The pain and struggle that a man experiences when he attempts to gather spit from a dried throat mostly results in a momentary cough that he did not anticipate. If you are surprised to read from me (a man in solitude), it is because my throat is visibly dried and I have to endure a dry cough over the happenings in my Kingdom (Gonja).
I decided to withdraw from writing and speaking about the Gonja Kingdom for very personal reasons, but to the extent that representations are made on our behalf by our palaces especially the Jakpa Palace (the embodiment of the Gonja People), I, and every Gonjalander, has the responsibility to speak to the issues that ensue as a result, even where the architecture of the chieftaincy institution does not observe the principle of democracy. To that extent, I wish to humbly resume from my break and speak to the rumbling and tumbling in the Kingdom.
Jakpa founded this Kingdom on the annals of unity, and this has been our strength for all this while. If there was anything that made the Gonja Kingdom great, it was because a brother was the keeper of another. That was why when the War broke in the Kpembe traditional area in the 1990’s, the entire Kingdom was hit with an emergency to respond to. Today, can we say that the Gonja Kingdom can and will protect its own in times of need? Today, can a Gonja be proud to be identified as such given the conspicuous decay in the Kingdom?
I hardly read from the Gonja Platfroms these days, not because of pride or any selfish reasons, but because we enjoy discussing the small things and praise-singing at the expense of the bigger issues of anti-progress, poverty and backwardness that our Kingdom is saddled with. I think it is right to do a bit of comparison with our immediate neighbours, Dagbon, who just recovered from 17 years or more stagnation in respect of a head to symbolize the Kingdom. Just a little above three years after recovery, Dagbon is doing and has done far better than the Gonja Kingdom in terms of planning, organization and foresight. This is the reality that can be ascertained with verifiable variables.
Yes, I admit that politics has become the opium of the Masses. I have also taken judicial notice of the fact that Chiefs are barred from participating in ACTIVE politics as stipulated by article 276(1) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana and further given expression in the ruling of the Supreme Court of Ghana in the case of Elorm Kwami Gorni V The Attorney-General and The National House of Chiefs. Even with these constitutional limitations, some Chiefs are able to find their way in joining the political conversation and drawing meaningful development to their respective jurisdictions. The very recent case is when the Asantehene took up the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital Project as his personal project although the hospital is a public facility that lies under the care and control of the government of Ghana. That is a political decision made by a Chief that will have a multiplier effect on his subjects.When the Asantehene is respected and referred to as the most powerful King in Ghana, it isn’t solely because he is sitting on gold, but because of some of these decisions. What happened to Gonjaland?
We, the people of Gonjaland woke up yesterday, 21st November 2021, to very sad news of the visit of the Vice President, Dr. Mahmoud Bawumia, to the Jakpa Palace. Sad not because it was not necessary but the resultant activities and decisions of our representations were, in my opinion were unfortunate.
Interestingly, less than 24 hours prior to this visit, the same person was at the Gbewaa Palace and the take-away from there was an admonishment from the Yaa-Naa to the VEEP to the effect that he, the VEEP should see Mr. John Dramani Mahama as his brother and not a rival in the course of the electioneering campaign. Impliedly, the respected King of Dagbon was tasking Dr. Bawumia to engage the politics leading to the 2024 general elections with caution and not with his usual attacks on his Northern brother as he did in the run up to 2016 and 2020 general elections. That was the simple exercise that did not throw Dagbon into any morning sickness and tongue-waging in pain.
What was the take-away from our almighty own Japka Palace? A coronation session was held in which Dr. Bawumia was enskinned as the Chief of Unity. Mind you, no such coronation was done at the Gbewaa palace. The straw that broke the Camel’s back was the issue of our impending Jakpa Palace project. It was reported that the issue came up and the Vice President asked that the entire Gonjaland should go to sleep while he, singlehandedly shoulder the cost and responsibility of building a befitting Palace for the “great people of Gonja Kingdom.” This was not only an insult to the many sons and daughters of the Gonja Kingdom but a mark of sabotage, a lost of direction and purpose for the Kingdom, if I may to put it bluntly.
To start with, what was the title “Chief of Unity” meant to achieve? Were the people of Wasipe represented in such a choice of title and the coronation at large? Does Dr. Bawumia really symbolize unity in the considered opinion of the Gonja Kingdom, duly represented by the Jakpa Palace? Well, the issues in Wasipe are still lingering and if any Chief wants to use politics to conceal the pains and anguish the Gonja people sustained during the conflict in Wasipe, then we are yet to be truly represented by our chiefs. I am for peace, and particularly the case that part of my blood is Mamprusi. So, I will be the last person to fan the flames of conflict between Mamprugu and Gonjaland. But to the extent that the issues in Wasipe are not fully resolved, I must be worried that our chiefs will seek to cheaply sell our Kingdom on the altar of politics and some self-seeking personal gains.
Now, on the issue of a befitting Palace to the Kingdom, I am in pain and I can estimate the pain most Gonjalanders are going through today, that a Kingdom such as ours cannot self-finance its own palace project? What kind of embarrassment is this? That the one-time powerful Kingdom cannot build its own Palace? That it has to take a politician who is on the road hunting for weak people to devour for votes, exploit for headlines and patronize for his political agenda to want to build us a Palace? What has happened to the Gonja Kingdom?
What happened to our green forest which we have left for others to harvest our rosewood and leave us with peanuts? What about the commercial charcoal burning which has left our land devastated yet, we get next to nothing in return? If we ever wanted to destroy our forest, a reasonable reason for that destruction should be to use the proceeds to build ourselves a befitting Palace for our Yagbonwura. What about the plenty gold we mine in the Bole Traditional Area?
Today, the Asantehene could have decided to even threaten government using the Komfo Anokye Hospital Project, but he decided to adopt crowd-funding which is attracting even politicians to respond to. Are we saying the Jakpa Palace could not adopt the same strategy? What happened to the great sons like Ibrahim Mahama, Dr Clifford, the Jinapors, Professor Ahmed Nuhu Zakaria, even President John Dramani Mahama? What are we doing to ourselves?
Must we always demonstrate to the world that we are a people who choose the shortest and convenient means to glory? I am sure if we needed politicians to build a palace for us, the 7 MPs from Savannah Region can take that project and collectively execute on time. And I am too sure that if the palace should respectfully contact Ibrahim Mahama, he will swiftly respond without delay. But here is a Kingdom that feels that deliberately recognizing its own and attracting them is a waste of time so, the easiest means to make hay is to put the Kingdom up for auction so that the highest bidder becomes its crowned prince.
I have not recovered from the shock and pain from the brouhaha that greeted the enskinment of President John Mahama at the Bolewuras Palace as “the Chief of Truth’ in August 2020. This was a royal of the Kingdom, in fact, from the Bole traditional area that has the royal blood and the traditional right to rise to a Bolewura and the Yagbonwura ultimately yet, he was humiliated and embrassed by his own people using the political stroke without blinking. An enskinment, a denial and all the embarrassments are yet to be explained to us. Well, you are welcome to Gonjaland.
When last did the Jakpa Palace contemplated enskinning John Mahama for any good reason? When was the last time the Kingdom thought about inviting Ibrahim Mahama to offer him a chieftaincy title in order to bait and attract his attention back home? So, we feel he should just come invest his money and in the end it will be this same cycle of embarrassment? Even fathers nowadays respectfully request the services of their own children using modern approaches and not the old-age mentality that they must at all cost take up some cast-in-stone responsibilities. Some thinking needs to go into the Kingdom’s approach in getting its own to identify with us. It takes tact as Dagbon is currently doing.
Now, to the Jakpa Palace, the Gonja Traditional Council and all the chiefs and elders who partook in the decision to enskin Dr. Bawumia and to sell our Palace Project to him to silently embarrass John Mahama, these were some of the issues that the teeming youth and like-minded Gonjalanders wish you put before the Vice President:
- The Vice President inaugurated the Savannah Regional House of Chiefs in September 2020. As a consequence, he cut the sod for the construction of the Savannah Regional House of chiefs Office Complex and promised it was going to be completed in 12 months. Its been three years and counting and not even a block is laid. We expected the palace to ask him why.
- Dr. Bawumia made a promise in 2018 that the Damongo water project had been approved and was going to commence that same year. President Nana Addo in the same year made the same promise and in addition, promised 10 mechanized boreholes as a stop-gap measure pending the construction of a comprehensive and modern water project. As we speak, our MP, Hon Samuel Abu Jinapor has been drawing contaminated water from a deserted dam for us to drink while waiting for nothing. We are being deceived with a so called water project which is never in the like of what was promised on that day in July, 2020 when the sod was cut for the water project at the Damongo town park. As a resident of Damongo now, we expected the Yagbonwura and his council of advisors to ask the right questions in respect of the Damongo Water Project.
- On April 4, 2021, Dr. Bawumia promised the chiefs and people of Wasipe that work on the Daboya Bridge on the White Volta was to commence that same year. He made this promise at the instance of the Bolewura in Bole. Its been almost 3 years down the drain, not even a responsible explanation has been offered the people of Gonjaland as to why the project has not commence. Is the Jakpa Palace worried about this development?
- The Busunu-Daboya road project was abandoned by Dr. Bawumia and his government for well over 7 years. It has become an annual ritual that when it rains, the road gets washed away and the people of Wasipe have to make do with a temporary closure of movement of people and goods. Coincidentally, the NPP Savannah Regional Chairman and the Regional Secretary are from Wasipe. What do they tell the Vice President during their quiet moments? And if they are afraid to speak truth to power because of what they will personally get into their pockets, what about our chiefs? Is the Jakpa Palace aware of the deliberate abandonment of this road project which started by President John Mahama in 2016?
- The Doli Bridge has suffered a collateral damage some few months ago. As we speak, heavy vehicles from and to the Upper West Region are using the Sawla-Fufulso road as an alternative route, resulting in the fast wearing out of the 147.5km Fufulso-Sawla road. Meanwhile, the small Doli Bridge which should not take up to a month for a serious government to reconstruct is taking several months to complete. Was the Bolewura in the palace when the Vice President was enskinned? Is he interested in the development of his traditional area?
- The Fufulso-Sawla road is wearing out, especially the Laribanga-Sawla stretch. The money left for project defect liability period cannot be accounted for, and the people are left to suffer on this road. What happened to the promise made by President Nana Addo in 2019 that a contractor was moving to site to repair the damaged portions of this road? Couldn’t the palace ask this questions?
- The 60-bed Salaga Hospital Project is crying for attention. Meanwhile, we have great sons daughters from Kpembe traditional area who are part of this government including the Kpembewura, who at a point could predict election results. Do our chiefs still care about the health needs of the people of the Kpembe traditional area?
- The people of Damongo over the period have to make do with an ailing District Hospital which has become a “death trap” other than a health service provider it is supposed to be, because of partly the issue of management and other internal arrangements. Let nobody blame the Catholic Church here, but all of us as a people especially our MP, Hon Abu Jinapor who represent us in government. What happened to the promise of a Regional Hospital in the agenda 111 projects? Couldn’t the Yagbonwura and his elders ask the relevant questions in respect of this issue?
- The Tamale-Salaga-Mankango road project was hurriedly varied and the contract taken from Ibrahim Mahama because he was said to be the brother of President John Mahama. As we speak, the project has been abandoned and the stretch between Kabache through Salaga to Mankango is in a bad state. Between this project and a palace which one should the Vice President be interested in? Couldn’t the palace remind Dr. Bawumia about this road other than literally “begging” for alms we can raise by ourselves?
- The Vice President promised the people of Laribanga an Islamic Senior High School. A school building which was funded by GETFund is left to rot with rodents and weeds conducting their night services in as we speak. At least, the palace could remind Dr. Bawumia that the school has not been inaugurated, and my people in Laribanga will applaud the Palace and its counsellors.
I can go and on with even a Secondary School supposed to be built in Kusawgu and named after him, Dr. Mahmoud Bawumia. All of the above are left unattended to and the only thing that warranted the attention of the Jakpa Palace and the chiefs of Gonjaland when they are offered a golden opportunity with Vice President is an enkinment which they will never do his direct opponent, Mr. John Dramani Mahama, and painfully begging him to build a palace for the Kingdom.
I hold this personal reservation that the stagnation of Gonjaland is not the cause of any chief as we are made to believe. Today, some people point accusing fingers at Buipewura Jinapor, Alhaji Afuli and some others. Let me say that the problem of the land has never been about these personalities, but about an architecture that is set up to target the progress of its own people which will at all times be exploited by those who are put in charge. Today, some of the people who accused Buipewura Jinapor, Alhaji Afuli and others of sabotaging the progress of Gonjaland are now in charge and supervising its worse form and even introducing new elements. I express this opinion without any prejudices or personal interest in anybody or any institution. But the fact is that, the chiefatincy institution is corrupt and designed to sabotage its own people and until there is a deliberate overhaul, this will always be the outcomes we will be greeted with.
Here is it, John Dramani Mahama will remain the royal of Gonjaland by birth and not manually designation by any person. With or without the support of the Kingdom, if God says he is the next President, he will surely be. Lest we forget, one is only comfortable eating from a pot that his contribution has resulted in the cooking of the proverbial fowl. If Gonjaland think John Mahama does not deserve its support, let it be emphasized that Dagbon has opened its arms to take him as an adopted son; Bono has already taken him as their in-law and son; Volta has taken the lead to show him love; Upper West is in the waiting list to accept him as a real son.
I dare say that, if John Dramani is being chased from Accra, Gonjaland is not the home he can run to. In fact, the Kingdom will be ready to hand him over to his adversaries without asking for a reward in return. I am back to my cave in the Laribanga Mountains. Shalom!!!
By Issifu Seidu Kudus Gbeadese
(Youth Imam from Laribanga)