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Reconstructuring Dagbang After Many Years Of Intractable Chieftain Conflict: The Role of Dagbang Elite


The story of "Abudu/Andani" being blood brothers has been told and heard too many times and is deservedly clichéd, so there's no need to bore you by recounting that. After many decades of chieftain conflict in Dagbang, there's apparent light ready to take over the dark narratives that have befallen one of the oldest Kingdoms in Ghana. At long last, the funerals have been performed and a new King (Yaa Naa) installed. Some have called it a 'new dawn'. Others say it's a victory for Dagbang. I say it's a process that still needs more pragmatic "hands". Whichever way you look at it, you'll agree a giant step has been taken towards restoring lost glories. 

My contribution is much more intellectual (even though I trust I'll contribute in diverse ways to not only restore but also write a new chapter of glory in Dagbang), as I propose reconstructive measures and what roles the elite of the Kingdom can play in the reconstruction. 

Growing up in Dagbang, I on many occasions have witnessed elders who had had no formal education curse some of the Kingdom's elite for not using their education to help develop the Kingdom but deepen the cracks of chieftain related conflicts or disagreements. That some elders of Dagbang would believe "if you take your son to school for formal education, you're creating your own enemy and one for Dagbang" tells the extent to which they believe(d) the elite have done more harm than good to Dagbang, in respect of the age-long conflict. You may be surprised by this striking "belief" by these elders, or disagree with same, if you've not had the opportunity to have sat with... and heard from them. In all conscience, I do not underestimate their belief, as I believe the elite could have done better, even though a few did their best.

All is not lost. We have reached a stage where we require a reformed elite to reconstruct, for sustained peace, which will lead to massive development and transformation. If yesterday's had failed, today's have a solemn responsibility to right their wrongs and we are at an opportune juncture where this resolve must be embraced and fully tested.

Let's accept that the conflict is not over. Seeds of discord are still buried beneath people's hearts. There's still a great deal of mistrust among disputants. There is dissatisfaction among interest groups. Consequently, there is the tendency of brewing structural violence. Losses have been incurred in the cause of the conflict. Many many lives have been lost. Properties have been lost. People have been displaced. Dignity has been lost; and, every loss has come with commensurate socio-economic setbacks. The resolution and management as well as peacebuilding processes have got a way to go and the elite have a role to play. Therefore, questions of how to reconstructively build a prosperous Dagbang cannot be mutually exclusive of the contribution of Dagbang elite. 

It's time Dagbang elite as (individuals and/or as groups) stepped in to contribute to the healing and reconstruction processes. Networks can be established amongst academics, business men and women, politicians (emphasis - with none partisan objectives), diasporians, students at tertiary institutions, CBOs, etc, to contribute to reconstructing Dagbang. 

There's the need for massive post conflict engagement in trauma counselling, transitional justice and restoration, community dialogue and building bridges between and amongst groups with deep-seated concerns or dissatisfaction. This must not be left to only government(s), the Committee of Eminent Chiefs and the royal families of Abudu and Andani. The Dagbang elite can in this regard collaborate with relevant institutions to ensure a great job is done. They can provide material resources and expertise to enhance the process.

An age-long conflict like this could not have taken place without arm trafficking and stockpiling. In many instances, the elite, especially people of influence have been alleged to have helped groups in acquiring these arms. Even though I cannot establish the veracity of such, I strongly believe the very elite can help in retrieval of these arms, as part of the reconstruction. It's an exercise which is noted to be one of the Herculean tasks in conflict management and peace building but has always been necessary. The minds of gun-wielding youth must be reconstructed towards personal and societal development. In collaboration with the necessary agencies, the elite can help the retrieval of these arms by supporting sensitization and other efforts. 

Consequences of the chieftain conflict aside, Dagbang like many other societies in Northern Ghana has high incidence of poverty and lacks so many social and infrastructural amenities. The eruption of the conflict at successive stages has all the more robbed the society of so much development. Illiteracy rates are still high, especially among women. These and many call for vigorous efforts to pull development towards the area as part of the reconstruction; and this cannot be done without remarkable contributions from the elite. Dagbang politicians particularly share the biggest responsibility with their power and lobbying gifts.

Again, the elite within the chieftain institution have also got a huge task to carry out. The most important roles of Dagbang chiefs must not be to sell lands and continue to contest for skins. Elsewhere, chiefs are considered as serious agents of and lobbyists for development. Governments use chiefs as gates to the masses and that gives them profound agency that can draw so much development cake from government. The elite chiefs ought to take lead roles in this regard to set the stage for the rest to follow. Political and business elite must also see the chiefs as partners with whom they can bring development to the people. 

More so, the media has in modern times become one of the most compelling drivers of peace and development, depending on how it's tapped. It's common knowledge that Dagbang and the North have had their share of negative or bad publicity, in the light of the conflict. We've lashed out at the media for what is genuinely considered to be an unfair treatment. However, I trust in our candidate estimation, we'd accept that we can help make the media see and say the good side of us. Dagbang elite as a matter of duty, must attract the media to the development challenges of the Kingdom and the North as a whole, as part of their reconstruction mandate. The lead politicians, business moguls, academics and the rest have a huge influence over the Ghanaian media and this influence must be harnessed in helping reconstruct Dagbang. 

Inasmuch as we celebrate Dagbang's "victory" at this stage, they have got to pull everybody together to help in reconstructing a society many believed and still believe they (elite) have contributed in destroying. If they really have that "power" to destroy, they've got same to make. Our biggest challenge is to move fast, a society that's lagging behind her counterparts to catch up with them, no matter how tedious it'll be. After many years of the chieftain conflict, we're here and the test of our love for this Kingdom begins with our roles in reconstructing and opening a glorious chapter. 

May God help every genuine quest to ensure lasting peace. 

Long live Dagbang.

Alhassan Rabiu 
Commoner, Dagbang