The Asantehene, His Majesty Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, returned home from a monthlong trip to South Africa last Tuesday to a rapturous welcome at the Kumasi Airport. He was captured on camera on the tarmac wiping away tears from his eyes. Obviously he had been deeply moved by the transparent happiness of his loyal subjects that he had safely returned home.
The powerful political undercurrents that drove this important personage in the civic fabric of our country to tears is the subject of my column today.
The rumours had begun two weekends ago on several internet network sites of the transition of the Asantehene while in South Africa for a routine medical check-up. They were so strong and so emphatic, yet carefully avoided mentioning his name, or the sources, that I myself was compelled to verify this wicked story through my impeccable sources. But it persisted, hence the massive reception he received on his arrival and the tears of gratitude that flowed down his royal cheeks.
The obvious question of who gains from the propagation of an obvious untruth of his passage is linked directly, not to those who may gain by having their candidate ascend the Golden Stool as his successor, but rather, curiously, to prove a very foolish political point. That point, unproven because it is unprovable and unsustainable, has had a life of its own for quite some time in our recent politics.
Otumfuo has had cause and occasion to strongly and vigorously deny the tale that he was involved in any way, shape or form, with the outcome of the electoral petition sent to the Supreme Court last year, challenging the results of the 2012 Presidential Election, which was handily won by President John Mahama and the National Democratic Congress.
Various angles of this basic untruth have been peddled and purveyed in all types of our media, leading this calm and fine Christian gentleman, proud royal and symbol of the justly-acclaimed Ashanti Kingdom and its Golden Stool to come out and do what is normally unthinkable, refute the base accusation and counsel all of us to desist from such demeaning attacks on his person and position.
It is amazing that the Otumfuo has been accused of playing a role in securing victory for President Mahama in the courts, when the loser in the elections and the subsequent court case is a fellow Oyoko clansman, though of Akyem stock. I myself heard and saw on television the 2012 NPP Presidential Candidate say he was a member of the Oyoko clan when he paid a visit to Otumfuo during the campaign in 2012.
If Otumfuo was minded to back anyone in the elections, the Oyoko man in the contest should have been his natural candidate. Again, in the petition, the subjects of the Otumfuo who were on the court panel all voted for the NPP candidate, which should have put paid to the unfounded rumour of the positive influence of Otumfuo regarding the ultimate outcome of the petition in the Supreme Court because notwithstanding the votes of Otumfuo’s subjects in the petition, it was still lost by the petitioners.
One of the foundations for the persistence of this rumour, I must admit, is the contrived difficulty erected by its purveyors that some confusion necessarily exists in the counting of votes regarding the itemised claims in the petition.
You do not need to be a lawyer, or an expert in anything except logical elegance and rational formulation, to appreciate the decision of the panel to rely on the six claims of the petitioners, rather than the two the court itself directed, to grasp the basis for the court relying on one as against the other. The six claims of the petitioners were easier to address and rule upon than the ungainly double-barreled approach the court initially adopted. Some of us seem to be saying with this thinking, that if you use our ball for the game, then we must necessarily win the match.
The Asantehene, therefore, in the warped thinking of the paranoid people behind the senseless rumour of his passage, must suffer the ultimate penalty of death to prove the truth of the false assertion that he aided in the court victory of President Mahama and the NDC. What is death a punishment for? All of us, king or subject, president or citizen, master or slave, sick or strong, happy or sad, wicked or kind, will submit at the end of our lives. Our deaths, even those premeditated, have nothing to do with our innate natures.
An even more foolish variation of this extremely unkind story is the issue of Otumfuo using the presidential jet from Accra to Kumasi. It is amazing that some of us questioning this matter are those who preach to the rooftops how relevant and salient chieftaincy is in our society. The Asantehene is, without any shred of doubt, one of the most important and visible traditional rulers in this country. All governments since (independence) have recognised this, and extended to him courtesies equal to his stature in our society.
Foreign medical assistance
Way back in 2000, the NPP loudly condemned profligate government spending involving foreign exchange spent on seeking foreign medical assistance for high officials of state instead of having them looked after locally. A visibly pained and distraught Chief of Staff to President Rawlings, Mr Ato Dadzie, held a press conference to disclose that one of the high personages the government had flown abroad for medical treatment was the late Otumfuo Opoku Ware II, the predecessor of the current occupant of the Golden Stool.
What happened to this revelation? The very people who had accused the government then turned around to damn the government for seeking to humiliate the Asantehene, who had actually passed on more than a year previously. Such rank hypocrisy gives competitive, democratic politics a bad name it does not deserve.
When we drag our chiefs into politics, and assign to them positions and passions they do not share, because they cannot share them and remain our chiefs, those of us who claim to believe that chieftaincy is the ultimate reservoir of our existence here on earth in this land, grievously harm ourselves. Cutting our noses to spite our faces is guaranteed to threaten breathing, and extinguish our lives, but more immediately, it would deprive us of our finely sculptured human faces.