The mantra of most court going lawyers is the enjoyment of controversy: the battle of wits, exchange of ideas, marshalling superior arguments to deflate your opponent.
You can, therefore, imagine how excited I became when I opened Daily Guide of Tuesday, June 2, 2020 to see a rather long rejoinder to my innocently written Akuapem article. I burst out laughing so hysterically that my father in-law's daughter rushed to the bedroom: “Captain, are you alright?”
The whole saga began in January 2018 when two chiefs were allegedly installed as Okuapehene. I was amazed. I heard that the queen mother was on one side as against other people.
I am an Akan, from Jinjini, near Berekum, and most of the Akans especially those who inherit maternally know that when it comes to installation of a chief, the voice of the queen mother is paramount. Indeed, I was at the Supreme Court when they delivered their unanimous judgment on the 17 years old chieftaincy dispute in Berekum, where they declared inter alia “the power of the queen mother to nominate the successor she shares with no one.”
With this mindset, I told myself that those battling the queen mother in Akuapem have a real uphill task.
Fortunately for me, the Banmuhene of Akuapem, Nana Afari Bampoe II, is an ex-soldier I met him while he was in the Army as a warrant officer and I was influential in suggesting that he should proceed on retirement to 'chop' his Banmuhene stool. He and I are now so close that it is no more lawyer-client relationship but rather brothers. He is familiar to all my staff, including the lawyers.
He chanced upon into my office in the heat of the 'two chiefs' palaver and I really descended on him, giving him a lecture on the power of the queen mother to nominate a chief.
I was thrilled by his reaction. He sat there for a long time, very quiet, listening to me as I appointed myself as counsel for the queen mother, quoting the Supreme Court judgement.
When I finished, he calmly responded that… “Sir, I am NOT a kingmaker in Akropong, and in Akropong our custom is different…” He held me so spellbound with his graphic details that there and then I decided to write a feature article on the 'Earthquake In Akuapem'.
Not long after, I was engaged as counsel to act for the 'Abrewatia' against the queen mother, and after two years we won the courtroom battle. My client's protégé, Odehyee Kwadwo Kesse Antwi, was elevated and installed Okuapehene.
I wanted to write a full feature article on the trial and the judgment, but I told myself this matter may go on appeal, so Captain, be careful. I restrained myself from writing anything until I read a terribly biased no byline feature front page article in some tabloid completely distorting 'the facts'.
Instead of according them the respect of a rejoinder, I rather wrote an independent article, appropriately entitled 'The Akuapem Queen Mother's Toothache – Inside Story'. I am so scared of being charged for 'SUB JUDICE' (publishing an argumentative article on an ongoing case in court) that my article was a mere personal account of experiences than anything else.
With this as the background, let us open page 12 of Daily Guide Tuesday, June 2, 2020 to see the rejoinder allegedly authorised by Kofi Asiamah Asare.
Nowhere in his article did he accuse me of saying something that was NOT TRUE. Rather, he goes to town on me for allowing myself to be influenced by the Banmuhene, and he actually reproduces the judgment of the Regional House of Chiefs Judicial Committee and almost quotes verbatim the written address of my opposite lawyer, my classmate at Legon, Kwaku Ansah Asare, rector of Mountcrest University. He ends his tirade by asking me “who is Banmuhene? What are his duties? And so on…?
Even though I can beat my chest and shout that yes, I Captain (retired) Nkrabeah Effah-Dartey, I am the counsel for Nana Afari Bampoe II Banmuhene of Akuapem, sorry, I don't know his traditional functions as 'Banmuhene' . I must be honest. I have been handling matters more personal to him than his duties as a traditional ruler.
I will concede that the Banmuhene is NOT the final authority on the customs and history of the people of Akuapem ‒ and, in fact, he (Banmuhene) only had a chat with me in my office. He was nowhere near those chiefs and Abrewatia who came to engage me as lawyer, and he was NOT a witness in the courtroom battle. Please, the Banmuhene is not an issue in this debate.
The crucial issue in this debate is that what is the role of the queen mother when it comes to selection of a chief in Akuapem?
Since the passage of President Nkurmah's LI 32, the norm, the custom, the law in Akropong is that when the stool becomes vacant, succession is by rotation among the three named ruling houses – Nketia, Ama Ogyaa and Sekyibea.
Is it not beautiful that during the crisis in Akuapem, nobody from Nketia or Ama Ogyaa ruling houses ever raised a finger? They know it is not their turn. It was a local derby among the Sekyibea Ruling House.
Now is it not beautiful that the custom is that when it is the turn of a ruling house, the selection must be made by the leader of the females called Abrewatia? How can the queen mother, coming from a different ruling house, know the preference of the subject ruling house?
In fact, the queen mother cannot secretly call the Abrewatia and ask her for a nomination. The law is that she must send a delegation – made up of only the Asonahene and the Kodomasehene or their accredited representatives. The queen mother cannot call the famous lawyer from Akropong, Kwame Akuffo, an old Achimotan and son of former head of state, General Akuffo and say “you are a noble man, so I am sending you to the Abrewatia…….” No! Custom says only the Asomahene and the Kodomasehene.
Now when the Abrewatia gives the name, they are only messengers, post office almost, to carry the name to the queen mother who then announces at a meeting of the 11-member kingmakers' conclave that this is the name from the ruling house. The kingmakers, including the queen mother, will then each express an opinion – “he is an ex-convict”, he is a divorcee”, “he is this, and that……” The power to vet and accept or reject the nominee is the sole preserve of the kingmakers, where majority carries the vote.
I am not an indigene of Akuapem, but I challenge anybody from the Akuapem royal family to contest what I have related above.
By Nkrabeah Effah-Dartey