Taking Traditional Leadership To A New Level

Togbe-Afede-XIV (left) as Hearts-of-Oak Board chairman“Looking at the Queen’s mouth,” Britons say, “you’d never know she once sucked at her mother’s breast.” How true! Who, in Ghana, would have imagined that Togbe Afede XIV Agbogbomefia of Asogli, founder and Chief Executive of Strategic African Securities, Director of the Sunon Asogli Power Plant, Chairman of Africa World Airlines and the company that manages the World Trade Centre – Accra, once suffered want? Hear him: “My school fees were almost always in arrears.

I was often sacked from the classroom and from the dining hall…I recall lying in bed crying, pretending to be sick, when the truth was that I could not go to class because I did not have the appropriate footwear.”

The above is not an introduction to the personal life of the man who once responded to the name, James Akpo. It is the introduction to a story of how one man battled poverty, prevailed, and subsequently swore to dedicate his life to the battle against deprivation and suffering.

In evaluating the performance of one traditional ruler, this article is written well aware of the significant contributions of others, such as (to mention but a few) Asantehene, Otumfuo Opoku Ware II, and Nana Hima Dekyi, the woman chief of Dixcove (Western Region) who utilized her PERSONAL resources to bring to her people social amenities such as a hospital and a police stations, as well as residential accommodation for nurses, doctors and policemen, plus educational scholarships for needy but brilliant students.

It’s been ten years since James Akpo metamorphosed into Togbe Afede. It began with an “arrest” at his office in Accra on September 25, 2003. Everything happened swiftly. His office security guards looked on helplessly as the band of captors whisked him away to the Volta Region where he began a period of confinement lasting nine days. On October 4, he was enthroned Agbogbomefia of Asogli.

Under Togbe Afede’s reign, progress in Asogli has also meant progress for Ghana as a whole. Adopting a national approach, the Agbogbomefia unleashed a plan of development that has touched the lives of all Ghanaians.

On August 5, this year, when Togbe Afede addressed a press conference to launch activities for the celebration of his tenth anniversary, he listed some of the developments that have taken place since his enthronement. Incidentally, one of the most impressive of his accomplishments as a leader also happens to be the least trumpeted, apparently because it has been confined to the realm of symbolism.

His first official visit outside the Volta Region was not to the Castle or his citizens in Accra or London: it was a state visit to the Akyem Abuakwa Traditional Area, followed by one to the Ashanti Region.
Coming at the height of the perceived Volta-Ashanti-Akyem antagonism, these visits brought Togbe Afede to the attention of “national watchers” as a wise ruler.

It is not stressed in church sermons, but when we read in the bible that King Solomon married 1,000 women, it was because unlike his father David who achieved peace with his neighbours by triumphing over them in war, Solomon sought to achieve peace around him with marriage diplomacy. Togbe Afede chose peace through mutually beneficial jaw-jaw and business.

Out of the local and external strategic alliances, the Asogli State is in partnership with a Chinese company coming from a province with which Asogli has an alliance, to co-own the Sunon Asogli Power Plant at Kpone, near Tema, which supplies 14% of Ghana’s power distributed by ECG. The local strategic alliance was with the chiefs and people of Kpone, who leased the land to Sunon Asogli.

And now the greater news is that before the end of 2014, the Chinese partnering company, Shenzhen Energy Group, plans to add 360MW to the Sunon Asogli power plant, while pursuing plans for a 600-700MW coal-fired power plant, a total investment of more than US$1 billion.

In the agricultural sector, the Asogli group is into the second year of its efforts to establish an integrated livestock and crops development project on 30,000 hectares of land. Initial investment is expected to total US$120 million.

Also in partnership with China (through Hainan Airlines), the Asogli state is part owner of Africa World Airlines, which has taken off as a domestic operator but with eyes on the West Coast routes and later international.

Ever seen that high-rise next to the British Council in Accra? That is the World Trade Centre-Accra. It is owned by SSNIT but managed by the Asogli Group with a mission to expand international trade flows and investment.

Through its strategic alliance with the chiefs and people of Osu and Ga Mashie, the Asogli State is soon to realize one of its most cherished dreams – the Gold Coast City Project originally put at US$1.5billion. The necessary MOUs have been signed with Osu and Ga Mashie.

The grand durbar to climax the Agbogbomefia’s 10 years on the throne is September 21, coincidentally, the 104th anniversary of the birth of the one political leader Togbe Afede has always admired, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah.

This is the story of Asogli. More than that, this is the story of how an entire community, indeed, an entire nation, stands to benefit from the altruism, the wisdom and the forward-looking strategic thinking of one man. - Enimil Ashon

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