Royalty on display at Manhyia

Author: Razak El-Alawa
The Ooni, in the company of Ahmed Rufai, arriving at Manhyia for the durbar
The Ooni, in the company of Ahmed Rufai, arriving at Manhyia for the durbar

It was a clash of the best from the rich African culture as two of the best known ethnic groups in the sub-region, the Yoruba from the western part of Nigeria and the Asante from Ghana, matched each other in a display of pomp and ceremony.

Unlike what pertained in the late 17th to the early part of the 19th centuries when the Asante and Yoruba kingdoms established empires through their might and prowess on the battlefields, the clash last Monday on the plush and sacred grounds of Manhyia was for peaceful purposes.  

It was a meeting aimed at promoting unity and cementing the bond of friendship that has existed among these two proud peoples in modern times.

Grand durbar 

The occasion was the grand durbar held by the Otumfuo Asantehene Osei Tutu II to honour a true brother, the visiting Ooni of Ife, His Imperial Majesty, Alayeluwa, Oba (Dr) Adeyeye Enitan Babatunde Ogunwusi Ojaja II, and his beautiful wife, Olori Wuraola Otiti Zynab Ogunwusi, accompanied by prominent chiefs from Yorubaland.

It was the climax of the five-day visit of the Yoruba monarch, who was paying his first official visit to Ghana to further enhance co-operation between Ghana and Nigeria and put a permanent stamp on the bond of friendship between the two countries that has existed for ages. 

However, the visit of the Ooni was to meet his kith and kin in Ghana and see how they were faring in Ghana, since the Yoruba in Ghana are known to form the greatest concentration of Yorubas outside Nigeria. 

Again, if the Ooni was in Kumasi, where he spent a night, the only time outside Accra, it was because he holds the Otumfuo in high esteem and more importantly the Ashanti regional capital harbours the greatest number of Yorubas in Ghana.

The Yorubas in Kumasi were more than honoured to receive the exalted royal and highly respected ruler in their midst. It was the reason why, led by their leader in Kumasi, the head of the Yoruba Community, Alhaji Ahmed Rufai Alao III, they waited patiently at the Kumasi airport for a considerable length of time for the arrival of the Ooni in the Garden City last Sunday.

The turnout at Manhyia was massive as the Yorubas in Kumasi, with their head, Alhaji Ahmen Rufai Alao III, were splendid in their colourful traditional dresses. With Otumfuo and his chiefs also in rich kente cloth, the atmosphere was really a sight to behold. 

Asante/Yoruba relations

No wonder in his speech the Asante monarch, Osei Tutu II, spoke extensively about the relationship between the Asante and Yoruba kingdoms, and the fact that Kumasi and for that matter Asanteman or Ashanti Region is home to thousands of Yorubas. 

He said it was time for the two ethnic groups to come together, pool resources for the betterment of their peoples. Otumfuo stressed that the Yorubas and Asantes were brothers since pre-colonial times and have been co-existing for so many years, with a lot of intermarriages between the two peoples.  

While exchanging gifts as a mark of friendship and to commemorate his visit to Asanteman, the Ooni spoke extensively about peace and unity among various ethnic groups all over the sub-region and in Africa. 

The Ooni said he believed in trade and cooperation among Africans and stressed that he would use his tenure to visit other parts of Africa to bring all Africans together in peace and unity. 

He said Africa was a continent of rich cultures and the time had come for today’s leaders to come together and move forward in unity.

According to the Ooni, Africans should not behave like Europeans but should be proud to be Africans and stop portraying the negatives about the continent and rather project the positives.  

The Ooni said he was happy to learn about the contributions of Yorubas in the development of Ghana and the Ashanti Region in particular and charged his people to remain loyal to the authorities in Ghana. 

It is significant to note that Yorubas have been living in Ghana since the early part of the 19th century. They came in initially as Islamic clerics to propagate Islam and then later as traders, who came to buy kola nuts from Ghana to send to Nigeria.

In the early part of the 20th century, many Yorubas came to Kumasi as skilled workers to join in the construction of the railway line from Kumasi to Accra. 

Previous visit

It was not the first time a Yoruba monarch was visiting Kumasi. The predecessor of the present Ooni, Oba Sijuwade, visited the present Otumfuo twice in May 2009 when Otumfuo was celebrating his 10th anniversary and in 2010 when he was marking his birthday.

Earlier on his arrival in Accra, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwasi first paid a visit to the Ga Mantse at his palace to also renew historic bonds. Ile-Ife, the cradle of the Yoruba people, is believed to be the ancestral home of the Ga from where they moved westwards to their present abode, believed to be what is today’s James Town or Ngleshie. 

The high chief also paid a courtesy call on President John Mahama at the Flagstaff House, where the president underscored the vital role traditional rulers play in national development, arising out of the cultural and religious bonds they share with the people. 

Receiving the king, who was accompanied by a large retinue, including drummers, President Mahama said there were many Yorubas born in Ghana, some of whom were his class mates, with several of them occupying high positions in Ghana’s Public Service. 

He described the visit of the Ooni as significant and expressed optimism the visit would further cement the bond of friendship between Ghana and Nigeria.     

Responding, Oba Adeyeye said there was not much difference between Ghanaians and Nigerians. 

He talked about the Berlin Conference of 1884, stating that before the conference there were no boundaries in Africa, until after the conference when the scramble for Africa saw the continent partitioned among European powers of the time, with the creation of artificial boundaries and the emergence of new nations. 

The Ooni mentioned that Africans shared many things in common, stressing that there were similarities in culture, which should serve as the greatest bond of strength. 

Oba Adeye, who ascended the throne on October 26, 2015 as the 51st Ooni, succeeded Oba Sijuwade who died on July 28, 2015.

Born on October 17, 1974, he belongs to the royal house of Giesi of the Royal Compound of Agbedegbe in Ile Ife.

He had the opportunity to come face to face with many prominent Yorubas in Ghana and some Yoruba chiefs in Ghana when he was hosted to a civic reception at the Trade Fair Site last Sunday.

He has since returned home.