Ebo Quansah in Accra .
Asantehene Osei Tutu II is a living legend. The king with the Midas touch has transformed his kingdom and impacted positively on the entire Ghanaian society. The very personality of the reigning monarch of the Asante Kingdom is a source of inspiration to his kindred subjects and the nation that helps to prop up his kingdom. Chieftaincy in the country generally owes everything to him, that the institution has blossomed in spite of the fact that most powers of the chiefs in Ghana have been taken away by the Constitution of the Fourth Republic.
In this age, when the institution of marriage is under threat for its failure to mould couples to respect their marital vows leading to marriage breakdowns, which, in turn, has inflicted so much pain on individuals and their offspring, it is an inspiration to learn a lesson or two from the concept of arranged marriages, which led to the birth of Barima Kwaku Duah and his inspirational rise to occupy the Golden Stool. In the immediate past, arranged marriages were the cornerstone upon which couples were bonded together for better or for worse.
Otumfuo Osei Tutu II is the perfect gift to the world from the arranged marriage concept of the Akan society. The story is told that when the first marriage of Nana Afia Kobi Ampem, the woman who was to become the 13th Asantehemaa, broke down, her brother, Sir Osei Agyeman Prempeh II, the reigning Asantehene at the time, took it upon himself to give his sister a perfect match.
Convinced that Ohenana Boakye Dankwa, a tall and handsome young man from Kantikyeren in the Atwima Mponoua area of his kingdom, would form a perfect partnership with his sister, Sir Osei Agyeman Prempeh invited Boakye Dankwa’s father, Nana Kwaku Duah Agyare, then Brahyiahene, and his uncle, Nana Yaw Tufuor, to a meeting at the Manyia Palace with instructions that the delegation should report at the royal seat of administration with young Boakye Dankwa.
Unknown to the delegation from Kantikyeren, Otumfuo Agyeman Prempeh had also asked his younger sister, Afia Kobi, then aged 26, to report at the same meeting with a number of relatives. At the gathering, one thing led to the other. By the time the meeting ended, young Boakye Dankwa had a new bride.
Naturally, when Barima Kwaku Dua was born, the fifth child of now deceased Asantehemaa, the baby boy was presented to his uncle, the Asantehene, at the Manhyia Palace. According to available literature on Asante royal lineage, Otumfuo Sir Osei Agyeman Prempeh II lifted the baby into the air in excitement and proclaimed: ‘Okra Tumi; Okra Tumi; Se Woaba A, Tenase!’
It is very difficult to do justice to the translation of this deep meaning Akan proclamation, given the prophetic nature of the utterances. The mood and manner of delivery puts a different spin on these words altogether. For the purposes of our exercise, I would go for this translation. “Soul of authority… soul of authority… You have joined the living, and you are hence commanded to stay put with the living.”
Barima Kwaku Duah did not only survive the vicissitudes of childhood, he has grown up to become one of this nation’s most transformational leaders, contributing enormously to the upliftment of the kingdom he leads from the front, as well as providing the magical touch to the search for solutions to myriads of problems facing the Ghanaian society in general.
On April 26, 1999, aged 29, Barima Kwaku Duah was formally enstooled the 16th King of the Asantes. On his installation, he took the stool name Osei Tutu II, in fond memory of the great Osei Tutu I, who unified the various states of Asante into one powerful kingdom.
For the records, it was Osei Tutu I who rallied the kingdom for war of independence from the clutches of Ntim Gyakari and the dreaded Denkyira Empire of the time, and worked towards the unification of the nasal states into one unified Asante Kingdom. For the uninitiated, the name Asante is a coinage from Osei Tutu I’s rallying cry, ‘Asa Nti,’ literally meaning ‘for the sake of war.”
In the modern era, when wars and inter-tribal conflicts have been consigned to the background, the fight has been against, poverty, illiteracy, poor health, environmental degradation, and many related negative effects on the development of mankind.
One of the immediate actions taken by the new occupant of the Golden Stool to improve on the quality of life of his people was the setting up of the Osei Tutu II Charity Foundation. According to an official literature on the charity: “The Osei Tutu Charity Foundation seeks to improve upon the lives of Ghanaians by implementing the ideas, values, and visions of its patron, and thereby use this as a vehicle in the transformation of Africa.”
The charity provides support for the needy but brilliant students to educate themselves abroad, and in local institutions for higher learning. Statistics speak of more than 250,000 students on scholarships in institutions abroad and in Ghana, benefitting from facilities provided by the charity to access education in all its forms.
We are told that apart from the huge numbers depending entirely on the foundation to educate themselves to the highest level, there is another chunk of 275,000 beneficiaries obtaining various forms of support, ranging from bursaries, accommodation, books and stationery, and clothing support.
The charity has provided support in the fight against AIDS and HIV in all parts of the country. We are told that the foundation has provided infrastructural support for 50 health facilities in the Ashanti, Ahafo, Central and other regions of Ghana.
For the past 20 years, the Osei Tutu Foundation has constructed patients’ wards, out-patients’ departments, and staff accommodation for hospitals and other health facilities throughout the country. The Komfo Anokye Hospital in Kumasi especially, has been a major beneficiary in many ways.
There has been major construction work standing in the name of the foundation, including the modernisation of the Kejetia transport hub and market, the Kumasi City Mall, Kumasi International Airport Redevelopment Project, and Prebon Greenfields Residential Estates Project, among many others.
The impact of Otumfuo, the reigning Asantehene, on Ghana is beyond brick and mortar. That this county has not broken up since the volatile era of Jerry Rawlings’ rubber stamp Parliament and beyond, could partly be linked to the diplomacy of the King whose subjects fondly refer to him in reverence as King Solomon.
All five heads of state of Ghana, since the return to constitutional rule in the Fourth Republic, have had to rely on his wise counsel to navigate the turbulent waters of leadership during their tenure. Most disputes involving the administration and the opposition, have, invariably, had a Manhyia seal of approval in their resolutions.
This nation’s success in the declaration of HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Country) in the era when President John Agyekum Kufuor sat at the Castle, as well as Ghana’s ability to reach the completion point within a record time of two years, had the Asantehene’s handwriting all over it. At that point in time, Osei Tutu II had a personal good rapport with Mr. James Wolfensohn, the American President of the World Bank. Knowledgeable people within the bank, and in this county, would testify to the fact that Otumfuo Osei Tutu II used his considerable leverage on Mr. Wolfensohn to smoothen matters when things threatened to go out of hand.
A man of peace, he always preached co-existence and tranquility as the sine quo non for peaceful co-existence. Many Ghanaians may not know this, but when Otumfuo Asantehene sits in state as the Omanhene of Kumasi, he has the various tribal leaders in the city for company.
There is the Moshie Chief, Zabrama head, Anlo Chief and Fanti Chief, and other tribal heads in Kumasi among his cortege.
One of the most remarkable achievements of the monarch’s 20 year reign is definitely related to the painful diplomacy that led to the brokering of peace in Dagbon, and the installation of a new Overlord, following the internecine war between the Abudus and Andanis, which led to various clashes that led to the assassination of Ya-Na Yakubu Andani II in March 2002.
Appointed head of a three-man Committee of Eminent Chiefs to broker peace following the conflict, Otumfuo skillfully negotiated a way through the mayhem and succeeded in providing an effective road-map for peace in Dagbon.
In this difficult assignment, Otumfuo was aided by the Nayiri, Naa Bohagu Abdulai Mahama Sheriga, and Yabonwura Tuntumba Bosera I.
The committee presented its recommendations, including a road-map for the restoration of peace and the installation of a new king in Dagbon. The government implemented the recommendations, including the performance of the funeral rites for the late Mahamadu IV and Yakubu Andani II, followed by the investiture of a new Ya-Na, Alhaji Abubakari Mahama.
Obviously, the solution to the Dagbon crisis ranks high on the Asantehene’s own assessment of his achievements. At the climax of the celebration marking the 20th Anniversary of his reign, Otumfuo had this to say about Dagbon.
“For 17 years, our brothers in Dagbon were in despair from cruel conflicts, setting brother against brother and destroying resources that could have been better spent on economic development for the people. Through painful, but sure efforts applying the centuries old tradition, peace has been restored and we are able to welcome a new Ya-Na to a re-born Dagbon.”
As Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, he used his considerable wisdom to avert a potentially explosive situation over the decision to convert the University Hall (Katanga) into a mixed hall of residence, and the perception by the students that the council and the Vice-Chancellor were arrogating to themselves powers that they did not have.
The Asante Monarch has built bridges in traditional areas where there were road blocks previously. He used his considerable diplomatic skills to mend fences with the Okyenhene and Techimanhene, two traditional foes of the Ashanti monarch in Akan folklore.
One of Busumburu’s immediate acts on assuming power was to rally all his people around him. He is on record as being the first Ashanti Monarch to visit Worawora in the Volta Region, even though traditionally the people are of Asante stock. The people of Worawora are Ashantis who ran away in order to escape war. Though buried deep in the Volta Region, the people of Worawora have from time immemorial refused to be educated in the Ewe language, preferring Asante Twi as their option.
I met Otumfuo Osei Tutu II for the first time when the royal entourage visited Worawora. I was in town with my good friend, Odeneho Kofi Dua Adonteng, at that point in time, President of the Mensah Sarbah Hall Alumni Association. We were standing by the road-side admiring the royal entourage as it wound its way on the street to the durbar ground.
On reaching where Mr. Dua-Adonteng and I were standing, Otumfuo signalled from his palanquin to us to enjoy his royal cortege. After the function, the King called me aside and instructed Mr. Dua-Adonteng to bring me to the Manhyia Palace.
Since then I have been a fairly regular visitor to the palace. Last Friday, Kofi and I, in the company of a delegation from Mensah Sarbah Hall of the University of Ghana, Legon, joined Otumfuo to give thanks to God at a church service at the St. Cyprian Anglican Church at Fante New Town, Kumasi, for a successful 20-year reign.
Everything being equal, the two of us will join the congregation at a church service at the same venue on Monday, March 6, to commemorate the 69th Anniversary of the birth of the Asante Monarch, undoubtedly, the most influential traditional leader of our time.
On Sunday, May 28, a special football match, featuring the Asantehene’s beloved Asante Kotoko and an opponent to be named later, would feature at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi to lower the curtain on two months of celebration marking the 20th Anniversary of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II’s occupation of the Golden Stool.
The two months of activities began on Saturday, March 9, with a cleaning exercise in Manyia and other royal enclaves in Kumasi.
On Wednesday, March 27, performances of Atano Rites, with traditional priests featuring prominently, began the traditional aspect of the celebrations.
Tuesday, March 16 was reserved for the presentation of gifts to the Asante Monarch. The competition by banks to collect monetary offerings told the story of a King liked by his people. The celebration reached its climax on Sunday, April 21, when the Monarch rode in a palanquin to Dwabrem, the traditional durbar grounds, at the Manhyia Palace.
At the durbar attended by all four surviving heads of state, leaders and members of all political parties in the country, as well as religious and traditional leaders, Otumfuo spoke at length on the highs and lows of his reign, and had this piece of advice for political leaders in this country not to contrive to court trouble for all Ghanaians with their unguarded utterances and general behaviour. “It is in the spirit of restructured resurgence Ghana, united by a common heritage and peace with itself, we feel it our bounding duty, therefore, in the presence of our noble gathering, to address a passionate appeal to His Excellency, our President, and other elder statesmen and leaders of all political parties who seek to govern our nation to let this signpost guide us to our true destiny, which is a vibrant Ghana, developing in peace and harmony.
“In your name, therefore, on this holiest of days, we send a simple but powerful message to our political leaders, let peace reign upon our nation.”
In response to Otumfuo’s message of peace, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo praised the Asantehene’s contribution to nation-building. The President was touched by the role the Osei Tutu II Charity Foundation especially is playing in the areas of education, health and leadership training generally.
“On behalf of the government and people of Ghana, I join the well-wishers in extending warm, hearty congratulations to Otumfuo Osei Tutu Ababio on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary of his ascension to the great Golden Stool,” the President affirmed… “It is my prayer that Almighty God will continue to bless him with wisdom, good health, long life and prosperity, and certainly, another 20 years on the throne, and my hope is that our friendship will continue to remain strong.”
One of the lowest points in Busumuru’s leadership of the traditional Asante Kingdom was when thieves stole some gold ornaments from his royal cortege on a visit to Norway. But the positives far outnumber the one-off incident of regret.
The Fantis, the tribe occupying the coastal belt of the Central Region, will tell you: ‘Okobran Twa Par A Woma No Mbo.’ The late Mr. Mr. Kwame Gyawu-Kyem, one time Editor of the Ghanaian Times and one of the most influential journalists of his generation, once wrote a one-paragraph editorial. “When a man has done his every best, the angels above cannot do anymore!”