After decades of a protracted chieftaincy dispute between the Andani and the Abudu Royal gates in the Dagbon Traditional Area, the path is now clear for a peaceful process that could lead to the enskinment of a new Ya Na in the area.
In an unprecedented move after the assassination of Ya Na Yakubu Andani ll on March 27, 2002, the three Eminent Chiefs, led by the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu ll, presented a road map which spells out the processes agreed to by both Andanis and Abudus to the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, at the Jubilee House in Accra on Wednesday.
The road map has been hailed by many people as unprecedented and a great relief to the people of Dagbon and Ghana as a whole.
Briefing the meeting at the Banquet Hall at the Jubilee House, Otumfuo Osei Tutu traced the history of Dagbon from its formation in the 14th century and the dispute that dated back to the 1950s.
He said the Committee of Eminent Chiefs, in conjunction with the Andani and the Abudu Royal gates, had set dates for the final funeral rites of Na Mahamadu Abdulai to be performed from December 14 to 28, this year.
After a one-week respite, he said, the Andanis would also hold the final funeral rites of Ya Na Andani ll from January 4 to 19, 2019.
Thereafter, four recognised elders would sit in seclusion and consult the oracles to guide them in selecting a new Ya Na for the kingdom, in line with the customs and tradition of Dagbon.
That process will begin from the first Friday after the funeral of Ya Na Andani had been completed.
“We are hopeful that after the 18th, the process will start and, God willing and after few days, we will have a new Ya Na,” he stated to thunderous applause by elders from both sides.
Otumfuo Osei Tutu said the committee would continue to engage all stakeholders until a finality was brought to the matter when a new Ya Na was selected, enskinned and introduced to the President and the people of Ghana to ensure lasting peace in Dagbon.
During the peace process, the Asantehene said, there were instances when members of the two Royal gates accused the committee of being bias and not giving ear to their concerns.
He, however, denied those allegations and impressed on the Royal gates to accept that the eminent chiefs were their fathers who had nothing to gain from the dispute.
Present at the meeting were members of the Council of State and the National Peace Council, heads of the security agencies, parliamentarians from both sides of the divide, some senior government officials and other prominent Ghanaians.
The Committee of Eminent Chiefs was set up by former President John Kufuor in 2002 to find a lasting solution to the protracted Dagbon chieftaincy dispute after the murder of the Ya Na.
It is made up of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the Yagbonwura, Tuntumba Boresa Sulemana Jakpa I, and the Nayiri, Naa Bohogu Abdulai Mahami Sheriga.
President Akufo-Addo said after many years of a protracted chieftaincy dispute, the time had come for Dagbon to be restored to its former glory and greatness.
“The conflict in Dagbon has dragged on for so long that many Ghanaians, including some sons and daughters of Dagbon, had become sceptical about the ability to resolve the matter and secure enduring peace in Dagbon.
“I was never one of the sceptics. I have an unshakeable faith in the capacity of the Ghanaian people to resolve their own problems. That faith has paid off,” he said.
The President described the road map as an important milestone in the search for a permanent solution to the Dagbon problem.
He, therefore, commended the Eminent Chiefs and the chiefs and people of Dagbon for their tenacity and resilience in their quest to bring sustainable people to the area.
The killing of the Overlord of Dagbon, President Akufo-Addo said, shook the entire country with grief, horror and deep regret.
“Upon becoming President of the Republic on 7th January, 2017, I was determined to help bring finality to the matter and, in the process, witness the enskinment of a substantive Ya Na for the people of Dagbon.
“I did indicate in October 2017 that I wanted to celebrate the Damba Festival with the people of Dagbon with a new Ya Na sitting in state before the end of 2017. Alas, that was not to be. Nonetheless, I am fully expectant that, soon, I shall be celebrating Damba with the people of Dagbon in the presence of a substantive Ya Na,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo said Dagbon, one of the most ancient traditional states in Ghana’s history, was generally recorded by historians to have been founded in the 14th century, even before the Asante Kingdom was established in the latter part of the 17th century.
The people of Dagbon, he said, ought, justifiably, to be proud of their heritage and guard it jealously, adding that “an important contribution to this is to consolidate the culture of enskinning Ya Nas without hitch, confusion or bloodshed”.
President Akufo-Addo thus urged the people of Dagbon to give peace a chance, adding that “it is attainable, in my view, if there is a will and a readiness to compromise”.
He said for an ethnic group with no clan cleavages, they had the best opportunity to mend fences, restore the dignity of their kingdom and ensure the forward march of Dagbon.
“In so doing, they must learn to accommodate one another. I would appeal, from the bottom of my heart, to the Kampakuya Na and the Bolin Lana, the son and the regent of Na Yakubu Andani and Na Mahamadu Abdulai, respectively, young men with bright, promising futures before them, to rise above the passions that have fuelled the disputes that have marred Dagbon,” the President added.
As an expression of their love for their people, President Akufo-Addo urged the Kampakuya Na and the Bolin Lana to help in the effective implementation of the road map to bring lasting peace to Dagbon and lay the basis for its rapid development.
“The overwhelming majority of the people of Dagbon, especially the youth, are tired of this age-old conflict and just want the opportunity to enhance their lives in normalcy and security,” he said.
The President reiterated the commitment of the government to provide the requisite financial, material, moral, physical and security resources necessary for the sustenance of the peace process that had been embarked upon.
“Even though the government has already spent a huge amount of money and resources in maintaining peace in Yendi these last 16 years, be assured that the government will not relent in its determination to help foster peace and unity in Dagbon.
“As I have said on many occasions, I am not a Dagomba and I, therefore, cannot be an Andani or Abudu. I have no candidate for the office of Ya Na. That is a matter for the people of Dagbon. I am just an ordinary Ghanaian who wants to see peace, progress and prosperity in all parts of our beautiful country without any discrimination or differentiation,” President Akufo-Addo emphasised.
Meanwhile, the atmosphere in the Northern Regional capital, Tamale, and Yendi, the seat of the Dagbon Traditional Area, is calm and peaceful.
The residents went about their daily activities without any inhibitions after the Asantehene-led Mediation Committee of Eminent Chiefs had presented its road map document for peace in Dagbon to President Akufo-Addo at the Jubilee House.
Some residents who were interviewed by the Daily Graphic welcomed the road map and expressed the hope that both parties in the dispute would accept the recommendations made by the Committee of Eminent Chiefs to bring finality to the chieftaincy dispute to ensure lasting peace in the area for development to take place.
Mr Baba Musah, a resident of Tamale, said the two parties should abide by the road map for the restoration of peace and tranquillity in the area for development to take place.
Another resident of Tamale, Mr Inusah Iddrisu, said the people of Dagbon must listen to and obey the decision of the Eminent Chiefs and play according to the road map.
He said the Abudus should be allowed to peacefully organise the funeral of their father and allow the Andanis to also do same, since they were all Dagombas and the region needed development.
Abdallah, a resident of Yendi, said they were happy that the issue would be resolved and the final funeral rites would be performed to pave the way for a substantive chief, adding that they were afraid to be identified as Dagombas due to the protracted chieftaincy dispute.