The enduring admiration and respect for Chieftaincy are largely due to the history and uniqueness of the institution. Chiefs are the arbiters and repository of our customs; traditions; and the tenets that regulate social behaviour.
They are guardians of societal norms and they are looked upon therefore, as the standards of our traditional ethics and moral codes. This explains why Chiefs should always be above the fray in their behaviour and conduct, especially when they are in public view. And it also underscores why are our ancestors set requirements that ensure proper conduct of Chiefs when they engage their people (subjects) in the public arena. Every step, every dance form, every word uttered by a Chief; must be measured, regal, and respectful.
As an example, among many, Chiefs are forbidden from eating in public; they are not to drink or consume alcohol in public; they are not to speak anyhow; they are not to talk wantonly, or to walk aimlessly; they must always be accompanied by an assistant (Ahenkwaa) who mediates his public interactions to ensure proper decorum, and respect. When a Chief attends a formal public event he must show extreme decorum in his interactions And, Chiefs are NOT expected to engage in games, or contests. In the rare event a Chief joins his people in a chant at a durbar, he does so because the chant/song extols his virtues and his bravery. The chants relate to his SA MRANEE, accolades bestowed on him due to exceptional bravery, and exploits at the battlefield, or for his kindness.
All these rules of behaviour are intended to mitigate the conduct of the Chief in the public arena, so that he does not open himself and the Stool, to possible public scorn and ridicule by engaging in actions that may not endear to the high esteem that a Chief is held in. When a nominee is accepted by the Kingmakers, he is then confined for a period of ADADUANAN (Forty Days). This confinement is known in Asante customary law as APATAMU HYƐ.
That is to say, the nominee has been placed in confinement, in a separate location. In the past, a small hut known in the Twi language as “APATA” may be constructed for the exclusive use of the nominee. The significant lesson here is that whether the nominee is placed in a room in the house, or placed in an APATA, the movement of the nominee is totally restricted. He cannot be seen in public during the 40 days.During the 40 days confinement, the nominee is taught the history of the Stool he is about to occupy. He is taught how to comport himself; how to walk/dance as a Chief; how to speak in public; he must be decent in his behaviour and taught decorum.
He emerges with a renewed understanding of the office which he is about to serve. Unfortunately, a nominee’s acceptance could be withdrawn when confined at APATAMU because of serious personal flaws that may be detected/unearthed, or perhaps he hid an unsavoury past. If his candidacy is withdrawn, it is said in Asante that “APATA ABU ABƆ NO.” Meaning, the hut/roof has fallen on the nominee. He’s been crushed by the fallen APATANominees who suffered such fate were known to commit suicide because as the Asante aphorism advises: Fɛreɛ ne owuo deɛ, fa nyinam owuo;” meaning it is better to take one’s life than to live in shame. A shameful act was totally abhorrent in Asante because of the shame it brought on the entire family and town.
Once the nominee successfully survives APATAMU, he is brought before an Ɔbrempon; Ɔmanhene; or Otumfoɔ Asantehene to swear the Oath of Allegiance. He publicly states the name he would use as a Chief, and from then on, he is known called by that name. There is a story of a Chief who was a great footballer prior to his enstoolment. After his enstoolment, he completely stopped playing the game. Some people speculated that Nana kicked footballs in a special room at the Palace. The Asante have an aphorism to blunt any such criticism: “Sɛ ani anhu a, ɛnyɛ tan.” To wit, we cannot pass judgement on what we did not personally witness.
Lawyers call it a lack of evidence. Americans say, “What happens in Vegas (Las Vegas) stays in Vegas.” Except of course in today’s world, the ubiquitous Mobile Phone recorded video, makes everyone potentially instant eyewitnesses to an event. The viral video implies that Chiefs must resist the urge, and the temptation to act on whatever fanciful ideas may tempt them in public. A Chief should absolutely not pick up the microphone, at a party; at a club; anywhere, and sing. Not in Asante. Rather he should be serenaded, and if at all, dance majestically to the song. So, there’s a cautionary tale for our Chiefs.
Nananom, please comport yourselves in public. Try not to be overtaken by hubris. Try never to routinize the charisma and respect that your office thrusts upon you, otherwise, it becomes ordinary. Do not behave and conduct yourself like the average “Mensa” in the town square. No matter the occasion, event, or the ambiance, resist the temptation. Whenever a Chief behaves like the proverbial “Mensa” in town, he compromises his standing and public image. He potentially damages the respect and reverence people repose in him and his Stool. Beware of the riotous adulation and the encores. It may turn out to be from the fool’s gallery.
You may be stepping out of your sandals, one reckless behavior at a time.A finial atop an Asante OKYEAME POMA instructs how a Chief ought to conduct himself upon enstoolment. The finial depicts a man with a finger stuck in each ear…… “ME NTE HWEE.” It means he has blocked off all urges and temptations. It also means that the Chief has blocked off idle gossips, and self-serving urges/loose talk.
A Chief is not given to flippant attitude and hurried decision-making. Thus, “Opanyin (Ohene) due m’ate, maante.”
By: Sankofa Asante, Asante Historian