An Emperor without clothes?

As I write, the chiefs of Ashanti are meeting in Manhyia, Kumasi over an allegation carried in the New Free Press that Otumfour was fingered in the much rumoured bribery involved in the Supreme Court verdict.

The Otumfour himself has issued a statement denying that and the radio station that aired it has been under intense pressure from Manhyia. Since he allegedly got close to politicians and their families, all sorts of political rumours are being linked to him. From allegation of mistrust in his own palace (prompting the change of his cooks lately) to night visits of members of government and his frequent travels to Accra, even though his forebears allegedly did not cross the Prah River, this Otumfour is defying history and precedence.

This is not the first time Otumfour has issued a public statement denying an allegation aiming at slurring his name. The first came with an allegation that some Ashanti state regalia have gone missing mysteriously in Norway and rumours of royal sale were made. The name or title Otumfuor strikes shock and awe and throughout history of Gold Coast and Ghana, no chief or king has made an impression on the minds of people and governments as that name. So what is happening to that title now?

There is so much power and respect for the title Otumfour, not least when it is followed by Osei Tutu. It was an Otumfuor King Osei Tutu who every Ghanaian or African history student learnt of as the creator of the Ashanti state. With Okomfo Anokye, an Akwapim, through the instrument of the Golden Stool, created an empire that defied boundaries and which was to be the bane of British colonialism in Africa. To an extent Queen Victoria of England is believed to have contemplated abandoning the West African Colony because she could not defeat their will power.

In 1824 Otumfuor Kweku Duah’s leadership and courtyard training and etiquette became the subject of British House of Common Select Committee on Colonies debate and discussion. Otumfuor Kofi Karikari took on the British might not only in war but also in legal jurisprudence by suing the colonial government to hand over to him the keys to the Elimina Castle. He argued before the Privy Council that his ancestor Otumfuor Osei Tutu fought and defeated Nana Ntim Jakeri, Denkyirahene, who was then the custodian of the Elmina Castle from the Portuguese, and as a result then became by conquest the new custodian of the castle. The force of his argument drove the British to anger by responding with the Sagrenti War in 1874, citing the breach of the Bond of 1844 as their excuse.

Sir Garnet Wolsey himself admitted in his memoirs after the war that even though he burnt down Kumasi he could not break the back of Ashanti nation so long as the Otumfuor remained the King. He therefore recommended the removal of the monarchy. But in 1896, a 17-year-old Otumfuor, Prempeh I, stood up to Sir Fredrick Hodgson, the colonial governor sent by the Queen to dismantle the Otumfour stool, by refusing to hand over the golden stool, citing his ancestor Otumfuor Osei Tutu as the only legitimate owner of the stool. Even at the expense of his destoolment and eventual exile, he did not relent but stood his grounds. For 30 years he and his entourage of loyalists bore his cross of exile by staying true to his Golden Stool.

Otumfuor Osei Agyeman Prempeh II argued for his name to be removed from National House of Chiefs if his position will not be recognised as a king. His argument was that if he was going to be there then he ought to be made a permanent president of the council because he cannot see himself in a rotated system where he as a king will be subservient to a chief. You may call his argument as you may but a very little educated King was able to fight to protect the name he occupied, Otumfuor. For 30 years Otumfuor Opoku Ware ruled through constitutional and military governments, and even as a former politician, having been an ambassador before, still kept his title and nose away from politics.

Is this present Otumfour sailing too close to the wind of politics? From his call for peace in Kumasi, to doing the bidding for NCCE [National Commission for Civic Education] in Accra to his relationships with Presidents, is he becoming too embroiled in the hustle and bustle of politics which has always been suffixed as a dirty game? Is he having himself to blame by being labelled as a bribery conduit? These are all legitimate questions that need to be asked.

Otumfour, my novice advice is that politicians are time bound and live the life of kamikaze suicide mission. Your position is timeless, only limited by death and very rarely by destoolment. You should be a political mentor and not the other way round. You don’t pay courtesy call, but rather paid courtesies.

Before Ghana ever was, you were. Before constitutions ever existed, you were. Before governments existed in Ghana, you were. Do not be like Nana Ntim Jakeri who carried his entire kingdoms with him and destroyed it at the Feyiasi Battle. Don’t swap your lasting Crown Jewels in Kumasi with the 4-year one in Accra.