Baba Yara Stadium is now ready for CAN 2008.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It was a cultural feast

A GRAND durbar at the Baba Yara Stadium in Kumasi to climax the 10th anniversary celebration of the enstoolment of Otumfuo Osei Tutu II as the 16th occupant of the Golden Stool, turned out to be a great cultural feast for thousands of local and foreign tourists, as well as leaders from all parts of the globe.

From Spain to South Africa and neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire as well as Togo and Nigeria and across Ghana, they came in their numbers to witness the rich culture of Asanteman which also signified the unifying factor of the Asantehene.

The rich culture and costume of traditional rulers of Asanteman and other parts of the country were in full glare as Otumfuo Osei Tutu II led his paramount, divisional and sub chiefs to celebrate the anniversary at the Baba Yara Stadium on Sunday.

The durbar grounds witnessed varieties of kente cloths and other traditional costumes, which brought memories of yesteryear, when traditional costume was the other of the day.

The main architect of the durbar, Otumfuo Osei Tutu was not left out of the pomp and pageantry as he danced his way in his palanquin onto the durbar grounds around 11am with his “soul” (Golden Stool) sitting in front of him.

At the rear was a long retinue of palace attendants depicting the various roles they play at the King’s Palace.

What enthralled many people were the presence of four former African Heads of States and a former Prime Minister of Spain who were honoured by the Asantehene for their various contributions to the growth and deepening of democracy on the African continent.

They included His Excellencies Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings, a former President of Ghana, H.E. Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana, H.E. Ahmed Tejan Kabbah, former President of Sierra Leone, H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria and H.E. Jose Maria Aznar, former Prime Minister of Spain.

They were each decorated with rich kente cloths and a citation accompanying the awards expressed the hope that the awards would inspire incumbent African leaders to follow the shinning examples and footsteps of the former Presidents who constitutionally transferred power to their elected successors peacefully and smoothly.

Also in attendance was Prof John Evans Atta Mills, President of Ghana who was himself adorned in a rich kente cloth over a gold coloured jumper.

On the Asantehene’s entry into the inner perimeter of the stadium, almost everybody present waved their white handkerchief in spontaneous applause for the King.

The thousands of people who had filled the stadium in their numbers, mostly clad in kente and white cloths, some specifically designed for the occasion understood why he was sitting on the Golden Stool.

From head to toe, Otumfuo was dressed in rich kente cloth with ornaments of pure gold adorning his hands and feet. The weight of the gold ornaments made it difficult for him to lift his hands to greet dignitaries who had gathered at the stadium to join him to celebrate the anniversary.

Following the Asantehene was the Asantehemaa, Nana Afua Kobi Serwaa Ampem who also received great cheers for having given Asanteman a great King.

However just before the Asantehene delivered his anniversary speech, the Asantehemaa left the stadium and went back to the Manhyia Palace.

As early as 7am paramount, divisional and sub chiefs had already taken their seats at the durbar ground and residents who were eager to be part of the ceremony were also seated.

Ministers of State, government functionaries and other dignitaries including the Chief Justice, Mrs Georgina T. Wood who were also richly dressed in kente cloths and native sandals also added colour to the gathering as they waited patiently for the Head of State, President Mills and the Asantehene.

The dignitaries included Oni of Ife, Oba of Okanade Sijiuwade, Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Adebayo, the Osama of Benin, Chief Sir Dr Gabriel Igbenidion all of Nigeria and King Leruo Moltlegi of Bafokeng, South Africa, Madam Winnie Mandela, former wife of Nelson Mandela and Madam Xernona Claytor, a philanthropist and founder of the Prestigious Trumpet Awards.

There were also leaders of the various political parties including Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo Addo and Dr Paa Kwesi Nduom, Presidential Candidates of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the Convention Peoples Party (CPP) respectively in the 2008 elections.

Walking gorgeously in his kente cloth over a gold jumper, President Mills shook hands with the Asantehene on his arrival.

After the President and his entourage had returned to their seats after exchanging greetings with the celebrant King Osei Tutu, other dignitaries including former President Jerry Rawlings adorned in a white top over white trousers went over to greet the Asantehene amidst thunderous applause from the crowd.

Typical of the former President, he responded to the cheers of the crowd by waving and taking a pause to bow. Accompanying the former President was his wife, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings.

Gun wielding military personnel maintained a tight security in the stadium. Accredited media personnel had hectic times taking photographs as well as filming the event as the security men denied them access to where the Asantehene sat.

The crowd at certain times was uncontrollable with the security personnel having a hectic time controlling them. The Bantamahene, Baffour Amankwatia was himself a victim of embarrassment at the hands of the military personnel and his retinue for instance had a hectic time before he was given access to the inner perimeter to take his seat.

Water was a very essential commodity and any time some water was brought into the arena, the speed with which people rushed for some to quench their thirst was better experienced than imagined.

Pickpockets had a field day. The Red Cross was handy to provide first aid to those who developed problems standing in the scorching sun just to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime event.

About 50 people collapsed from hunger and thirst but many were those who were disappointed, as they could not have a clear view of the sacred Golden Stool, which was carried into the arena of the stadium sitting in front of the Asantehene in the palanquin.

It was however on display on a special dais made for it beside where the Asantehene sat.