... As dark clouds gather over Regional House of Chiefs
Dark clouds, coupled with an uneasy calm, are gradually taking over the usually quiet atmosphere of Ho, the Volta regional capital, due to moves in the pipeline aimed at preventing the paramount chief of the area, and Agbogbomefia of Asogli State, Togbe Afede XIV, from partaking in a meeting with his colleagues in the regional house of chiefs today, a decision some of the people in the capital consider as an affront and provocation.
And by this Wednesday morning, when the various 'Asafo companies' from the 33 traditional areas in the state would be marshalling in readiness to present their 'king' to the august house 'at all cost', as The Chronicle reliably learnt, there is the high possibility of an unfortunate scene being created in a region that is not only considered politically volatile, but also a security hot spot. And the outcome of such a scene, God forbid, could be anybody's guess.
It may not only deal yet another serious blow to the chieftaincy institution, but also has the propensity to further push the region's conflict status to a different elevation; probably without equal in the country, as a sizable number of members have confided in yours truly their disgust at the decision.
Even though the real essence of the decision not to admit Torgbe Afede XIV to take his place in the house of chiefs, nearly a year after his installation, is still unclear, contradictory documentary evidences on The Chronicle desks, and inside information gathered from both the Agbogbomefia secretariat and other places close to the regional house, point to the fact that there could be more to it than meets the eye.
According to what has now become known as 'disturbing revelations', the Asogli Traditional Council, following the successful installation of a new paramount chief, formerly accepted him as its president on June 28,2004, and subsequently informed the regional house.
And based on that, and other reasons, the region, in a letter dated 13th August 2004 and signed by the registrar, Mr. A.K. Ahiabah, congratulated Togbe Afede on his new position in the house and invited him to partake in a swearing-in ceremony and other roles in the house.
"I am directed by Togbega President to inform you that the Regional Electoral Commission has informed me of your election to serve a term of two years as a member of the Volta Region House of Chiefs. Please accept our congratulations," it read.
The letter, with reference number VRHC.129/Vol.3/26, continued; "I am further directed to inform you that arrangements are being put in place for the swearing-in ceremony at a General Meeting of the House slated for 1st and 2nd September 2004. You are therefore respectfully invited to attend without fail".
Copies of the invitation letter were sent to the director of Chieftaincy Division at the State House in Accra, the Regional Director of the Electoral Commission at Ho and all elected rotatory members of the House.
This information, certainly put smiles on the faces of the Asogli people, and feverish arrangements were put in place for the maiden socialization of their chief with his contemporaries, but that joy was short-lived.
For two days to the gathering, another letter, signed by Ahiabah, the registrar, withdrew the house' earlier invitation to the Agbogbomefia, citing what it called 'some legal and technical reasons'.
The second letter, with reference number VRHC.3/Vol.8/38, and dated 30th August 2004, read in part; "Togbega President deeply regrets to inform you that owing to some legal and technical reasons you may not be admitted into the House at this time, so the invitation is withdrawn". Interestingly, unlike the first, this one was only written to the Agbogbomefia and his Assogli Traditional Council, without any indication of copy or copies sent to any other member or institution. Apart from that no part of the Chieftaincy Act was quoted to clarify the legal and technical reasons in question. But all said and done, it is not clear whether the second letter will have any bite as the Asogli people have vowed to 'flout' whatever this latest message was all about, and damn the consequences.
Speaking to The Chronicle in his office on the developments, the personal secretary to the Agbogbomefia, Mr. John Kukah, said in accordance with Act 370 of the Chieftaincy Act 1970, the Asogli people have a permanent seat among the comity of eminent chiefs in the house, and needed no gazette or any other clearance from any quarter before having access to it.
He contended that as head of the state, the Agbogbomefia has every customary and statutory power to represent his people at any forum and speak on their behalf.
Mr. Kukah, however warned, that drastic measures would be taken against anyone who would venture to stand in their way on Wednesday, saying; "It is our right, and we would not let anybody take it from us".
The personal secretary hinted that ever since his installation, attempts had been made from various quarters to frustrate the laudable visionary ideas of the new ruler, especially those who feel threatened by the personality and charisma of Togbe Afede.
When asked to cite an instance, he said on the 19th of July, he was directed to write to the house for the use its premises to host Regional Heads of Departments to a buffet dinner on 5th August, under the auspices of the Agbogbomafia. The gathering was, as part of the new vision, a forum to rub minds on how to push the region forward, but the registrar, on the instructions of the president of the regional house of chiefs, turned down the request on the premise that such a forum could not be held there.
"Many individuals had been allowed to organize weddings, birthday parties and funerals there. Even the Lions Club and students of Ho Polytechnic had used it for some social gatherings, but when a prominent member of the house like our king wants to use it then they find a problem with it", he fumed.
Several efforts to contact the registrar to for an interview have failed as his driver received all calls to his office.
Some of the visionary ideals of the Agbogbomefia, is the holding of a Volta Congress for all citizens of the region, both home and abroad, at Ho on 30th September and 1st October this year.
The congress is expected to rake in some ¢10 billion into the regional kitty, with another $20 million foreign investment expected from some international contacts the chief is making.
He had already discussed the idea with 12 out if the 15 paramount chiefs in the region, many of whom have embraced the idea, and have thrown their weight behind it.
"We are far behind many regions in terms of development in the country, and we need to put aside the archaic tradition of chiefs merely acting as custodians of land and leading their subjects to fight wars to show power and wealth. What we need in this age and time is the education, health and well-being of our people", one prominent Volta chief intimated to this paper on telephone.
A divisional chief in Ho charged that he did not understand why chiefs from other parts of the region are allowed to partake in meetings on their soil, while the 'boss' of the capital, in whose domain the structure is located, is not accorded the respect he deserves, calling it a recipe for conflict.
It is the view this traditional ruler, who would not like to be named, that as chiefs, making pragmatic efforts to better the lot of the people they rule is far more important than merely playing symbolic roles and elbowing one another from becoming part of a house.
"If this matter is not well addressed, it may well add up to the long chain of disputes related to chieftaincy, land and ethnicity in the region", he concluded.
Some of the 'trouble spots' already catalogued in the region, and for which security experts are having sleepless nights are at Nkonya, Alavanyo, Peki, Awudome, Krachi and Anlo. Will Asogli be the next? In a related development, Asogli has warned all 'dissident groups' based in Ho Dome to desist from making announcements and publications to the effect that they were performing rights and celebrating the Yam festival.
A letter with reference number AS/9/42, dated 30th August, and signed by the president of the state council, reminded those groups that only the Agbogbomefia, who is the custodian of all traditions and customs of Asogli, has the authority to celebrate the festival, and this is done once by all traditional divisions.