Saturday, October 13, 2007
TO ASOGLI STATE YAM FESTIVAL AND BACK
By: KWAM E GYASI
“Five years ago, we ascended the Golden Stool of the proud Ashanti people of Ghana. We inherited a very rich tradition and culture and swore the oath to serve our people with all modesty and humility. We were confronted with cultural invasion that was fast pushing our culture to the background in favour of foreign values and practices. We believe that no nation can make any meaningful strides if it neglects its culture. And so we shall continue to drum up the beauty that is our traditions and marry it with the demands of our modern era…. We love our culture and our proud heritage. We have it as an obligation to renew the bonds that tie us together and resolve to love our motherland Ghana and that is why we are here today”.
___Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Asantehene
If the history of chieftaincy in this country comes to be written for the past decade, three of the chiefs who are likely to be mentioned in positive lights are Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Asantehene, Osagyefuo Amoatia Ofori Panin, Okyenhene, and Togbe Afede XIV, Agbogbomefia of Asogli State. Ghana @ 50 should provide us with the opportunity to examine the quality of leadership this country has inherited since independence. Fifty years after independence, as a result of incompetent and corrupt leadership in every life, Ghana is behaving like the proverbial cotton floating in the air, directionless, and using the force of the wind as her rudder.
The country achieved political independence fifty years ago after we voluntarily drove away our colonial masters. Unlike Singapore which also achieved independence eight years later after driving away the same colonial masters, Ghana failed at independence to achieve economic, technological and social independence. We are now forced to call back our colonial masters at their own terms to finance every development and social projects including the building of sensitive national edifices, looking after our flood victims, feeding our school children and finding solutions as to how to manage our refuse. We kid ourselves by referring to them diplomatically as “developing partners”.
If only we have had the kind of leadership which gave the people hope rather than demoralizing them, who accounted properly for every cedi in revenue which accrued to the state and made to reach the beneficiaries at the grassroots as one cedi without being siphoned off along the way, this country would not be relying on rain-fed technology to move our agriculture and power our industries as well as sell our birthright to the IMF, the World Bank and other “developing partners” to survive. Any society can only survive with visionary leadership prepared to serve the people, make use of superior intelligence, discipline, integrity and ingenuity as a substitute for lack of natural resources.
When the Otumfuo ascended the Golden Stool, Asanteman arguably was at a very low ebb. Asanteman needed a king who would bring back the good memories of Asante tradition in its grandeur. The man who was enthroned characteristically took the name of the founder of the Asante Kingdom. From the beginning he did not disappoint. Superior intelligence, discipline, integrity and ingenuity can only flow from an educated brain. Hence Otumfuo Osei Tutu identified education as the cornerstone of the new nation. He established the Otumfuo Educational Fund to offer scholarships to deserving students which currently has benefited many people from almost every region of this country.
When the last tree dies, mankind dies. This is a well known famous statement. Our colonial masters had the patriotic sense to identify places as forest reserve to keep them away from the marauding crowd so that the future generation can have something to survive on. The freedom fighters who wrenched power from the colonial masters immediately presided over a systematic exercise to destroy the environment. After the virgin forest had been destroyed by indiscriminate timber logging and uncontrolled inefficient traditional farming methods, the forest reserves were opened up to heavy commercial surface mining and lumber activities. Today all the streams we used to swim in and fish back home at the villages have all dried up. Today we rely on prayers for the rains to fall to help us generate hydro power.
As a nation we forgot that even the thief prays to God before going on an assignment. Whether God will listen or not is another matter. In our case God listened, filled the Volta Dam and brought havoc in form of floods to the poor innocent victims of the northern regions. It took the prayers for rains and God’s response to the prayers for people in authority to realize the massive poverty and underdevelopment of certain parts of the nation. Yet this is a country where our leaders and low cost officers in state organizations jet out in first and second class cabins on overseas visits or move in long convoys of expensive limousines on assignments which bring no visible added value to the suffering masses.
When the Osagyefuo ascended the great Ofori Panin Stool, he identified the environment as critical to the substance of life on earth and made it his personal agenda to protect the environment. He has taken the advantage of every opportunity offered him to speak on his pet theme and advocated how the environment can be saved. Unfortunately powerful interests from our “developing partners” in collusion with local people and unpatriotic public officers and politicians have formed a corruption factory to frustrate all the King’s effort. Today, surface mining is proceeding at a faster pace than ever by foreign mining companies who not only pollute the air but also the dying streams the poor citizens used as their sources of drinking water. Massive logging is going on in forest reserve in an unprecedented scale. The sad aspect of the whole fact is that the laws of the land make it possible for the marauders to virtually keep all the foreign exchange arising from these diabolical activities in their overseas accounts.
The energy crisis the nation has been subjected to for the past thirteen months or so brought vividly to light the gross lack of planning and plan implementation in our national life. It proved beyond any shade of doubt that if we should project the leadership we have gratuitously offered ourselves since independence into the future, then we should start writing our own obituary. As the great management guru, Peter Drucker once stated, a crisis which reoccurs is an indication of poor management. The current energy crisis is the third one to occur in the life of this nation within living memory. So like the proverbial vulture, we only remember the need for shelter only when it rains. It is in this area where another visionary of a leader has emerged.
Togbe Afede XIV, the Agbogbomefia of Asogli State is the youngest among the three visionary leaders who are the subject of the article. Space will not permit me to mention all the achievements of this great grand father. Suffice to say that the Agbogbomefia on his own initiative traveled to China, convinced the Chinese to be interested in Ghana to invest with their own money into the energy sector. Those close to the Togbe are well aware of the frustration he had to go through to court officialdom to get the project on board, a project which does not involve any government funding or guarantees. When everything appeared to be on course for the project after overcoming the public service inertia, the acquisition of suitable land is providing an insurmountable hurdle which is threatening the speedy implementation of the project.
There are two sad twists to the events. The knowledgeable Chinese embassy officials with full knowledge of the land tenure system warned the Chinese energy company to be wary of the state of land acquired for the project. Like the prophets of old, when everything appeared to be on course for the successful take off of the project, another state company emphatically claimed ownership of the plot of land the Agbogbomefia’s company had acquired for the project. The second sad twist in the whole saga is that a fellow traditional ruler appears to have deliberately and intentionally played a fellow traditional ruler for a sucker and left him holding as it were an empty by selling a land owned by someone else. Regarding the importance of the project and the urgency surrounding it, bureaucratic idiosyncrasies should not be allowed to derail it.
There is no doubt that the Chinese under every circumstance must be licking their wounds with the credibility of the Agbogbomefia on line if a solution is not found as soon as possible. Certainly, it is not only the Agbogbomefia whose credibility will be on line but also the government of the day. At a reception held by the Agbogbomefia for the Chinese energy delegation, the Senior Minister, Mr. J. H. Mensah, promised to do everything to ensure that the project was brought into fruition quickly and the Chinese apparently must have taken his word for it.
I was at this year’s 2007 Asogli State Yam Festival celebration grand durbar of chiefs and people of Asogli held on Saturday September 29, 2007. The Asogli State comprises four traditional set-ups, Akoefe, Ho, Kpenoe and Takia. These four traditional set-ups were founded by the direct descendants of Togbe Kakla. Ho serves as the seat of paramountcy. Ho is also the Volta Region capital and has over the years legitimately assumed prominence. The Asogli State Council comprises the Agbogbomefia who is the President, paramount chiefs of Akoefe, Kpenoe and Takia and the five divisional chiefs of Ho. What is known as Asogli Traditional Area is made up of thirty three traditional areas including the Asogli State. This is often referred to as Amalgamated Asogli State. Agbogbomefia automatically assumes the role of President of the Asogli Traditional Council, the traditional government council.
While the Okyenhene was the Special Guest at the durbar, the Vice-President, Alhaji Ali Mahama was the Guest of Honour. In a thought provoking speech of about five and half pages delivered in impeccable Ewe, the Agbogbomefia did not mince words when he covered almost every sphere of national endeavour, and which clearly displayed how dear the energy project was to his heart. The Vice-President must have caught the bug and provided some assurances which would lead to the speedy resolution of the land problem. The Osagyefuo in his usual forthright manner and well known trademark intonation added his on pieces of advice to the festive occasion. As is usual with politicians and traditional rulers, time does not appear to be of essence and the only blot to the occasion which portrayed rich Ewe culture was the late starting of the durbar. As is normal with the Asantehene, I had expected the Agbogbomefia on entering the durbar grounds to have gone round the pavilions to greet his subjects. To my disappointment, he went straight to his seat, perhaps in keeping with Asogli tradition. It was a one day visit I never had the opportunity to sight or eat any new yam.
The Spectator Saturday, October 13, 2007 Page: 6 & 28