05.11.2007 General News

Witch Tree D-Day

05.11.2007 LISTEN
By Daily Guide

The Ghana Highway Authority (GHA) has up to today to meet the demands of the chiefs of Ofankor before a tree in the way of the Achimota-Ofankor portion of the Accra-Nsawam road could be cut to allow for construction works.

They therefore put an injunction on it until necessary rites had been performed to appease the gods.
Attempts to pull down the 'spiritual' tree two weeks ago led to serious confrontations with the custodians taking exception to what they described as attempt to obliterate tradition.

The chiefs, in a letter dated October 29, 2007 and signed by Nii Ashitey Tetteh, Chief Linguist of the Asere Traditional Council, to GHA, demanded three cattle, three sheep, six fowls, 12 crates of eggs, six pieces of calico, 12 tubers of yam, a gallon of palm oil, six tins of maize, a carton of schnapps, a carton of whisky, two drums of akpeteshie, kpele, Asafo drums as well as ¢100 million cash for the performance of 'olila rituals' before they would allow the tree to be felled.

The letter was addressed to Bonney Acquah of the GHA, giving today, November 5, 2007 as deadline for the submission of the items.

The GHA therefore stepped up negotiations to remove the obstacle for the continuation of work on that stretch of road.

'Prof' Amidu Sabo Azeez, who started cutting down the tree which is said to be the abode of three deities and could therefore not be cut down by anybody, was stopped by a group of angry Ofankor youth.

The youth, beating war drums, accused the Nigeriene witch-hunter resident at Suhum of illegally entering their shrine and cutting down the sacrificial tree without seeking permission from the chiefs and elders of the town. He was later asked to pacify the gods and the tree which was about 80 per cent chopped-off.

Last Tuesday, officials of the GHA, supervisors of the project, and a group of senior police officers met with the chiefs and elders of the Ofankor community, in a bid to resolve the impasse and allow the road works to continue.

The meeting was to plead with the chiefs and elders to reconsider the demands for the pacification of the gods to allow the tree to be finally cut down.

In an interview with Norbert Quarmor, Director of Public Affairs at GHA in Accra, said the unfolding saga was the revelation of the realities of the country's culture.

He said negotiations were still ongoing and he believed that a satisfactory agreement which would be accepted by both parties would be reached on or before the deadline to allow the project to continue.

He disclosed that Prof Azeez, the witch-hunter who started it all, was not contracted by GHA but was invited by the Chinese contractors when he (Azeez) offered to fell the tree, which is becoming the stumbling block to the road project, free of charge.

According to him, there could be no diversion from the tree, which is directly in the middle of the road. “That is why we are negotiating with the chiefs to reduce the items so that we can forge ahead quickly,” he emphasized.

When asked whether the delay the 'witch-tree' saga was causing would not result in extra cost in the project, Mr Quarmor explained that as in all other projects, incidentals like this had always been taken care of, hence would not add any further cost to the road construction.

He was optimistic that the Ofankor chiefs and elders would soften their stance for the timely continuation of the project. He could however not confirm whether the witch-hunter would be called to finish the work he had started or someone else would finish it.

However, in an earlier interview with DAILY GUIDE, the Chief Linguist of Ofankor, Nii Ashitey Tetteh indicated that no 'medicine man' would be needed to cut down the tree once the rituals have been performed.

By Mike Avickson