The Late Asantehemaa
“Although you‘re gone, I’m not alone
And never will be,
For the precious memories of the bond we shared
Will never depart from me”.
Kumasi is mourning. Asanteman is mourning. Ghana is mourning. Africa is mourning. The world is mourning. People from all walks of life are trooping to Kumasi to commiserate with Otumfuo Osei Tutu II over his mother’s voyage to the village. Did you think the woman was so old (111 years) that her departure would not hurt her children? Or did you think her children, especially King Osei Tutu are so mature not to shed a tear. Believe you me, inside the closet, ‘nnisuo rete waa, waa.’ Now a potentate, can anybody dare make reference to his youthful pranks? Or you do not think the King must have been spanked by his mother for something ‘small’ he must have done? It was the wisdom of his mother that made him go to stay with his uncle, Hiahene, Mensah-Bonsu. The latter decided that instead of sending him to any of the ‘big’ schools, he would rather send him to Sefwi Wiawso—to learn about ‘life’ in a rural setting—hardship, poverty, hunger; so that when in future he became a ‘big man’ in Ashanti, he would appreciate the ‘small’ men and women, just as he appreciated those up there.
Fact is late Nana Asantehemaa of the Oyoko clan, despite her age, was as active and as agile as when she was youthful and she assisted in running Asanteman: she would give useful advice to her son, King Osei Tutu II. Born in 1905 she had reigned from 6th February, 1977 till she was called to glory on 15th November 2016. It was all culture, Asantes are proud of their culture and they live it, they live by it and they live for it.
Friday, 1st December marked the day of the fetish priests. Led by the Nsumankwaahene, the various fetish priests and priestesses displayed their worth. While some were doing intricate syncopations with their feet others were ‘conjuring’ lotto numbers for interested persons (of course, their cubicles were heavily patronized by onlookers). Some fetish priests used ordinary sand to boil eggs which were distributed among the people around.
Some fetish priests would ‘invoke’ wrist watches and other petty goodies. They (that is, the fetish priests) were copying from their great ancestor, Komfo Anokye who would plant plantain that instantly blossomed and was ready for harvest; he would spit chewed kola and the spittle would sprout and grow into a kola tree – that is, instantly. There was this sword planted at the site of Komfo Anokye Hospital which has defied deracination (uprooting) over the years, and the big one—the invocation of the Golden Stool from the skies and when it came down, it settled at the feet of King Osei Tutu (the First) before an array of chiefs of Asante. That settled Asante Unity and they succeeded in a war against the Denkyeras.
If King Osei Tutu II earned the title of ‘King Solomon’, his mother could not be remote from the success he has chalked up. From Nana Nyarko Kusiamoa (1695 – 1722) the first recorded Asantehemaa, Nana Afia Serwaa Kobi Ampem II became the thirteenth Asantehemaa. She is now succeeded by Nana Amma Konadu.
Asantes all over Ghana and beyond have come home to mourn with Otumfuo. When I met Michael Yaw Nsiah, owner of Miklin Hotel, he revealed that he had come home, giving himself a leave for two weeks to mourn his grand – mother, Asantehemaa. Mrs Professor Addy who was the head of the Health Education Unit of Korle Bu Hospital had a similar word.
Most dignitaries have had their turn to greet the Great King, including the Executive led by the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the Parliament led by the Speaker, Dr Mike Oquaye, the Judiciary, led by the Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo, the Ghana Bar Association led by the National President, Benson Nutsukpui and the Ashanti Bar President, Francis Koffie. Other groups include the medical association, the clergy, various ministries, hoteliers, entertainment groups, industrialists, transport associations, visitors from Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, the diplomatic corps as well as powerful delegations from international bodies. The delegation from Togo was led by the President himself, Faure Gnassingbe and the Ghana delegation on Wednesday was led by Honourable Kan Dapaah, the Minister in charge of Security. As for the judges and lawyers, they were there in their numbers. You could not pretend you did not see Justice William Atuguba who led the Wednesday delegation of judges. Nor could you miss Justice Baffoe –Bonnie also of the Supreme Court. Oh, for the judges in Ashanti, come see them: Justices Abodakpi, Kaglo, Beresford Acquah, Osei Hwere and many of the female judges, including Mrs Angelina Homia-Mensah. The OA bus that carried the lawyers to Manhyia was full, with many of them forced to stand: Lawyer Koffie, the Regional Bar President organised so effectively that Benson Nutsukpui, the National Bar President, Tony Forson, the National Vice President and Justin Amenuvor had very little to complain about!
Some of these dignitaries may have missed the Akwasidae (Sunday) and the Adae Dwoada. (Monday). The Adae Dwoada was the day Otumfuo wore the ‘batakari kese’ and with all the chiefs who mattered assembling at Pampaso, the King performed traditional rites at the site where Komfo Anokye invoked the Golden Stool from the skies. They then moved to the Manhyia Palace, Otumfuo in a palanquin bedecked with amulets, and in his mouth, a concoction. The Otumfuo would intermittently fire from the gun he was holding. He later changed the batakari kese and wore a red cloth. The traditional palm wine was supplied in small pots to quench the thirst of chiefs and other dignitaries.
Of course, ‘Adonko’ bitters was all over the place, selling cheaply, with free gifts of tot to those who patronized it. The ladies serving were as beautiful and gorgeous as the face of young Greek gods. They added colour with their colourful T – shirts and they were like roses in June. If you saw the anxiety of people yearning to observe the goings – on, you would wonder what was unique about this funeral. Undoubtedly, it was a rarity – perhaps once in a person’s life – time can one experience this. It was a moment for the chiefs and people of Asante to show their love for the Asantehene and to demonstrate their preparedness to go to war with him – as part of the ‘contract’ signed with the founder of Asanteman, King Osei Tutu I.
There were many lessons, especially for the youth; they should cherish their mothers, nay, their parents. Otumfuo has shown the way, that is, respect the womb that bore you and you can invoke God’s blessings upon your shoulder. Otumfuo mo ne adwuma pa. Nana hemaa, da yie.