To be frank with the dear reader, I did not know what to make of the alleged request by the Yagbonwura, or the Paramount King of the Gonja people, to Vice-President Mahamudu Bawumia to help raise funding for the construction of a modern palatial mansion that sparked a firestorm of fury among some Gonja leaders (See “Gonjas Fume Over Yagbonwura’s Request to Dr. Bawumia for a Modern Palace” MyNewsGh.com / Modernghana.com 5/20/17). But it is quite obvious that the critics of Yagbonwura Tuntumba Borisa, I, were or had been motivated by ethnic and ideological sentiments and concerns.
In all likelihood, the fact that former President John Dramani Mahama is himself a Gonja native of some remarkable royal standing in the Gonja sub-nation is something that does not make such request sit well with the critics who, by the way, appear to be largely the relatives and clansmen of the former President. But what is clear is that the Yagbonwura appealed to Vice-President Bawumia because his initial request to then-President Mahama may very well have been rebuffed; and perhaps rightly so, because it is not the legal and/or constitutional obligation of either Presidents or Vice-Presidents to facilitate the modernization of the palatial mansions of our traditional rulers, even the most prominent and/or important among these rulers.
The Mahamas, as most of our readers may already know, are not exactly cozy with the Bawumias or their Mamprusi/Mamprugu neighbors. Indeed, in the lead-up to the 2016 general election, we had an uncle of former President Mahama virulently accuse the late Alhaji Mumuni Bawumia, father of Ghana’s current Vice-President, of having politically undermined the fortunes of the Gonja people and that of Mr. Emmanuel Mahama, father of former President John Mahama, the first postcolonial Northern Regional Minister. Somebody from the same Mahama Clan would later attempt to mend matters by calling the members of the Mamprusi/Mamprugu community and their Gonja counterparts brothers and kinsfolk.
Whatever the reality on the ground may be, the request by Yagbonwura Tuntumba Borisa, I, for Vice-President Bawumia to assist with the construction of a modern palace for the Paramount King of the Gonja people is not as offensive as the news headlines made it seem. The Yagbonwura merely requested that some of the budgetary allocations to the various Gonja traditional councils be earmarked for the purpose. It was not as if the Yagbonwura had asked the former Deputy-Governor of the Bank of Ghana to divert some funds from the national budget for the purpose. It also well appears to me that there ought to already exist some institutional and/or constitutional arrangements by which the various chieftaincy paramountcies receive some form of regular remittances from the central government.
At any rate, the photograph of the Gonja King’s palace that accompanied the news story captioned “Gonjas Fume Over Yagbonwura’s Request to Dr. Bawumia for a Modern Palace” looked quite impressive and historically appealing to me. I guess what I am trying to suggest here is that even if a new “modern” palace, whatever the latter means, get constructed, the historical genius of the Gonja architects and artists that is proudly and pleasantly reflected by the old or present palace must be preserved. Which simply means that the new palace must be built elsewhere. Eventually, the old palace could be converted into a nationally designated museum or landmark of some sort to attract tourist revenue.
I also don’t know the response that the Yagbonwura received from Vice-President Bawumia, both publicly and privately, but it does appear to me that while some prominent members of the Gonja State genuinely felt embarrassed by the request, nevertheless, it is he who wears the shoes who knows exactly where it pinches. A voluntary call to all Gonja-born Ghanaians resident at home and abroad, as suggested by some of the critics of the Yagbonwura, could be organized to supplement the effort. I am also inclined to suspect that the National House of Chiefs and its various regional and local branches all have some budgetary allocations that could be tapped into. Then also, the Yagbonwura could reach out to foreign donors who care about the preservation of our indigenous cultures for the purpose.