Yesterday, the people of Dagbon put behind them a bloody and protracted chieftaincy dispute with the ‘outdooring’ of a new Yaa Naa, Abukari Mahama II.
The ceremony that was attended by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and other important personalities such as former President John Dramani Mahama, the chairman of the Council of State, Nana Otuo Siriboe; the chairman of the National Peace Council, Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Asante and the President of the National House of Chiefs, Togbe Afede XIV, was marked in royal pageantry.
For the thousands who witnessed the epoch event, the message was clear - never again should Dagbon descend into the dark past.
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Before his enskinment, the Yaa Naa (King of Absolute Power) of the Dagbon State was the Yo-Naa.
The successful enskinment of Yaa Naa Abukari Mahama comes 17 years after his nephew, Yaa Naa Yakubu Andani II, was killed at the Gbewaa Palace in a conflict in Yendi in March 2002.
The enskinment process began at the Gbewaa Palace earlier in the morning with the recitation of the Holy Quran by a team of Muslim clerics led by the Yan-Limam, Shehu Yussif Yakubu Gomda, at the forecourt of the palace to seek Allah’s blessing for his reign.
There was a display of immaculately woven smocks of different sizes, colours and shapes to commemorate the eventful day.
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo was not left out in the parade of the traditional apparel as he was garbed in an unusual yellow smock with a befitting trousers (kurugu).
His decisive leadership served as a perfect icing on the cake in a process which was started by former President John Agyekum Kufuor, with the setting up of the Committee of Eminent Chiefs in 2002, with inputs of all Presidents after him, to restore lasting peace to Dagbon.
Former President Mahama, the leadership of the various political parties and parliamentarians were all dressed in their beautiful smocks (bin-gmaa).
The Yaa Naa, in all his glamour, sat in state in his royal regalia to receive homage and pleasantries from dignitaries who had travelled far and near to come and congratulate him on his ascension to the Yani Skin.
There were appellations by palace drummers (Lunsi) reciting nostalgic oral history of his ancestors in a solemn tone.
Some of the drummers who had lined up the road leading to the palace, including the ‘Gonje,’ struck melodious beats from their drums and instruments to usher in guests.
The last time such a memorable and colourful event was held in Yendi was in mid-1974 during the enskinment of the late Yaa Naa Yakubu Andani II.
The coronation was chaired by the Chairman of the National House of Chiefs and the Agbogbomefia of the Asogli State in the Volta Region, Togbe Afede XIV.
The Chairman of the Council of State and Juabenhene Nana Otuo Siriboe, also represented the Asantehene, who led the three-member Committee of Eminent Chiefs.
Both the Majority and Minority Leaders in Parliament, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu and Mr Haruna Iddrisu, including their colleague parliamentarians, also graced the occasion.
There were also Ministers of State and other government functionaries, the other two members of the Committee of Eminent Chiefs; representatives of various Houses of Chiefs; heads of institutions; paramount chiefs, religious leaders and people from all walks of life.
Besides the dignitaries, indigenes and affiliates of Dagbon also trooped to Yendi to witness the historic occasion, giving security personnel an arduous task in maintaining order and security at the event, a charge they discharged creditably.
Yaa Naa Abukari Mahama was born in Yendi in 1939 as the second child of the Queen of Duhili, Ayishetu Abukari, and late Yaa Naa Mahama Andani II.
And in accordance with Dagbon tradition, he had to pass through some lesser skins for tutelage and was later enskinned as the chief of Kpunkpuno in the Mion District in the late 90s before ascending to the Gate Skin of Savelugu in 2011.
The Yaa Naa is not only a successful farmer with much experience and expertise in bullock ploughing, but also a skilful horseman.
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Until his elevation to the ‘Yani’ Skin, Yaa Naa Abukari Mahama was the Head of the Andani Royal Family in the Dagbon Chieftaincy divide.
As a Yaa Naa, he appoints all chiefs in Dagbon, including sub-chiefs, sub-divisional and paramount chiefs as the allodial owner of Dagbon lands that occupy 14,416.5 square kilometres, with a population of over one million people.
The enskinment process of the Yaa Naa started with the performance of customary rites at Katini in the Gbewaa Palace at night, after which Naa Abukari Mahama was led on a procession to Zohe, which event was witnessed by hundreds of anxious onlookers who lined up the streets to catch a glimpse of the new overlord in the making.
As part of the custom, Naa Abukari Mahama was confined in Zohe to undergo regal grooming until last Thursday when he was moved into the Gbewaa Palace through the Mba Dugu (Chief of Staff) residence for his eventual enskinment.
Following the tragic events in Yendi between March 25 and 27, 2002, which led to the death of Yaa Naa Yakubu Andani II and some 30 others, as well as injuries to several people and massive destruction of property, President Kufuor, by Constitutional Instrument, 2002 (C.I. 36), appointed a Commission of Enquiry on April 25, 2002, to investigate the incident.
The Committee of Eminent Chiefs was subsequently set up by President Kufuor in 2002 to find a lasting solution to the imbroglio that had engulfed Dagbon in the aftermath of the Yaa Naa’s death.
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The committee is chaired by the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, with the Yagbonwura, Tuntumba Boresa Sulemana Jakpa I; the Paramount Chief of the Gonja Traditional Area and the Nayiri, Na Bohugu Abdulai Mahami Sheriga, the Paramount Chief of the Mamprugu Traditional Area as members.
And on November 16, 2018, the committee declared its intention to bring closure to the prolonged conflict between the Abudu and Andani Royal families when they presented a document on a road map that would achieve sustainable harmony in Dagbon to President Akufo-Addo at the Jubilee House in Accra.
The road map gave the Abudu and Andani royal families in the Dagbon chieftaincy divide two weeks to perform the funerals of Yaa Naa Mahamadu Abdulai IV from December 14, 2018 to December 28, 2018, after which the final funeral rites of Yaa Naa Yakubu Andani II would take place from January 4, 2019 to January 18, 2019.
The latter was later delayed for a week due to some misunderstanding.
With the funerals of the two Yaa Naa’s over, the four kingmakers of Dagbon who include the Kuga-Naa, Abdulai Adam, and the Gushie Naa, consulted the oracles to guide them in the choice of a right candidate for the ‘Namship’ before settling on the Paramount Chief of the Savelugu Traditional Area, Yo-Naa Abukari Mahama.