Extracts from Bulsa History: Sandema Chiefs before Azantilow
Note: The following account of the history of Sandema chiefs is mainly based on material (reports, letters, etc.) from the Sandema Archive in the Sandemnaab’s compound. I thank the late Sir Ayieta Azantilow, Paramount Chief of the Bulsa Traditional Area, for allowing a group of German anthropologists to read and make copies of a couple of documents in 1988. As regards Akansugaasa’s reign, I had to rely on the typescript AThe Ayietas@ by Francis Afoko (1970).
Compilations by the editor F. Kröger appear in square brackets [....].
D.C.: District Commissioner
P.C.: Provincial Commissioner
C.C. (N.T.): Chief Commissioner (of the Northern Territories)
FA: Francis Afoko: “The Ayietas”
N.A.G. National Archives of Ghana (Accra)
[?] words or passages hardly readable
Since the Sandemnaab’s death (November 14th, 2006) and funeral (April 27th - 30th, 2011) the Bulsa paramountcy has moved more and more into the centre of public interest. Now everybody is expecting exciting contests and a successful election for the holder of the highest traditional office in the Bulsa District. To completely understand the forthcoming events, it might be helpful to know something about Dr. Azantilow’s predecessors and the way they came to power under a colonial British administration.
CHIEFS OF SANDEMA
Anaankum: appr. 1850-1900 (1901?)
Ayieta Ananguna: 1905- May 18th, 1912
Paramount Chief September 23rd, 1911
Afoko: December 11th, 1912- March 3rd, 1927
Akansugaasa (Agaasa): April 8th, 1927 - 1931
Azantilow Ayieta: December 19th, 1932 - November 14th 2006
Regent after Azantilow's death: Alexis Azantilow
The election of a chief can become a routine ritual with fixed rules and a time-honoured procedure. The free election of a Bulsa Paramount Chief, however, is a novelty because all of Azantilow’s predecessors, in spite of superficial formal election rituals, were practically appointed and installed by the British. In other words, the British would have never allowed somebody who had disobeyed their orders before or with whom a successful co-operation could not be expected to become a chief.
The first Sandemnaab appearing in written sources available to me is Anaankum, whose name was spelled Naku or Nakon in early documents. His reign was to a high degree characterized by frequent attacks by Babatu, a notorious Zambarima slave raider. In the successful resistance against these assaults, the Sandemnaab, in competition with Kanjaga, managed to assert himself as the leading Bulsa chief, although a paramountcy did not exist at that time. In 1897 Babatu was decisively beaten in the battle of Kanjaga (cf. Buluk 3: 29-32) by Lieut. Chanoine and the auxiliary troops of Ameria, who had previously been one of Babatu’s officers, and who, after his rebellion, became one of his most dangerous enemies. In the time after this battle, the Bulsa and their chiefs experienced the increasing influence of British power in their country, and in 1901 a new protectorate called the “Northern Territories of the Gold Coast” was created. In a report dated December 20th, 1905, Lieut. P.T. Partridge stated that Nakon [Anaankum] had died “five years previously” and Capt. A.M. Henry wrote in the next year, on May 24th, 1906 that, “The last chief of Sania [Sandema] was Annakomi [Anaankum], who was brother of the present chief [Ayieta]. Annakomi died 5 years ago.” This means that Anaankum died in 1900 or 1901 and that until 1906 Sandema had no chief at all. Francis Afoko, in his unpublished typescript “The Ayietas” (p. 3) points out that Anaankum never saw a white person in his life.
During this interregnum a serious clash between British troops and the Bulsa of Sandema took place. M. Nathan, Governor of the Gold Coast Colony, complained in a letter to Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, the Colonial Secretary, about “tribes who made a practice of raiding and ill-treating their more loyal neighbours.” Among these “disobedient” tribes the “Kingdom of Sinlieh [Sandema]” was regarded as “most hostile”.
Lieutenant-Colonel A. Morris, C.C.N.T., attached a detailed report on his campaign against Sandema and other hostile towns to Mr Nathan’s letter (cf. also F. Kröger 2001, passim; 2003, pp. 3-10 and 2005, pp. 39-48). Apparently A. Morris did not know that the inhabitants of Sandema had no chief at that time, for his diary (March 21st, 1902) says: “I went to the King’s house, which we destroyed.” Today we do not know which compound was actually destroyed. The title “King” does not refer to a paramountcy here, for in his diary for March 19th, 1902, Morris mentions that he “received the Kings of Paha [Paga], Chulchulga [Chuchuliga]... who were accompanied by their chiefs.” It is not clear who was meant by “chiefs” in this quotation: The headmen? Elders? Heads of lineages? Big men of the village?
After Morris’ successful campaign, he points out in his report: “...the Kings of Nafrongo and Sinlieh, with a representative from each of their chiefs, have arrived in Gambaga to make submission and to ask that they may be given the English flag.” Again we do not know which “King” and which representatives were sent to Gambaga in 1902.
In 1905 Sandema had a new chief. “Ieta [Ayieta] was formally recognized by the people as their chief in November of 1905 after going through the ceremony, part of which consists in being locked up in a dark room without being allowed to come out for 7 days” (Partridge, 20/12/1905).
On April 15th, 1912, Ayieta was approved as Paramount Chief of the “Kanjagas” (Bulsa) by C.H. Armitage, then Chief Commissioner of the Northern Territories. The relation between Ayieta and the British, at least in the beginning, was not always without tensions. In a patronizing way Capt. O’Kinealy writes about him: “...the Chief Ieta, in contrast to other chiefs, seemed unwilling. He was told that it would be put on record that I consider him very ‘slim’ ... as shown in the yarn about lion[s] stealing his cattle” (15/IV/1912).
A short time after his appointment as Paramount Chief, Ayieta died. In the Sandema archive, one H.C.W. (= Henry Thompson Camden Wheeler?) mentions May 18th, 1911 as the date of his death which is not possible since he became paramount chief in April 1912. The correct date is probably May 18th, 1912.
After Ayieta’s son Assukoro, who, like Ayieparo (see below), suffered from elephantiasis, had abstained from contesting for the office of Sandemnaab, only Ayieparo and Ayieta’s son Afoko remained as candidates. “On the advice of Abdelladem of Soowor [Suarinsa] Section it is decided that [they] look after the town [Sandema] till [the] election of their Chief” (S.D. Nash, D.C., 27/VI/1912).
The British were not neutral observers in rivalries between Bulsa contestants but freely expressed their like or dislike. The disapproving and appreciative remarks of British officers on Sandema chiefs, as quoted in the following texts, should be taken with reservation. Some chiefs, like Afoko and Agaasa, probably tried to make the best for the Bulsa people out of an inevitable situation by co-operating with the British while others (like Ayieta and Ayieparo, Afoko’s contestant) were less willing to submit to the British colonial government.
In the contest of 1912 their sympathies lay clearly with Afoko: “The chief’s son [is] Affoka [Afoko], a tall youth and likely to make a good successor to his deceased father...” (ibd.) ... “[Afoko] is the man who always took orders from the Govt. ... in his father’s time and everything points to his being of Assistance” (H.C.W.).
Ayieparo apparently tried to by-pass the British D.C. and sent a delegation with presents to Nalerigu (to the Paramount Chief of the Mamprusi?), a deed about which Afoko complained to the D.C. Though probably not solely as a consequence of this deed, the D.C. nonetheless completely disapproved of Ayieparo: “Aieparo seems to be no relative of the late chief, has elephantiasis of the right leg and probably would not make a good chief. He is warned to keep quiet till election time” (Nash, 27/VI/1912).
On December 11th, 1912, “in the presence of the people”, 75% of the 16 [Sandema] headmen voted for Afoko. “The remainder for Yiparo” (ibd.).
But Ayieparo did not give up:
The son of the Fetish man was brought in by Yiparo who said that he, Yiparo, had been given the fetish and made Chief of Sandema by the Fetish Man [probably the sacrificer to the Alogta earth shrine], and if he was not allowed to be Chief, the Fetish Man would kill him. The son of the Fetish man was told to warn his father that if there was any trouble of that sort, the Fetish Man would get trouble from the Govt. in his turn. The Fetish Man is an old man, named Amuusa. A very strong warning was given (H.C.W., 26/XII/1912).
In January of 1913 a new trenched road from Sandema via Wiaga and Gbedema to Kanjaga was completed, and the Chief of Sandema [Afoko] had “made himself useful in procuring labour for the work from his subchief [or subchiefs?]” (G,C,W,). Ayieparo did not only “refuse to obey the chief” [procuring labour?] but even stopped people from coming to work on the road. He was “sent to Navaro [Navrongo] as a political prisoner - 3 months” (S.O. Warden, 25/III/1913).
Furthermore, for recruiting soldiers for the Gold Coast Regiment, Afoko was praised by the British officers (“Sandema behaved very well over the recruiting business and did his best to secure as many boys as possible”; S.D.N. (= Sidney Dawson Nash?, 19/V/1916) and he was presented with a medium sized medallion by the C.C.N.T. at Navarro [Navrongo]. He handed back the small one he had received on December 11th, 1916.
During Afoko’s chieftaincy the first attempts by Kunkwa and some other villages of the Southern Bulsa to leave the overlordship of the Paramount Chief of Sandema and join the Mamprusi chiefdom can be recognized (The whole conflict will be described below).
Afoko died on March 20th, 1927 and was succeeded by his brother, Akansugaasa.
When writing about Chief Akansugaasa’s term of office, I have to depend on Mr. Francis Asianab Afoko’s unpublished paper ("The Ayietas", 22 pp.) to a great extent. It was only in 2012 that I could collect some more data on Agaasa in the N.A.G. (Accra).
On the 8th of April 1927, barely a month after Afoko’s death, elections of a successor took place. There were five contestants...: 1. Akansugaasa [brother of Afoko], 2. Amama, both brothers, 3. Akanwomanab of Apulkayeri, 4. Adong [?] Anaankum and 5. Agbanavuuk Anaankum. Finally the claims of two were rejected. Amama stepped down for his older brother Akansugaasa and Akanwomnab’s claim [was] rejected... This was therefore a contest between two brothers and a nephew (FA, p.15).
This time the administration invited the other Bulsa chiefs to attend and participate in the election. Twelve of them were present. According to an N.A.G. document, these were the chiefs of Wiaga, Siniessi, Doninga, Kanjarga, Kadema, Bedema, Uasi, Fambisi, Wiasi, Bachansi, Chuchulliga and Godemblisi. Together with 16 headmen, the vote was taken and 28 electors unanimously chose Akansugaasa, younger brother of the late Afoko, to be chief. Akansugaasa was therefore declared elected chief for a 12-month probationary period (FA, p.16). After one year's probation Akansugaasa was confirmed as Paramount Chief of the Bulsa by the British administration on April 10th, 1928, and was presented with a medallion (No.4) by the Acting Commissioner of the Northern Province (N.A.G.). As a consequence of the administrative reform, a native treasury was founded in 1932, and Chief Akansugaasa was later “entrusted with the responsibility of treasurer.” A problem emerged when the D.C. could not find a literate clerk. He writes in his diary: "I have asked Monseigneur Morin [White Father in Navrongo] if he has anyone who can be spared to do clerical work for the Chief. He says that at present he has no one good enough and that we shall have to wait three years..."
Under Agaasa the conflict with Kunkwa and Kategra escalated to its climax and finally the two Bulsa villages broke away from Sandema (a detailed account of this affair will be given below). “Soon after this event Akansugaasa died suddenly on November 21st, 1932” (FA. p.17).
The D.C. commented on his death with some personal remarks, which is very exceptional in the otherwise very sober reports: "... a keen and energetic young Chief who will be sadly missed... I am very sorry about his death, and I think (?) his successor will have to work hard to be as successful as he was."
"Akansugaasa was survived by 5 children: three boys and two girls. The oldest, Akunkuanaab, being about 12 years at the time of the death of his father" (FA, p.17).
On October 19th, 1932 a new chief was elected in Sandema. His name is spelled Azagtenlo in the the N.A.G. documents, but today he is only known as Azantinlow.
Link: Bulsa History (Chronology)
See also https//buluk.de/new