An elderly man dipped his hand in a snake pit and got bitten by committing what was considered an affront without a cause to the authority of a paramount chief who also, in swift response, hammered him back without a pause.
It took not only the executives of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) at Nabdam, a constituency in the Upper East region, but also the Member of Parliament (MP) for the area, Dr. Mark Kurt Nawaane, to block what could have been a worse punishment than just an open rebuke.
The drama came up when hundreds of second-cycle and tertiary students on holidays gathered at the palace of the Paramount Chief of Nangodi, Naba Yelzoya Kosom Asaga II, at the invitation of the MP who had mobilised money for each of the students to help solve their usual back-to-school problems.
After addressing the gathering in Nabt- the language spoken in the area- the chief also spoke in English, urging the beneficiaries to show open excitement for the aid their MP had brought to them.
“We have to learn some little, little things to make progress as a people. This is a day of excitement. You are going to get some support and you should show some excitement. When you meet this way, be excited. As for poverty, he is refusing to leave us; but we will also forcefully say we don’t know him. When somebody talks and there is something that excites you, show that by clapping,” he said.
All but one old man in a smock applauded after the chief’s English speech. When the cheers faded away, the elderly man, who seemed not to have understood what the chief said, broke the silence from a corner not far from where a council of elders sat around the chief. He asked aloud what the students had heard before they clapped. The old man’s interjection- something rare in a palace- puzzled the crowd. There was another moment of silence which was broken by the chief himself with an outburst.
The chief, who probably felt instructed by his subject to interpret in Nabt what he just told the students in English, ordered that the old man be hauled out of the corner where he made the ‘unguarded pronouncement’ and brought before him. The chief pinned his eyes on him, spewing angry words at him as several legs on the path made way quickly for the palace guards to escort him out of the corner to face the chief in judgement.
”Come and sit here!” the chief yelled in Nabt as the man was being led forward. “You mean I, Nangodi Chief, don’t know what I’m doing? We are speaking to schoolchildren as we want them to learn the English language. Didn’t I speak Nabt here? You are waiting to hear what I said. Don’t you know that Nangodi Chief does not go wrong?”
He was made to sit on the floor, in front of the chief, and he reverently took off his cap himself as the monarch unleashed more salvoes from the royal seat. The constituency executives and the MP squatted behind the elder, offering pleading claps on his behalf to appease the incensed traditional leader. The old man, whose name was not immediately known, joined his mediators to ask the chief for forgiveness and, as he did so, he also tried to explain himself. But the more he tried, the more he got the chief angry.
The old man’s deepening struggle in a web woven by himself, coupled with the chief’s mounting fury, gave the scene a funny look. The crowd, including those who were pleading on his behalf, at a point tried to cover their mouths as they could not conceal their laughter any longer whilst repeatedly saying “Naa”- a permissible interjection used by subjects when chiefs in the region are speaking to indicate one agrees to everything they say.
Bleak Future for Students as Reopening Nears
With the implementation of government’s fee-free education policy set to begin with only fresh senior high school students in the next academic year, scores of continuing students in the region look low-spirited as poor households remain stuck at financial tight spots ahead of September reopening.
Dr. Nawaane assisted 250 of such students in his constituency, presenting Gh¢100 to 200 senior high school beneficiaries each and Gh¢120 to 50 tertiary students individually. He told newsmen, whilst the presentation ceremony was underway at the palace, that the donation was his personal assistance as lawmakers had not received their common fund nationwide.
“I’m currently self-financing this function because it is time-bound. You’ve got to do it at the right time. When the students are going back to school is where the difficulties are. Some students need just Gh¢100 to report at school and later on their parents can sort them out. MPs have not received their common fund yet, but I had to raise the funds personally to make sure we do it at the right time,” Dr. Nawaane said.
The MP’s aides say the beneficiaries were nominated by assembly members, chiefs, current and former District Chief Executives (DCEs) and opinion leaders among other influential figures. It is the first time a legislator in the area has asked that needy students be reached through such a broad-based approach, according to the aides.
Interjecting Old Man Relieved at Last
The nomination-lucky students thanked the legislator for the relief. One student, who received Gh¢100, described him as a true representative of the deprived constituency.
“I don’t have anybody to take care of me. As I’m going back to school, I can only boast that it is this money (given by the MP) that I will use to buy my things and go back to school. I was nominated for this support because there is nobody to take care of me,” said Portia Anafo Bugre Deboot, a student of the Kongo Senior High School.
Edward Nagroug Adua, a tertiary student at the Kumasi Campus of the University of Education Winneba, told newsmen: “We are grateful for what he has done. The MP Common Fund hasn’t come yet. As at now, it is his own money he’s using to help and the number of us benefiting are not small. It hasn’t been easy for some of us, considering where we are coming from. We go through a lot before we can come up with our school fees, before you can go to school.”
But there was probably nobody who left the palace more relieved than the old man who ‘challenged’ the chief and got ‘his fingers burnt’ in return. He was forgiven and spotted later exchanging warm greetings with friends as he made his way home alone through some red-clay huts. He would recall later the trouble he pulled down upon himself at the palace just as others also would take precaution later- not to interject when a chief speaks.