Why Do Some Hate the Asantehene So Much?

Thu, 29 Jul 2010 Source: Pryce, Daniel K.

A July 24, 2010, news item published on Francis Akoto’s Ghanaweb.com, titled “Asantehene Snubbed by Ghana High Commission in U.K.,” the former the most influential and oft-accessed pro-Ghanaian Internet conduit, at once rankled me and reignited my yearning to fearlessly denounce any ethnocentric, hegemonic or xenophobic sentiments that I see in print or hear about on the airwaves. The writer of the aforesaid article, one Nana Eshun, who is believed to be domiciled in London, would methodically describe for the reader the Asantehene’s purported denunciation of the poor reception that he got from officials of the Ghana High Commission in London, during the Asante King’s recent private visit to that magnificent city. But did the Asantehene really say all those things that Nana Eshun, in his peace-stultifying and “stentorian” piece, has attributed to the former? And the preceding would bring me to my thematic query: Why do some of us hate the Asantehene so much?

Let us go back to the beginning of the story. The Asantehene travels privately to London. Nana Eshun tells us that the Ghana High Commissioner, Professor Kwaku Boafo, is expected to meet Otumfuor Osei Tutu at Heathrow Airport – but only the head of the Political Department of the Ghana High Commission is on hand to meet the King and his entourage. The Asantehene is thus infuriated by this ostensible humiliation. And it gets worse because the High Commissioner never visits Otumfuor during the latter’s entire stay in London, something that, according to Nana Eshun, is against normal diplomatic practices. Nana Eshun then alleges that Otumfuor Osei Tutu swears that he will find out from the nation’s leaders in Accra if the latter peremptorily ordered the Mission staff to both ignore and embarrass the Asante King upon his arrival in London.

The first preposterous statement by Nana Eshun is that “Otumfuor feels that because he is Asante and the High Commissioner is Akyem that is why he was treated with disdain and disrespect.” Look, the Asantehene will never say something this silly and divisive, Nana Eshun. Additionally, Nana Eshun speculates that the Head of Chancery of the Ghana Mission in the U.K. is Nana Akufo-Addo’s girlfriend, which is why the latter supported the High Commissioner to snub the Asante King. Wow! Perhaps, someone ought to haul Nana Eshun before court to tell Ghanaians how he knew that the married Nana Akufo-Addo, a man working very hard to win the Ghanaian presidency in 2012 and who is also known to accord the Asantehene genuine respect, is sleeping with the Head of Chancery! So, not only has Nana Eshun disparaged the Asante King and the Head of Chancery, he has perfidiously tainted the image of Nana Akufo-Addo as well. That is just too much for reasonable people to digest, Nana Eshun!

The next preposterous statement by Nana Eshun is this: “When Okyehene is visiting the U.K., the High Commissioner himself receives him and visits him every day until he departs, why didn’t he do the same to Asantehene?” Is Nana Eshun attempting here to deliberately cultivate animosity between the Akyems and Asantes? If his answer is “no,” then I wonder why he would even write something as dangerous and troubling as the aforesaid statement.

And then Nana Eshun bombards us with his biggest misinformation: “So far no one from the High Commission has yet visited Otumfuor even though he has been in U.K. for a week now. He is livid and will find it hard to forget the level of disregard. The Asante and Akyem factor is very vivid in this saga and the fear is that it can cause serious problems.” No, Mr. Eshun, the Asantes and Akyems will not go to war, no matter how hard you try to whip up negative sentiments and stoke up the cinders of disaffection.

Mr. Eshun, listen carefully. I am as Ewe as your undershirt is white, but I can assure you that the Asantehene has been very generous toward members of every tribal group domiciled in the areas under his jurisdiction. Ewes have never been harassed by anyone in Ashanti Region; your fellow Fantes live peacefully in the Ashanti Region; and our brothers and sisters from the northern regions of the country all call Kumasi – and its environs – home, so I am really ashamed of your dangerous antics to belittle the Asantehene. Yes, the Asante King is a human being and is prone to missteps like the rest of us, but the statements that you have attributed to the Asante King are perfidious, irritating and downright unacceptable.

Our embassies and missions have always gotten a lot of flak from Ghanaians, because of the alleged highhanded behaviors and condescending attitudes of those fortunate to work in these diplomatic stations – but I am glad that, this time, the Ghana High Commissioner in the U.K. did not roll over on his belly and “surrender” to this gross attempt to demean him and his staff. In a quick repudiation, a move that I totally applaud, the High Commissioner would come out the very next day to tell the real story of what happened. Because the High Commissioner already had a formal event planned and because the Asantehene was on a private visit, the former respectfully sent an officer of the Mission to meet the Asante King at the airport, so I am not sure how Nana Eshun got his information about a possible snub of the Asantehene by the High Commissioner.

Of course, the High Commissioner would meet with the Asantehene on July 24, 2010, the same day that Nana Eshun’s divisive piece was carried by several pro-Ghanaian Internet sites. According to the Mission’s official repudiation, “[T]he High Commissioner, accompanied by the Deputy High Commissioner and Senior Staff of the Mission, warmly welcomed the Asantehene and wished him and his delegation well during their stay in London.” The statement continues: “Otumfuor Osei Tutu and his guests at the meeting discussed matters of national importance and at no time did the Asantehene express any misgivings about how he was welcomed upon arrival in London, rather he expressed his sincere appreciation to the High Commissioner and his staff ‘for the courtesies accorded him and his delegation so far, mindful of the fact that his visit to London was a private one.’” Do I believe this report? Yes, because that is exactly what I would expect from an important figure like the Asantehene. Moreover, those were the Asantehene’s own words.

The High Commissioner may have captured my thoughts when he said: “[T]he Asantehene [is] a well meaning and highly respected national leader and patriot, whose aim to foster unity among Ghanaians is well acclaimed and a distinct feature of his leadership.” Look, we may not all like the Asantehene, but we should never be too egotistical to acknowledge him as a unifying force for legions of Akans and the rest of the nation as well. While the Asantehene never claims to exert traditional authority over all Ghanaians, he always makes sure that the non-natives who live in his jurisdiction all feel accepted and safe as fellow Ghanaians. Please let us treat our elders with respect, acknowledge the hard work of those bent on keeping us together as one people, and laud the private and public efforts of those politicians and traditional leaders who reject ethnocentrism, hegemony and xenophobia.

Reading through the smorgasbord of malevolent comments directed toward the Asantehene under Nana Eshun’s article left me feeling very aggrieved in my spirit. I could not see why such venom was heaped on a man who, like his predecessors, has always hoisted a buckler against the swords of injustice and the daggers of ethnocentrism. Certainly, not all of us are Asante, but, at least, we ought to honor those who deserve to be honored – and the Asantehene is one of those leaders worthy of our honor and adulation. That some of us hate the Asantehene so much is thus very disheartening!

I welcome your informed comments.

The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, holds a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.