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17.07.2005 Feature Article

Re: Asantehene Misses His Major Royal Appointment

Re: Asantehene Misses His Major Royal Appointment
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A publication culled from the Evening Standard, London's evening newspaper and published on Ghanaweb with the above heading, has attracted widespread criticism and indignation from readers since it's appearance on July 14, 2005. This rejoinder is to give further vent to the views expressed on the matter on SIL (Say It Loud), Ghanaweb's Opinion forum. The title of the publication is in and of itself controversial – “Asantehene Misses His Major Royal Appointment” is closely followed in a subscript by “African King Misses His Royal Appointment”. A subscript in a caption normally expresses a powerful underlying or subtle meaning which an author uses to reinforce the main caption; it may also be used in a sharply antithetical sense, or metaphorically, to high-light a contrast or contradiction. In the publication under discussion, the two titles are virtually the same, except that the first title is more specific about which “African King” missed his appointment. The main caption alone would have been sufficient.

The more problematic portion of the publication however, is the first part of the second paragraph which reads thus: “Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the King of Ghana [emphasis mine] and head of the Asante people, had expressed an interest in watching The Open when he picked up an honorary degree at Glasgow University in 2001 with Prince Charles”.

First, this sentence is factually incorrect. Otumfuo Osei Tutu II is not the King of Ghana. In fact, Ghana is a Republic and not a Monarchy. Otumfuo Osei Tutu II is the King of Asante [emphasis mine], one of many tribes in Ghana; he does not exercise or possess any extended monarchical authority or power beyond his traditional jurisdiction or over any of the other tribes in Ghana. The only person vested with power to run the affairs of state directly or through appointees is the President of the Republic of Ghana, duly elected by citizens every four years through a general election. To be fair, I have no personal knowledge of any claims of national authority on the part of the Asantehene. However, in my view, this publication puts a clear flashpoint between the President's statutory authority and the Asantehene's rather limited tribal authority. The Asantehene does not in any capacity exercise the powers of the President of Ghana, not even in a de facto sense, unless the President expressly requests the Asantehene or any King of Ghana for that matter, to perform certain assignments in a temporarily representative capacity. Only the Vice President acts with full powers of the President in the latter's absence and if both the President and his Vice are absent, the Speaker of Parliament acts with full powers of the President. Thus it is provided in our Constitution and thus sayeth the Law of the land.

It is important that the Office of the President of Ghana demands a retraction by the writer or Publisher of the article. In addition, the Asantehene's Office needs to distance itself from the factual misrepresentation in the publication; after all, it is a matter of factual record that the Asantehene did in fact miss this “Royal Appointment”, but to play the matter into such a controversy is simply malicious. If neither party reacts, there is the tendency for the publication to be misconstrued as evidence of willful malicious connivance on the part of both parties, especially in view of recent speculation about Asante “hegemonistic” interests. A strong reaction from both parties should signal to malicious third parties contemplating these interests that the Office of the Asantehene or his person is above such nonsensical effusions and out-dated interests, while leaving no doubt in readers' minds that the buck stops with the President of Ghana and no one else.

Second, the problem could also be grammar-related. The use of a definite article [the] before “King” gives specificity and uniqueness to the phrase “King of Ghana”, thus creating the impression that the Asantehene [King] wields absolute power over and above all Ghanaian Kings and Ghanaians in general, including the President. This problem could easily have been resolved by replacing the definite article [the] with an indefinite article [a] thus: “Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, a [emphasis mine] King of Ghana [emphasis mine] and head of the Asante people…”, to properly and accurately convey the following meanings:

1. Otumfuo Osei Tutu II is one of many Kings of Ghana.

2. Otumfuo Osei Tutu II is the head of the Asante people.

3. The King of Asante is not as well the Head of State of Ghana or the President of Ghana

If the problem is truly one of poor grammar, then Ghanaweb should have asked the writer to clarify the sentence, pointing out the controversy a lack of clarification such a publication was likely to create. I am certain that Ghanaweb is capable of exercising good judgment in such matters and that it will do so to the extent that its policies permit.

Which brings me to the third possibility and a number of critical questions - if the problem is not one of bad English, then was it deliberately crafted to factually misinform others? To be clear, it is not the stature of Otumfuo as King of Asante which is in question. Every King or Chief in Ghana is of high stature. Within every tribe in Ghana, traditional authority lies with the Chief or King, who has Divisional and/or Sub-chiefs under him. Across tribes, Kings are equal in stature and so are Divisional Chiefs and Sub-chiefs. The National House of Chiefs recognizes this and any acts which deliberately misrepresent this fact are malicious.

Was the part of the publication under discussion meant to willfully foist a parochial reputation of supremacy of the Asante King over other Ghanaian Kings and on the general Ghanaian populace and thus, misinform foreigners as well? The argument that Westerners are prone to generalizations about Africa is a lame excuse for such a serious case of misrepresentation concerning a very important personality such as the Asantehene is. If we are informed enough about the tendency of such generalizations, then by the same token, whoever penned this publication or spoke to the Writer ought to have paid particular attention to the tendency of Westerners to generalize about Africa, and thus communicated clearly and precisely.

Is this a genuine mistake borne out of ignorance or the Devil's Printer? Given the stature of the Asantehene, it is almost inconceivable that he or his spokesperson(s), (themselves Ghanaians who are well versed in Ghana affairs), would be so ignorant as to misrepresent the facts as published; I dare say they will not do so willfully either.

Finally, the publication is more about British sports and olympic officials, than it is about the Asantehene's meeting with G8 officials. The caption has nothing to do with a greater part of the publication. Perhaps greater focus on the Asantehene's work with G8 leaders would have given justification as to why the King would rather miss sight-seeing for serious discussions bordering on economic development, poverty and debt relief for Ghanaians. Regrettably, I have to again ask, whether this publication was merely a cheap public relations stint (by a narrow-minded writer or malicious third party, with no authorization whatsoever to speak for the august Asantehene or his Office), aimed at putting the Asantehene in the headlines, when I think that the Asantehene could command front page news merely by his serious engagement with G8 Ministers? Whatever the intentions are for such a farcical publication, it should be clear to the writer(s) by now that this publication is deserving of the indignation expressed so far by Ghanaians all over the world. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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