The Female Chief called Nana Kofi Abuna V
From: MOSES DOTSEY AKLORBORTU, Essipon
SHE is the only female traditional ruler among 22 males in the Sekondi Traditional council with a male stool name – Nana Kofi Abuna V, Chief of Essipon, near Sekondi in the Western Region, and one of the host communities for the Ghana 2008 Football tournament.
She would like to position Essipon in a way that the name of the town would go beyond the metropolis, the region and the country with the help and support of her people.
Her focus is on women and children in and outside her community and to convert this into reality, she has established an educational fund to enable as many school-age children who are outside the classrooms to go to school and she is building a school block to contain them while she herself is serving as a mentor for young women in the traditional area.
She has so far mobilized more that 60 women who are benefiting from a credit scheme and they meet regularly to discuss issues affecting their lives, especially the establishment of a gari processing factory and other ongoing projects.
“I want to make use of every opportunity that would make life better for my people. As a leader, I have to serve my people; I have to provide them with hope and the kind of leadership they will look up to “
Born in 1959 as Emma Theodora Wood, Nana Abuna rules and takes decisions under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Her favourite quotation in the Bible is in the book of Proverbs Chapter II vrs 10, which reads, “When it goes well with the righteous, the town rejoices”.
Asked how she is managing the male dominated field of traditional system, she said, “It is not easy, as a child of God and a strong member of the Pentecostal Church, I am faced with countless challenges”.
She outlined some of these challenges as how to convince her people to amend certain traditional practices that are a setback to the growth and development of the community.
“There were some development projects that had to take place in the town, but to my people, some of the selected project sites were sacred so no one could go there for fear of attracting the anger of the gods”, she said.
“At a point one member of the community walked to me and asked, Nana you said we need a school, but where are we going to put the school? I pointed at a tree and she exclaimed, Nana the tree there is not just an ordinary tree, but represents one of the gods of Essipon and must be preserved. I looked at her and laughed. I told her on the face that if the gods of Essipon are for the good of the people then I do not think that the gods will resist development. In any case we have the Heavenly Father as our anchor and we will sail through”, she said.
The giant trees in the way of the construction of the roads and additional school blocks were felled and nothing happened.
“All these challenges came as a result of my Christian Doctrine against that of the traditional beliefs. But interestingly we were all saying the same thing, just that the approach was different”.
Asked if she was a chief or queen, she said with smile that she was the substantive Chief of Essipon and that as a chief she had another person as Queen.
She said initially, when the lot fell on the family to put a candidate for the next Chief of Essipon, the elders and the kingmakers consulted her two elder brothers who declined the offer but asked that it should be given to their younger sister, which was her.
The Chief said “I have always wanted the opportunity to make an impact, help my people and prove that women can do better and live up to the task. Therefore, I accepted the offer”.
“I love challenges and I was not scared or intimidated at all. I accepted the offer and sat down to first assess my new task and the way forward. At meetings at the traditional council I am the only female but my colleague male chiefs have come to accept that and we work together for the growth of our respective communities.
She said one of the things that made the work of the traditional rulers difficult was the prevalence of disunity among the people. And her first task was to ensure that there was unity and that she was glad she was able to execute that.
“Unity in the family and in the community is paramount to the development of the people. I am proud of my people, if for nothing at all, for the unity and their welcoming spirit. I join them when it is time for communal labour. We interact and share ideas”.
She listed several needs of Essipon, as well as many avenues to explore, and was unhappy that her people limited themselves to certain traditional practices that would never push the community forward.
“I did not say that because I am the Chief what I say is final; you cannot rule like that, you have to let the people understand what you are doing and let them feel they are part of it”.
“There is a saying that if you do something heroic, you will be respected for that, but if you lead people to freedom, they would follow you forever, therefore, I prayed and asked God for direction, I don’t just act”.
Amazingly, in no time the people got her message because Nana Kofi Abuna respected their views and gave them explanation as to why certain rules should be changed to pave way for development.
Nana, who speaks with intermittent quoting of the Holy Bible to support her points, said there was nothing difficult for God, adding that “gradually my elders moved from certain traditional practices to accept modification of some of the things we considered to be sacred and untouchable”.
“That does not mean that, as a child of God I oppose the customs and the traditions of my people. I love tradition and it is valuable. It was just that we have to move with time and make sure that we are not left behind” he said.
Nana added that when she took over from her predecessor nine years ago, the community lacked many things such as schools and jobs for the women as well as somebody they could associate themselves with.
She said being a traditional ruler did not mean that one should lord him/herself over the people, “they would come with all their beliefs, it is not for you, to tell them what to do, it calls for dialogue”.
“It would interest you to know that some of my elders now go to church with me after the explanation that going to church does not mean throwing away one’s tradition”.
Asked if they perform traditional rites for the stool, she answered, “Why not, tradition is tradition and we have to respect our heritage, my being the ruler does not mean I should come and change things to favour me but I request for amendment where applicable and I listen to my elders and offer suggestions”.
“Let me tell you a story about a suggestion made to me; an elder walked to the palace and said, Nana, we have a problem, bees have invaded my room and that is a sign that one of the gods is hungry and there should be a sacrifice.
“I took my time and listened to all he had to say, then I told him, you are not the chief and, therefore, if the gods are hungry why would they direct their anger at you and your family”?
She said she told him to tell the bees that they should direct their anger at the Chief, who is the head of the community, and he left. Apparently, the bees were following a fragrance in the room of the said elder and invaded his room. “It had nothing to do with the gods as he claimed.
Asked what she had been able to achieve since she ascended the throne, she said she managed to establish a gari processing factory and a credit scheme at the Western Rural Bank where women access funds for their trading activities. Added to these she had managed to train women and build more classroom blocks, as well as other ongoing projects.
She said the gari factory was primarily to have a ready market for the cassava that the people at Essipon and other surrounding communities produced.
The beautiful palace of Nana Abuna was full of certificates and plaques received from local and international organizations for her contribution towards the advancement of women and children and her community and beyond.
She has also set up an educational fund for the development of education in the community of which she has received enormous support from NGOs. About eight students are currently benefiting from the fund.
Some of the citizens The Mirror spoke to spoke favourably of their chief. According to them, Nana Abuna is an inspiration. “She goes to the extent of providing uniforms, shoes, and also makes sure that the children are in the classroom”.
The Mirror- Saturday, November 24, 2007 Page: 42