Last December, the Sunday Times of London and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) were alleged to have reported that His Royal Majesty, the Asantehene, had acquired a 5-million-dollar mansion in the United Kingdom (See “Manhyia Declines Comment on $5 Million Mansion” Ghanaweb.com 12/14/10).
What made the story rather intriguing was far less the fact of Otumfuo (as he is popularly and affectionately called) having acquired the alleged property than the flurry of excited responses and comments that greeted the same.
For instance, the son of the late Asantehene, Otumfuo Opoku-Ware II, who is himself the Akyempemhene of the Asante State, was widely reported to have remarked that if the allegation had any iota of validity, then it “was in sharp contrast with what Otumfuo stands for.” The latter allusion was less to the fact of the alleged real estate acquisition itself, but, rather, the fact that the value of the aforesaid landed property was worth $ 5 million.
If the preceding assessment has validity, then it would appear that Oheneba Adusei-Poku, the Akyempemhene, would, somehow, have welcomed the same news if the value of the property allegedly acquired was pegged well below the $ 5 million mark. The real question that ought to be asked, therefore, regards whether, indeed, the Asantehene has a right to acquiring landed property or real estate abroad. The Answer may appear to be one that is nothing short of the outright intriguing. Outright intriguing because both Oheneba Adusei-Poku and Otumfuo Osei-Tutu II are business professionals by training.
In his hatchet documentary on Africa, cynically titled “Wonders of the African World,” Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., of Harvard University, wonders wistfully and plaintively why a Duke University MBA-degree holder like Oheneba Adusei-Poku would be denied occupancy of the Manhyia stool, merely because it was Oheneba Adusei-Poku’s father, rather than his mother, who was a member of the Manhyia Oyoko clan.
What makes such plaint at once preposterous and lame-brained is the fact that Prof. Gates does not seem to be bothered by the fact of how many claimants to the great Oyoko stool are as well educated as or even better educated than Oheneba Adusei-Poku. Also, the fact that occupancy qualifications for the Osei-Tutu stool is not reckoned by the level and/or extent of one’s immersion in Western academic culture and mores.
Anyway, what is quite fascinating about the story is that nobody is publicly accusing the Asantehene of having appropriated funds that do not belong to him to negotiate purchase of the alleged real estate. And so, once again, the question of whether the Asantehene has a right to invest and/or appropriate his monetary wealth wherever and whenever he deems apposite is fore-grounded. I am quite certain that both the Asantehene and Oheneba Adusei-Poku fully appreciate the significance of foreign investment and ownership in the era of globalization.
Conversely, for both the BBC and the Times’ reporters, it could not simply have been a morally refreshing recognition of the investment savvy of the Asantehene that motivated the publication/broadcast of the story. Very likely, it had more to do with the right and/or propriety of an ex-British subject owning prime metropolitan real estate. Still, what makes this purchase worthwhile is the civilized manner in which such acquisition was implicitly negotiated. In essence, I don’t think anybody can legitimately accuse the Asantehene of having applied brute force the way the infamous scramble for the African continent was effected, for instance, to come by such prime piece of real estate.
For me, though, what matters most is that a major Ghanaian monarch like the Asantehene can, indeed, travel abroad without having to pay huge sums of money to briefly lodge at a bug-infested 5-star hotel, when such wherewithal could be better invested in something more perennial and economically worthwhile. My only hope is that while Otumfuo is away from his property, that it, nonetheless, would be put to profitable use for the benefit of both the great Oyoko stool and Asanteman in general. For it is hardly wholly hyperbolic to say that as goes Asanteman thus goes Ghana.
The preceding also vividly and quaintly contrasts sharply with an incident that occurred a few years back, during the Kufuor administration, when Otumfuo was widely reported to be negotiating the acquisition of a decent residential property in the Ghanaian metropolis of Accra. What I am driving at regards the deafening outcry that greeted the move, or rather the report. In the end, legend has it, the Asantehene had to abandon the very idea of owning real estate in the Greater-Accra Region.
Those who fully recollect and appreciate what I am talking about observe that the deafening protest had far less to do with the alleged acquisition itself than the interpretation of the same to imply that the Asantehene, somehow, wanted to use the facility of such purchase to advance his purported ambition of being knighted/inducted as the preeminent King of Ghana.
If, indeed, his historical stature and influence have not already elicited the same, then, needless to say, his most ardent accusers and opponents must be living in a fool’s paradise. Then also, such fear likely may have had something more to do with the Asantehene’s ability to acquiring a far more lavish real estate property than the Ga-Mantse, the local paramount chieftain of Accra himself! What is also quite fascinating is the paradoxical refusal of Ga statists/nationalists to let a native-Ghanaian monarch purchase property in a non-Asante part of Ghana about the same time that the British were all-too-willing to sell such expensive piece of real estate to the Asantehene.
Of course, unlike their Ghanaian counterparts in Accra, the British are far more than savvy enough to appreciate the salutary profit-and-loss culture of taxation, something almost every one of his most vociferous critics had apparently failed to consider in the wake of their gut reaction to the entire patently pedestrian and morally embarrassing national affair.
Source: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York