In March, 2002, the news about the murder of the Overlord of Dagbon, no doubt, did a devastating blow to a respected Kingdom and the descendants of the great Naa Gbewaa. The murder of the King renewed what has been variously described as Dagbon conflict, a crisis or impasse.
The tension that greeted the entire Dagbon, after the murder, the agony and pain endured by close relations, the conspiracy theories, and all the lies and half-truths, perhaps are now confined to history, notwithstanding that the solution remains uncertain. However, one thing for certain, the events following the murder were to define the intrigues of the chieftaincy politics in Dagbon and its relationship with partisan politics, which deeply divided the people in entrenched suspicions. Divorce, break-up of relationships, burning of houses, and the constant promising of gloom helped by local radio, became the norm.
The effect on the nation, of this crisis, was loud as it could not escape the attention of the Government. In fact, the government was implicated in the murder of the King. The response from the government then focused on two measures – a Commission of Enquiry under the chairmanship of Justice Wuaku; and a Reconciliation Committee of Eminent Chiefs under the leadership of the Asantehene, Otumfour Osei Tutu II. Whilst the government touted its commitment to a resolution, some believed the process commenced by it excluded the most important element – finding the killers and punishing them. The common chorus was ‘there cannot be peace without justice”.
Truly, peace does not connote justice. It is also true that justice does not end with successful prosecution, if the victims are still filled with pain. There may be criminal justice but not inner justice. Therefore, whilst the genuine call for justice remained important, the process to establish the facts of the crisis and to pursue the path of reconciliation, were to not only bring an end to a long standing dispute in Dagbon chieftaincy succession, but also the inner justice for the families of the murdered King. This is why the narrative must change going forward, as there cannot be a “one-fit-all” approach to a resolution.
Even more, the search for justice must be carefully guided by due process, and be devoid of the intent to satisfy a crying victim just for the sake of it, or in this case to appease one faction of the Dagbon chieftaincy divide for a political gain, as the NDC government was accused of. Whatever the outcome of the court trials, Dagombas now know that arresting and trying fourteen alleged “killers of the king” under the NDC government did not take us near a resolution, given that the alleged killers were acquitted and discharged by a competent court. If any, it threw further wide the search for the killers.
What we must understand now is that although the real killers may be at large, and may be far from the justice many people had wanted, they simply cannot be far from God’s justice. This should spur us on as we consider other outstanding complexities of the crisis to make progress towards a journey that will restore Dagbon to normalcy with the enskinement of a new Ya Naa. But who am I to preach to the converted? Many Dagombas are Muslims and understand this well.
It is now part of our history that the cost of the crisis is overwhelming. The opportunity cost of the crisis is the development we have lost. Several millions of cedis have gone down the drain, in attempts at addressing the crisis. I recall the efforts to attract investments to Tamale and the Northern Region in general; and the difficulties encountered at the hands of multi-billion companies like Coca Cola and Boeing International.
We cannot be in self-denial that the cost we are counting in terms of investment misopportunities may just be a tip of the iceberg relative to our failure to exploit our human potential as a people, the level of hopelessness that enslaved our people and our productivity. We started a journey, moving one step forward and thousand steps backward, playing the blame game and engaging in counter-productive arguments about “who killed the Ya Naa and forty others”. Our own people no longer found it sensible to do business on our land. The reason was simple – no peace and security in Dagbon!
In spite of these lost opportunities, it cannot be true that some people did not profit from this misfortune. The so called ‘chieftaincy contractors’ have not helped the healing process, as one press conference after another, became the platform for showing their altruistic support and in the process prevailing on the emotions of vulnerable people, for their own selfish gain. Therefore, not only the families of the royal gates have been involved in this crisis, but also those who claim to love them. These are the people who have brought Dagbon to the brink of a kingdom in search for a clear direction and survival. These people concocted conspiracies in hushed tones to demean the intelligence of the Dagbon people, using radio in particular to spread poison, and in the process inciting one Dagomba against another Dagomba in a war none of them can win. They must be ashamed of their roles which further divided the royal family of Dagbon, instead of helping them heal their wounds.
A careful observation of the road to a resolution of the crisis presents two facts. One, the resolution of the crisis defies the political party in government of our country, as the major parties who showed interest in the crisis, NDC and NPP, were both not able to end it despite being in government for 8 years each. Two and most important, there have not been efforts by Dagombas themselves apart from those made by government to address our own problems.
The latter of the two observations is particularly worrying because the Dagbon people have historically been recognized as hard working people, peace loving, hospitable and generous among other attributes. Our politicians are some of the most vocal and intelligent in our country’s politics. There are countless Dagombas in business, banking, academia, farming, medicine and science, excelling in their various endeavors. Dagbon can be proud that we have distinguished traditional chiefs like my grandfathers Kumbung Naa, Sagnari Naa, Gulpke Naa, Bamvim Lana, Tolon Gban Lana, to mention others, who are not only well respected by our people and by their peers, but some of them are accomplished professionals who left a mark of excellence in their former organizations before ascending to their current roles. I dare say that our collective failure to put Dagbon back on track pales in the shadows of our professional excellence. We have what it takes to solve the crisis, but we went to sleep expecting someone to wake us up. This is not acceptable!
The President of our Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has recently demonstrated renewed determination to bring the crisis to an end. However, by stating repeatedly that he is not a Dagomba, he does not belong to the Abudu and Andani Gates, and has therefore no interest in the crisis apart from reconciling us and bringing back the dignity of a once revered Kingdom; should be that wake up call we have been waiting for. We must as a matter of urgency rise to the call and get ready at putting our shoulders to the wheel.
We need to rally behind the decision of the Eminent Chiefs, and the Government; and play our part in reconstructing the future of Dagbon. We cannot sit and watch our history being written by others. We must be part of defining our destiny for the future of our children. We must begin this by contributing to build a decent and dignified palace for our future King, a place we can all call our home. Our leaders must call a conference for us to talk to each other with frankness; and eventually forgive ourselves and declare a truce. We must initiate urgent steps to get the Abudu and Andani families agree to the road map declared by the Eminent Chiefs. These actions carried out with an abiding faith in our collective wisdom, our strength and ultimately God’s will, promise to help Dagombas reclaim our place in the affairs of our country, our respect as decent people and to position our community among the most civilized communities of the world.
By: Adam Mohammed
A Concerned Son of Dagbon