Otumfuo Osei Tutu II in state on his 25th anniversary as King
Otumfuo Osei Tutu II in state on his 25th anniversary as King
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Royal anniversary year

For unavoidable reasons, I was unable to make it to Kumasi over the weekend to soak in the ambience of the royal events on Asanteman’s May calendar — Otumfuo’s silver jubilee dinner on Saturday coming on the heels of his 74th birthday celebrations last week and topped off with Akwasidae on Sunday. 

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Then there was the quasi-royal inauguration of the new Prempeh I International Airport by the President on Friday. 

Triple anniversary

This year marks three important dates in Asanteman — the 25th anniversary of the accession to the Golden Stool by Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the centenary celebrations of the return of Asantehene Nana Prempeh I after a 28-year exile spanning Cape Coast, Sierra Leone and finally Seychelles, as well as the 150th anniversary of the Sagrenti War of 1874.

The war saw the burning of the whole city of Kumasi and the palace of Asantehene Kofi Karikari after it was looted with artefacts and gold dust. The war was led by Sir Garnet Wolsley, an Anglo-Irish officer of the British army. ‘Sir Garnet’ became corrupted to ‘Sagrenti’ by the locals.

The Sagrenti War and the return of Nana Prempeh from Seychelles were particularly important milestones in Asante history that shaped the nation in several fundamental ways. For instance, at a symposium in Kumasi in February this year, historian Dr Tom McCaskie of the Harvard University revealed that the Sagrenti War shattered the unity among Asantes as conflicts broke out in Asanteman with Bekwai rising against Bekwai, Mampong going to war with Ejisu among others.

He also spoke of deprivation, homelessness and refugees. The return of Nana Prempeh I brought to a close a long period of agitation for his return, with the active involvement of groups such as the Asante Kotoko Society. Nana Prempeh himself had written countless petitions for his return, starting almost as soon as he landed in Seychelles.  

Even though his eventual return was predicated on him not being recognised as Asantehene as far as the British were concerned, he remained, in the eyes of his people, their overlord.

But they did not rest and moved straight into another phase of agitation. This was for the restoration of the Asante Confederacy (and Confederacy Council), which was eventually granted in 1935, under Otumfuo Sir Osei Agyemang Prempeh II.

Glittering anniversary

By all accounts, the Manhyia machinery has delivered a superbly choreographed celebration so far to the admiration of many. Through several commemorative events since the beginning of the year, the palace has deftly used traditional and social media platforms to portray a worthy brand, attracting admiration from all over.

In projecting relationships with immigrant representation in his court and the warm relations with other traditional leaders in the country during the anniversary dinner, Akwasidae among others, the subtle message conveyed was tolerance and diversity in unity.

As a lifelong passionate lover of choral music, I was particularly bowled over by the Tamale Youth Choir during the Otumfuo Composers Competition at the KNUST last month. The delicate weaving of English, Dagbani and Twi in their song dedicated to Otumfuo was truly masterly and spoke volumes.

The virtue of unity in diversity is a key driver and a badly-needed ingredient of the post-independence African state, often with its diverse ethnic groups, some with age-age old rivalries, haphazardly cobbled together by the imperialist powers in faraway Europe as a nation-state and expected to get along.

Traditional lessons

Even with its severely whittled-down powers in the modern state and its democratic dispensation, the traditional system of government has useful lessons for our modern dispensation and cannot be dismissed as just a fond recollection of a glorious age gone by and perhaps a tad anachronistic.

Whether in matters of statecraft, conflict resolution, dispensation of justice or bringing diverse people together, our traditional systems have tried and tested methods from which we can borrow to fit our circumstances and the realities of today.

What we have done in sub-Saharan Africa since independence has been to borrow from abroad, almost wholesale, systems, practices, concepts and values alien to our people and, therefore, do not ensure the buy-in of most.

In many parts, the modern state (or ‘aban’), with its agencies, has become a distant tax-grabbing behemoth that the people simply do not plug into. It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that people readily comply with a palace-issued ban against noisemaking or an order to close shops out of respect for a departed monarch, without any policemen roaming the streets to enforce them, and yet would find ways of getting round a government-issued lockdown.

The Asantehene has been a model of grace and wise counsel in the 25 years of his reign and looks quite sprightly for his age. I wish him all of the very best of many happy anniversaries in the years to come.
Long live the King!

Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng,
Head, Communications & Public Affairs Unit,
Ministry of Energy.
E-mail: [email protected]

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