The good people of Dagbon and a pensive nation anxiously await the next move by the Committee of Eminent Chiefs handling the traditional aspect of the Dagbon dispute. The Committee is currently reviewing the Supreme Court ruling on the Yendi Skin Affairs, as well as reports of all the commissions including the Azu Mate Korle Commission, into the Yendi Skin matters. Keen and avid spectators of the Dagbon saga are, by now, fully informed about the latest bone of contention and the principal impediment to the ongoing peace process.
Nonetheless, I intend to recount the current stalemate and give a brief insight into what the Committee of Eminent Chiefs are currently reviewing. I will reserve judgment for the Eminent Chiefs, but will attempt to provoke intellectual dialogue on the way forward. I must state from the outset that my discussion here will be strictly limited to the “traditional aspect” of the peace process. I am fully cognizant and highly appreciative of the significance of the “criminal aspect” of the Dagbon dispute. It is my fervent conviction that justice shall one day be delivered to the families of the victims.
The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, chairman of the Committee of Eminent Chiefs, announced a deadlock in the peace process after close to six hours of deliberation with the contesting Abudus and Andanis. The two parties took entrenched positions over the enskinment of a regent. This current deadlock came only days after the two families agreed on a program from the Kuga Na and the Andani Family to bury the late Ya Na Yakubu Andani II. Government released funds to the Andani Family to finance the burial program and security forces were deployed to the Dagbon traditional area to ensure security. However, the Andani family renege on their promise to bury the late King and dutifully informed the Eminent Chiefs of their decision. Among other reasons, the Andani family demanded the right to enskin a regent after the burial of the late King. They also raised the issue of traditional regalia that are necessary for the burial rites. The enskinment of a regent has pan out to be the sticking point in the peace process.
In making the case for the Andani Family in Kumasi, the Gukpegu Gbon-Lana, Ziblim Abdulai, reminded the Committee of Eminent Chiefs that the Bolin-Lana could not be recognized as a regent because his father, the late Na Mahamadu Abudulai, was destooled as a result of a Supreme Court ruling. The Andanis further contend that the enskinment of Na Mahamadu Abudulai was not done according to custom and he could, therefore, not be recognized as a chief. The Abudus, on their part, insist that the late Na Mahamadu Abudulai was a former Ya-Naa and that his first male child, the Bolin-Lana is qualified as a regent. As the two families squabble over whether the Bolin-Lana is a qualified candidate for the position of a Regent by virtue of his late father, Na Mahamadu Abudulai, considered as a former Ya-Naa, it is gratifying that the Committee of Eminent Chiefs are taking all the time in the world to examine the historical and legal documents on the same issue. Among other documents, the Committee will be reviewing the last two working legal and executive instruments on the Yendi Skin Affairs. These are the December 17, 1986 Supreme Court ruling on: Yendi Skin Affairs; Yakubu II v Abudulai and the August 14th, 1987 Memorandum of Agreement on the Yendi Skin Dispute.
It is instructive to note that the above mentioned Supreme Court ruling was necessitated by an earlier ruling by an Appeal Court recommending the deskinment of Ya-Na Yakubu Andani II and the re-enskinment of Mahamadu Abudulai as the Ya-Na. The Supreme Court in its wisdom set aside the judgment and orders of the Court of Appeal and restored the findings of the Ollennu Committee on the Yendi Skin Affairs. The Supreme Court, in its ruling, also ordered that:
1. that the rotation system must be scrupulously observed, that is to say that after the incumbent Na Yakubu II of the Andani family, the next occupant should be from the Abudulai family in keeping with the rotatory system;
2. that in accordance with the Dagomba Constitution only sons of former Ya-Nas should be appointed to the gate skins of Savelegu, Karaga and Mion;
3. that having regard to the Dagomba Constitution that deskinment is unknown in Dagomba, all persons who have ever occupied the Nam of Yendi shall without regard to how they ceased to be Ya-Na be regarded as former Ya-Nas. (emphasis mine). Consequently, their sons do qualify for appointment to the gate skins of Savelegu, Karaga and Mion;
4. To give effect to the rotation system all three gates should not be occupied by one family.
The Committee of Eminent Chiefs is also taking a critical review of a Memorandum of Agreement on the Yendi Skin Dispute. The Memorandum of Agreement was between the Reconciliation Committee created by the PNDC Government, Representatives from the Andani family and Ya-Na Yakubu Andani II, and Representatives from the Abudu family. The Memorandum of Agreement was secured by the PNDC Government to ensure the acceptance of and compliance with the terms of the aforementioned Supreme Court Judgment in their entirety and true spirit. The significance of the Memorandum of Agreement for our purpose is the fact that it was the first documented mutually agreed working instrument between the above named parties (Abudus and Andanis) on the Yendi Skin Dispute. The agreement was devoid of the legal wrangles and antics of court room lawyers. Most significantly, the Memorandum of Agreement was blessed by the august signature of the overlord of Dagbon, Ya-Na Yakubu Andani II. On the issue of Ex Ya-Na Mahamadu Abudulai, the Memorandum of Agreement stated that:
“On the death of Ex Ya-Na Mahamadu Abudulai, he should be accorded the full funeral rites of a Ya-Na in the light of the Supreme Court's Ruling of 17th December, 1986”.
True to his word and signature, the late overlord of Dagbon, Ya-Na Yakubu Andani II, complied with the PNDC Government's request to bury the late Mahamadu Abudulai in the sacred room of the Gbewaa Palace (katini duu). Other signatories to the Memorandum of Agreement include the then PNDC Regional Secretary, Alhaji Huudu I. Yahaya on behalf of the Government and B.A. Yakubu, Rtd. Inspector General of Police and Ex Gushiegu-Na for the Abudu family. It is the prayer of every peace loving dagomba and indeed the entire nation that God shall bless the three Eminent Chiefs with all the wisdom, patience and understanding that is needed to find a working solution to this protracted family dispute. A solution that is not only acceptable to the feuding families, but one that will stand the test of time and sustainable for posterity and generation unborn. It is not for me, or anyone for that matter, to pass judgment on the dispute base on the aforementioned evidence. The Committee of Eminent Chiefs has at its disposal tons of evidence on the dispute to review. The Ghanaian public, and Dagombas in particular, however deserve every bit of factual and historical information on the dispute as they continue to pray for the Eminent Chiefs. It is hoped that the Committee of Eminent Chiefs will enjoy the moral and spiritual support of all parties as they embarked on the arduous task of finding a noble solution to the dispute. The esteem people of Dagbon are currently engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of factional conflict among them. It is my hope that sooner or later, all the people of Dagbon will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. I refuse to accept the view that Dagombas are so tragically bound to the starless midnight of disunity and conflict that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired souls new strength as we continue our forward stride toward a peaceful and developed Dagbon Kingdom. I respectfully withhold comments on the way forward pending the outcome of the Asantehene led Committee of Eminent Chiefs review process. It is only prudent that nothing is said at this moment to prejudice the process. I, however, entreat all Dagombas with factual and historical information backed by existing documented evidence to share same with the good people of Ghana. Ziblim Iddi Atlanta, Ga. U.S.A. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.