I don't know much about the Ghanaian publication called “Public Agenda,” but whatever the nature and general contents of its journalistic fare may be, its most recent editorial titled “Another Ashanti-Akyem Rivalry” did not impress me in the least (Ghanaweb.com 10/12/07). And I am also quite certain that most Ghanaians who read Public Agenda's afore-referenced editorial deemed the latter to be almost as good as useless!
First of all, singling out a supposed Asante and Akyem rivalry as the defining template for the raging struggle to replace outgoing President John Agyekum-Kufuor, did a great and unpardonable disservice to Ghanaian journalism and, particularly, the history of our beloved country's geo-cultural politics as a whole. And here, also, we must hasten to point out that “rivalry,” per se, is not as bad a phenomenon as the Public Agenda editorialist sought to cast it. For constructively appropriated, rivalry could foster the kind of healthy competition that Ghana appears to be sorely lacking, and which has ensured the rapid and enviable advancement of such industrialized democracies as Japan, the United States and Western Europe.
Indeed, in the absence of a salutary spirit of rivalry, what almost invariably results is virtual socioeconomic and cultural stasis. And the latter state of affairs may be seen to partially account for the snail-pace advancement of our nation-state.
Secondly, the Public Agenda's editorialist's rather facile attempt to fault the fact of six of the New Patriotic Party's presidential aspirants coming from the Eastern Region as being likely to gravely undermine Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo-Addo's shot at the presidency, is, proverbially speaking, neither here nor there. And we are reasonably inclined to surmise that the Public Agenda's editorialist is suffering from at least two serious diseases, namely, that of acute ignorance of the ethnic and cultural diversity of the Eastern Region; and the even more deadly disease of a woeful lack of an appreciable understanding of the historical relationship between Okyeman and Asanteman.
On the latter score must be promptly observed the fact that were the Public Agenda's editorialist's assertion, regarding an internecine rivalry between Akyems and Asantes valid in practice, the reigning Asantehene would not have opted to establish a conjugal relationship with a Ghanaian woman of Akyem-Abuakwa extraction. Even more importantly must also be stressed the verifiable historical fact that Otumfuo Osei-Tutu II, the substantive, or reigning, Asantehene is not the first or even second or third Asante paramount king to marry an Akyem woman, or princess, for that matter.
The practice dates as far back as the cradle of the Asante Empire itself, between the mid-1600s and the early 1700s. In those days, the “Akyem” king-consorts, or wives of the Asantehene, came from Adanse-Akorokyere, the ancestral matrix of the Ofori-Panyin Stool. And to be certain, a quite remarkable number of battles occurred between The House of Osei-Tutu Panyin and The House of Apeanin Kwaforoamoa over the former's apparently inordinate penchant for the “Akyem” (Asona) women of Akorokyere. And so genetically speaking, Asantes and Akyems are one and the same people; which is, in no historical vein, suggestive of any absence of geopolitical rivalry between the two most powerful among the approximately sixteen-to-twenty Akan supra-polities.
Needless to say, the preceding reality very much informed the massive Asante political support for Dr. J. B. Danquah, as well as the latter's landmark decision to pressure the British colonialists into maintaining the geopolitical integrity of the celebrated Asante Confederation within the geopolitical confines of a greater, modern Ghana (see Joe Appiah's The Man J. B. Danquah).
Thirdly, regarding the ethnic and cultural diversity of the Eastern Region, must be highlighted the not-so-obvious fact, at least not to the Public Agenda editorialist, that every one of the six NPP aspiring presidential candidates who were either born or hail from the Eastern Region, belongs to either a different Akan polity or ethnic group. For example, while Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo-Addo hails from Akyem-Abuakwa, Messrs. Owusu-Agyepong and Osafo-Maafo, respectively, hail from Akyem-Bosome and Akyem-Kotoku. And anybody who knows the history of the latter two Akan polities, is fully aware of the fact that the citizens of both Bosome and Kotoku are of bona fide Asante extraction (see Kofi Affrifah's The Akyem Factor in Ghana's History 1700-1875).
Couple the preceding with the fact of Mr. Dan Botwe's Anum ethnic affiliation, as well as Mr. Boakye-Agyarko's “recently discovered” half-Krobo heredity, and the patently devious and at once unpardonably sophomoric attempt by the Public Agenda editorialist to impugn the collective political acumen or savvy of the NPP's aspiring presidential candidates from the Eastern Region immediately dissolves into slush.
And to the foregoing must also be proudly recalled the fact that at least four of the celebrated Bix Six Founding Fathers of modern Ghana – namely, Messrs. Edward Akufo-Addo, William (Paa Willie) Ofori-Atta, Ebenezer Ako-Adjei, and Dr. J. B. Danquah, were all born in the Eastern Region. And here, also, must be recalled the fact that until as recently as 1967, the now-Greater Accra Region was an integral part of the Eastern Region, with Accra being the administrative capital of both the country as well as the Eastern Region. If so, then a whopping five, not four, of the Big Six Founding Fathers of postcolonial Ghana hailed from the Eastern Region. The latter was also the Ghanaian region, or province, with the highest rate of literacy during both the colonial and postcolonial eras. And with the Presbyterian Teachers' Training College (PTC) being the oldest higher educational institution in the country, the Eastern Region was also bound to produce the bulk of the proverbial cream of Ghanaian society.
Interestingly, while he has lived most of his life in the Western Region, at least as this writer recently learned from a quite reliable informant, Mr. Papa Owusu-Ankomah is another product of partly Eastern Regional extraction who has done a yeoman's job representing his Sekondi-Takoradi constituents in the Ghana National Assembly. Likewise, we must not forget to remark on the fact that although Mr. Hackman “Club House” Owusu-Agyeman was born in New Juaben, in the Eastern Region, in terms of ethnic affiliation, Mr. Owusu-Agyeman is a bona fide Asante.
In sum if, for instance, one recognizes the fact that only three of the most prominent aspiring New Patriotic Party presidential candidates appear to hail from the Asante Region, this may largely be due to the fact that our incumbent president, Mr. J. A. Kufuor, is also of Asante descent. Thus it may be purely out of a realistic sense of justice and fair play that many more Asantes have been restrained from entering the quadrennial race for the Osu Castle.
Finally, there is also this myth regarding President Kufuor having used his powerful office to project the status of the Asantehene at the expense of the Okyenhene. Needless to say, this is pure hogwash; for both the Okyenhene and the Asantehene have well-established institutional prominence which predates the postcolonial era. And while, indeed, both overt and insidious attempts have been made in the recent past by some Ghanaian governments to seriously vitiate and, perhaps, even abolish the august institution of Chieftaincy itself, the latter, which is inextricably integral to the survival of indigenous Ghanaians as a civilized people, has admirably withstood the treacherous vagaries of time.
Ultimately, just as President Kufuor has admirably steered clear of Chieftaincy partisanship, unfounded allegations and criticisms notwithstanding, a President Akufo-Addo Government is bound to even more vigorously pursue the same course of action. And here also must be observed the significant fact that preserving the indispensable institution of the traditional Ghanaian monarchical system, is not the same as unduly promoting the parochial interests of individual chieftains or monarchs.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English and Journalism at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana” (iUniverse.com, 2005). E-mail: [email protected]
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