I was only 7 years old when the last Chief of Bimbilla –Naa Abarika Attah passed on! At this age I certainly cannot remember much but I remember how colourful Bimbilla was in 2003 when the final funeral of the late Bimbila Naa was being performed. There was nothing like Bimbilla conflict then. Nobody thought in few years later Bimbilla was going to be thrown into shambles. Each day we quickly gulped down our breakfast and rushed to the palace to monitor activities. At this time everyone was a friend of the other. I cannot remember much of life before 2003 but from the year 2000 to 2003 anyone could tell Bimbilla was a place to be.
Ranging from the impressive hospitality, state of calmness and the spirit of friendliness that filled the whole township just made one fell at home. The town was noted for its agricultural productivity especially with yam. These were the times when visitors were often transformed to natives.
What happened to us?
I cannot attempt to answer this because I certainly have no idea. All I know is that Bimbilla suddenly became a land of chaos after the final funeral. Why? Is it that the people already hated each other secretly? Was the long standing peace in the area just clouded by pretends? I would have left these questions open but for the non-native readers. Any native of Bimbilla will answer the questions with a big NO! People of Bimbilla genuinely loved each other and if you told anyone that someday natives will come out to kill each other they would have referred to you as insane.
The current crises clouding the town started like a joke that was meant to pass fast because Bimbilla have always been served by a very clear chieftaincy system which made it easy for the selection of the next chief. As young as I was I knew that the Bimbilla chieftaincy had two main gates known as Gbugmayili and Bangyili and there are series of smaller titles one has to go through from both gates in other to qualify for the paramount chieftaincy as follows:
Gbugmayili: Makayili (Bogu) => Djua => Bakpaba => Nakpaa => Kingship (Bimbilla Naa).
Bangyili: Sakpe => Gbingbaliga = > Chamba => Dokpam => Kingship (Bimbilla Naa).
You can find details of this on Ghanaweb
This concise system was able to keep the Bimbilla chieftaincy from disputes since the time of Gmantambu (the first chief of the land) to Naa Abarika Attah. Again the questions pop up, what went wrong?
Why are the people crying today? Why are we perpetually in the news for the wrong reasons? Why do we always have to be in curfew? Why can’t we enjoy freedom again in our own home? why do you see Bimbilla Conflict when you type Bimbilla into google?
After the final funeral of the late Naa Abarika, per traditions most people expected things to move smoothly because the sitting Nakpaa Naa was still alive and by the above system no disputes were expected. I can however, not blame the people of Bimbilla for the uncalled for coflict that followed attempts to enskin the then Nakpaa Naa because it is not strange in the struggle among the royals for chieftaincy. Throughout the history of Mole-Dagbon of which the Nanung clan descended there was lots of struggle among brothers even when one was clearly qualified. There are recordings of duels, fights, break-offs and what have you. The chieftaincy was often marked by the ambition of the royals. This shows that it should be expected that at point in time someone in the royal family may try to overtake the line of succession.
What I do criticise is the manner in which the Bimbilla conflict was handled. The law courts are there in anticipation of misunderstandings among the people in which case it would be relied upon for solutions. Our traditional matters however were not a thing for the courts because our grandparents struggled to establish the traditional system independent of the political systems. Unfortunately the dispute in question was not able to be handled by the traditional system because the people involved were also thrown between factions themselves and that was what led the case to the court.
So what is or was the bimbilla conflict?
After the burial of the Naa Abarika Attah disputes irrupted within the same gate (Gbugmayili) between the then Nakpaa Naa( Naa Salifu Dawuni) and Mr. Andani Dasana( then CEO of Nasia Rice Co. Tamale) as to who was qualified for the thrown. Soon Bimbilla became a town of bats with the supporters of Naa Salifu Dawuni being referred to as white bats and the supporters of Mr. Andani referred to as the black bats. Even the kingmakers were divided for reasons only known them. While some of them stuck by the then Nakpaa Naa others stood behind Mr. Andani who himself was qualified by blood to undertake the journey to the kingship by the traditions. These two groups both enskined and recognised their respective chiefs but not without intermittent violence.
The case proceeded to court and this was when things went haywire. The court and Regional House of chiefs ruled the case in favour of Mr. Andani Dawuni but the people of Bimbilla refused the ruling stating that such had never happened in their traditions for someone to be elevated straight from no title to paramount title. Subsequently the family of the then Nakpaa Naa appealed the ruling and the case was kept on hold hence there was no chief.
Unfortunately, Naa Salifu died of natural causes in 2014. Violence broke out in attempts to bury him in his residence since this would mean he was the rightful king of the land. The security kept an embargo on the burial and the body was deposited at the morgue of Yendi Municipal Hospital. This resulted in the gruesome murder of Mr. Andani on the 19th of June, 2014 by unknown assailants.
Following the murder, the then NDC government provided the necessary security that ensured the body of the late Mr Andani was given a befitting burial. Despite the case being in court all media outlets and government officials referred to him as chief of Bimbilla hence Naa Andani Dasana. The family of the late Naa Salifu thought that was unfair and total disregard to the legal proceedings but it did not stop the instalment of the reagent Yakubu Andani Dasana and mass arrests of prominent members of the Naa Salifu supporters.
The reagent was recognised by central government and the necessary respects were paid on him anytime government officials came to Bimbilla. Most of the killings of innocent people and violence took place after the instalment of Yakubu Andani Dasana as the reagent by the supporters of the Andani Family.
So what now?
It is 2017 and both leaders are now buried and both reagents installed. The question now is; what is next? What do we have to do differently to get the Bimbilla we had before 2003? Everyone is waiting on the Supreme Court to give the final judgement and it is expected that things will move forward from there but I believe it is the same expectations that has led the case to this point. The politicians are at their game and as a native of the land don’t ever think they care about what you do. Politicians care about their political ambitions and for us to depend on them spells doom. Unfortunately that seems to be the only hope of ending the Bimbilla conflict.
The cry of the youth of the land goes; when is Bimbilla going to get back to normal? When is the curfew going to go away for good? When are the rights of the people going to be respected again? when are the stake holders going to make the hard decisions? Is the traditions of the land important at all?