First, a clarification: I was brought up in the palace of Nana Afia Boatemaa, of Asiakwa, capital of the Nifa Division of Akyem Abuakwa.
That’s a significant fact because my “credentials” in writing like this must be established beyond all doubt”!
Now, the said Nana Afia Boatemaa was a walking embodiment of Akan culture. She was one of the few females to occupy the stool of a divisional chiefdom in Akyem Abuakwa. But more interestingly, she was born and brought up at Barekese, in Asante, before being sent to Asiakwa to be enstooled as Nifahene of Akyem Abuakwa.
When Nana Afia Boatemaa had fulfilled the duty of stabilising life at Asiakwa, sheabdicated!
She thought the Nifa Division of Akyem Abuakwa should be represented on the State Council by a male chief. And she became the Queen Mother.
My father, Ↄkyeame Kwame Adade, was the Spokesman of Nana Afia Boatemaa. Thus it was that I was fated to be given my first unforgettable lesson about Akan customs, by Nana Boatemaa herself.
One day, some boys, playing softball behind her palace, kicked the ball high into the palace yard. The boys had been warned that people congregated in the palace yard, and that they should exercise restrain when they were playing outside the palace.But, of course, boys would be boys! In their excitement, they once disregarded this instruction.
They kicked the ball into the palace yard. We little boys playing about in the palace, were appalled and seized the ball.
The Queen Mother asked for it to be brought to her.
Then she called my name: “Kwadwo”!
I responded, “Nana!”
Iwent to her.
She extended her hand, with the ball in it.
It was beautiful. My mind began to work out what I and my playmates would do with it.
And I stretched out my hand to take it.
But I was left-handed! And it was with my left hand that I reached out to take the ball from the Queen Mother!
The Queen-mother cried out as if I had struck her with a knife!
She yelled for everyone to hear her say, in her Asante dialect, “Mede adeἑ ἑἑma no a, ↄde bonkum (sic) na ἑἑgyeἑ![I was giving him something, and he took it with his left hand”!]
She gave the ball to another boy!
I was crying my heart out with disappointment when my father came to the palace. And when he heard from the Queen Mother herself of what had happened, he just looked at me with utter contempt and said only two words: “Ne kwasea!” [The damned fool!]
I expected the words to be followed by a hard slap or two on my buttocks. But nothing followed. To my father, the psychological blow of being told by one’s own father,in front of everyone, that one was a ”damned fool”, was a worse punishment than a physical one.
I learnt from that experience to pay attention to the customs I was being taught by my elders.
In view of that lesson, I am going to couch the words which I want to address to our Chiefs, with the greatest respect.
I would like to tell our revered chefs that someone, watching them from outside our culture, might conclude that by sitting down and watching helplessly, the rivers of their people, as well as their food and cocoa farms, being destroyed by galamsey operators, our chiefs have — sԐbe o tafrakyԐ, mprԐ aduasa — rendered the institution of chieftaincy irrelevant to the real needs of their people.
I don’t know what they told the President when he met them the other day behind closed doors, but the body-language many of them exhibit in public, appears to convey the idea that “ We don’t have power, under the Constitution, to use policemen to enforce our will in the areas we are supposed to “rule”. We are,therefore, just titular heads of our communities, because judicial power is exercised, over our “domains”, by judicial officers appointed by the Central Government. In local parlance, we are nothing but what are called — sԐbe o tafrakyԐ–“Simpa Mpanyin!”
Nananom, please permit me to – sԐbe o tafrakyԐ — ask you: how many times have you failed to fill your palaces with people enthusiastic to pay homage to you, on a festival day, such as Adae, AdaekesiԐ,, Odwira, Ohum, or others of that ilk?
Look at your personal turnout on every occasion – so majestic, so beautiful, and so regal! Look at your retinues – so elegant; so adept at drumming and dancing and paying you — sԐbe o tafrakyԐ — obeisance of the most reverential kind?
Nananom, please what are the gun-bearers reminding you of, as they fire muskets into the air around you? What is the fetish priests doing as they frighten children away from you?
What are the abrafoↄ saying, as they unsheathe their swords and carry out acts with them that denote sharpness and fearless cut-and-thrust?
Nananom, what are your sub-chiefs and their entourages doing, but obeying the SOLEMN OATHS they had sworn to you, to attend IN PERSON, by day or by night; in sunshine or during a rainstorms, when summoned to your presence?
Nananom, is it all nothing but —sԐbe o tafrakyԐ — a mere “floor show”?
Nananom, yemmfrԐ mo ahen kwa!” It’s time to call in your debts!
Your people KNOW HOW TO PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM THOSE UTTERLY RUTHLESS WATER-MURDERERS CALLED GALAMSEYERS!”
YἑmmfrԐ mo ahen kwa!” Your PEOPLE only demand to be LED!
When the King of Winneba reminds his people that Abuakyir time has come, the people resort to their ancient KNOHOW and fearlessly invades the thick forest to catch deer alive!
When in the late 1940s to early 1950s, the British colonialists began to cut down cocoa trees afflicted with the swollen shoot disease, your people drove out the official gangs of cocoa tree cutter, until the British realised their mistake and used the monetary reserves, accumulated from cocoa sales, and invested in Britain, to pay compensation for cocoa trees that were cut down.
When Otumfoↄ the Asantehene tells his people, “We are going to Anloland to celebrate this year’s Hogbetsotso Za festival with them”; or “We are going to Kyebi to salute my brother, the Okyenhene,” no-one says, “Nana, we don’t think that is a very good idea — because of what happened between our two peoples in the past!” No. They troop out like a disciplined army. Behind their King!
Nananom, please assume the mantle of your SACRED ANCESTORS and organise your people, like a DISCIPLINED ARMY, TO drive galamsey out of your lands.
THE 1992 GHANA CONSTITUTION PROVIDES YOU WITH THE POWER TO PREVENT OTHERS FROM POISONING YOUR DRINKING WATER AND DESTROYING YOUR FOOD FARMS – FOR ANY REASON WHATSOEVER!
Self-preservation, after all, is the first law of Nature!
Please don’t sit and watch helplessly, and let gold become the Undisputed Ruler of a Nation like Ghana!
BY CAMERON DUODU