A recent article captioned as the above, and which is found in the Social Media, suggests that tension is building up between the Chief of Bole (Bole-wura) and the Chief of Kung (Kung-wura), two Divisional Chiefs of Gonja, a Kingdom located in the Northern Region of Ghana, over a parcel of land designated "the Kpongeri area near Kong (Kung) land." In about a 15-page document the writer, Mahama Haruna, sought to "explain the historical issues and the reason(s) for the schism between Bole and Kong." To achieve this aim the writer chose to "dig into history," and by that would narrate the nature of the disagreement in-situ.
After critically examining Mahama Haruna's write-up, if his aim is to put the matter in its "historical perspective," unfortunately it seems his document has failed to address the issues rightly and correctly. Rather, Mahama Haruna's document misinforms Gonjas, their later generations and the general public, particularly Ghanaians, on this aspect of the Gonja history.
A number of observations and suggestions are, therefore, made based on our findings from available relevant primary and secondary sources. This will give all Ghanaians, and particularly Gonjas, the opportunity to assess the relevance of Mahama Haruna's document, his own nature and the motives behind the write-up. The discussion is progressively built on issues as presented or contained in the writer's document.
The Era before 1896:
Before tracing the history of schisms between Bole and Kung, there is the need to revisit and show the order Divisional Chiefs came onto the Yagbum-wura skin before 1891. Gonja oral history indicates that after the reign of Kung-wura, Nyantachi, as Yagbum-wura, the next Yagbum-wura was the Tuluwe-wura. He was succeeded by the Kusawgu-wura called Kpirku. The periods during which the three chiefs mentioned above ruled as Yagbum-wuras are not yet clear and are, therefore, not inserted. Yagbum-wura Kpirku, according to Mahama Haruna, was "exiled from Nyange by the Chiefs and people of Bole, and this gave Bolewura, Seidu Dushi, the chance to veto and enrobe himself as the Yagbum-wura."
During and after this event, it is possible that sections of Gonjas, particularly the Chiefs and people of Kusawgu, may not have been happy with the action taken by the Bolewura and his people. Their reason being the method Bole-wura adapted to oust Yagbum-wura Kpirku. This was against Gonja customary law and an unacceptable precedence. This, as understood, had several negative effects on the Chiefs and people of the Kusawgu division. In fact, Gonja oral history indicates that Yagbum-wura Kpirku and a handful of his people managed to escape under night cover through the forest to Busunu where he died. This was, perhaps, due to the shock from the humiliation he faced at Nyange and was, according to informants, buried 'ordinarily'. Thus, Yagbum-wura Kpirku was not buried as a Paramount Chief. His body was later exhumed by the people of Kusawgu in 1902 and given a befitting burial. As for the remaining Kusawgu people who were not able to escape, they were all murdered by the Bole fighters at Nyange.
Examining Statements by Mahama Haruna:
Let us revisit Mahama Haruna's submission and clarify certain statements used to 'educate' Gonjas and win their support against Kung. He describes the actions and character of Yagbumwura Nyantachi from Kung as 'tyrannical'. To clarify this fact, it will be nice to look for the meaning of the word 'tyrannical'. According to A. S. Hornby, the word 'tyrannical' means "using power and authority over people in an unfair or cruel way." If so, can it be correct to also suggest that the manner Bole-wura, Seidu Dushi, and his people handled Yagbum-wura Kpirku and his people (at Nyange) before ascending to the throne as Yagbum-wura was 'tyrannous'? Was Bole-wura Seidu Dushi's action not even an insult to all Gonjas for not adhering to the customary law? Note that, Gonja chief-ships were, and are still, given "according to the customary law ruling and, thus, when a chief dies another takes his place following the custom." Would it not have been proper or right if the Bole-wura rather met the Divisional Chiefs and present his grievances against the Paramount Chief if he did not follow the custom than staging a coup de'tat? This definitely had both bad and good effects on Gonja as a state and its people.
However, be adequately informed that the character and actions of Yagbum-wura Nyantachi was not tyrannous for one reason. It is a known fact that the Gonja-Ashanti war occurred during the reign of Yagbum-wura Nyantachi. During the war he (Yagbum-wura Nyantachi) had to demonstrate as the King in order to defend Gonja. The Asante aimed at expanding their territory to include Gonja just as done to the Brongs. Note that, if all Gonjas came under the authority of the Asante they would have been speaking Twi, the Asante language like the Brongs. This was stopped by the efforts of Yagbum-wura Nyantachi. He is believed to have recruited 500 fighters from the Kung Division alone to face the Asante and only few survived. No fighter from the other Gonja division was recruited to fight the Asante. See Hon. Abudu Sakara, the Former C.P.P. Presidential Candidate, for more information on this fact.
Paraphrasing Mahama Haruna, Bole-wura, Seidu Dushi also kown as Yagbum-wura Kurbang died in 1891, and again the Yagbum skin was or became vacant. Definitely, and as usual, qualified Divisional Chiefs would put in their claims. That, the Yagbum skin at the time, was the turn of Kongwura, Abudulai Jamani; alias Wanyogma (Wongnyagenama meaning action man and not come and catch me. Also Kabondogodam was Kabadogedaan, meaning 'let them brew 'pito'. The 'pito' drink at the time served as an appetizer and was largely often given to 'fighters' before and in the battle field. It was the Chief's duty to prepare and serve his troops 'pito'. Another remark made by Mahama Haruna was because of the 'tyrannical rule' of a previous Yagbum-wura from Kong (Nyantachi), that created hatred for Kung, and therefore, Gonja Chiefs refused to endorse Kung-wura Abudulai Jamani, as Yagbum-wura.
The question is how can the manners or character of a single ruler, a man from a different parenthood, who belongs to a particular household among several other households, be used as a relevant point against all the many other people in the division? Was it not possible that some sections of the people in the Kung division might have been against the actions of the King if he was really found to be 'cruel'? Can such matters of ancient history, already referred to, be used to assess, judge and for that matter be the basis for continuously depriving many innocent people of the Kung division from enjoying their customary birth rights? Hence, Mahama Haruna's motive for revisiting and pointing out the over century issue is just to create acrimony, bitterness or tension among Gonjas. This seems very unfortunate and sad to notice from 'an enlightened' Ghanaian (Journalist).
Further, Mahama Haruna indicates that during one the meetings of all Gonja Chiefs, Kung-wura being impatient demanded that he was pronounced Yagbum-wura, an action which did not go down well with the Chiefs and, who consequently abandoned the meeting and returned home without appointing the next Yagbum-wura. The Kung-wura (Jamani) was also described as too assertive and war like and, that, any time he was coming to any gathering of Gonja Chiefs he was always with hundreds of warriors well armed as if he was going to war. That, he engaged in human sacrifice with his cup for drinking water being a human skull of one of his victims.
Information gathered from sections of Gonjas dismisses this as incorrect. It should be understood that the security of people at the time was very difficult to predict. This was the era of wild animals, invaders, raiders, marauders, etc, and moving from a mountainous area, the location of Kung, and travelling long distances through to Gonja towns, the Kung-wura and his people would not take chances. It is also clarified by informants that Abudulai Jamani was a Muslim and never drank 'pito' but for the order of the times he had to supply his warriors 'pito'. This idea of supplying 'pito' is what many outsiders misinterpret and associate the Chief as the advocator of 'pito'. He did not also engage in human sacrifice. Check the records.
Similarly, some historians have in the past described some African Chiefs and peoples just like Mahama Haruna did. However, the context and reasons for which the historians described Chiefs and people differed from the reasons for which Mahama Haruna wrote his article. For instance, from the sheer frequency of invasions of the coast by the Asante, many past historians have described them as "a warlike and aggressive, and bloodthirsty people." Further, Denkyira elevated by its great riches and power, became so arrogant that it looked on "all Negroes with a contemptible eye, esteeming them no more than slaves." Further, Buah indicates that, "as often happens in history when a kingdom or an empire becomes wealthy and powerful the rulers became tyrannical."
The descriptions quoted above do not mean that every Asante or Denkyira was or is cruel. Note that, the sons of those 'cruel' rulers in Asante or Denkyira are still taking part in the administration of their respective areas. Therefore, revisiting and applying information of over 100 years against members of a clan, whose members alive were not born, seems unfair. The saddest aspect is that the story is coming from a youth of Bole, who is also the Public Relations Officer of the Gonja Land Youth Association. He, referring to the action of the Chiefs of Bole means the Chiefs and their peoples still harbour this ancient past against the people of Kung. Should the 'good' people of Gonja continue to rely on such information like what is written by Mahama Haruna to administer the Kingdom? Those incorrect information are critically examined, following, so that Chiefs and people of Gonja understand the issue and appropriately advice Bole Chiefs and their peoples.
Another misconception severally made, and which Mahama Haruna stresses, was that Kung-wura Abudulai Jamani invited Samori and his gangs to mediate with Bole-wura to allow him enskin as Yagbum-wura. This is found to be incorrect because the Kung-wura was aware that Yagbum-wuraship was gotten from the consensus of Divisional Chiefs. Therefore, there was no reason for him to have been negotiating from only Bole or contracting external forces for the Kingship. The best alternative, perhaps, was to negotiate with the Senyon-wura and Buipe-wura, the two Chiefs who mediate in a case in which Divisional Chiefs were/are divided and enrobe the chosen candidate. Their authority is therefore highly respected when it came to constitutional matters. But, it is clear, using Mahama Haruna's 'article in the Social Media, that some older Gonjas, particularly Chiefs, still narrate the1896 events, which are mere narratives gathered from conversations with their parents. These are not sufficient facts to buttress a point because such data gathered need to be tested from other sources before used to support an argument. Consequently, some contemporary students of history and historians have re-examined the past records and suggests differently about the operations of Samori against Gonja land. In other words, how Samori came to be involved in the affairs of Northern Ghana, particularly Gonja, is explained. Samori Designs towards Gonjaland:
A map examined from a secondary source showed "the Samorian Empire covering almost the entire territory between the Black and White Voltas (Rivers)." This suggests that the whole of Gonja, a greater part of Western Dagomba, the states of Wa and Lawra areas of Dagarti were tributary or vassal states of Samori's Empire." Hence, Samori had his eyes on this territory and would do everything in his power to defend it. Therefore, in 1895 Samori attacked Bouna because of "the plotting of the Hausa community at Bouna to get him (Samori) killed by the Zabarimas". The allegation may well have been true for it was reported that in 1896 Babatu (leader of the Zabarima) had "come down with an army to assist the Baulas (Bole) and Bouna in case of invasion. Babatu had encamped on the banks of the Black Volta between Bole and Bouna and that his arrival held Samori's forces in check." Therefore the direction of Samori's activities was necessarily turned eastwards for several reasons. To the South, the forest acted as a barrier since his cavalry could not operate there. He could not also easily obtain guns and ammunition from Gold Coast ports because the British were reluctant or not in the position to sell these to him. To the West and North he was confronted by the French; to the north - east laid the hostile Lobis whom he had not succeeded in mastering. There remained only two areas opened to him: Nkronza and the districts lying between the Black Volta and the Neutral Zone. In advancing on these, Bouna directly barred him from the region. Thus, Samori had to attack Bouna in order to clear his way to areas where he could raid for food supplies and horses. The seizure of Bouna in early 1896 made that town the base of Samori's operations against Bole and other Gonja towns. Samori's forces, relying and believing that the Gonjas were weakened and divided due to six years dispute among Gonja chiefs and peoples over the skin of Yagbum which became vacant in 1891 due to the death of Seidu Dush, Yagbum-wura and Paramount Chief of the Gonja state, in about 1896 crossed the Black Volta at Ntereso, a village on the old Boundugu road, and attacked Bole.
The Bole Gonjas first fought Samori's troops, commanded by his son, Sarankye - Mori, on the banks of the Black Volta. It was reported that "all the Bole people went down and opposed the Samorians crossing at Ntereso but were defeated. The defeat turned into a rout for many parts of the town became shambles and people fled their homes, some taking refuge in Eastern Gonja towns like Brumasi and Tuluwe. The Bole-wura himself retreated with part of his forces to join other Gonja troops advancing from the East at Jentilipe, a village on the modern Sawla - Damongo motor road. Here the Gonjas rallied and fought Samori's forces for five days and later, due to re-enforcement by Samori they retreated eastwards and got to Busunu, where they put up a stiff resistance to the raiders. Samori's commander, Kasire, and his forces were driven back to their camp near Bole. Thus, a brief history of the nature and reason for the Samorian encounter against Bole, the Gonja division located towards Bourna, a town now in modern Cote d'Ivoire.
From an in-depth investigation Bole-wura did not invite Kung -wura and his people to ��support him against Samori. Rather other Gonja divisions were given invitation. The reason was simply because Bole, from both oral and archival materials examined, before the 1890s for never supported Kung in any constitutional issue. Therefore, the fact remain that Kung was not invited, involved and never featured on the side of any combatant in the Bole-Samori encounter. But, pondering over what might have incited the forces of Samori to invade Bole Kung was therefore accused by Bole. A critical study or evaluation of the messages by Bole-wuras or representatives from 1937 during meetings of all Gonja Divisional Chiefs attests to the fact. It was known that Bole-wura often convinced all the other Gonja Chiefs and who unanimously agreed to punish Kung-wura and his people. This idea has been passed on over the years to generations and researchers who filled archival files with the same message.
Even though it has been abundantly made clear already that the entire Gonja land was one of the areas Samori wished to capture for the supply of his needs (food, horses and to recruit strong men as fighters), this fact was overshadowed by Bole's accusations against Kung and Kung was attacked three conservative times in 1896. Gonja oral history informs that the leaders of Bole and their people, supported by few Gonjas, attacked Kung-wura, Abudulai Jamani, and his people. Again, the forces of Samori stationed near Bole at the time came to be involved, and fought every Gonja group met, because they saw it as an opportunity or the means to win over Gonja. Despite this second revelation, why and how Samori fought the battle of Jentilipe, yet some Gonjas, especially the Bualas (Bole people), continue to narrate to outsiders and even pass on to generations that "Kung-wura invited Samori into Gonja to help him win the Yagbum-wuraship or skin, and that was an event which brought doom to Gonjas, upon himself and his division." This incorrect information features prominently in files found in all the depositories of the National Archives offices in Accra, Cape Coast and Tamale, and need to be investigated properly and corrected.
However, it should be pointed out that the Colonial Agents investigating and compiling the tradition and customs of peoples never touched some people. The Chiefs and people of Kung, for instance, were one group which was not contacted. Hence, modern history students need to investigate and clarify or correct issues about the activities of Samori and Babatu in the region. Again, there is the need to examine many oral, primary sources or archival data on the history of Ancient Kingdoms such as the Mamprugu, the Dagomba, the Gonja and the Waala and put the facts gathered in a correct or more acceptable historical perspective, particularly with the institution of chieftaincy. This, if done, will definitely put an end to the numerous conflicts among peoples in the Kingdoms. Such comprehensive documentations about the Kingdoms, spelling out all constitutional matters, will serve as evidence for posterity.
During the encounter at Jentilipe against Samori, it is known that the forces of Gonja operated in two directions or fronts. One group fought the forces of Samori towards Bole, where Samori's forces had camped. The Gonjas staged stiff resistance which indicated that Samori's forces did not find the Gonjas an easy prey. In fact, Samori's advance in Western Gonja was decisively halted at Busunu. The second group attacked the Chiefs and people of the Kung division three different times. No mention has been made indicating that the people of Kung staged any counter attack against Bole or joined Samori's forces during the encounters. What Kung oral tradition mentions is that many of the people of Kung, mostly women and children, were murdered. The men escaped and joined their relatives who were long settled into parts of present the Upper West Region, particularly in and around Wa town (Municipality).
By November 1896, it was reported that the Western Gonjas had cleared their land of all Sofas, the name of the army of Samori, and were re-advancing to liberate Bole when the British arrived on the scene. The arrival of the British added impetus to the Samorian withdrawal from Bole to Bouna.
The British penetrated into the Northern Territories in1896 impelled by the advance of the French and the Germans who were moving into the hinterland and by the activities of Samori and Babatu. As history informs us, by 1898 the British had taken over the administration of the entire region, the management of the security of people and fighting between ethnic groups ceased or ended throughout the region. This situation was what people termed or was described as the restoration of peace and order.
Shortly afterwards, one Abudu from Bole, who was then an old man and who had lived through the episode, was made the Yagbumwura. This was a second breach of the tradition and customs of Gonja regarding the appointment of the Head of Gonja or Yagbumwura. This is because, history taught us that when Ndewura Jakpa died and after his interment "it was decided that a prince or chief who had a large household or plenty of followers should be his (Jakpa) successor. The Chief of Kungu (Kung), a Division of Gonja was accordingly elected." This method used to get Ndewura Jakpa's successor remains the custom of getting a chief at every level of Gonja governing system and was/is therefore followed every time. If this order was properly done among the seven Sub-Divisional Chiefs a sort of 'rotation system' would have been in place by now to conveniently put a successor onto the Yagbum skins devoid of trouble.
The present Gonja apparently consists of "seven sections or divisions, each administered by a Head-Chief, assisted by a Council of Elders (Mallams are also attached to this Council), and by a number of chiefs, each controlling a group of villages in the vicinity of the town which he derives his title." The seven divisional chiefs previously were Kpembe, Bole, Tuluwe, Kusawgu, Wasipe, Kung and Kandia, and chiefs of each division have had their turns on the Yagbum skin. These chiefs, as found in certain records, had to do a lot of lobbing and at times intrigued among themselves when the Yagbum skin became vacant.
After the Samorian - Gonja conflicts and the return of normalcy, "the Yagbum-wura was often chosen among the holders of five Head - Chiefs: Kpembe, Bole Tuluwe, Kusawgu and Wasipe. Two other Head - Chiefs, Kung and Kandia, apparently no longer enter Yagbum for two separate reasons. The Chief of Kandia lost his territory to Wa and the Chief of Kung has been denied Yagbum seat," because of the allegation that he (the Kungwura at the time) invited Samori in 1896 to support him win the Yagbum throne.
The above assertion, considering the unity and common purpose the people of Gonja have, both the oral and primary source materials need to be properly investigated because of challenges noticed about governance when a vacancy exist. Such a study, devoid of bias will for example exonerate the Kung people from the over century allegation being discussed for posterity. The reason for this statement is because Bole and Kung are principal divisions of the Gonja state at the northwestern part of Ghana and serves as the check against any possible future external encroachment. Hence, disagreements between the two divisions can affect Gonja as a state.
The Kung Division before 1896:
Before 1896, Kung land boundaries with Bole which stretched up to Nakwambi, Nahari, Kaliba and Tuna. These villages (towns) and so many others are now 'temporarily' administered by Bole on behalf of Yagbum-wura because of a decision taken by the Gonja Traditional Council to punish Kung people, accused of inviting Samori to invade Gonja. Previously, both Bole and Kung administered their respective villages according to laid down Gonja tradition and customs but were responsible to the Yagbumwura, the overlord of Gonja. As a result of the crisis of 1896 Kung was suspended as a sub-Divisional and was denied her villages until latter to be reviewed by the Gonja Council, which only can discharge Kung. In fact, the 1896 crisis in Gonja scattered all Gonjas. The people of Kung, who had no place to go in Gonjaland, reluctantly settled in parts of the present Upper West Region of Ghana where their kin and kith were long settled.
When the decision of the Gonja Council was known that Bole was now administering the Kung division the neighbours and good wishers of Kung remarked that, "holding to power for long corrupts. Now that Bole-wura took control of the rights and customs of Kung-wura and presides over the sub-divisional chiefs of Kung two issues became paramount; how to relinquish this vast and lucrative area of control and the prestige attached." This remark was a signal for the Yagbum-wura, perhaps, not to delay in reviewing the Gonja Council decision but, as will be pointed out later, due to certain reasons the issue remains to date untouched.
By 1898, British Colonial Officers on the ground and who were then responsible for administration reported that,"peace and order had been restored in the region." Hence, many Gonjas who migrated to other towns due to the crisis in 1896/97(already referred to) returned to their original habitats. As for the citizens of Kung, it should be understood that fear kept them in the Wa District (Municipality) for a long time whilst their elders negotiated with the Gonja Chiefs for their return to Kung. This method adapted by Kung touched the good hearts of all Gonjas at the time, particularly chiefs, who discussed it during their meetings. Hence, the British Officer, Captain Duncan-Johnstone, Yagbumwura Mama (Mahama, a native of Bole) and the Bolewura (Takora) continuously educated Gonjas on "the need to put the past events aside and live as one people with a common destiny." Another significant political gain of the British influence was the revival of the Gonja Traditional Council meetings which all Chiefs attended and which were presided over by the British Officers.
In 1930 the Gonja Traditional Council met at Yapei presided over by Captain Duncan - Johnstone and in his address, "seven sub-Divisional Chieftainships were named and Kong (Kung) was one." Thus, no Kung-wura attended the Yapei meeting. Further, enquiring about Kung the Chiefs reported that "no Kung-wura appeared to be active and none attended." This meant Kung was not forgotten.
Therefore, all the sub-Divisional Chiefs at the conference agreed "to ensure that the people of Kung return to their old habitat." Similarly, Wasipe-wura, who was also "ineligible in circumstances for some time," was to be reviewed for consideration. A three member-team comprising Gutheric Hall, the District Commissioner for Gonja, the Yagbum-wura, Mahama, and the Bole-wura, Takora, were assigned and after a close-door meeting they endorsed the decision of the Gonja Council that "Kung should come into being, but the other issue was getting back her villages." However, by way of partial solution the Yagbum-wura (Mahama) released two of the villages, that of "Kinchin and Gindaboo" but he explained that he failed to give the rest of the villages because "those villages were occupied by his children and removing them would bring inconveniences. In order not to bring trouble, I ask that the Chief of Kung put his member on the skin when any of those villages remaining occupied is vacant." The villages earmarked were "Jindabo, Nenyon, Tuna, Kulmasa, Sooma, Dabori, Ypala (Yipala), Kaliba and Nahari." Then, in 1932 one Datige was enrobed as Kung- wura.
As discussed above, if so, how can a decision of our two revered Chiefs (Yagbum-wura, Mahama and Bole-wura Takora), who even participated and perhaps witnessed the 1896 event honestly and sincerely solved the issue of status and possessions of Kung and their grand children now turns against the decision? Note that an adage says that, 'the mouth of the old man can rot but not his words'. Why then should Mahama Haruna 'be inundated' by the general public to discuss an issue such as what is discussed? Note again that, Yagbum-wura Mahama, who ruled from 1912 to 1937 and was revered by all Gonjas, had solved the Kung cases. If some people of Bole are hurt by stories of 1896, how about both the Yagbum-wura Mahama and Bole-wura Takora who witnessed the events?
In fact, available records examined revealed that the politics about the 'status and villages' matters of Kung were logically concluded in 1930. This discussion therefore should have stopped at this point. But, for the sake of posterity there is the need to continue to discuss the history of events in Gonja concerning previous disagreements between Bole and Kung.
On 16th March, 1936, according to the District Commissioner, "the death of Bole-wura Takora was reported and by his death Gonja has suffered a loss that it will be very difficult to repudiate." This does not mean that there were no men or chiefs in Gonja land at the time. Rather, the Commissioner saw no person of integrity, honesty and sincerity to continue to stir affairs in Gonja, and particularly in Bole. However, as customs demand on 3rd April 1936 the Gonja Traditional Council appointed Mandari-wura Mahama as Bole-wura and enrobed on 9th May 1936. Following this "the death of Yagbum-wura Mahama, who was Chief of Gonja since 1912 and had a distinguished career and was honoured by the award of the King's medal for Native Chiefs," was announced. The death of the two revered Chiefs was a big disaster for Gonja, and particularly Kung. This was because it seems not easy to get a replacement of 'good leaders' who would put the memories of the past behind as the two chiefs did and solve issues that affected themselves and their entire division (Bole).
In September five sub-Chiefs of Gonja (Bole, Tuluwe, Wasipe, Kusawgu and Kpembe) met at Nyange and selected from among their number Tuluwe-wura, Iddi, alias Bambanga (Real), to be Yagbum-wura. His appointment to the Yagbum skin was customarily referred to the Buipe-wura for his endorsement and later enrobement. He rather, in writing informed through E. O. Rake, the Acting Chief Commissioner for Northern Territories, to Government to be affirmed. This was approved on 1st October, 1937.
Yagbumwura Iddi was enrobed at Nyange on 8th October 1937 by the Kagbie-wura, who represents the Buipe-wura on such occasions according to custom. Kung was not invited and, therefore, did not take part during the series of Council meetings prior to the enskinment of Iddi. Unfortunately, on 31st January1942 the death of Yagbum-wura Iddi (who ruled only for a period of eleven months) was reported. On 16th March 1942 the five sub- Chiefs met and, accordingly, appointed Kusawgu-wura, Soali, who was also called Sinbing-Lanyo, as the new Yagbum-wura, and was approved and enrobed by the Buipe-wura on the 8th and 30th of March, 1942, respectively. Again Kung-wura was absent.
On 25th February, 1943, Ewutoma was appointed Yagbum-wura and he was enrobed on Saturday the 20th of June 1943. This time Kung-wura attended. In his inaugural speech, Yagbum-wura Ewutoma indicated that, "all the seven sub-Chiefs of Gonja should work together with the aim of improving the Gonja Kingdom." Note again this conclusive statement by Yagbum-wura, the revered overlord of Gonja. Therefore, concerning the issue of the status and villages for Kung,Yagbum-wura Ewutoma endorsed the 1930 decision. This was the decision which the Kung-wura saw as a partial solution. Therefore, the Kung-wura, as Mahama Haruna notes, 'was aggrieved and dissatisfied with the said judgment ...intended to appeal but withheld any grievance waiting for another opportunity'. Was the Kung-wura's action not a demonstration of obedience, tolerance and patience?
The discussion so far shows that from 1930 to 1943, a period of thirteen years, the Kung-wura, attended some Council meetings but never put his claim for the Yagbum-wuraship. This was a sign of deep respect and patience demonstrated by the Kung-wura towards all Gonja Chiefs, the tradition and customs. Rather, it has been explained that Kung-wura began to lobby his colleagues, the sub- Divisional Chiefs, by appealing to their conscience to endorse him in future if Yagbum skin became vacant. This method is another sign of patience, tolerance and good will. When it came to light that Kung-wura was 'lobbing' through his colleagues for their consideration for the position of a next Yagbum-wura, a secret letter purported to have been written by Bole-wura and his Subordinate Chiefs was unearthed which stipulated that, "Kung should be deleted from the schedule (Chief-ship list) because Kung has dwindled in size and it has few people, and administratively was been run as part of the Bole sub-Division for many years." See also reference note 31 on page 15 of this write-up for an advance caution.
This assertion or action by the Bole-wura may be correct because it was revealed that the Bole-wura, continued to impress on Chiefs never to endorse Kung. The simple reason for the action of the Bole-wura was, perhaps may be put in one word, 'greed'. This was because he and his children had enjoyed the position of chiefs in the Kung villages and felt such a lucrative and prestigious matter should not be given up. Hence, the Chiefs and Elders of Gonjas in the Bole Traditional Area continuously remind and educate their descendents on the Bole-Kung long standing disagreement so that they defend the course just as Mahama Haruna does currently.
During another Gonja Council meeting held at Daboya on 23rd February, 1949, in order 'to test the ground', Kung appealed to the sub-Chiefs "to consider the matter of the area ruled by him (Kung-wura)". He reminded that, "at the time of Yagbumwura Mahama Chiefs met at Yapei under the presidency of Captain Duncan-Johnstone and seven sub-Chiefs were named and Kung was one." This, to me, seems an appeal to all sub-Chiefs on the subject of Kung's 'status and villages'. However available records examined critically informs that, Bole-wura responded vehemently saying that "Kung-wura complains that I stopped his salary. On the contrary I recommended him for a salary. He has not sent any one to draw his pay for ten (10) months." This submission by Bole-wura, with the apology deserved, is what students refer to as 'out of context (topic)'. In other words, that was not the matter being discussed.
The next Gonja Council meeting was held at Busunu on 24th June, 1949, and was attended by Yagbum-wura, Ewutoma, Wasipe-wura Bakari. Bole-wura Mahama, Tuluwe-wura Diwura, Kusawgu-wura Nyagri and Kilibe-wura Abranyu (who represented Kpembe-wura), Kung was not invited because of the subject matter at hand and thus, "the possibility of reinstating the Kung-wura to the status of sub-Divisional Chief and giving back her villages." This should not have been an issue since, as already mentioned, it was concluded in 1930 at Yapei. But, for certain reasons the Yagbum-wura brought the Kung case first on the agenda. The Chief of Bole was first to speak, and as usual, began saying:
Kranzagwura, Wesipe with Kung ran to Wa during Samori raids. It was Kabondugudan Kongwura who brought Samori to fight Bole and claim Yagbum skin. Samori killed almost two-thirds of the Bole people and the rest of Bole people were scattered. Bole went and hired army and drove away Samori and also fought Kung and drove them away. The present Kings are blacksmiths and not the proper Kungs."
The above assertion is a repeated ancient story often used during Council meetings by Bolewura to win the sympathy and popular support of Gonja sub-Chiefs against Kung. This was the previous position or the continuous stand adapted by every Bolewura since 1937, when both Yagbumwura Mahama and Bolewura Takora, sympathisers of Kung-wura had passed on. Further examining Bolewura's assertion above critically and sincerely, the question is where all Bole people stationed at Jentilipe at the time, and "two-thirds were killed?" This seems an exaggeration of the situation because not every citizen of Bole was at Jentilipe. It was rather only the Bole fighters and how many were they and what numbers were killed? These could not be estimated. On his part, the Buipe-wura who is the custodian of the skins and who approves and enrobes chiefs to become the Yagbum-wura, surprisingly asked 'which grandfather of the present Kungs have been chiefs of Kung or Yagbun?"
The above question shows the interest of the Buipe-wura, an important office holder whose actions should be seen as neutral, fair and final if Chiefs took entrenched positions in a matter. In addition, the Kanyiriwura remarked, "my grandfather Yakubu swore on a fetish fetish with Bole people." The meaning of this statement was not explained or is not yet clear and cannot to be interpreted. Then, the Senyor-wura, another important office holder, also remarked that,"they (Kung people) are craving enmity for Yagbum-wura because when Yagbum-wura Abudu, Lanyo, Mama, Barbang, Singbing-Lanyo ruled, they (Kung) never put out any claim, why was it now that they are putting up this claim if not European time. If one spoils a thing how can it still be his?"
The assertions above shows the interest of all the King-makers basing on their reactions or the remarks made. They appeared annoyed and as a result the meeting ended abruptly but adjourned to 4th November 1949 at Busunu. Before the Busunu meeting reports suggest that, "the Kanyiriwura and Bolewura had informed all N-Nyamese (subjects) not to follow Kung. That, one Jakalia Vagila, the head of Nyamese states also declared that all N-Nyamese of Western Gonja would not and will never have the Kungs to rule them."
The next Gonja Council meeting was held at Damongo on 4th November 1949. Chiefs who attended were named as Wurbang Laribanga-wura, Senyor-wura (Wago), Damongo-wura (Seidu), Mawulpan-wura (Bakulso), Debre-wura (Mbanyo and the Chepa-wura represented Kusawgu-wura, Kawka-wura. Four principal sub-chiefs (Tuluwe-wura, Bole-wura, Wasipe- wura and Buipe-wura) failed to attend. The chiefs revisited the two cases brought forward by Kung and agreed that: the villages of Kinchin and Gindabo should continue to serve Kung and, that, the remaining other villages were to serve Bole. This decision got to Bolewura who was absent, but he quickly informed that "he was strongly against the settlement of 1949."
Coincidentally, on 3rd January 1951 Kinchin skin became vacant following the death of its chief (name not clear). Both Kung and Bole were said to have appointed candidates for the Kinchin skin. Bole appointed a man called Fogo Gonja and Kung appointed Takuore as Ewura (chief), who was accompanied by few followers from Gindabo described as "toughs" and who were said to have "attacked and nearly killed Fogo Gonja." This incident led to several assault cases which were arranged before and tried at the Bole Magistrate's court. Both candidates were warned to stay off Kinchin until the question was discussed at the next Native Authority Council meeting. But, one Kassim now known to be one Kassim Dumba, who later became the Tampoe-wura, on 10th March 1951was sentenced to prison but he paid off his sentence.
At the Daboya Council meeting held on 25th March 1951, the matter of Kung was top on the agenda. About Kung the Yagbumwura remarked that, "this long standing dispute should be regarded as settled at the meeting in 1949." Upon hearing this, the representative of Bole-wura, strongly opposed the Yagbum-wura's point saying:
New Kung either was or was not successor to the old Kung. If the new Kung was heir to old Kung, then the Kungwura could aspire to the Yagbum skin and Kinchin should serve Kung. On the other hand if new Kung was not the successor to the Old Kung that it was new village peopled by Wala immigrants and if this was so, there was little reason why the Gonja of Kinchin should be forced to serve new Kung.
Similarly, A. K Tombinson, a British officer, reported that Kung was originally a sub-division ranking with Bole, Kpembe, etc, and Kungwura could consequently aspire to the Yagbum skins. That, during the Samori war the people of Kung turned traitors and fought against the Gonjas. After the battle of Jentilipe, where the Gonjas defeated the rivals, the town of Kung was razed to the ground and the inhabitants massacred. Kung ceased to exist. Many years later, Wala immigrants settled in the site of Old Kung and over the years the inhabitants of the New Kung claimed to be heirs and successors of the former town.
Such reports have already been referred to severally and are repeated versions found in many files in the National Archives depositories. These archival data need critical examination before scholars may consider them good enough for public consumption. The reason for this assertion is that a lot of Gonja oral tradition suggests that several issues raised about certain groups of people were incorrect and untenable. For instance, Waala immigrants never occupied Kung and there has never been in the tradition of Kung a 'New Kung'.
In 1954, having exhausted all known channels for the redress of his case, the Kung-wura petitioned the Chief Regional Officer stationed in Tamale to impress on the Yagbum-wura to Bole-wura to allow him to occupy his vacant skins and to subordinate over his villages serving Bolewura; to allow him draw his monthly allowance suspended since five years; and to reinstate the Goyiri-wura who represents all Kung at Bole on Council meetings but was withdrawn. Further, that their (Kung-wura's) ancestors were not serving Bole-wura but were serving Yagbum-wura and, therefore, the people of Kung were not prepared to pay annual levies to Bole-wura from this year, and that was from 1954. And that the Bole-wura ill-treats the people of Kung because they were not his subjects. In his reply to the Kung-wura the Regional Chief Officer remarked:
I have received a letter from Kung-wura Mahama dated 28th October 1954 asking for my help in constitutional matters. Please, inform him that I am not prepared to intervene."
It is possible to continue the discussions which follow the same trend from the 1950s to the present day without arriving at the solution. The reason is because later Bole-wuras took an entrenched position to ensure that Kung was not granted her customary rights and privileges as a division. This idea seems to be wrongly passed on to the youth by both Chiefs and Elders of Bole, and some of the youth follow the example of Mahama Haruna who fraternizes all time with people from Kung in Ghana and now turns against them. In his document now in the Social Media, Mahama Haruna innocently indicates that the Kung family never brought luck to Gonja during their reign.
The question one may ask is how many Kung-wuras ruled Gonja since its foundation? Yes, Kung began the skin after Ndewura Jakpa passed on and nine Kung-wuras ruled as Yagbum-wuras before the era of Kung-wura Abdulai Jamani. How many other sons of Kung before Nyantachi were found to be 'tyrannous', 'cruel', 'unlucky', etc? Mahama Haruna also mentioned that it was the turn of Kung-wura to be the Yagbum-wura but for the memory of Yagbum-wura Nyantekyi from Kung Gonjas were reluctant to elect the Kung-wura as the Yagbum-wura. Therefore he was denied. This statement is untenable, unaccepted, incorrect and too misleading.
Mahama Haruna talked about a private and secret meetin which was held mid-night by Senyor-wura, Bole-wura, Tuluwe-wura and Busunu-wura and which leaked. Yes, during such conferences Statesmen often negotiate in various dealings but if the unexpected happens and a major decision leaks prematurely definitely a looser will react. Such reactions are considered as normal in/during our daily local political activities among the Mamprusi and Dagomba, the neighbours of Gonjas. Note that this was the time force was often applied by the strong sectors in order to win chief-ships and that was no crime. The looser in the bid in question may have to try again but not to be barred by the victor (Bole) for life.
Hence, when the secrets of the meeting held by the Senyor-wura, the Bole-wura, the Tuluwe-wura and the Busunu-wura leaked to the Kung-wura, as a human being and considering the frustrations he went through, will definitely react. His reaction was by way of harsh words which are characteristic of Chiefs during their meetings which do not spoil anything. However, the opponents of Kung, who want to make a case out of this, continue to remind all Gonjas to consider it as an 'insult'. This, matter over100 years now is still found to be relevant or worth the salt and modern Chiefs and individuals still hammer on the same idea just because of the interest of few people.
Further, the personal matter of one Mr Abudu Mahama (Yagbumwura Kurabaso), then a clerk in the Bolewura's palace and accused of making very dangerous statements in his office was used to show how unruly or indiscipline people from Kung were/are. Suffice me to state that any real/true prince will always want to defend incorrect information about his gate no matter the cost. This was the position of Abudu Mahama against Sergeant A. K. Cooper and his supporters in the department. Find out more correctly what discussions Sergeant A. K. Cooper and others held in the public and you will congratulate Abudu Mahama.
Understanding the true nature of the Kung issue so far discussed seems not to be a big headache. The reason for this assertion is that, Yagbum-wura Mahama (from Bole) and Bole-wura Takora in the 1930s solved the Bole-Kung disagreement over status and the possession of villages. Thus, the decision the Kung-wura and his people respect because the two Chiefs hailed from Bole, and might have or witnessed the event of 1896. But the two Chiefs (Yagbum-wura Mahama and Bole-wura Takora) agreed for Kung people to return,restored Kung to the status of division, enrobed Datige as the Divisional Chief (1932) and pledged to give up his villages when any became vacant. Why then should later Bole-wuras canvass other Chiefs to deny Kung her rights and privileges? Note that, an adage says the mouth of the old man smells but not his words. All Gonjas have listened to their grandparents, read both primary and secondary sources, and it is now left to all Gonjas (Ghanaians) to interpret and analyse the information gathered and the available documents. By that they would understand the nature of the friction between Kung and Bole, but not misguided by Mahama Haruna. This will also help in reconstructing the history of Gonja in a more acceptable form.
In addition to the above remarks, Mahama Haruna advised that the Bole and Kong schism which predates that of Ghana's independence should be watched carefully. What is significant about that and what has he planned to do? Rather write-ups from untrained historians like Mahama Haruna should be carefully checked because such misinforms and may or causes trouble among Gonjas. For instance, Mahama Haruna indicates that had it not been the efforts of the British and the French colonialists, Gonjas would have today been Nyamase (subjects) to the Wangara (Jula) under the leadership of Samory. This is a misplaced statement and is incorrect. Have the writer so soon forgotten about what he wrote in the 2014 Jakpa Magazine? He is reminded that Gonjas originated from Mande, and were/are a Wangara people and spoke Juula, when they first entered Ghana. He is advised also to find out how Samory originated. He was not a Wangara.
The statement that the Kung people do not speak Gonja (language) does not hold. The people who want inclusion and many Gonjas are aware of this. Believe it, this is not a serious barrier. The language matter is not peculiar to the Kung people alone. Oral tradition explains that there are sections of Gonja people in the Upper West Region who trace their origins to Bole, Busunu, Daboya, etc, and live in towns such as Charia, Sombo, Naro, Tabiasi, Issa, Jonga, Biihee, Ko, etc, and are handicapped in the language. Despite their language deficiency, they are allowed to hold positions in parts of Gonja as Chiefs and Wurikyes. Find out.
If so, how do they function during Gonja Council meetings? You (Mahama Haruna) should rather advocate for their immediate inclusion in the governing system of Gonja for one vital reason. Thus, most Gonja groups found in parts of towns in the Upper West Region were sections of Ndewura Jakpa's warriors who were clearing their way back to Mande but had to settle in their present habitats because of the actions of the forces of Samori, Babatu, the French and the English. Find out.
Apart from the crisis of 1896 which affected both Bole and Kung, there are instances of similar conflicts that took place in Gonja land. It is on record that a dispute broke between a reigning chief "Takora Abudu, and his younger brother Achiri Kofi. The later drove his brother away and ceased the skin. This war brought destruction to Daboya; its Muslims fled to towns in Gonja, Dagomba and Wa. Later, Takora returned to Daboya and expelled the usurper Achiri Kofi." This war brought fatale destructions and led to several deaths in Daboya. And yet it is known that the two families today continue to "eat" the chiefship skin without referring to the deeds of their ancestors.
Then, over the skin of Yarizori, a gate to the chiefship of Wasipe, Adam Asai, aspired to the Yarizori skin but was prevented by the reigning chief, Darfo Anyami, thus the successor of Takora, who had been incited by another prince, Zakari. The disappointed Adam retreated to Yabum, north of Daboya, where he was joined by reinforcement from Dagomba. From Yabum, Adam sent to Nuhu, of the Wangara family who had been in Salaga since the first Civil War, calling him to be his Imam. Nuhu responded. Adam now attacked Daboya, killed Darfo Anyami's party, ...Anyami's supporters, headed by Zakari went to ask the aid of the Zaberma (Zabarima), who were at the time in the region of Walembele (in the Sissala Area). Three times, the Zaberma attacked Daboya without success. In the third attack, Wasipe-wura was fatally wounded.
The conflicts discussed above also definitely led to the destruction of towns and the killing of people. It was also mentioned that an external force, the Zabarima, a gang of raiders under Babatu, who was a partner of Samori in crime, were employed in the destruction of parts of Wasipe. In any case this did not make the victor family of Wasipe, a Gonja division, to stop the rights and privileges of the defeated family. They have jointly buried the past and forges ahead in every aspect - political, social and economic- up to the present time. It is also known that Wasipe-wura was ever disqualified by the Yagbum-wura from succession to the paramountcy but was later restored in 1931 . Similarly Kung could be discharged by Yagbum-wura and pardoned by Gonjas.
Outside Africa, history taught us about the French revolution which "deeply affected man's ideas and conduct for many generations ... and the Catholic Church, Louis XVI (King of the French), and his Queen Marie Antoinette went to the guillotine (were murdered)," This was as a result of the 'revolution'. With the memories of this sad event, yet the French annually celebrates the 1789 revolution together. There are no records to show that the families of persons or people believed to have incited the masses against the Nobility (the ruling class) are continuously punished.
From the above few instances, it would be good for the writer of Gonja history to go for tutorials where he will understand how historical information are interpreted and analysed in the bid to present an unbiased accounting on individuals and communities. In fact, Gonjas are interested in getting a comprehensive and reliable account of their history for the sake of posterity.. Suffice me to say that, Gonja faced or perhaps faces conflicts due to the inability of scholars of good standing (not Mahama Haruna's type) to interpret past events properly, not to rely solely on primary materials yet to be properly analysed to decide on issues of national importance.
With the apology desired, note that J. A. Braimah's accounts are nothing but mere narratives which need further investigation and interpretation. His handicap was that he was not a trained historian but being a Native Authority Clerk he compiled his works from office documents. In my opinion, he (J. A. Braimah) failed to organise the aspects he wrote on Gonja history in a more acceptable historical perspective. Therefore, relying solely on J. A. Braimah's information only suggests a failure to inform Gonjas and Ghanaians as well as researchers correctly about critical and important aspects of Gonja history. Note that, not every University Graduate or Journalist can interpret primary (archival) documents accurately. Further, you sought to unfold the causes of the Bole- Kung disagreement but rather expose planned intensions towards Kung and its people. Thank you. It is unfortunate that you still work as the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Gonja Land Youth Association (GLYA), which Kung belongs.
The Gonja Traditional Council of late has been making efforts to put Gonja together for meaningful developments (economic, social and political). Hence assist Gonja Traditional Council with credible information. In fact, the unity of Gonjas, a people of a common descent is very crucial in its history. Therefore any narrative that seeks to divide rather than uniting the people of Gonja should be condemned. It will help if Mahama Haruna and other non- Gonjas are advised to refer their ideas on aspects of Gonja history to the Gonja Council for scrutiny before such information or ideas get to the public domain.
Mahama, Iddrisu (PhD)
6th August 2017.
PRAAD, Accra, ADM58/5/6, Bole District Record Book, Vol.1
PRAAD, Accra, ADM 56/1/416, Monthly Report on the Black Volta District, December 31, 1901.
PRAAD, Accra, ADM, C.O. 897/45
PRAAD, Tamale, NRG 8/2/13, Gonja Native Affairs, 1951
PRAAD, Tamale, NRG 8/2/68 Native Authorities (Subordinate Areas), Gonja
Boahen. Adu A., Topics in West African History, School's Edition, (London Longman1966)
Buah. F. K., A History of Ghana, (London, Macmillan, 1980)
Levtzion. Nehemia, Muslims and Chiefs in West Africa, (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1968)
Manoukia. Madeline, Tribes of the Northern Territories of the Gold Coast, (London, 1951)
Tamakloe. Emmanuel Forster, A Brief History of the Dagomba People, (Accra, Government Printing Office, 1931)
Person Y, "Samori Resistance to the French", In Protest and Power in Black Africa, (1967)
Braimah. J. A., "Timu: The History and Social Organisation of the Peoples of Gonja", (Unpublished, 31st October, 1983)
Hornby. A. S., Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary of Current English, Eighth Edition, (London, Oxford University Press, 2010)
MacDonald - Smith. S., N. T. (Northern Territories) Report, 1955