31.01.2022 Feature Article

A SHORT HISTORY OF KONONGO: Kwame Badu, The Unfortunate Imp in the Restitution of the Juaben BAHA Royalty

A SHORT HISTORY OF KONONGO:  Kwame Badu, The Unfortunate Imp in the Restitution of the Juaben BAHA Royalty
31.01.2022 LISTEN


Konongo, the second largest city after Kumasi in the Asante Kingdom, has made immense contribution to the development of the Kingdom. The track record of the line-up of the traditional kingship of this gold-producing city showcase Nana Maagyan, Oteng-Sarfo, Brisaa, Koor Sekyere, Isaac, through Kwabena Abedimisah, Okyei, Kwadwo Boampong, Atorbra-Amakye, to Kwame Badu, whose stool name was Nana Batafo Akyampong Nti. The Konongo Royal lineage tracks on Asona clan. The genesis of Konongo can be traced several years back and had remained a proud community in the Asante Kingdom. Several communities from near and afar traveled to Konongo to trade in palm oil and gold. The rural folklore of going to drink palm oil (kor-nom-ngo) upon which the name Konongo was derived, shows how economically active the city was. More recently, Konongo has retrograded from her initial high speed development.

Nana Maagyan’s ascension to the throne on Konongo Asona Royal lineage (circa 1850) registered sterling performance. He had a policy of open arms invitation for anyone who needed self-development in his large conurbation farmland operatives. He pursued his predecessors’ specialization of palm oil production and had large acreage of palm oil trees. He added light manufacturing and processing of palm oil in large commercial quantities for export to neighboring King Kosoko’s Dahomey, Bawule, Trechville, Moshie, Kabwe, etc. kingdoms. He created Konongo Tuesday and Friday Market Days that continue to attract millions of traders annually to Konongo until today. He exploited, mined, and created stockholding of gold nuggets which was in abundance at Konongo in both alluvial drained soils around River Owere and deep soil mining. This attracted the British colonial administration into commercial gold mining with heavy machinery in deep mining. Prior to colonial governance, Konongo had already become very rich and Nana Maagyan was the first person in the Asante Kingdom to use corrugated iron sheets to roof his brick homes. His sterling performance and wide open arms policy to visitors attracted so many travelers (batafuor) into Konongo. It is of no mistake that Kwame Badu, a descendant of the travelers, added “BATAFO” to his names.

Controversy of the BAHA feud

Twenty-four (24) years into the leadership of Konongohene Nana Maagyan, the Sagrenti (Sir Garnet Wesley) war of 1874 engulfed Kumasi and Asanteman. Juabenhene was and still is the lieutenant in the Asante strategic war formation. In preparation to take on the British forces, Nana Juabenhene abandoned the frontline war and took his family and pregnant sister (Juabenhemaa) to Konongohene Nana Maagyan for sanctuary and safekeeping of his apparent next-of-kin yet unborn while he jumped into the then thickly-forested Asante Kingdom to the war front. It is this vagabonding and fugitive characterization in some Asante chiefs like Juabenhene, that exposed the Asante King, Nana Osei Agyemang Prempeh I, to the British aggressors and fell into a prisoner-of-war status. Obaahemaa Nana Yaa Asantewaa of Edweso became extremely furious of behaviors of Juabenhene kind in the frontline chiefs and walloped them into line to follow her. The fugitive Juabenhene dumped his pregnant sister, and family members at Konongohene’s palace and disappeared through the thin air. Shortly after that, Juaben-Serwaa, as we called Juabenhene’s pregnant sister, went into labor in Konongohene Nana Maagyan’s palace. Nana Maagyan directed his wife to conduct the delivery and nursing of the afterbirth of which she did excellent work for the Juabenhemaa. Back then, BAHA—the soft frond of the dried plantain stem—was used to deliver women in labor. The spillover of the Sagrenti war beyond Kumasi affected Nana Maagyan, who also took his family to Bodom near Akyem Kusi in the Eastern Region of Ghana. When retreating, Nana Maagyan sought for safekeeping of Juabenhemaa and her newly born baby, the apparent heir to inherit uncle Juabenhene, in Juaso until the war ends and return the mother and son to Juabenhene. After the war, Asanteman accounted for heavy defeat. The king was arrested and transported to Seychelles via Sierra Leone, as possible ransom in exchange for the Golden Stool. The fugitive Juabenhene emerged from nowhere and claimed Konongo and Juaso as his “conquered” towns without going to war and lied that Konongohene serves his sister, Juabenhemaa, by uprooting BAHA. Quite interesting! This carried the penalty of Konongo losing everything including gold and other inground and extracted assets to worship Nana Juabenhene via his sister Juaben Serwaa. This has continued until today. The collection of royalties affected Konongo and Juaso alone and not any other towns within the Juaben-Konongo-Juaso triangle. Could Konongo and Juaso chiefs’ soft-heartedness, humanitarian assistance and candid show of mercy for his sister, Juaben Serwaa, render them into human bondage and servitude?

The aging Nana Maagyan died at Abodom near Akyem Kusi, but the Konongo deity, Konongo Apontuah, insisted that her children be returned to Konongo and be put to their rightful positions. [My father, Praasohene Nana Kofi Adu Asabere, named me after the Konongo deity as Kwadwo Apontuah. I abandoned the name because the school children at the primary level giggled at me as Apontuah-Kwadam, child of a deity.] On their return, they found the batafuor had taken ownership and leadership from Nana Maagyan’s core family and they started eliminating the growing young men in them who posed threats to the batafuor. Nana Maagyan did not live to witness the Juaben claim of Konongo. All the successive Konongo chiefs after Nana Maagyan made concerted efforts to reverse the BAHA royalty debacle, but unsuccessfully. It was Nana Batafo Akyampong Nti (Kwame Badu), who challenged the Juabenhene, Nana Otuo Serebuor, head-on and demanded the logic of cheating and maiming fellow Asantefuor. Nevertheless, Kwame Badu’s argument was not smartly structured. First, he antagonized himself with his own Konongoman and arrogantly refused counsel from experts in his own Konongo. Second, he had the policy of killing anyone who posed a threat to his rule. Hence, some of us ran away from Konongo into the Diaspora and left him fight a losing battle. Third, he did not have intellectual capacity and exposed himself to embarrassment and ridicule in his lone gigantic warfare. Truthfully, Kwame Badu couldn’t present facts as clarified here in the BAHA history because it would have backfired to depose him. Juabenhene capitalized on his mental inferiority and dismissed him as a wrong person to defend the righteous. Finally, he did not focus on a winning strategy. He demanded for a paramountcy (Omanhene status) from the King, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, so he could gather muscles to challenge Juabenhene, who had refused to endorse a BAHA-man to his level. The King persistently sent him to Juabenhene Nana Otuo Serebuor to settle his demands, since he has to go through Juaben before coming to the King. Juabenhene also instructed Konongohene to ask permission from his sister Juabenhemaa to meet with him since he reports to her with BAHA instead, not him. These several back and forth thrust denied Kwame Badu the Omanhene status to make any headway into the settlement of the BAHA issue.

Creation of Paramountcy or uplifting sub-chiefs to Omanhene status

The Asantehene is the only King on this universe who creates paramountcy. His Omanhene strategy has some resemblances of the British city or town mayor status. Perhaps, the British copied the Otumfuo’s paramountcy strategy of uplifting sub-chiefs or subordinates to higher levels to motivate them in playing meaningful roles in societies. This is possible because the British empire adopted several important roles from her colonies across the globe. Calling them Sirs or MBEs (member of the British Empire) brought a sense of self-esteem. Otumfuo’s Omanhene status has uplifted several chiefs in performing meaningful roles in Ghana and across the globe stretching from Trechville in the Ivory Coast, through Togoland, Benin, into the Caribbean such as the Maroons in Jamaica, Surinam, Grenadines, Barbados, St. Kitts and St. Lucia, Monserrat, and many many more. Otumfuo creates Omanhene on his critical discretionary choices of achievements of the chiefs in their service delivery to their people. Kwame Badu did not measure to that critical reward to be bestowed upon him. Had Kwame Badu developed Konongo to the appetizing heights requiring award, as it was in the policy annals of Nana Maagyan, Otuo Serebuor’s dissenting cacophony wouldn’t have mattered in Otumfuo’s decision to elevate him to the Omanhene status. Batafo Akyampong Nti died without any meaningful achievement to benefit Konongo. Kwame Badu should have abandoned his Omanhene ambitions and concentrated on the BAHA war.

While Kwame Badu had a strong case, he couldn’t frame his sentences to challenge the Juaben team which was filled with lawyers and several brilliant professionals. Juaben knows Konongo history very well and better than Kwame Badu, who assumed leadership on poor credentials and without support base. Juaben also knows that Kwame Badu wasn’t a Royal member of Konongo to be Konongohene. He was treated as uncouth boy without manners. He goes down in history as unfortunate imp in the restitution of the Juaben BAHA royalty fees on Konongo-Juaso lands. Interestingly, one gets baffled as to why Juabenhene would enstool someone he absolutely knowingly found unfit for the position, yet went along to enstool him anyway as Konongohene? Several opinions have been expressed in Kronkohene Obiri Yeboah (Kwabena Yadieya), Kwame Badu, and Juabenhene Otuo Serebuor kantaata dancing in Konongo chieftaincy games. Nevertheless, my take is that Nana Juabenhene Otuo Serebuor played smart to put a manipulable soft target Kwame Badu in an empty space as a strategy to buy time to further drain Konongo of her assets. And it worked perfectly well for him. He did brilliant work, I applaud him! Nana Juabenhene Otuo Serebuor has gained my grand respectability. He has smartly used the royalties collected from Konongo and Juaso to build a first class road network in Juaben. He also adopted Nana Maagyan’s palm oil plantation, of which Konongo is proud to see him emulate us to improve on the livelihood of another Asante community or Juaben town.

It is time to stop this erroneous grab of assets on a false pretense of owning Konongo and Juaso that is not true. The history is clear. Juabenhene’s actions have rendered the citizens of other Asante towns wallow in poverty at Konongo and Juaso. The sophistication of the 21st Century should offer a new beginning for Juaben and Juabenhene to review their income generation outlets. Konongo has put high level professionals of her citizens in place to direct the city into the 21st Century. We therefore appeal to Juabenman and Juabenhene to end all the practices of BAHA fee collection which is wrong.

Critical assessment of Konongo and Juaben

Beginning from the 1800s, before the 1874 war and beyond, Konongo was a large farming community with a chief planning expansion into new avenues for light industrial development. Konongo’s central positioning along trading pathway of essential commodities like salt, palm cooking oil, and food offered her a favorable trafficking route to the coast. Juaben on the other hand, ostracized itself from the main commercial road network far behind Ejisu into the deep forest. Juaben was a small community of family members farming for a living in the same timeframe. It is therefore disturbing to come under Juaben ownership. There is nowhere in history that the brilliant performing Nana Maagyan ever went to Juaben and Juabenhene to seek land rentals. Juaben never existed as a town in the early years of the 1800s but Konongo existed then. Juaben was a three hut family settlement that did not matter in full commercial services anywhere comparable to Konongo. The only meaningful role Juaben played in its recognition in the Asante traditional ranking is their initial acceptance to fight for Asante union (of which we recognize that). The Juaben proximity to Kumasi during the formation of the Asante Confederacy accounted for that recognition. Juaben presented men for the Ntim Gyakari Denkyira war and other wars, so also did Konongo. Further to the south of Asante Kingdom, Konongo, Obogu, Banso, Bompata, Agogo, Juansa, Juaso, and all the Asante Akyem district towns were mobilized by Konongo to prepare standing defense to defend Asanteman. It is the powerful stature of Konongo that Juabenhene got convinced to seek sanctuary for sister and unborn nephew at Konongo. Juabenhene could have gone to Edweso, Asumegya, Kumawu, Bekwai, Mampong, and many other traditionally powerful towns. But, he found Konongo safer because Konongo presented superior assets, personnel, and brilliant leadership besides Kumasi to house his sister and nephew. It beats every discerning mind as to why Konongo could be singled out in bestowing the Omanhene status. The hindrance in leaving Konongo and Juaso out of the paramountcy loop is because Juabenhene felt inferior and losing his royalty fee collection from the second most economically powerful Konongo in the Ashanti Region. Also, the 1874 war devastated Konongo. Several factors can be accounted as against Konongo. One, Nana Maagyan was displaced. Two, caretaker and unrelated travelers who had no understanding of Konongo took over. And three, Konongo assets were spread over public view and exposed for the grabs. It was then that Nana Juabenhene jumped in to take ownership of Konongo with a demand for payment of BAHA royalties.

Like Bogoso Apiatse mining disaster, Konongo is an old gold mining town sitting on a time bomb. Recent reports have signaled dangerous and precarious conditions in Konongo. The greed in the gold rush in Konongo has shown foreigners mining inside mansions at Konongo to elude security personnel from arrests. Furthermore, the 1984 mining concession to the Australian Mining Company, the Southern Cross, reported that Konongo is sitting on a water-filled hole caused by dynamite blasts over the years in deep industrial mining. The report stated that the retreating furious Italian mining company flooded the shafts in revenge over Akyeampong Government’s refusal to pay them in Ghana Government’s Yentua Policy. The Australian Southern Cross Company demanded US$200-Million to drain the water-filled trenches underneath, dry them, fix new technologically-improved mining equipment, before starting operation. The gunman Jerry Rawlings Government also refused to pay the US$200-Million demand and dashed it to Galamsey small mining operatives. Recently, one of the shafts collapsed and killed more than 20 workers in it for galamsey operations. Konongo is only between life and one dynamite blast and the entire Konongo City will be a delicatessen on Juabenhene dinner table. Are our leaders and Juabenhene aware of the report in this write up? While Batafo Akyampong Nti disappears from the dancing scene into eternity, Juabenhene Otuo Serebuor continues to collect BAHA royalty at the detriment of Konongo close to extermination.

In my book, A Short History of Konongo, I have elaborated on Konongo chieftaincy, the extraction of precious metals, industrialization, education, technology, health, finance and investments, and Konongo’s leadership in a grand Asante Akyem economic power. Konongo’s empowerment can explode into a mega-district economic powerhouse. Already, a blueprint has been designed to connect Asante Akyem with road network off the Konongo POD (like cocoa pod) to redirect and ease traffic flow from Accra to Kumasi. Second, Konongo plans on connecting Kumasi with a rail network so that commercial activities can expand and bring real developments in Asante. A rail network across Lake Bosomtwi overlooking the Asante warpath in Feyiase is potential for tourist attraction. Konongo plans on the archipelago of hotels, bed and breakfast, restaurants, sightseeing, schools and hospitals along the Konongo-Kumasi enclave. This will bring large number of tourists to visit the area at a reasonable price and good living. It will also increase the income generation of the region. Tax and income revenues will be distributed equitably to all the adjoining Asante Akyem towns. Konongo will use Nana Maagyan’s open arms strategy to reinvigorate economic resuscitation of Asante. Konongo even plans on lifting the seat of Asante Kingdom, Manhyia, to ultra-modern multi-billion dollar King’s palace overlooking Lake Bosomtwi. Dignitaries from home and abroad will have to be airlifted or travel over the lake to visit the King. The current Manhyia can be converted into tourist visits. These plans are possible because we can use my Bullion Bank strategies to leverage and monetize our extracted and inground assets to pull trillions of dollars into rewarding investments. I hope that we love ourselves as Asantefuor and work together to build a stronger Asante. Working in peace is better than war. Juaben must pay attention! There is no reason to steal from ourselves. Be part of the development because Konongo will develop.

Konongo Fordjour Nie

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