Dagbon – Time to forget and forgive

Not many believed that peace would truly come to Dagbon the way it happened in the past one and a half months, leading to the nomination and enskinment of a new Yaa Naa, to succeed the late Yaa Naa Yakubu Andani II, who was murdered in March 2002 together with at least 30 of his elders.

Despite efforts by the government and security agencies, those who stormed the Gbewa Palace and caused the dastardly acts between March 25 and 27, 2002 were never apprehended.

It was this situation that necessitated the setting up of a Commission of Enquiry by President John Agyekum Kufuor, through a Constitutional Instrument, 2002 (C.I.36) on April 25, 2002, to investigate the incident of March 25 and 27, 2002.

Subsequently, the Committee of Eminent Chiefs was also put in place by President Kufuor in 2002 to find a lasting solution to the imbroglio that had engulfed Dagbon in the aftermath of the Yaa Naa Yakubu Andani’s death.

It has been a hard road to travel by the committee, chaired by the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, with the Yagbonwura, Tuntumba Boresa Sulemana Jakpa I, the Paramount Chief of the Gonja Traditional Area and the Nayiri, Na Bohugu Abdulai Mahami Sheriga, the Paramount Chief of the Mampurugu Traditional Area as members, these past 17 years.

While only a few gave the Eminent Chiefs a dog’s chance to succeed, they must be commended for remaining committed and resolute to finding a lasting and permanent solution to the Dagbon chieftaincy dispute that has brought brother against brother for decades.

The entrenched positions taken by the Abudu and Andani families at committee meetings made it look like the efforts of the Eminent Chiefs were a mere nine-day wonder.

I always felt sad for the Eminent Chiefs when after some agreement had been reached, other groups outside the accredited representatives of the families at the committee organised press conferences to condemn the decisions reached, promising hell at home.

Fortunately, the Eminent Chiefs were not moved by the acts of a few who did not want to see peace return to Dagbon, probably for selfish reasons.

Fortunately, again nothing untoward happened to any of our eminent royal fathers during the past 17 years and they have all lived to see the end of the story.

My dear readers, I have followed all the developments during the search for peace in Dagbon since 2002 because of the emotional attachment I have for the north.

My interest in the north dates back to my early years at the University of Ghana, Legon when I found myself in the company of northerners in Commonwealth Hall.

True friends

Among the really true friends I made were Johnson Abudu, who later became a Commissioner of Police (COP) and was a year my senior, unfortunately now deceased; Yakubu Saaka, a one-time junior Foreign Minister, Abukari Sumani, former MD for NORADEP, who became MP for Tamale Central, both my mates but also deceased, Seidu Bogobiri who was manager at UTC in Tamale, in the mid-70s, also deceased and Lawyer Afoko Amoak, based in Bolgatanga and the Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu.

I have continued to maintain close relationship with Lawyer Amoak and Martin – both great Old Vandals. Not long ago, my daughter, Hamdarat, now a High Court Registrar in Sandema did an attachment at the Chambers of Lawyer Amoak while her husband Lawyer Tiamiyu Mohammed, called to the Bar last year, presently works at the Chambers of Lawyer Amoak in Bolgatanga.

I learnt a lot about the north from these friends and I was determined to go and work in the north, a part of the country I had then never visited, after graduation.

Unfortunately, things did not work out the way I wanted when I graduated in 1970. My plans to get a teaching job in Tamale could not materialise.

I finally got the long-awaited opportunity in late 1975 when I had started working at the Daily Graphic. Sometime in August, my editor, the late I.K. Nkrumah, called me to his office and told me the company had decided to post me to Tamale as the Regional Editor for the Northern and then Upper Regions, since I was a Muslim and could speak Hausa.

My dear readers, I did not allow my editor to finish his sermon. I told him right in his office I was ready to go.

I did not wait for the new Graphic House at Agric Ridge to be fully ready and neither did I collect my transfer allowance before I landed in Tamale in November 1975.

I only passed through Kumasi to inform my parents about my posting to Tamale and joined the Graphic delivery van from Kumasi.

It was my first time of travelling northwards from Kumasi and we passed through Mampong, Atebubu, crossing the Volta Lake at Yeji in pontoon and landed at Makango.

We continued to Salaga and arrived at Tamale just before sunset with the vendors waiting to collect the day’s copies for sale.

“Tamale, here I come” I told myself.

I found myself in a completely new world with the people so friendly and ready to help. It took some few days before my bungalow was ready for occupation.

Soon I started making friends and joining other journalists to travel with the regional commissioner to various parts of the Northern Region.

I also found time to travel to Bolgatanga in the Upper Region and occasionally visited places such as Wa, Tumu, Walewale, Bawku etc. especially during the period of the agric shows.

Peace in the north

The north I found at that time was very peaceful, especially Tamale, where I thought everybody knew everybody and each was his brother’s keeper.

When I arrived in Tamale, the late Yaa Naa Yakubu Andani II had been on the skin for about a year.

Maybe because it was a period of military rule the chieftaincy dispute in Dagbon was somehow suppressed. In fact, there was nothing to show that there was any crisis in Dagbon.

All this while I did not know my driver, Abukari Alhassan, was an Andani. For Friday prayers Abukari took me to the Alfa Ejura Mosque on the Bolga Road where Alfa Ejura, a diehard Andani, was the Chief Imam.

The mosque was on the path to my residence.

I therefore found it convenient to pray there.

Nobody questioned why I was praying there. Neither did I know there was a Central Mosque at the city centre, where the Chief Imam was an Abudu.

Fortunately, this was the time when Real Tamale United (RTU) had been formed and was making waves in Ghana football. RTU actually united the Abudus and the Andanis for the first time.

I must place on record that when I had my first child in Tamale, Hamdarat, in August 1976, it was Alfa Ejura who came personally with his retinue to do the naming.

Nobody challenged why I should invite Alfa Ejura to that naming ceremony.

The only time I found myself in trouble was when sometime in 1977, fellow journalist and opinion leader, Alhaji Sibidow Mahama, invited Graphic to cover what he claimed to be the smoking of peace pipe between the Abudus and the Andanis at the Police Park in Tamale.

After the coverage, the Chief Imam of the Central Mosque invited me to his residence in the presence of his elders. He showed me a copy of the Daily Graphic with pictures from the Police Park and asked me whether I could identify any Abudu in the pictures.

For the first time I was scared. I apologised and they accepted my apologies.

They did not warn me but only asked me to be careful if I wanted to enjoy my stay in Tamale. They knew there was no mischief in what I did.

Not long after, the ban on party politics was lifted to usher in the Third Republic. Fortunately, I was asked to return to the Head Office after over three years in the north.

I saw signs that if I did not leave I would find myself in trouble with the Abudus and the Andanis, always on opposite sides of the political divide.

Dagbon continued to enjoy some relative peace until the murder of Yaa-Naa Yakubu Andani II in March 2002.

After that there was always tension and both sides were not ready to give and take, the only prerequisite for peace and harmony in any troubled area.

It is to the credit of all and sundry, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the three Eminent Chiefs, the Abudus and the Adanis and all peace loving Ghanaians that the road map was followed to its logical conclusion.

It was a master stroke.

All is well that ends well.

Now is the time for all to forgive and forget, and may the reign of Yaa Naa Abukari Mahama bring peace and development not only to Dagbon but the entire north.

BY: Razak El-Alawa

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