23.06.2005 Feature Article

Dagbon Reconciliation: Sharubutu is sincere but …

Dagbon Reconciliation: Sharubutu is sincere but …
23.06.2005 LISTEN

The National Chief Imam, Nuhu Sharubutu was reported to have appealed to the Abudu and Andani Families to consider what happened to the Ya Na and the 40 others as the will of Allah. This appeal was made when the American Ambassador to Ghana visited him.

As the spiritual head of the Muslim community in Ghana, and Dagombas being overwhelmingly Muslims, one cannot doubt the sincerity of the appeal and its appropriateness to the audience. Under certain circumstances, this appeal would have been moving enough to water down the temperament of the two families, especially, the Andani family who on several occasions in the past is known for that. This time round, Imam, the gravity of the crime against the Andani family is so piercing in the heart and the wanton manner in which the agenda that precipitated the crime is so tenaciously pursued without the slightest remorse that, for once, there is every logic to fight back to protect Dagbon tradition, restore the independence of Dagbon state and respect for rule of law.

For the National Chief Imam to appreciate why the Andani Family cannot let this matter to be swept under the carpet, I will catalogue a number of schemes the Abudus in the past worked out to eliminate the Andani Gate from ascending to the Yendi throne. But for the truth that the Andani family always stands for and the belief that the Almighty Allah always support the truth, one would have been wondering why the Andani family has managed to survive up to today.

Sang Dali: After the funeral of Na Andani II (founder of the Andani Gate) in 1899, Na Dahmani succeeded as Ya Na. This was the time of European colonization and Na Andani had been resisting the Germans and denying them entry into Dagbon. The Abudu family under the leadership of Na Alhassan (then at Karaga) sought the assistance of the Germans from Sansane Mongu in Northern Togo to chase Na Dahamani out of Yendi. The eldest son of Na Andani II, Tugu Lan Iddi was made the chief of Savelugu and members of the Andani family en-mass were on their way to Savelugu in Western Dagbon and had reached Sang. The Abudus then sold the Germans a story that the children of the King who resisted their settlement in Yendi had rallied to attack Yendi again. A combined force of the Germans and Abudus attacked the Andanis in the village of Sang, about 30 miles from Yendi. Tugu Lan Iddi and some 100 others were massacred and leader of the Abudu, Karaga Na Alhassan was then made the Ya Na. This episode became known as Sang-Dali in Dagbon history. The new Na Alhassan then dis-skined Mion Lana Salifu and put his younger brother Kalim in his place. He also appointed his uncle Bukari as Yo Na (Chief of Savelugu) in place of the deceased Iddi. When Bukari died he appointed another younger brother Mahama Piegu as Chief of Savelugu. He also appointed his cousin Bukari Narkaw as the chief of Karaga. There was thus not one son of Andani II on a Gate Skin.

The 1948 Illeagal Selection Committee: By 1948 ascension to the Yendi throne by the two families was by a system of rotation the Ya Na was selected by a team of Traditional King Makers of four (4) elders headed by the Kuga Na did the selection of a Ya Na.

The first generation of educated Dagombas found themselves in the colonial administration by 1948. Some of them particularly the children of chiefs felt left out of the ruling class because of the process of selecting chiefs. Such literate Dagombas called for election of sub-divisional chiefs by voting. Ascension to the Yendi throne then limited to the sons of Ya Nas was to be extended to include the grandsons of Ya Nas. The Ya Na himself to be selected by an eleven member illegal Selection Committee of Divisional Chiefs which included the four members of the traditional Selection Committee (see list below).

The Illegal Selection Committee of 1948 1 Gushei Na 2 Tolon Na 3 Yelzol Lana 4 Kumbun Na 5 Nanton Na 6 Kuga Na 7 Gulpke Na 8 Zohe Na 9 Sunson Na 10 Tugrinam 11 Gagbin Dana

This 'democratization' programme never materialized. The only aspect of it that remained was the Eleven Member illegal Selection Committee “not because of its democratic connotations but because it was useful to a group of 'dynastic politician'” (courtesy The Lions of Dagbon by M. Staniland). Indeed it was useful in the hands of the Abudu Gate who have been benefactors. This was because most of the divisional chiefs on the illegal selection committee installed by the Abudu by virtue of their occupation of the Yendi Throne for the greater part of the period between 1900 and 1954. The illegal Selection Committee of 1948 was used to ensure that only the Abudus were selected to occupy the Yendi throne. The Committee was not used in 1948 to select Na Mahama Bila. Instead, it was the traditional illegal Selection Committee of Kuga Na that did the selection. The Abudus never saw anything wrong with that. But in 1954 it was the illegal Selection Committee of 1948 that selected Na Abudula Bila, another Abudu, to succeed his father Na Mahama Bila. The Andanis protested that the selection that it was uncustomary and violated the rotational system of succession.

In 1969 it was the 1948 illegal Selection Committee again attempted to select Mahamadu Abudulai, another Abudu, to succeed his father. The Andanis again protested that the selection was uncustomary and violated the rotational system of succession, as was the case with his father in 1954.

The genesis of the crisis we have today dates back to 1954 and 1969 when the 1948 illegal Selection Committee was used illegally to select Ya Na, a strategy fashioned to eliminate the Andani Royal Family from access to the Yendi throne.

The Rotation System of Succession and Its Violation: As was pointed out earlier, by 1948 it was clear that succession to the Yendi throne by the two families was on rotational basis; this was proved to be the case for a period of at least 100 years between 1845 and 1945. Below is the chronological order in which the two families occupied the throne as Ya Na between 1845 and 1945.

Na Abudulai I (Abudu) 1849 - 1876 Na Andani II (Andani) 1876 - 1899 Na Alhassan I (Abudu) 1899 - 1917 Na Bukari Jia Andani (Selected as Ya Na by the Traditional King Makers in 1917 and reconfirmed in 1920 but did not act due to infirmity) Na Abudulai II (Abudu) 1917 – 1938 Na Mahama II (Andani) 1938 - 1948 Na Mahama III (Abudu) 1948 - 1953 It is the wanton subversion by the Abudus of this clear, fair and equitable system of ascension to the Yendi throne that has brought Dagbon to the crossroads today. The illegal Selection Committee of 1948 was used to subvert this system and to commit fraud on the people of Dagbon. The scheme ensured that only Abudus were selected to the throne. Despite this the Andanis demonstrated good faith and brotherliness in their dealings with the Abudus. After the death of Na Alhassan in 1917 Savelugu Na Bukari-Jia (Bofo) from the Andani gate was selected as Ya Na. He however asked the regent of Na Alhassan, (Later Na Abudu Bila) to take care of the throne on his behalf. This was because Bofo was very old and blind while Eastern Dagbon was then under German rule and Western Dagbon as a Protectorate under the British. So the Abudu regent became the de facto Ya Na. Savelugu Na Bukari-Jia sacrificed his personal interest and that of the Andani family for the benefit of the Abudu family. Is it not ironical that the Abudus will rather thereafter reciprocate such a gesture not only in keeping what is rationally theirs but additionally taking by fraud what should go to the Andanis?

The L.I. 59 of 1960 and its Repeal: Disregard for the rotational system when Na Abdulai-bila was selected as Ya Na by the 1948 illegal Selection Committee to succeed his father in 1954 was a fraud against the Andanis by the Abudus beyond endurance. By the traditional system, Mion Lana Andani (Later Ya Na Andani III, father of the murdered Ya Na Yakubu Andani) should have been the Ya Na. The Andani family protested against this enskinment of Na Abudulai-bila by the illegal Selection Committee, and the case was brought before the Appeal Commissioner through the Northern Regional House of Chiefs by the traditional king makers together with some chiefs in pursuance of a peaceful alternative to resolve the conflict.

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah appointed the Opoku Afari Committee of 1960 to look into the matter and the committee's report was that Na Abudulai-bila was not selected according to custom and his selection also violated the rotational system of succession to the throne of Yendi.

There were some other reasons why his enskinment was contrary to Dagbon custom but for the sake of decorum to the Nam of Yendi the details are often left out. The Abudu family in fact did not want to put Abudulai Bago as the regent of his father, Na Mahama-bila as required by tradition. It was his nephew, Kpatinglana Ziblim, who was rather preferred to be the regent contrary to tradition. It took a joint action by the chiefs of the three Gate Skins (Karaga Na, Mion Lana and Savelugu Na) to get the colonial administrator in Yendi to ensure that Na Abudulai Bila took his rightful place as a regent.

The Committee recommended that Na Abudulai-bila be removed as a Ya Na. In order to protect the position of the Na Abudulai-bila the late Tolon Na Yakubu (one time a running mate to Victor Owusu on the ticket of PFP), who championed the cause of the Abudus at the political front and was in parliament on the ticket of the Northern Peoples Party (NPP), cross-carpeted to the ruling CPP. Indeed Na Abudulai-bila himself also publicly declared his membership of the CPP and even assumed chairmanship of the party back in Yendi.

In the circumstances Dr. Nkrumah did not find it politically expedient to press for the removal of Na Abudulai-bila as Ya Na. Instead Dr. Nkrumah came out with a solution in the form of LI. 59 of 1960. This legislative instrument allowed Na Abudulai-bila to continue as Ya Na. However, upon his death, the throne was to go to the Andani family for two successive terms to make up for the loss they had suffered. Both families agreed. The Andanis recognized Na Abudulai-bila as Ya Na. Mion Lana Andani who was denied the opportunity to perform the funeral of Na Mahama-bila got it done and peace prevailed in Dagbon. What is interesting to note is that Mion Lana Andani accepted this solution despite the fact that he was older than Na Abudulai-bila. When this fact was mentioned to him he simply said 'if I am born to be Ya Na I would live long enough to get it.' HIs faith kept him alive and truly Na Abudulai-bila died in 1967 before him, having ruled for 14 years.

Repeal of Legislative Instrument 59 (LI 59) of 1960: By virtue of the LI 59 Na Abudulai-bila enjoyed a peaceful reign with the full cooperation and support of the Andanis. Then President Nkrumah was overthrown in 1966 and Na Abudulai-bila died in 1967. The NLC having overthrown the CPP government was hostile to all that was associated with the CPP; but the Andani family was sympathetic to the CPP. Worse still for the Andani, on the ruling NLC was the B. A. Yakubu (he later became IGP) and the late Tolon Na Yakubu Tali who was also a high profile figure in the NLC government (despite that he had earlier joined the CPP in order to protect the position of Na Abudulai-bila). These two people represented Abudu interest in the NLC government.

This presented the Abudus once more with an opportunity for to display their covetousness, and quickly set in motion plans to get LI 59 repealed. This clearly indicated what their motives have been all along since 1899 when Sang-dali took place that is to consolidate their grip on the Yendi throne to the exclusion of the Andani gate. This could not be done with LI 59 still in force.

When the Abudu petitioned the NLC for the repeal of the very LI 59 from which they had benefited, they got a sympathetic hearing. A Committee was set up and headed by Justice Siriboe to find out IF THE L.I. 59 WAS IN THE INTEREST OF DAGBON. Not to the surprise of anyone, the finding was that LI 59 was alien to Dagbon custom and therefore inimical to the interest of Dagbon. Consequently it was repealed and thus ceased to be applicable when considering the successor of Na Abudulai-bila.

What is strange was the failure of the NLC to see that the petition against LI. 59 and its subsequent repeal was an immoral and an unconscionable act. The lone voice in the NLC government that could have spoken against it was lawyer Ibrahim Mahama who was then Commissioner for Information, but he was relieved of his post soon after General Ankrah was removed as Chairman of the NLC.

After the performance of the funeral of Na Abudulai-bila, the traditional King Makers under Kuga Na selected Mion Lana Andani as the new Ya Na. The remainder of the so-called Selection Committee set up in 1948 also selected the regent Mahamadu Abudulai another Abudu to succeed his father. If his selection was allowed to stay the Abudus would have occupied the Yendi throne for the third successive time since 1948 to the exclusion of the Andanis.

The 9th September 1969 Massacre: Once the Traditional King Makers headed by Kuga Na selected Mion Lana Andani and the 1948 Selection Committee selected the regent, Mahamadu Abudulai, Dagbon was once again at the cross road. Once more, a committee was set up by the NLC, headed by Nene Azu Mate Kole, investigate the matter and make recommendations. The report was announced at a time when the Progress Party of Dr. K. A. Busia had won the election but power had not yet been handed over to him as Prime Minister. Na Andani's enskinment was declared “null and void” and therefore the regent Yakubu Andani (the Ya Na who has just been murdered) was asked to vacate the palace for occupation by Mahamadu Abudulai to be enskined as Ya Na. The Andani family would not even be allowed to perform the funeral of Na Andani and move out of the Palace. At dawn on Tuesday 9th September 1969, a combined team of police and soldiers surrounded the palace. There was sudden out burst of gunfire, killing many members of the Andani family who were occupying the palace at the time. The most often quoted figure of the dead is 69. Many others were arrested and thrown into the Yendi prison. The Tampion Lana, Pishigu Lana, Karaga Na and Savelugu Na were banned from Yendi.

It will interest the general public to know that the 1969 political campaigns heighten the tension between the two royal families. They both aligned themselves to political parties to which their leading members belonged. The Abudus were associated with the Progress Party because of Tolon Na Yakubu Tali, Shani Mahama and some others. The Andanis because of Ibrahim Mahama aligned with NAL.

Within one week after the shooting, the regent Mahamadu Abudulai under heavy security guard (with a helicopter hovering above) was made Ya Na, uncustomarily, without the Kuga Na and his elders taking part in the process. This was to be the third successive time the Abudus had occupied the Yendi throne. Not even the fact that Na Andani III sat on the throne for only three months and died was enough reason to persuade the Abudus and their allies to change heart. They maintained that his funeral could not be performed as a Ya Na's funeral. The family heads met Dr Busia personally on this matter and he told them that Na Andani's funeral could only be performed at Mion (Sambu) where he was a chief before he became Ya Na. The Andanis withdrew to the background but refused to recognize Mahamadu Abudulai as Ya Na.

The Ollennu Committee: When the PP government was overthrown in 1972, the Andanis petitioned and the Ollennu Committee was set up to look into the matter once more. The Ollennu Committee report almost adopted the LI 59 of 1960. Its findings were that Na Andani III was traditionally and customarily enskined and so his funeral should be performed as that of a Ya Na and that the Andanis should continue to occupy the throne of Yendi for the second time. These were the circumstances under which the murdered Ya Na Yakubu Andani II came to the throne of Yendi in 1974, succeeding his father who reigned for 3 months.

Bolin lana Mahamadu Abudulai's purported enskinment as Ya Na was thus declared null and void by the Ollennu Committee's report and remained a common Dagbon citizen until his death in 1988. All those Mahamadu Abudulai enskined as chiefs also lost their positions principally because their enskinments were equally null and void. Among them were the former IGP B. A. Yakubu who was made the chief of Gusheigu, ex-Gulkpe Na Sandow and Nyoli Na Salifu. However B. A. Yakubu and Nyoli Na Salifu were later reinstated as part of peace initiatives to unite the two families in the late 1980s, this was after they had paid homage to the Ya Na as the Dagbon tradition demands.

Also court elders of the Ya Na's Palace who were already occupying their positions before Mahamadu Abudulai became Ya Na were by tradition expected to pay homage to Ya Na Yakubu Andani II the new Ya Na. When it was clear that some never wanted to do it, their positions as court elders had to be filled. Among those affected were the Kum-Lana Yakubu and the Zohe Limam Amadu, fathers of Malik Alhassan Yakubu (former Minister of Interior) and Alhaji Aminu Amadu respectively.

The Supreme Court (1986): The Abudus in 1984 appealed to the Court of Appeal against the Ollennu Committee's Report. The Appeal Court reversed the findings of the Ollennu committee and the Andanis also appealed to the Supreme Court and won there.

The decision of the Supreme Court confirmed the position of Ya Na Yakubu Andani II as Ya Na. Mahamadu Abudulai died in 1988 and was buried in the royal mausoleum at the Gbewa Palace after the intervention of the government of the day. It was however made clear that the funeral was not to be performed in the Gbewa Palace as Ya Na. However, since his death, the Abudus kept demanding that the Ya Na vacate the palace to allow them occupy it to perform the funeral. The Ya Na and the Andanis kicked against such demand. Never in the history of Dagbon has a reigning chief vacated his palace for the funeral of his 'predecessor' to be performed. It was the refusal of the Ya Na to vacate the palace for the Abudus to occupy and perform the funeral of the ex-Ya Na which the Abudus interpreted to mean that they were denied the opportunity to perform the funeral.

As at 1988, the two families still remained antagonists. The Abudus refused to recognize Ya Na Yakubu Andani as the King of Dagbon. Those Abudus who were bold and went forward to be enskined as chiefs by Ya Na Yakubu Andani, were boycotted and despised by the Abudus. The present Mion Lana is one such person.

In villages where the Abudus had a majority of the population, they violently resisted entry into such villages, chiefs enskined by the Ya Na. Tolon and Diari are typical examples. Major Sulemana's father seized and occupied Tolon after the funeral of Tolon Na Yakubu. However, for peace to prevail in Dagbon, the then government appealed to the Ya Na to normalize his enskinment. He therefore went to Yendi, passed through the traditional channels and paid homage to the Ya Na before he was confirmed as Tolon Na. The town of Diari is also still under the occupancy of the regent. Korli Na Mahama died about ten years ago and his eldest son is also holding on to the village as Gbong-Lana or regent.

A conscious step was taken around the late 1980s to patch up the two families. Around this time there were a number of vacant chieftaincy skins in Dagbon. Representatives of the two families met in Tamale at Regional Administration when Huudu Yahaya was the Regional Secretary and shared these vacant skins between them even though it is the prerogative of the Ya Na to decide who should be a chief in Dagbon. The Abudus got Nanton, Nyolgu, Gusheigu and some others. They were enskined as chiefs of those towns alright by Ya Na Yakubu Andani II. This gesture did not pacify the Abudus for they remained disloyal to the Ya Na.

In Dagbon today all chiefs, except the Zanduli Lana and Sagnarigu Na whether Abudu or Andani, have been enskined by the assassinated King. Ya Na Yakubu Andani genuinely did all that was humanly possible to bring peace to Dagbon. Some of the suspects implicated in his murder were Abudus whom he accepted in his palace. His adversaries were simply enemies of Dagbon and good conscience.

From the narration above, it is clear that from a very early stage of the emergence of two gates in Yendi chieftaincy, the Abudus had an objective of eliminating the Andani gate by whatever means they could lay hands on. Central to their strategy was use of violence with the assistance of manipulated third parties: The Germans did it for them in 1899; the state security did it for them in 1969 and in March 2002 the Ya Na and 40 others were murdered in broad day light under circumstances for what the state security net work cannot escape blame. The use of violence aside they have also proved to be unreliable negotiating parties.

After having benefited from the L.I. 59 of 1960 they turned round to lobby the NLC government to repeal it to their advantage. Further more after having agreed to the sharing of the vacant chieftaincy skins in Dagbon as a way of making peace, they relented on their promise after getting their fair share alright. With the above as hindsight, what mechanism will the three Eminent Chiefs and the government put in place to ensure that the Abudus do not wriggle out of an agreement to be reached in the current negotiation?

After exhibiting such a murderous desire to eliminate the Andani royal family from ascending to the Yendi throne by killing Ya Na Yakubu Andani II and 40 others, ostensibly to occupy the throne, it will amount to immorality of the highest order to entertain their bid for it. To the National Chief Imam, with all humility one can muster, this is why the Andani family for the first time, will leave no stone unturned to ensure that their interest is not walked over. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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