CULTURAL NEWS –
Saturday, September 1, 2007
Cheers to a new Dagomba Regent
Story: PaJohn Benstil Dadson
THE shots are loud and in succession. They rattle on in all directions, and there is smoke everywhere. I am standing inside the palace courtyard, in front of the room where the late chief was buried. The young men with the muskets, however, are outside.
There are lots of people around me, but not nearly as many as those outside. Outside, the atmosphere is frenzied. People are perched on branches of the baobab tree on the compound, some stand on the roofs, yet others hang from the trucks that had brought many of them.
Dust rose from the ground from footsteps that caressed it like in a military maneuver, with keyed up folk all scrambling/struggling to have a clear view of proceedings.
Amid the sounds of shooting, there is drumming and rhythmic wailing from excited women, clearly jubilant as they dance wherever they find enough space to do so.
Ordinarily, the walk from the late Chief of Sangnarigu’s house to the Palace takes about five minutes, but this afternoon, milling through the lot who were attending the installation ceremony of his successor, it has been quite a struggle getting through, and it took a good 30 minutes to get from the forecourt into the palace walls.
The architecture of the palace is Traditional Sahel Style. Enclosed in an inner yard, about seven round thatched-roof hut stood in a circle. Three more, one, very large and used as a meeting room, stand in the centre, creating multiple courtyards, and it is in one of these that I, along with my friends, siblings of the incoming regent, stand.
They have come, every one of them, thousands of people, most of them in Fugu smocks or Batakari garments, from near and far to witness the occurrence that takes in place once in a life time. The last such event would have been that of the late chief some 40 years ago in 1967!
For the locals, who only a few weeks ago were mourning the death of their old chief, it was with great anxiety that they came, each eager to see their new regent. He is the late chief’s son, a young man, educated at Achimota School, who currently lives in England.
Some of the rumours said he had come with his white wife, and many said of the curious attendees were here to see this white lady who would become their ‘queen’ and also their new regent, who will also act as chief until the funeral of his late father is performed.
His father, according to Moslem custom, had been buried soon after he died. That ceremony had been quite a huge one too with thousands of people tramping in to pay their last respects.
But, as I heard, today’s crowd was a touch more than then. Or maybe because then they formed a queue and waited for their turn to file past.
Today, the barricades were broken. Those on horses, people carrying drums, young, old, those with the muskets, all nudged together and at times the wave of the crowd drew you from where you wanted to go, the noise of chatter and song drumming loudly inside your ears.
Chiefs fully clad in colourful smock garments from clan villages, some on horseback with wide brimmed umbrellas over their heads, red faced elders, eager citizens and visitors, all scramble for space and a chance to see the new regent. On his shaven head – a very significant aspect of the process – hangs a white towel. He is wearing a Fugu smock. Like a lamb to the slaughter, his face is black, inexpressive. His brows, however, seem to ask a million questions. He is escorted into several of the rooms in the palace.
The air outside is humid, though the day is curiously cloudy. People are standing in the windows and doorways. I wonder if there was enough ventilation. Indeed, there isn’t, as I find out when I manage to push through once to get a snapshot.
There he sat, my long-time friend, David Ziblim Andam! Clad in the traditional ‘war’ robe of his tribe, and on his head, an elongated leather hat; a symbol of his authority! He looked resplendent, even in his bifocals!
We had always teased him at school as ‘Chief of Sangnarigu’, as he often related stories of his antics during visits to his father’s Chiefdom with relish. Here he was today, undergoing the process to assume the real thing.
Even when you that you are likely to succeed a royal father who is chief, or regent, you also really never know what lie ahead of your reign, or prepared for the overwhelming events that make the reality.
Now the Gbanlana – Holder of the Skin – Ziblim, throughout the ceremonies and rites, looked pensive, perceptive even. An aura of dignity had already engulfed him, making him look rather regal.
As is the custom of his people, the Dagombas of the Northern Region of Ghana, when a chief dies, he is succeeded by his son, who will first become the regent – ‘king-maker’, and if he wishes, contest alongside other eligible tribesmen to become the substantive chief after the funeral rites have been performed.
This, as with most customs in Ghana, happens after a higher monarch’s funeral has been performed. So with Sangnarigu’s skin occupied by the sons of the Ya Na, who is their Overlord, and the last one’s obsequies not yet performed, the late Sangnarigu Na’s won’t be for a while, and David will be the Gbanlana until then.
Sangnarigu is a suburb of Tamale. The Chiefdom covers a vast area within the metropolitan assembly, stretching across 23 villages and communities, with Yendi as its divisional head. The main occupation of the over 50,000 people living within the communities, besides trading is farming, cultivating yam, maize, rice and legumes.
‘Hail the new Regent of Sangnarigu!’ Out in the forecourt where he came to be presented to his people, the new regent looked the part. He stood out among the horde of elders and palace-handler ensemble around him as he sat in state. Wearing the ‘war robe’ he was now ‘enskinned’, and had all the powers vested in the authority of his title.
Representatives of the Otumfuo of Asante, as well as many other dignitaries were there to pay their respects and show their solidarity with the people of Sangnarigu. His subjects continued to sing and dance in yards, and grounds. ‘He is so handsome’, the women said! By 5pm, it was all over. The crowds dwindled, after the Gbanglana was taken indoors.
But where is the white wife? They began inquiring. Ziblim, an IT proramme manager at General Motors Europe, is married to Sibe, nee Limann, who hails from Tumu in the Upper West Region. Her father former President Hilla Limann, was the Chief of Tumu. They have two children, Rukayah (Lily-Ann, 5) and Adam (Adrian, 3).
Formulating a functional developmental programme in education for his people is Ziblim’s chief concern, with the aim to contribute from where his father, Dr Andani Andan of blessed memory, left off. The future belongs to the youth, and Sangnarigu has become young again!
Daily Graphic - Saturday, September 1, 2007 Page: 21