and when this should be done. He has no jurisdiction, whatsoever; over these areas and again, that is the truth.

But of course we live in Ghana where the truth always seems to have a hard time being told. In which case why don’t we try the facts? Let’s check from the Chieftaincy Secretariat and read what the law says about such matters. The Takyimanhene knows this and that is why he couldn’t do anything to stop it. If he claims that he is NDC and that he can do whatever he likes, my question to him is wasn’t the NDC in power when these stool elevations were done? Why couldn’t he use his connections to stop them then?

Dr. Michael Bokor tells us that “At the centre was a criminal element that the police have investigated and begun prosecuting suspects on. The Asantehene’s own parochial interests in the status of Tuobobom belie whatever ‘genuine’motivation he might have for making this call.” Well well well, what exactly does he mean by criminal element? Yes there has been some previous incidents involving the very same Takyimanhene and Tuobobom and yes the police are still investigating. But with regard to the discussion on hand, the only criminal element is Takyimanhene who is allegedly being accused of kidnapping and physical assault. That is the criminal element in this matter, and I need Michael Bokor to explain to us why Takyimanhene has not been formally charged with those two crimes, at least. Is his boast of NDC party affiliation the reason? Again can Michael Bokor tell us what those ‘parochial interests’ of the Asantehene are? Tuobobom was already a paramountcy before the Asantehene occupied the Golden Stool, so what is Dr. Bokor talking about?

When Dr. Michael Bokor puts this question, “Is the Asantehene saying he is dissatisfied with the arrest and prosecution of those Tuobodom elements who had attempted murdering the Techimanhene and will instead blame the Regional Minister and the Police Commander for seeking to enforce law and order in the area?” I begin to wonder whether the hypocrisy knows no bounds. The Asantehene raised issue about why the security forces have not arrested theTakyimanhene for kidnapping and assaulting the Tuobodomhene; what has that to do with any ongoing investigation into the alleged attempted murder of the Takyimanhene by some elements? Or is the learned professor telling us that because the police are working on one case they cannot effect any arrest in a related criminal matter?

After making such unbelievable submissions, Michael Bokor then proceeds to tell us that he “is no lawyer” and therefore cannot “attempt dissecting the legal ramifications of the arrest of the Tuobodomhene by the so-called bodyguards of the Techimanhene, which might have provoked the disturbances at Tuobodom.” Just incredible!!

One does not need a law degree to know that kidnapping is a criminal offence; and assault too. What is it that makes it so difficult for Dr. Michael Bokor to comment objectively on matters involving Asantes (Akans) or the NPP as a political party? Why did he go out of his way to dodge/sidestep admission of the fact that Takyimanhene’s actions were criminal and he should be formally charged and prosecuted? Not quite long ago Dr. Bokor felt comfortable being a “lawyer” and telling us why the superswift arrest and prosecution of Nana Darkwa ( of Rawlings fire fame) was the right thing to do. The police acted in that manner in an incident where no lives have been lost; this was an allegation made on air. At worst it impugns J.K. Rawlings’ overbloated ego and nothing else. Michael Bokor defended such action but he cannot bring himself to do likewise in a case where lives have been lost and others have been seriously injured. In such a case Dr. Michael Bokor is suddenly no lawyer and does not have any idea what the laws of the land say about kidnapping and assault. And mind you, Takyimanhene has not denied any of these charges yet. Very interesting indeed!! Dr. Michael Bokor wanted to know why the Asantehene was crying foul, so I would tell him. First I don’t think that sounded like a man crying foul but be as it may, he made those pronouncements because one of his paramount chiefs had been kidnapped and beaten and many days later, the government and security forces had no intentions of doing anything about it. So if Dr. Michael Bokor did not know this already then there it is.

I would suggest to Michael Bokor to allow truth or rather facts to operate. Truth hurts, they say but it also liberates!!

Since these elevations were instituted by Otumfuo Opoku Ware II, I am not too sure what Michael Bokor means by “petty hegemonistic interests”. He mentioned “similar moves toward some parts in Northern Volta Region (especially the Hohoe area), which created the impression that he considered those areas too as vassals of his Asante chieftain.” Well I don’t think it was a matter of creating an impression; it was just a continuation of established historical practices. I do remember exactly what Dr. Michael Bokor is referring to: this was during the Akwantutenten festival by the people of Worawora in 2001. I do not presume to know more about the history and culture of the people of Worawora than the Woraworahene, so I will let him (Woraworahene) tell us the history of his people: According to Woraworahene, Daasebre Asare Baah III, “the Worawora people migrated from Kuntanase in the Asante Kingdom during the reign of Otumfuo Opoku Ware I in 1732 to settle at their present site around 1774. From that date until now, we have practiced the custom and traditions of Asante and speak only Asante Twi”. He also noted that the land they presently occupy was acquired through war, after driving away the Chokosi tribe they met when they arrived. He went on to say that for the 300 or so years that they’ve lived at their present site, “we have never been conquered or become subjects to any state in the region.” So here we have a group of people who know exactly what their heritage is and want to carry on with their culture but for some reason there are others who think that they should change that just because they find themselves in a different administrative region of the country. And by the way can Michael Bokor tell us what the Akwantutenten festival signifies and where the name Worawora comes from?

To those much is given, much is required. The educated elite in the society should do us a favour and present true facts to their readers at all times. As a PhD these are not pieces of information beyond his academic reach. And I do believe that he knows what the facts are but decided to ignore them for his own interests.

I will try to answer some of the questions that Michael Bokor threw out there: First, how does one reconcile two groups of people who have no intentions (so far at least) of reconciliation? The Asantehene is not God and he cannot bring the Abudus and Andanis together if they are not ready and prepared to. He is doing his bit to help the government resolve the crisis but how on earth does anybody expect him to “assuage all doubts and fears”? That is up to the protagonists in the conflict, I think. Second, he cannot force Jerry rawlings and John Kufuor to become buddies. And by the way was Dr. Michael Bokor expecting the Asantehene to report his efforts on this matter to him (Michael Bokor)? I will elaborate a little on the third point raised by Michael Bokor: Again, I believe with his training and qualifications, he is in the position to find out exactly what this World Bank loan was all about. To put out two different figures (amounts) and pretend he had no idea which was the right figure was unbecoming of a PhD. One could easily go to the World Bank’s website and get all the information one needs on the matter. This was a World Bank initiative. I am not too sure how much influence John Kufuor had at the World Bank, so for people to suggest that the whole enterprise was initiated and orchestrated by John Kufuor beats me. The project itself is under what the World Bank refers to as Learning and Innovation Loan. Ghana was not even the first place that this has been implemented. In fact the World Bank had had similar projects in places like Mankwe Region of the Kingdom of Bafokeng and the Mpungose Traditional Authority, both in South Africa. When Dr. Bokor asks where the money is, he should know that the World Bank has its own mechanisms for accountability so why doesn’t he check with them to find out. I bet this would have been no issue if it had been the Asogli state enjoying this facility. This can be denied but I have lived through enough to know what I know. He also accuses the Asantehene of indulging in politics. Well I think the good people of Ghana know who the true culprits are. I wish Michael Bokor would call out Togbe Afede for his ‘conflict of interest’ positioning that he has conveniently placed himself. He does own and run a financial institution that trades on the financial market, so what is he doing on the board of Bank of Ghana? Of course you will not read anything like that from Dr. Michael Bokor (or maybe now that I have mentioned it he might try).

Nobody has to create a bad name for the Atta Mills led NDC administration. They are more than capable of doing that by themselves. And the opponents of Atta Mills would not call him a ‘poodle’ for doing the right thing and relieving the regional Minister and Police Commander from duty; he is labeled as such only in his ‘dealings’ with J.K. Rawlings. But on a more serious note check out what the National Security Advisor said. According to Brigadier-General Mensah Nunoo, it was “dereliction of duty at the local level” that is responsible for the “escalation of the feud between the Techiman and Tuobodom chiefs.” The problem as I see it was aptly captured by the National Security Advisor; he also added that “you have people in the security services- the police, the army some are saying ‘he is a party man’, ‘he is not a party man’, that shouldn’t happen, that shouldn’t be the case, but unfortunately we are in that kind of situation which we have to find a solution to.” Again he said “We’ve become very political, chiefs are political, the police are political, everybody is political, that makes the life of everybody very difficult. As a policeman, your loyalty is to the state, as a military man your loyalty is to the state but we have a situation where you have party people in the military, party people in the police, party people everywhere. We need to depoliticize the institutions of state.” I couldn’t have stated it any better!!

Isn’t it interesting to note that until the Asantehene’s pronouncements, the government and security forces had done practically nothing about the situation? For a government that made the ‘dereliction of duty’ by the security forces and the ‘culpability’ of the then ruling government during the ‘Yaa Naa massacre’a big issue during the election year, would it be too much of a stretch to expect something better from them? Apparently it is!!

Dr. Michael Bokor also made this statement that “It is time for him (Asantehene) to draw the visible line between what he is (a traditional ruler) and that of the partisan politician that his pronouncements and public posture make him.” Well as I said earlier if coming out to demand that justice be done against a crime of kidnapping and assault is seen as ‘partisan politics’ dare I ask what Michael Bokor thinks about the situation when Togbe Afede came out, right after the elections, to claim that for eight years under NPP he and his people were not made to feel part of Ghana? Was the Togbe addressing something that he (Togbe) perceived as a problem or was he just playing “partisan politics” just because the NPP had lost power?

I agree with the National Security Advisor; this whole episode could have been avoided. As a country we need to pay heed to his suggestions as regards ‘depoliticizing’ our institutions of state. Our intellectuals-those privileged few-should also help in this endeavour by ‘feeding’ the people with the truth or the facts, at least. I have said this before and I will repeat here; there is nothing more dangerous than the dishonest intellectual or academic. Written and submitted on March 18, 2010

Columnist: Opare-Asamoa, Yaw