We suffer a lot the few things we lack and we enjoy too little the many things we have – William Shakespeare
It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy that makes happiness- Charles Spurgeon
ECSTATIC! That is about the most appropriate word to describe the akwaaba that was accorded the Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Tutu II on his return from the U.K. after attending the coronation of King Charles of the United Kingdom. It was a euphoric, blissful, delirious occasion.
In England, the King of Asante had taken pictures with the King of England, and rubbed shoulders with him– and the entire goings on had been beamed world – wide, and back home we all saw the pictures. So, if one had remarked that the spectacle on Saturday, May 13, was a replica of what one saw on the screens from the King’s coronation throne may not be far from right.
King Charles’s coronation had been beautiful, colourful, glamorous and hilarious- the euphoria in the land; the array of potentates from all over the world; the kingly ride from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace, escorted by the horsemen were all remarkable.
The Asantehene wearing the Traditional Kente with Lady Julia in Kaba (cover) and slit, in the style of the monks and nuns of South-East Asia was part of the entourage. It was tradition on display like the Swati (South African) or like Tibetan Dalai Lama (born as Tenzin Gyatso) or the Sulu of Fiji, otherwise known throughout the Pacific as Pareau, lava-lava or sarong.
An elaborate plan had been laid for the celebration of the Asante King’s birthday while in the U.K. Stevie Wonder’s song “Happy Birthday” was well – selected. You may recall when this Motown song hit the streets in 1981 – incredible how it was, and we thought we were the “tough guys” with our Afro haircuts, Afro shirts and Afro trousers with bass 30!
The song sang in the genre of Pop R and B (rhythm and blues) was originally sang to support the campaign for the birthday of Martin Luther King Jnr as a national holiday in the U.S., “… I just never understood how a man who died for good Could not have a day that would be set aside for his recognition …” And Amakye Dede’s “Iron (Young) Boy” put the icing on the cake.
It was the majestic “two-step” dance and not a mixture of ‘pilolo’, ‘Kupe’ ‘Azonto,’ ‘Alkayida’ and certainly not ‘One Corner’. This time, Asantehene wore a suit, and President Akufo-Addo and the first Lady, Rebecca were present.
The Regional Minister, Simon Osei Mensah had issued a Press Release on the “Road closure to welcome His Majesty Otumfuo Osei Tutu II the Asantehene from the United Kingdom … His Majesty Otumfuo will parade some principal streets of Kumasi on his arrival through the following routes Airport àAirport Roundabout àSuame Roundabout àAbrepo Junction à Bantama à KATH Roundabout à Kejetia (where the statute of the Asantehene is situated) à Dr. Mensah àApagyafie, àManhyia. In this regard, the above – mentioned routes, which will be used by Otumfuo, the Asantehene, will be closed to the general public from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm…”
There was a roar of welcome as soon as the “Vista Jet” landed at the Kumasi Airport at around 5:00pm. After the benign and epigrammatic traditional exchanges of welcome, “akyirebokoo”, “bone biaransii ha” (no ‘problems’ here), the motorcade started.The yellow, black and green coloured Rolls Royce first used by Otumfuo Osei Agyemang Prempeh II in 1935 was shining, as colourful in May 2023, as it was in 1935 during the durbar for the reunification of the Asante Confederacy in 1935.
If King Charles was escorted to Buckingham Palace by a parade of motor – cars, motor bikes and horses, we in Kumasi had a replica of same. It was an enthusiastic welcome of security detail, school-children, chiefs, the general public. Funerals, common in these parts, suffered impromptu cessation, but the mourners were delighted to be part of this history.
You could not fail to notice the sporadic involvement of people of all works of life, waving to the motorcade. Otumfuo Asantehene could have been overwhelmed. The enthusiasm in the display of loyalty by the Kumasi boys (especially the Zongo boys from Alabar, Aboabo,…) was historic. It was not easy for the security people to control and contain the boys in white T-shirts on motor-bikes. They may have broken protocol, yes, but the euphoria of the day carried everybody away like a whirlwind. The cavalry (they were not soldiers though) so we rather call them horsemen, or rather equerry or equestrian were there in their numbers.
Some people could be distinguished by their dressing: white kente cloths full flowing white robes, boubou, kparugu, kpalanga with headgears: turban, zugprisi or sobigarima and the footwear.
John Keates says in Endymion “A thing of beauty is a joy forever. Its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness …” Yes, it was a thing of beauty, simply put. It was a time for celebrating our common Asante-ness which includes the Zongos of Alabar, Aboabo, Asawasi, Tafo, Anlos of Anloga, the Nzemas of Agric Nzema, the Fantes of Fanti New Town, the Europeans and Asians…
And the one person who made all this possible was none other than the Asantehene, the peace-maker, who was dubbed King Solomon on ascending the Asante throne in April, 1999. 1 Kings3:7, Solomon asked God for wisdom: “And now, O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: and thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people… Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people… and God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life, neither hast asked riches for thyself… I have given thee a wise and understanding heart… I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honour”
Whilst we were congratulating ourselves and enjoying our fufuo, tuozafi, akple-ati, fetridekyi, kenkey, the Sudanese armed forces loyal to Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burham, the country’s de facto ruler was sweating it out with the Rapid Support Forces in a power struggle, destroying structures and displacinglocal inhabitants.
The Russian-Ukraine war was still raging, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviu, Odessa, Bakhmut, Kherson not spared. Are we just lucky? Do we count our blessings? “When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed, when you are discouraged thinking, all is lost, count your many blessings, name them one by one and it will surprise you what the Lord has done…”
By Africanus Owusu Ansah