Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II has rightly drawn the attention of his Asanteman warlord, Baffour Owusu Amankwaatia IV, to his (Bantamahene’s) intolerable greedy and sacrilegious behaviour.
Otumfuo had heard about Bantamahene allegedly selling off parcels of lands at the Kumasi racecourse to private individuals to construct shops. Additionally, he had himself built a massive building meant for rental stores on the very head or source of river god Subin Adu Antwi, the traditionally believed spirit guardian of Kumasi. Not only that, what Bantamahene did had blocked the source of the river. Therefore, he artificially changed the directional flow of the river at its very source through the construction of a new riverbed probably reinforced by steel and concrete works.
Otumfuo caused investigations into what he had heard to confirm whether or not the information reaching him was credible. He detailed a group of his sub-chiefs to the racecourse on a fact-finding mission.
They reported back to him confirming Otumfuo’s worst nightmare. Yes, Bantamahene had done exactly as rumoured to Otumfuo. Subsequently, he was officially summoned before Otumfuo and his elders at his Manhyia Palace. Otumfuo took him through historic narratives leading to the creation of the post of his warlordship and appointment as Bantamahene.
For the public knowledge, the following three points must be made and be well noted.
1. Bantamahene is the warlord of Ashantis, thus, the Kontrihene.
2. He is the chief of Kumasi. (Let me please explain this point better to the public readers. As we have Accra as the capital city of Ghana with a Ga Mantse, the overall head of the city, there is at the same time a place called Accra within Accra City. There are suburbs within Accra City with their own chiefs. So as Otumfuo is the chief of greater Kumasi as His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo recently categorized Kumasi as, and doubles as Asantehene, so is Bantamahene the chief of Kumasi as within the context of the Accra analogy).
3. Bantamahene deputies for Asantehene in his absence.
The allegations and confirmation that Bantamahene has built stores over the very head of river god Subin Adu Antwi without the likely requisite land and building permission from the Traditional Council and/or The Lands Commission call for his reprimand and admonishing.
Nevertheless, the public humiliation he has been subjected to that has gone viral on the news and the social media may be a cause for concern to some people, although Bantamahene’s treatment of the river god defies common sense, if it is not sacrilegious.
Bantamahene stool has sacrificed a lot for Asanteman since the warfare days. Again, the stool has been elevated to the status of paramountcy by Asantehene for reasons best known to him and probably to reward the stool for the sacrifices it has so daringly made toward the expansion, safety and protection of then Asante Kingdom. Therefore, the public humiliation the chief has been subjected to has the potential to erode, if it has not already eroded, his authority.
He has been ridiculed in the eyes of the public, a blemish on his integrity that he cannot get rid of unto death, although he brought it upon himself.
It has become one too many. Not long ago, the Kumasi Asafohene who is the Akwamuhene of Kumasi was embarrassed in public by Otumfuo prior to his destoolment the same day.
Now, the two prongs of Asante, if not Kumasi, have both been publicly disgraced with their integrity tattered beyond repairs.
If Otumfuo knew he was not going to destool Bantamahene, why did he not hold his reprimand cum admonishing summon of him indoors but in public, some people ask? Now, Bantamahene will likely be a shadow of himself, less respected and afraid to engage himself effectively both in his traditional and public duties until his death. Psychologically, he has become a wounded lion, lost its claws and canines. He will have to tread cautiously cowardly from the day of his public humiliation onward.
In the eyes of a section of the public, Otumfuo has become an autocrat in a nation that is a republic but not a total monarchy. This attitude of his has been conspicuously witnessed in the ongoing Kumawu chieftaincy dispute. Nonetheless, written history or records tell that since the restoration of the Asante Confederacy in 1935, with the laws put in place by the British colonial government, there has not been any stringent Asante Kingdom but a corporation of Asante divisions. The divisional paramount chiefs out of volition agreed Asantehene become their Ceremonial Head. This is following the return of Asantehene Nana Agyemang Prempeh I from his captivity and deportation to Seychelles by the British colonial government.
The following citation from the book titled, “The History of Ashanti Kings and the Whole Country Itself’ and Other Writings, by Otumfuo, Nana Agyeman Prempeh I” amplifies the strength and rights of the Asante divisional chiefs.
“He was brought back to Gold Coast as a private person without even the right to become Kumasihene. But for the British indirect rule of the Ashantis to be more successful, coupled with the petition by the Kumasi chiefs to the colonial government in March 1926, Nana Agyemang Prempeh I was appointed Kumasihene in October 1926. Without the colonial government acceding, he could never have been reinstated with even his delimited powers. Even though a Kumasihene will customarily also de facto be Asantehene, they have no exercise of overlordship on the other stools since the restoration of the Ashanti Confederacy in 1935”.
“When the Ashanti Confederacy was broken by the British in 1896, upon the capture and deportation of Asantehene Nana Agyemang Prempeh I, the British instituted the policy of balkanization. They broke the links between the six important nuclear states of the Asante Confederacy – Kumasi, Bekwai, Juaben, Mampong, Kokofu and Nsuta. (Balkanize means to divide (a country, territory, etc.) into small, quarrelsome, ineffectual states”. Each was viewed as a separate state headed by its Omanhene”.
During the restoration of the Asante Confederacy in 1935, the balkanization was maintained as confirmed by a document of Draft by the Ashanti Confederacy Council signed on 21st day of March 1938.
The document states among other topics of interest, thus, “Arising out to the Council discussion on Item 7 of the Agenda the following declaration of custom is submitted to the Council for discussion and for signature if approved:
1) “All land in Ashanti is the property of the stools of the various chiefs.”
Nowhere in this document or elsewhere, was it, or has it been, stated that Asantehene exercises overlordship on the various chiefs, their lands or subjects.
This said document was signed by Asantehene, Asantehemaa, Mamponghene, Juabenhene, Nsutahene, Bekwaihene, Kokofuhene, Adansihene, Kumawuhene, Essumenjahene, Offinsohene, Ejisuhene, Agonahene, Bandahene, Wenchihene, Nkoranzahene, Jamanhene, Mohene, Abeasehene, Berekumhene, Denyasehene, Asokorehene, Oyokohene of Kumasi, Kyidomhene of Kumasi, Gyasehene of Kumasi, Ankobiahene of Kumasi, Adontenhene of Kumasi, Benkum Clan of Kumasi, representative of Akwamuhene of Kumasi and Korentihene of Kumasi.
By the contents of the document, Asantehene has no right whatsoever to meddle in the affairs of other divisions yet, he is sometimes seen doing it without anyone reminding him of the laws and his limitations in Asanteman with regard to the individuality and powers of the various divisions.
It is the tradition of Asanteman that every paramount chief is a division and every division has a marked out land that it controls of which no other divisional chiefs can trespass. Bantamahene is a paramount chief. However, Otumfuo has stated that Kumasi racecourse does not belong to him and in effect, he, Bantamahene, has no land in Kumasi that he occupies for his own as a paramount chief for Bantama. If so, what is the relevance of his elevation to the status of Omanhene (paramount chief), some tongues are wagging? This statement by Otumfuo is a bit mind-boggling to some Asantes.
Anyway, the public humiliation is a culmination of the greediness of Bantamahene; trespassing to arrogate the land of racecourse to himself. Otumfuo has proved to him that there are consequences for greediness and trespassing upon the lands of other divisions, let alone, sacrilegiously destroying Kumasi’s river god Subin Adu Antwi.
The following wise saying may help Asanteman Council if they will see the wisdom and benefit in it.
“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a communist; Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist; Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist; Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew; Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me” -Martin Niemoller.
The elders seen kneeling down beside Bantamahene did demonstrate support for him in his remorseful pleading for mercy. Their collective acceptance of guilt may have worked wonders, touching the heart of Otumfuo to pardon him.