Kweku Baako, the Asantehene is a King, not a Chief

When Otumfuo Opoku-Ware, II, transitioned, he had nearly a full-page obituary in the globally renowned New York Times. No local traditional chieftain in Ghana has been afforded such recognition. The New York Times also captioned its obituary, if I recall accurately, “Opoku-Ware, King of the Asantes Is Dead.” I did not bother to google it before quickly firing off this column, but anybody who doubts my testimony can readily access google to either contradict or vindicate my contention.

I also did not read the original rejoinder written by Dr. Osei-Tutu Darkwa to which the Editor-Publisher of the New Crusading Guide, Mr. Abdul-Malik Kwaku Baako, sought to rejoin with his quite interesting and legalistic but patently off-tangent article captioned “Why Asantehene Is a King – A Rejoinder” (MyJoyOnline.com), but I staunchly back Dr. Darkwa’s swift and pointed response to Mr. Baako without the allegedly insulting and/or offensive use of language by the former against the latter. I must also promptly point out that I do not know who Dr. Osei-Tutu Darkwa is; I am only interested in helping to set the proverbial records straight.

I am not familiar with the bulk of our indigenous Ghanaian languages, but my passable knowledge of the Ga-language and intimate familiarity and facility with my native Akan-majority Ghanaian tongue tell that there is absolutely no major spoken language in Ghana that would confuse the clearly distinctive meanings of the words “King” and “Chief.” The latter of the two preceding terms, as written into Ghana’s 1992 Republican Constitution, is a passive carryover from British colonial imperialist tradition which tended to disdainfully reduce the authority, worth, status and significance of British-colonized people relative to the British monarch.

That was how the monarchical misnomer of “Chief” for the likes of the Asantehene, the Okyenhene and the DagbonNaa, or Overlord, got written into the language of our Constitution. There are, of course, “Chiefs” in Ghana. Among the Akan, they are called “Adikro” or “Odikro” (singular form), who are town-heads. And then there are “Amanhene,” who are the equivalent of modern-day’s Regional Ministers. In reality, the “Omanhene” (singular form) was a military designation for a “Divisional Commander,” for that was how virtually all the Akan states were established. The “Amanhene” or divisional commanders were also “Kings,” but they were of lesser political and administrative status and rank than the “Paramount King.”

In the case of Asante, not “Ashanti,” by the way, several small kingdoms agglomerated either voluntarily or involuntarily to form a more cohesive and powerful “Mega-Kingdom” or an Empire. The “Nayire” of the Mamprusi Kingdom presided over a “Kingdom,” but the Asantehene, if Mr. Baako paid sedulous attention to his high school history lessons, presided over several discrete and autonomous kingdoms, among which were Old Dwaben (Juaben), Mampong, Bekwai (Amansie), Kumawu and Kumasi Proper. And, by the way, most of the present-day Brong-Ahafo Region was also a part of the Asante Empire, as well as a sizable chunk of the present-day Ivory Coast (or Côte d’Ivoire).

The 1992 Constitution, as it presently stands, effectively hobbled by the unorthodox protective clauses and provisos for the criminal leaders of the erstwhile Provisional National Defense Council (PNDC), now politically morphed into the so-called National Democratic Congress (NDC), is not authentically Ghanaian. None of our precolonial indigenous constitutions, from the Asante Federation to the Danquah-codified Akyem-Abuakwa Constitution and that of the Fante Confederacy protected political and common criminals like the Rawlings-Tsikata Posse. Consequently, eloquently quoting Chieftaincy Acts from the 1992 Constitution does not really advance Mr. Baako’s argument vis-à-vis the monarchical status of His Majesty, The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei-Tutu, II, or any of his 26, or so, predecessors.

It may also be of interest to Mr. Baako to learn that even the British Royal Family recognizes, in principle, at least, the Asantehene. Recently, when the daughter of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth, II, paid a visit to Ghana, it was only the Asantehene that Princess Margaret (I suppose that is her name) paid a courtesy call on, not any other Ghanaian traditional ruler. If he seriously doubts the foregoing assertive observation, Mr. Baako is welcome to conduct his own investigation. Then also, Mr. Baako may not know this, but it was only the extant Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Agyeman Prempeh, II, who officially signed his British-restored Asante Federation into political association with the modern state of Ghana at independence. None of the other traditional Ghanaian rulers are on record to have done so. Technically, what this means is that it is only the Asantehene who could legally take his Federation or Empire out of Ghana at anytime that he so desires.

In sum,quoting articles from a widely discredited Constitution to impugn the dignity and status of the Asantehene, as he clearly sought to do in his rather quaint, disingenuous and amateurish rejoinder, does not make Mr. Baako a legal maven or genius constitutionalist. And, by the way, does the Editor-Publisher of the New Crusading Guide appreciate the following age-old maxim: “It is only the Okyenhene who has a customary protocol of handshaking with the Asantehene”?

Columnist: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

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