Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II

By Rodney Nkrumah-Boateng

The past weekend brought together a trinity of anniversaries, one of them rather personal, yet all three requiring some reflection as I went about my rather busy weekend.

Otumfuo’s accession

Friday marked exactly 25 years since Barima Kwaku Dua swore the oath of allegiance to Asanteman and became Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, the 16th occupant of the Golden Stool. I was living abroad at the time but through the power of the internet, I vividly recall the grandeur of the occasion from afar.

Reading and learning about the protocols and procedures following the passing of an Asantehene and what is involved in choosing a successor was a huge eye-opener to me and emphasized the complex nature of our traditional systems of governance, contrary to the long-held Western narrative of a chaotic, unstructured system that had been churned out for many years.

For Asanteman, this year marks not only the silver jubilee of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II’s reign but also the centenary of his predecessor Otumfuo Prempeh I’s return from Seychelles in 1924, after a long sojourn in exile, as well as the 150th anniversary of the Sagrenti War of 1874, which saw the looting and burning of Kumasi by Sir Garnet Wolsely and his band of brigands.

May Otumfuo see many more anniversaries of his reign.

Osagyefo’s death anniversary

Saturday was the 52nd anniversary of the death of Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah. On April 27, 1972, he breathed his last in faraway Romania, exiled from his country six years earlier.

One would have thought that for a man whose name and accomplishments have been evoked on countless occasions and on whose legacy some political parties have sought relevance and visibility, calling themselves Nkrumahist (clearly for political convenience), his death would have been more than a mere footnote in the scheme of events on Saturday. But that was what it essentially was – a footnote.

On social media, a few who kept screaming that he was the best thing to happen to this republic remembered and celebrated him, which I found rather remarkable.

Of course, Ghana’s history cannot be written without Nkrumah and his accomplishments were many. But then again, he was only human and had his faults and shortcomings.

It is the totality of these two sides that perhaps many fail to recognise, thereby taking an entrenched position of either fawning praise, almost to absurd deification levels or uncompromising derision, positioning him as a rabid demagogue. But neither perspective tells the whole story.

Personal anniversary

Exactly 13 years ago in 2011, on the anniversary of Nkrumah’s death, I returned home for good after a 19-year sojourn in the United Kingdom, following a few trips to Ghana to ‘test the waters’, so to speak, before taking the final plunge.

A few friends I informed of my intentions thought I was crazy and rolled out the horror stories of road accidents, hospital death traps, and high cost of living among others that they had been drip-fed by friends and relatives back home.

Others, both in the UK and Ghana, thought I was crazy and would be back in the UK after a few months, jolted by reality.

A friend asked in annoyance why I wanted to come back home when he and everyone he knew wanted to leave.

Eventually, I stopped announcing my imminent move.

My mind was made up.

My 19 years abroad had been quite a mixed bag of twists and turns, of highs and lows, but somehow, I simply could not call it home.

There was just something that I could not quite put a finger on, which kept reminding me that this was not my home.

I had been home on several occasions on holiday during my sojourn, but it was a different experience returning to live here. The challenges were many, but returning to the UK was out of the question.

When I had to make a couple of trips to London in 2014 and 2105 and felt no urge to stay on even in the face of the debilitating ‘Dumsor’, I realised that my move was permanent in that London had left my soul.

The British diarist Samuel Johnson once said in 1777 that “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London all that life can afford.” Well, I disagree most vehemently with his assertion. I was rather tired of London, but I certainly was not tired of life.

Of course, with many friends and memories of my stay there, I do have my moments when I miss London, warts and all. But 13 years down the line, London is now a fond, almost distant memory, like a long-ended yet cherished romantic relationship from which one has moved on.

As I mulled over these three quite unrelated anniversaries over the weekend, I realised I had found a perfect excuse to crack open three cold bottles in quiet commemoration, with the rather hot weather aiding and abetting this enterprise.