Folks, I have taken the burden upon my shoulders to explain to disentangle the minds of some subtle but cacophonous and confound voices which out of ignorance, conjecture or inadvertence are not in tune with the history, customs and traditions of the New Juaben people.
This write-up; simple and brief though it might seem, shall be based on what is and not what ought to be. It is a carefully calculated attempt to debunk these misconceptions which have been misconceived. This implies that this piece shall seek to espouse to ornate what the custom and tradition of New Juaben say and impose by virtue of precedence in a ‘No Omanhene’ situation.
What we must admit without any iota and arrogance of doubt or misgivings is that the customs and traditions of the New Juaben people (just like any other group of people), are time-tested, older, over and above any individual including the occupant of the New Juaben Black Stool. It was brought down from Juaben with little or no modifications and adopted to suit our unique circumstances. So long as any custom or tradition passes the repugnance test, then it shall forever be the status quo and immutable to suite any individual’s whims and caprices.
It is pertinent and evocative to observe and know that, our customs and traditions; though not currently codified locally, finds expression in law and indelibly entrenched in the 1992 Constitution of the Republic. The Constitution galvanizes and insulates Chieftaincy from Executive, Judicial and Legislative intrusion and interference. The Supreme Court is only called upon to interpret pedantically what the prevailing customs and traditions of the litigating parties and to a larger extent precedencies say.
The Traditional Council is not an establishment of custom or traditions of the people but the Constitution. The Chieftaincy Act 2008 (Act 759) imposes an interesting legal responsibility on the Traditional Councils. Section 35 of the Act stipulates emphatically that ‘A Traditional Council shall conduct its proceedings according to customary Law, but for the purpose of compelling the attendance of parties and witnesses and the production of documents a Traditional Council shall have the same powers as a District Court in Civil Matters’. The import of this provision is that the Traditional Council must always be guided by the known and prevailing customs of the people which finds expression in the Customary Law. Secondly the Traditional Council cannot and must not act impulsively or arbitrarily.
The literal history of the New Juaben people dictates munificently that on the eve of the war with the Asantehene in 1874 which finally made us refugees or internally displaced persons (IDP’s) in the then Gold Coast, we were part of Old Juaben whose current Paramount Chief is Okyerefo Otuo Siriboe. Our brave Ancestors settled here in 1875 and by 1882 the traditional structures of New Juaben Chieftaincy had been established during the reign of Nana Asafo Boateng; the son of Nana Asafo Adjei who led the Juaben refugees to cross the Pra into Akyem Abuakwa in the Colony. It is interesting to know and note that there is an issue of blood relations or consanguinity between most of the traditional stools of New Juaben and Old Juaben. For instance our late Omanhene is the uterine senior brother of the Omanhene of Old Juaben Okyerefo Otuo Siriboe. The Nseniehene of New Juaben is a true cousin of the Nseniehene of Old Juaben within the Agona/Nsenie family. Many examples abound.
With the above background I will now proceed to give the traditional structure of chieftaincy as prevailing here in New Juaben. This structure is hierarchical and strictly based on war formations. Some stools have been created and inculcated into the structure since 1992 but this would be a topic for discussion on subsequent publications if need be.
At the apex of the traditional structure is the Paramount Chief (Omanhene). Under the Omanhene are the Wing Chiefs (Fekutire or Apakanfo). These wings include Asafo, Adonten, Nifa, Benkum, Gyaase, Kyidom, Mawere, Ayokoo and Ohemaa. Below these Wings or Fekuo are the Subchiefs (Ahenfo Nkumaa). Below the Sub-chiefs are the Headsmen (Adikro). Every Sub-chief belongs exclusively to one of the Wings. The implication is that the Divisional Chiefs superintend on all the other chiefs apart from the Omanhene.
The Asafo Division is the Army and it is divided into Kronti and Akwamu. It is headed by the Krontihene. The Adonten is the Front Guard and the head is the Adontenhene. Nifa is the Right Wing headed by the Nifahene while the Left Wing is led by the Benkumhene. Kyidom is the Rear Guard headed by the Kyidomhene. Gyaase is the Home Guard and the largest but not the most powerful. The Gyaase Division has the largest number of chiefs. It is headed by the Gyaasehene. Ohemaa is directly at par with the Omanhene in terms of paramountcy but ironically is treated as a Division within the New Juaben structure. The Ohemaa division encompasses all the Ahemaa Nkumaa or Mmaapanin. She is ably assisted by the Asuminamhene hence the description ‘0hemaa ne Asuminam’.
Folks, what is the issue confronting the New Juaben Traditional Council, the Royal House and the people within this transitional period until a new Omanhene is nominated, elected and installed to replace Daasebre Oti Boateng according to the prevailing customs and traditions of the New Juaben Traditional Area?
To trigger the luxuriant discussions on the transition, permit me to explain with comparative analysis what is meant by unavailability of the Omanhene and the legal vacancy of the stool. The unavailability of the Omanhene is where the Omanhene is unavailable to perform his roles and functions as a result of ill-health or a travel outside the jurisdiction. The stool however, becomes legally vacant and contestable when the Omanhene abdicates, is deposed (destooled) or dies. In these two glaring but diametrically opposed scenarios different interventions are made; all based on the prevailing customs and traditions.
The Omanhene has limitless discretionary powers to appoint any chief of his choice to take over his role while he is absent from the jurisdiction or is impeded by ill-health. In the past, chiefs like the Kyidomhene have all acted in the absence of the Omanahene. On the eve of the arrival of the New Juaben Paramount Chief from overseas, Gyaasehene was acting in his stead because the Omanhene selected him before travelling outside the jurisdiction. The choice that is made by the Omanhene under this scenario may or may not follow any hierarchy. It could be informed by personal (in terms of confidence) and or technical (in terms of ability) reasons because a real or perceived adversary cannot be made to watch over one’s gem.
Where the Omanhene stool becomes legally vacant due to abdication, deposition or death then the issue of discretion and arbitrariness ceases. Under this scenario the Traditional Council has no option than to act explicitly, expediently and ethically according to the dictates of custom and tradition imposed on it by Section 35 of the Chieftaincy Act (Act 759). Such an action shall be the hub around which the wheel of a peaceful transition could be guaranteed.
Under New Juaben custom and tradition buoyed by precedence, the Krontihene who is the head of the Asafo Division immediately and automatically assumes the position of Acting President/Omanhene New Juaben Traditional Area. The onus burdens and beckons the Traditional Council to meet and confer this immutable and indisputable position on him without prejudice to whatever the relationship was between the Krontihene and the Omanhene when the latter was alive. It takes two to tango for which reason whatever relationship that existed between the Krontihene and his Boss; in terms of rights and obligations, which found its way beyond the Traditional Council to the ordinary Court is inconsequential in terms of traditional roles and functions. It is edifying to know that in all human history, rights have always been fought for peacefully or otherwise. It will be a monumental failure and highly iconoclastic on the part of any person or group of persons to find compelling solace to obviate peace and perpetuate discordance within New Juaben at this transient and crucial moment.
Where the Krontihene is seen to have intrepidly but incontrovertibly breached or perversed custom by virtue of his relationship with his late overlord, this could be dealt with according to the same custom and tradition that imposes the onerous task of Acting President and Omanhene of the Traditional Area on him and the appropriate sanctions exacted. This finds expression in the Asante proverb ‘ Yepam patakuo ansa na y’atu abirekyie fo’ (the wolf is first chased off before the goat is advised). This is very important as a mark of respect and reverence for the dead which forms the bedrock of Traditional Authority and associated Beliefs.
The supplication or propitiation process also serves as a reversal to neutralize Ancestral imprecations and retributions that could ensue (per our belief system) especially where the Krontihene shall be the same person who will supervise the organization and burial rites (Doteyie) of the late Omanhene. The endemic problem of being seen as a pariah within the Traditional Council due to dissent and ventilation of minds must; as a matter of urgency, be substituted with deserving customary and traditional sanctions when a chief errs as we course along the undulating terrain of instituting a Transitional Head and Team for the prospects of New Juaben in amity.
When the late Nana Kwaku Boateng II became unavailable in the jurisdiction due to ill-health, he chose the Krontihene (he could have chosen any of the Divisional chiefs but the Krontihene was his confidant) to act in his stead. Unfortunately, the Omanhene passed on while seeking medical attention. The Traditional Council; obligated by custom and tradition, met officially and deservedly conferred the Acting position on him; a role he played till a new Omanhene Daasebre Oti Boateng was nominated, elected and installed Omanhene in 1992.
It is a practice amongst the Dagombas that where the Ya Na is unavailable, the Wulana assumes the duties of the Ya Na until he returns. However where the Ya Na dies and the Skin becomes legally vacant and ripped for contest, it is the Regent of Dagbon who assumes the position of Acting Ya Na till a new one is enskinned. Remember that like the Moon and the Earth, the Dagombas are our closest allies in the North in terms of custom and tradition. The Regent is always the Eldest son of the previous Ya Na; which in New Juaben would have been the Eldest son of Nana Kwaku Boateng II. Among my paternal ethnic group, the Gas, the Asere Mantse takes over in all the two scenarios.
Chiefs and opinion leaders in New Juaben must do well to apprise and enrich their minds of the unique situation in the case of the Asantehene where the Mamponhene who is the occupant of the Silver Stool and also the Nifahene of Asanteman takes over in an acting position until a new Asantehene is enstooled when the latter joins the Ancestors. Interestingly whenever this happens the Mamponhene is given the accolade ‘Asanteman Krontihene’.
It is a laid down procedure and an established fact by virtue of history, custom and tradition that Mamponhene is the second highest ranking Chief among his peers in the Asante Kingdom. A request to that effect was officially made and granted shortly before the Battle of Feyiase in 1699 to liberate Asanteman from the tyrannical and derogatory rule of the Denkyirahene Ntim Gyakari. The then Mamponhene Nana Boahen Anantuo elected himself to replace the Asantehene Osei Tutu as the War General. Okomfo Anokye had prophesied prior to the Battle of Feyiase that whoever led the war as the War General would be victorious but would not live beyond seven days after the victory and so asked Nana Osei Tutu to stay at home in the interest of the Asante State. The Mamponhene therefore requested before leading the war that his Stool should be the second highest in Asante and none of his descendants should suffer the death penalty.
Within the Kumasi Traditional Council (which is equivalent to the New Juaben Traditional Council) however, it is the Bantamahene (who doubles as the Krontihene of Kumasi) who assumes the position of Acting President of the Council when the Asantehene goes to the village. Therefore any superimposition of the dynamics within the Asanteman Council on that of New Juaben without a photo-finish is flawed, fallacious, anachronistic and capricious ab initio and contrary to the provisions of Section 35 of the Chieftaincy Act 2008 (Act 759). It is the prerogative and the discretion of the Asantehene to nominate any of the Members within the Asanteman Council or the Kumasi Traditional Council to act in his stead when he is unavailable within the jurisdiction.
For some time now, there have been rancorous and vitriolic debate and exchanges between the Krontihene and the Nifahene of New Juaben as to who takes over in the acting position when the Omanhene is unavailable or the Stool becoming legally vacant. The main argument of the Nifahene who also doubles as the Effiduasehene is that that is what pertains in Asante in the case of the Asantehene. Note that the Nifahene of New Juaben was on the side of the Juabenhene during the riots that ensued in the Asante Confederacy leading to the war in 1874. He dissented with his overlord the Mamponhene and sought refuge as a rebel at the New Juaben camp hence his Nifa position in New Juaben. He also argues that apart from him being the Nifahene, he superintends over a town. For these reasons it is an undeniable fact that he assumes the position of the acting President of the New Juaben Traditional Council now that the Omanhene is with the Ancestors.
The Nifahene’s argument finds solace in a wrong example as explained earlier in what pertains within the Asanteman Council and the Kumasi Traditional Council. The Asanteman Council is not a statutory body. It is a creation of the Asante Confederacy. It is bigger than and different from the Kumasi Traditional Council in terms of personnel and functions. To superimpose and equate the functions of the Asanteman Council to the New Juaben Traditional Council is like comparing the United States of America to Papua New Guinea.
What pertains within the Asanteman Council cannot be imposed on the New Juaben Traditional Council. The closest body to emulate is the Kumasi Traditional Council which is governed by the same Chieftaincy Act 2008 (Act 759) just as the New Juaben Traditional Council. Note that the Krontihene is not the KRONTIHENE OF KOFORIDUA but the KRONTIHENE OF NEW JUABEN TRADITIONAL AREA.
The issue of Nifahene being the head of a town aside his Divisional status is neither here nor there because Gyaasehene has Jumapo, Ada, Suhyen and Akwadum under him but has never raised the issue of him being the next in command when the Omanhene Stool becomes legally vacant. The Jumapohene whose stool has recently been raised to a Divisional Status is the Chief of Jumapo while the Benkumhene is the Chief of Asokore but none has argued along that line. Until his demise the Adontenhene Nana Kodua Kese II who also doubled as the Oyokohene was the longest reigning chief in the Traditional Area but never nurtured the utopian desire to be in the acting position when the Omanhene is unavailable or is gone to the village. The import of this argument is that historical antecedents remain the uttermost factor in who takes over the reins of leadership when the Omanhene Stool becomes legally vacant.
Another important reason which flaws and consumes the Nifahene’s argument is purely historical and precedential. Throughout the history of New Juaben it is only the Krontihene who has held the position of Omanhene until the first Omanhene from the Ayokour Royal Family was installed an Omanhene. When Asafo Adjei (a non- Ayokour) became the Omanhene and he was arrested and exiled to Lagos for subversion, his son Asafo Boateng who was then the Krontihene of New Juaben assumed the position of Omanhene from 1907 to 1913 (Oti Boateng: Compendium of His Works Vol.1) until the Ayokour Royal Family produced and installed Nana Kwaku Boateng I (1913 – 1930). It is also instructive to note that it was during the Krontihene Asafo Boateng’s reign as the Omanhene that the Colonial Government caused a Stool to be Blackened for the New Juaben Traditional Area.
It is also revealing to know that during the reign of Nana Yaw Sarpon (a.k.a. Nana Kwame Gyapong), the District Commissioner in charge of Akwapim and New Juaben had requested that the New Juaben Omanhene submitted a list of Divisional Chiefs and their titles/offices in order of precedence as far back as 1943. On September 3, 1943 Omanhene Yaw Sarpong responded with a letter with Reference Number 258/2/1930 issued from the JUABEN BOATENG FIE (the original name of the New Juaben Omanhene Palace). In that letter he stated:
“My Good Friend,
With reference to your letter No. 1152/16/1935 dated 28th August 1943, I have to attach herewith the list of New Juaben Divisional Chiefs and their respective offices or titles, in order of precedence. 1. The Omanhene Nana Yaw Sapon; 2. Krontihene Ntori Nimpa and Akwamuhene Kwadjo Adjapon; 3. Ayokohene Yeboa Koree; 4. Nifahene Adu Ameyaw; 5. Benkumhene Boampong Adu II; 6. Gyaasehene Kwame Asante; 7. Adontenhene Kofi Akroma; 8. Kyidomhene Amo Wense. ADIKROFO: 1. Ag. Odikro of Juampo Kwasi Boakye; 2. Ag.Odikro of Suhien Kofi Frimpong”.
The letter reproduced above is very significant because it could not have been an arbitral letter from Nana Yaw Sarpon but a product of the State Council of New Juaben (as the Traditional Council was then known) at a plenary session. Nana Frimpong Mposo II initiated an action against this letter at the New Juaben State Council and lost. He filed an Appeal some 49 years ago between 1972 and 1973 at the Regional House of Chiefs in Dodowa against Nana Asafo Boateng II as the Defendant. In that case Nana Adjei Tuffuor the then Krontihene became the Substituted Defendant after the death of Nana Asafo Boateng II. In this case, the issue of ‘who is who?’ between the Krontihene and the Nifahene of New Juaben was given a befitting final burial. Nifahene lost again.
The taking-over of the Krontihene as the acting President of the New Juaben Traditional Council immediately triggers all preparations towards the mobilization and organization of all resources; both human and material, to begin the befitting burial of the departed Omanhene and the installation of a new one who shall perform the grand final funeral rites of his departed brother, cousin, uncle or grandfather.
Behind the scenes, the Ayokotour Nnum comprising the Mrontuorhene (Ayokohene), Mpampamahene, Adwamponhene, Anoohene and Appeanyaasehene would have to liaise with the Ohemaa and the Ruling House of Royals for a legitimately and legally qualified candidate to replace the departed Omanhene. Many qualified royals could apply through appeals (dwantoa) to the Ohemaa for the opportunity to serve in that capacity of the Omanhene but the final decision impinges on the Juabenhemaa. She has three chances to introduce a candidate.
When a candidate is chosen, he would be introduced to the Gyaasehene in private because according to custom he is in charge of the Omanhene’s Household. He in turn shall introduce the candidate to the Krontihene; the acting President of the New Juaben Traditional Council who in turn shall call a Traditional Council Meeting to introduce the candidate for their perusal. The Council could reject the candidate on several grounds which must be legal and customary. In the case of the Ohemaa’s choice being rejected, she has extra two chances after which the Council could sit to decide on a befitting candidate. This extreme case however, seldom happens.
Another important role the Gyaasehene would be playing is to take custody and ensure the safety of all Stool regalia and make an inventory on them to be presented to the Traditional Council. In all these roles he would always be followed closely by the Akyempimhene whose duty it is to protect his father’s household. The Akyempimhene (custodian of the thousand shields) is always the son of the previous Omanhene but never a royal who could ascend his father’s stool unless during emergencies as happened in 1874 when Asafo Adjei; the then Krontihene of Juaben and son of the Juabenhene, escaped with his Father’s stool (the Yiadom and Hwedie Stool) to Akyem Abuakwa to avoid its capture. It was however returned to Juaben when the coast became clear and New Juaben was fully established as a Traditional Area.
It shall be the duty of the Traditional Council to liaise with the Banmuhene for the relocation of the sacred Black Stool of the New Juaben people for safekeeping at the Kwabi ne Ameyaw Banmu. The sacred stool shall be sent deep in the night to the Kwabi ne Ameyaw Banmu at Abesim where it shall be under the care of the Abesimhene (who also doubles as the Werempehene of New Juaben) and the Abesimsorfuor until a new Omanhene is installed and is returned the same way as it was brought. While the Black Stool is in the Kwabi and Ameyaw Banmu, it shall be the duty of the Banmuhene, Nseniehene and the Nkoguasoafuorhene to visit the place on sacred days to perform exclusive rites for the Grand Stool.
It is the firm belief of this writer that the New Juaben State has come of age to be entangled in a web of confusion and power struggle especially at a time when the Omanhene is with the Ancestors. There are laid down mechanisms for conflict resolution when we are faced with unexpected and sad situations such as is confronting us. What we need now is a peaceful transition which can only be ensured if all chiefs especially the ‘Giants’ play their functions and roles according to custom and traditions which have been bequeathed to us by the Almighty God, the Deities and the Ancestors.
Those in the helm of affairs must respect authority and hierarchy by eschewing arrogance, pride, acrimony, vindictiveness, vilifications, dogmatism and pomposity. These negative social indices are detrimental and pernicious to the holistic health of the New Juaben State no matter what the spin, nuances or nexus that could be used to garnish them. All hands must be on deck with shoulders on the wheels to counter any negative force of gravity and antipathy that are designed internally or externally for implosion to pull back the progress of New Juaben.
The New Juaben Traditional Council must operate like a typical System. Every system has many independent units but for effective functioning of the system each independent unit must diverse itself of the ‘ego of independence’ and put on the cloak of ‘Proud interdependence’ to enjoy the symbiotic effect of unity. The import of this is profound: the importance of every chief within the Traditional Area must be recognized, appreciated and harnessed with utter decorum devoid of degradation in the supreme interest of New Juaben. An intricately woven and expensive Kente cloth loses its beauty and value if strands are constantly, persistently, consciously or inadvertently removed. The beauty of a bird is noticed not by its size or flying ability and prowess but by the colour and fluidity of its feathers. Only unity and selflessness could be used to embellish the ornament of Chieftaincy bestowed on us as a heritage.
It is imperative to know that development and progress within the current Constitutional disposition hinges greatly on Chieftaincy. Chiefs are supposed to liaise with the Central Government through the MMDA’s to get their fair share of the National Cake. Resources always avoid conflicts which is why the Supreme New Juaben Interest must be the maxim of all. The unfortunate passing of our Omanhene must energize us to aspire for higher heights within the comity of Traditional Areas in the Eastern Region in particular and Ghana in general. May the Almighty God have mercy on us for an unprecedented smooth, inclusive and peaceful transition. Piaaaaw!!!!
NANA YAW ANNOR BOATENG II, is Nseniehene of New Juaben Traditional Area