Re: Bawku conflict: Truth must be told (1)
I have read an opinion piece written by one Rev Prof John Azumah published in two parts on the 24 and 28 February 2023 editions of Ghanaian Times Newspaper and online titled “Bawku Conflict: Truth Must Be Told”. As a native of Bawku who has witnessed various stages of the conflict (violent and restive periods) since the 80s as a child, I have always maintained that the Bawku conflict is probably the most misunderstood and misrepresented dispute in Ghana. This, in my opinion, explains why the Government and other major stakeholders are having great difficulty in finding a lasting solution to the problem.
Thus, it was very refreshing to see Rev. Azumah choose “telling the truth” as the title for his piece. But did he really narrate the truth? And what is the truth? These questions will be the focus of this rejoinder and to make it easier for the reader to do a comparative analysis of the issues raised by Rev Azumah and this article, I have chosen to structure this rejoinder along the same subheadings used by Rev. Azumah in his opinion piece.
I believe strongly that after going through this piece, the careful reader will come to the conclusion that what has been touted by Rev. Azumah as the truth is nothing but fallacies that have been propagated for several years under the famous Nazi principle “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”.
THE MAIN ISSUE
After acknowledging the fact that chieftaincy is the root cause of the Bawku conflict, Rev. Azumah proceeded to rehash false assertions that he and some Kusasis have continued to peddle for several years.
He said “Mamprusis from the North-East Region claim to be rightful rulers of Bawku because their forefathers were enskinned as Bawku Naba by the chief of Nalerigu or Nayiri during colonial times. Kusasis counter-claim that Bawku is their traditional territory and that Mamprusi chiefs were imposed on them during colonial rule in 1932”.
It will interest the reader to note that this particular assertion by Rev. Azumah is the main fuel and driving force that has been used by some self-proclaimed Kusasis like Dugyeli Hebi who originally is Bissa by tribe to start the Bawku crisis in 1957.
It was also the same false assertions that were reintroduced in 1979 by the likes of Cletus Avoka and John Ndebugre to rekindle the Bawku conflict whose fires have been difficult to extinguish. Thus, it is very important to show how this assertion is a fallacy so that the innocent youth who have been deceived into believing they are fighting for their “independence” as propagated by Rev. Azumah, Cletus Avoka, et al will know that they are fighting a senseless war founded on false convictions.
A key point of interest is how Rev Azumah disingenuously says “Mamprusis from North-East Region…” just to create a false sense of invasion to justify their so-called war for “independence”. In the first place, it should be placed on record that political administrative boundaries have no place when matters of Chieftaincy and tradition are the subject of discussion Chieftaincy predates the introduction of modern-day administrative boundaries and long before the arrival of the colonialists, there already existed Kingdoms and States in Africa of which the Mamprugu Kingdom was established in the 13th century. In his own assumptions and claims, Rev Azumah who has openly said he is from the Zebilla which is administratively separate from the Bawku Municipality should be the last person to poke his nose into Bawku matters.
But most importantly, is it true that some Mamprusis from North-East Region want control over Bawku which Rev Azumah claims is a Kusasi traditional territory? The anthropologist by name Captain R. S. Rattray in his book “The Tribes of the Ashanti Hinterland” categorically did not mince words when he said that “Bawku is really Mamprusi and NOT Kusase, founded by the ruling class”.
This fact is re-echoed in all historical records, both oral and written but Rev. Azumah and his likes have been in denial of this fact. The Mole-Dagbani Kingdom started right in Pusiga (8-10km from Bawku) by Naa Gbewaa. Naa Gbewaa was succeeded by his son Naa Tusugu (Tohagu) who is the father of the Mamprusis and he consolidated the territories of the Kingdom to as far as present-day Burkina Faso, present day Togo, the entire present-day Upper East and North-East Regions.
Whilst moving his capital to Gambaga, Tosugu still maintained control over the ancestral home Pusiga and its surroundings which are part of his Kingdom. In fact, J. K. G Syme in his book “The Kusasis: a short history” clearly stated how Naa Tosugu selected someone to stay and take care of their (Mamprusis, Dagombas, and Nanumbas) father’s shrine in Pusiga and how after the death of the caretaker, prospective caretakers had to travel to Naa Tosugu and subsequently his descendants (Nayiris) to appoint a new successor.
This explains why if you go to Pusiga today, the caretakers of the Gbewaa shrine swear by Tosugu after Gbewaa. Thus, the ancestral home of Pusiga and its surrounding areas which includes Bawku being under the Mamprugu Kingdom has never been in doubt. The attempt to depict the control of the Nayiri over the ancestral home in Pusiga and Bawku as some people in the “North-East Region” claiming to control Bawku is very disingenuous, especially coming from someone who claims to not only be a professor but also a reverend minister.
Furthermore, the fact that the Bawku chieftaincy (skin) was started by Mamprusis has never been in doubt just as the founding of Bawku was by Mamprusis. The Bawku skin was founded by the 10th Nayiri by the name Naa Atabia who ruled from 1690 to 1740/41. He named the place Bawku in Mamprusi because of the low-lying nature of the place when viewed from the Gambaga escarpment. Indeed, this fact has been corroborated by J. K. G Syme in his book, and he did not mince words when writing about the history of Bawku when he opened the chapter with the statement “The FIRST chief of Bawku was Ali, son of Na Atabia of Mamprusi…”
Thus, recent attempts in the 21st century by Rev Azumah to claim that Mamprusis were made chiefs of Bawku by the colonialist in 1932 is not only disingenuous but very laughable. How can the founding of a chieftaincy by Na Atabia who ruled from 1690 to the 1700s be suddenly transmogrified and described as something that was started by the colonialist in 1932? All the records show that Bawku had chiefs who were purely Mamprusis from the lineage of Naa Atabia before 1932.
In fact, as of 1932, Bawku had 10 successive chiefs who were Mamprusis. This is clearly captured and demonstrated by J. K. G Syme in his book where he showed the genealogy chart of the Bawku chieftaincy (skin) tracing the lineage of all the 10 chiefs before 1932 to Naa Atabia (1690-1740/1) who founded the skin in 1721. And all the records show that what happened in 1931 was not the founding of the Bawku chieftaincy but rather an elevation of the skin amongst the 18 cantons.
The event of 1931 deserves a whole chapter on its own but the following brief factual comments will suffice for now for the purposes of this rejoinder. All the records as captured by the official reports show that there was no compulsion in the selection of the then Bawku Naaba (Naa Bugri Mamboda ) as the head of the canton chiefs in 1931. In fact, evidence shows that it was a unanimous decision of which the rest of the cantons consisting of Mamprusi, Kusasi, Bissa, Bimoba, and Mossi chiefs WILLINGLY chose the 10th Bawku Naaba who was enskinned by the Nayiri in 1921 as their head and that is how come the status of the Bawku skin has been the head of the cantons (now divisions) up till today. All the records capture the event as one with “scenes of enthusiasm” with the then “Kusasnaba (Ayeebo) pleased with the outcome as anyone else. And as the Bawku Naaba came to the 1931 conference as Bawku Naaba because he was enskinned by the Nayiri in 1921 (10 years earlier) as Bawku Naaba.
As such, the 21st-century attempt by Rev. Azumah to depict this event as the beginning of the Bawku skin is very disingenuous and a wicked distortion aimed at misleading unsuspecting youth. As indicated earlier, Bawku had 10 successive chiefs before the 1931 event and they were all unambiguously referred to as Bawku Naaba.
Furthermore, the attempt and misrepresentation to say choosing the Bawku Naaba as head of the canton chiefs was choosing a head chief for the Kusasis is a fallacy.
To be continued
BY DR. ISSAH IMORO