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Kwesi Yankah Writes: Otumfour’s Visit and Legon’s Nightmare

If Otumfuor Osei Tutu last Saturday paid a successful courtesy call on Ga Mantse, it can be truly said, that we have come a long way as a Republic. The King of Asante after all needs no entry visa for a formal visit to Accra.

Saturday, 8th May, history was made when Otumfuor Osei Tutu II came down to Accra to pay a rare courtesy call on the Ga Mantse, Nii Tackie Teiko Tsuru II.

The ceremonial pomp and pageantry displayed in a dialogue of cultures was a beauty to behold, even as the nation was consoled in the search for peace, tolerance, and harmony in an election year.

I watched the grand ceremony on TV and heaved a sigh of relief looking back on a dim past when a fuming Labadi chief and elders reprimanded Legon for daring to invite Otumfuor to the University of Ghana, Labadi land.

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The year was 2003. Otumfuor had spent just a few years on the Golden Stool. I was Hall Master of the great Mensah Sarbah Hall, whose credentials at the time included ‘the only hall of residence named after a human being.’

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Our dream as Sarbah alumni was to propel the University’s youngest Hall far ahead of its peers, and one ‘plot’ we hatched was to invite ‘King Solomon’ to be the Life Patron of Sarbah Alumni and lead a fundraising ceremony towards the construction of a Viking Alumni Hostel.

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The new hostel, which was eventually opened for student occupancy in 2023, indeed has a haunting history that is founded on inter-ethnic tension.

Unity in Diversity: The Meetings of Two Great Kings

Why a new hostel? Legon had a huge accommodation problem, and Sarbah alumni were anxious to show the way by lightening the burden on the Government.

Our delegation to visit Otumfuor at Manhyia and extend the invitation was a high-powered one, including the following: Kwaku Kyei, former IGP who was alumni president; Nana Adade Boamah (Tom Sawyer) Kofi Dua Adonten; Yaw Afriyie NkeFa, Gloria Akuffo, Ursula Owusu, Be^y Mould Iddrisu, Adu Gyimah (Castro), Lee Atoms Ofei, Ivy Heward Mills, Agyeman Badu-Akosah, Yaa Osei Brempong, Margaret Insaidoo, Maxwell Opoku Agyeman, Rosina Kyeremateng, Nana Twum (king of mpusuo) etc., indeed a whole bus load of distinguished Vikings.

Happily, the Viking delegation was graciously received by Otumfuor at Manhyia and even pampered with a sumptuous dinner.

But why was Otumfuor Osei Tutu as Special Guest of Honor? He had hit the ground running as the new King of Asante in 1999, having shown remarkable interest in education. Furthermore, his inner circle was a virtual Viking enclave.

His wife Lady Julia (Amaning) was a proud Viking; the occupant of the Asante silver stool, Nana Osei Bonsu II (alias Gyimah Kessie) was a Viking, and so was Otumfuor’s special aide, Mawerehene, Dr Baafuor Hyeaman Brantuo.

Otumfuor Osei Tutu II
Otumfuor Osei Tutu II

Even though Father for all, Otumfuor was a Viking by osmosis, so we proclaimed. Our diplomatic move was indeed meant to enhance the aura and dignity of Mensah Sarbah Hall, plus this other benefit we only whispered about. Our impending ceremony being a fundraising event, incidental windfalls could drop as we rubbed shoulders with the kingdom of gold.

While we were all set for the historic event came the shocking news: the Labadi stool would not tolerate the visit of Otumfuor!

An anti-climax was in the offing; the well-publicized event could be called off, and the Hall hit with the shame of seeing our targets too high. But why would a visit by Otumfuor to an autonomous university or any part of Ghana be considered a breach?

Did the King of Asante need a visa to visit Accra? While the answers were not clear, we sent a delegation to the Labadi chief and elders; strategically among our envoys was Professor Irene Odotei herself from Labadi.

The Labadi palace was crowded that day, peering eyes flaming with rage. The query posed was simple: why had Otumfuor Osei Tutu been invited for a role that could be played by the Chief of Labadi? Our delegation exchanged curious glances; but the bouquet of answers we received was unacceptable: ‘Otumfuor is our Chief patron…the Chief of Labadi has also been invited…the hall has hosted other chiefs in the past, etc. Those ‘booklong’ responses were not enough to cool tempers. We returned to Legon frustrated but did not surrender.

Ga Mantse, Nii Tackie Teiko Tsuru II
Ga Mantse, Nii Tackie Teiko Tsuru II

Days of negotiation continued between Legon authorities and Labadi youth and elders. Quietly behind the scenes were moves by former Regional Minister for Ashanti Region, Hon Kojo Yankah. Then came a major initiative by ‘King Solomon,’ who sent a special emissary to whisper in the ears of Labadi chief, ‘my own brother’ in the words of Otumfuor. Grounds started opening, only for tensions to rise from further agitation by the Labadi youths.

The sod-cutting event eventually came on, but under a thick cloud of tension and tight national security, with angry Labadi youths lurking at the margins and reporting proceedings by phone.

I was the master of ceremonies that day prancing back and forth, and narrating the Asante history of conquest which had given way to a war against illiteracy! Otumfuor had taken Legon by storm that day, with a huge revenue of chiefs and elders coming down from Kumasi. The University of Ghana had somehow survived the fury of Labadi, leaving only a residue of suspense

If Otumfuor Osei Tutu last Saturday paid a successful courtesy call on Ga Mantse, it can be truly said, that we have come a long way as a Republic. The King of Asante after all needs no entry visa for a formal visit to Accra.

Legon still remembers.

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