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11.07.2014 Opinion

The Bimbilla Chieftaincy Struggle: What We Must Know

By Hajia Salamatu Nantogmah Attah
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The Nanumba ethnic group geographically occupies the territory to the southeast of Dagbon, to whom they are historically and ethnically related and share similar origins and cultural traits. They are allied to the other Mole-Dagbani speaking people such as the Moshi, Dagombas and Mamprusis. However, within the kingdom are found other smaller ethnic groups such as the Konkombas, Chambas, Kotokoli, Nawuri and others who all recognise the Bimbilla Naa (King) as the paramount chief of the area and this is demonstrated by the homage all these people pay to the paramountcy since time immemorial.

The history of the founding of the Nanumba Kingdom goes back to the early days of the Dagomba Kingdom when Nanung was established shortly after Dagbong itself came into being. The traditions of the two kingdoms maintain that their founders were brothers, Ngnantambu, the founder of Nanung, being the junior of the two. The town of Bimbilla is the traditional capital of (Nanumba Kingdom) as well as the seat or the Headquarters of the Nanumba North District.

Challenge of Bimbilla Power struggle

The current Bimbilla power struggle is an intra-dynastic struggle which centres on competition for the skin of the paramountcy which became vacant after the death of Naa Abarika Attah, the last Bimbilla King in 1999. Essentially, the skin of Bimbilla, the Kingship of Nanung is reached through the two established Gates of Gbugmayili and Bangyili which should take turns to occupy a vacant Bimbilla skin. This is common knowledge to all Nanumbas and settler ethnic groups in the area. Given this established rule of alternation between the two gates, everyone knows the gate of the deceased and the next gate to take over.

It is important to emphasize here that; ideally, Nanumba Royals should not access the paramountcy straight away, but have to reach there through a promotional ladder beginning from a lower chiefdom. For the purpose of clearer understanding, the two gates have the following standard established ladder as their stages of progression;

Gbugmayili (Both Mr. Andani Dassana & Nakpaa Naa Alhaji Salifu Dawuni gate): Makayili (Bogu) =Djua=Bakpaba=Nakpaa=Kingship (Bimbilla Nam).

Bangyili: Sakpe= Gbingbaliga= Chamba= Dokpam= Kingship (Bimbilla Nam).

It is noteworthy to emphasize once again that both Mr. Andani Dasana (the murdered) and Nakpaa Naa Alhaji Salifu Dawuni belong to the same gate (Gbugmayili).

However, Mr. Andani (the murdered contender) disagreed with the above list and order of progression at the Tamale High Court years back. He offered the following as the correct order;

Gbugmayili: Laginja= Makayili (Bogu)= Gundoo= Beng= Yagibogiri= Lepusi= Bakpaba= Juanaayili= Nakpaa= Bimbilla Nam (Kingship).

Bangyili: Shekpam= Nasamba= Kpaluhi= Sakpe= Tua= Gbungbaliga= Jimam= Chamba= Dokpam= Bimbilla Nam (Kingship).

From both angles of the progression to the kingship, one thing is crystal clear and common i.e. a prince of the Gbugmayili gate must rise through the intermediate ranks till he gets to Nakpaa, the final skin title on their side that opens to the kingship. The same is expected of a royal candidate from Bangyili seeking to be king. For him, holding the Dokpam chiefship is the gateway to the kingship of Bimbilla.

For if it is assumed that the ladder of progressions as listed above by Mr. Andani Dasana at the Tamale High Court is right, the question on the lips of majority of Nanumbas is, and which of the above chiefship has he occupied prior to his contention for the Bimbilla kingship?

The Genesis.
Since the enskinment of Naa Abarika Attah (Bangyili Gate), the Gbugmayili gate had been widely seen as uncooperative. They demonstrated this by their constant refusal to pay their respects or 'greet' the king at his palace, as subjects should or to join him in the performance of funerals of elders and departed sub-chiefs of Nanung. This state of affairs persisted till the death of Naa Abarika Attah in 1999.

As stated earlier, the current crisis in Bimbilla involves people from the same gate. Following the death of Naa Abarika (Gbugmayili gate), the nine kingmakers of Nanung ( kpatihi Naa, Jo Naa, Laginja Naa, Chichagi Naa, Jilo Naa, Gambugu Naa, Dibsi Naa, Wulensi Naa and Djua Naa) were expected by tradition to meet and elect the next king which certainly should have been the occupant of Nakpaa (Nakpaa Naa) because, that is the gateway to the Kingship from the Gbugmayili gate. Surprisingly and untraditionally, having allegedly been bribed with monetary incentives, six of the kingmakers met secretly without the knowledge of the other three including the leader of the kingmakers (Jo Naa) and chose one Mr. Andani Dasana Abdulai( then CEO of Nasia Rice Co. in Tamale).

The three kingmakers, including the leader Jo Naa, disagreed with the selection with the sound argument that, Mr. Andani had never been a sub-chief and therefore by custom did not qualify to be made a higher status chief, not to mention being king of Nanung, regardless of whether his father had been king of Nanung or not. On the otherhand, Alhaji Salifu Dawuni, as the sitting Nakpaa Naa seemed to this group as the most qualified through the lens of tradition for the kingship. The Nakpaa title is of course the last stage for a Gbugmayili candidate moving on to be king.

Before he became the Nakpaa Naa, Alhaji Salifu Dawuni had been the chief of Bakpaba for some time. Because of the recognition that, Nakpaa is the ultimate gateway to Kingship from the Gbugmayili gate, when, Nakpaa became vacant, so many contenders from Mr Andani's family including his elder brothers presented themselves for the Nakpaa chiefship, because it is common knowledge that the holding of the Nakpaa title sets up the holder on the path to the kingship. Since the king has the right to choose whoever he considers qualified for the Nakpaa skin, Naa Abarika chose Alhaji Salifu Dawuni (then The Bakpaba Chief) who was by tradition next in line to Nakpaa.

Naa Abarika's decision was informed by the fact that, when there was a vacancy at Bakpaba nobody had wanted it including the elder brothers of Mr. Andani because of a belief that anyone accepting that title would die prematurely. Nevertheless, Alhaji Salifu Dawuni accepted the title and ruled for some time until there was a vacancy at Nakpaa. This was the point of split and not satisfied with the decision, one of the kingmakers Kpatihi Naa) took the issue to court but unfortunately, the matter had not been resolved when Kpatihi Naa died in 1994 and Naa abarika also passed away in 1999.

The last straw that broke the camel's back
Since the performance of the final funeral rites of the late Naa Abarika Attah in 2001, this issue of who is the king of Nanung had in the past led to intermittent scuffles between the supporters of Mr. Andani and Nakpaa Naa Salifu Dawuni, sometimes resulting in deaths. All this while, the supporters of both contenders had enskinned and recognised their respective contenders as the king of Nanung. All along, the courts and the Regional House of Chiefs had been handling the issue. So in effect there was no substantive king in Bimbilla until March, 2014 when Nakpaa Naa passed away at the Tamale Teaching Hospital.

Being a muslim and a Chief of that stature, he must be buried immediately as tradition demands. The family had then made preparations to bring the body back to Bimbilla to bury in his own house (NOT THE PALACE). This move was resisted by Mr. Andani and his supporters who attacked the burial ground with guns and what have you until the security was able to bring the situation under control. Mr. Andani contention was that, burying the Nakpaa Naa in Bimbilla implied he was King of Nanung. All efforts by the family to perform the burial rites were resisted. This was the time authority at both the Regional and District level was expected to show leadership and provide security for the Nakpaa Naa to be buried according to tradition.

The government had turned its back on the people of Nanung, the security had folded their arms because they receive orders from politicians. Taking advantage of the vacuum being created by the inaction of those that mattered, the family of Mr. Andani started mocking the other family, abusing and mocking the body of Nakpaa Naa, branding him as an ice fish, simple because he was in a mortuary. Things like this can infuriate, and provoke sensitivities and in some countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Syria etc, that can turn some people into suicide bombers in order to protect the honour of their family.

The OUTCOME was what happened on the 19th of June, 2014 with the brutal murder of Mr. Andani Dasana Abdulai (CEO, Nasiaia Rice Co.) by unknown assailants.

Since the unfortunate incident happened on the 19th of June, 2014, a lot of misinformation about the issue has been perpetuated by no mean people but persons that should know better before they should open their mouth. These include politicians, government ministers, opinion leaders and the media in particular. Such misinformation will not enable the people of Nanung to achieve lasting peace and they must desist from this. Below are some of the misinformations;

In the first place, all the media houses, politicians, government Ministers etc have all described Mr. Andani Dasana as the overlord of Bimbilla. This is totally false and in countries where the rule of law works, all these media houses and government ministers would have been charged with contempt by the Tamale High Court. This is because, in the books of the courts, there is no substantive king in Bimbilla. The matter is pending in court. How then will the regional minister and his deputy etc elevate Mr Andani to such a position when they do not know anything about our traditions? Why will they go to the extent of providing security and participating in the burial of Mr. Andani as a Bimbilla Naa? Are they aware that, the other contender who died of natural causes far back in March is still in the Mortury?

Secondly, it has been reported severally in the media that, the family of Nakpaa Naa had demanded to bury him at the royal mausoleum (i e the Gbugmayili palace) to which the Andani Family objected to. This is totally a lie and has no basis at all. The family of Nakpaa Naa had dug the grave at his own house which is close to the mausoleum. As far as international human rights laws are concerned to which Ghana is a signatory to, the family have every right to bury him in his own house in Bimbilla which is traditionally accepted.

As mentioned earlier, Mr. Andani's contention was that, Nakpaa Naa should not be buried in Bimbilla Township at all because; it will imply he was buried as a King. Instead of authorities providing security and ensuring the burial of the Man in his own house, they rather ordered the family to suspend the burial and stood aloof because they consider Mr. Andani as their own as he was once the NDC regional Veranda Boys &Girls president and treasurer. WHAT A SHAME?

The third misinformation out there is that, all the victims of the recent incident are supporters of Andani. It is not true. About three supporters, including a sub chief of Nakpaa Naa had been targeted and murdered in cold blood in their houses the same night Andani was murdered by Andani's family. Surprisingly, the lives of those three are of no interest to the media and the authorities. It is the life of Mr Andani (CEO of Nasia Rice Co.) that matters to them because he is of their kind and hence, has to be provided with security for his burial. THIS IS ABOSLUTE NONSENSE.

This arbitrary arrest of people from the other gate (Bangyili) must stop. As indicated earlier, this crisis is an intra-dynastic one i e. People of the same gate are engaged in the dispute and therefore, to target people from the Bangyili, almost all those arrested, is unreasonable and uncalled for. This arbitrary arrest cannot be a solution to the crisis because almost all those arrested are very innocent people who happen to belong to the Bangyili gate whose King Naa Abarika enskinned Alhaji Salifu as the Nakpaa Naa. So naturally, they cannot disrespect the decision of their father. Does that amount to being guilty of the crime? ABSOLUTELY NO. Nobody says the murderers should not be apprehended.

They should be hunted down just like any other criminal but not the manner in which innocent people from a particular gate are being targeted and imprisoned. This is clearly a violation of their fundamental rights and freedoms. If the government is willing to resolve the crisis for a lasting peace, they must engage the warring factions first and objectively make efforts to hunt down the murderers but not the innocent, hardworking people they are holding at the moment.

Thank you.

Hajia Salamatu Nantogmah Attah

(A Concerned Nanumba)

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