SPEECH DELIVERED BY HIS MAJESTY OTUMFUO OSEI TUTU II, ASANTEHENE, AT THE DINNER COMMEMORATING THE OFFICIAL LAUNCH OF HIS MAJESTY’S COMMEMORATIVE GOLD COINS ON SUNDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2021.
Your Excellency the Vice President
Hon. Ministers of State
His Lordship the Chief Justice
Governor of the Bank of Ghana
Excellencies Heads of the Diplomatic Corps Distinguished Captains of Business and Finance Nananom, Ladies and Gentlemen
We are deeply humbled by the enormity of the honour bestowed upon us by the event taking place here tonight. In the two decades since we ascended the Golden Stool, we have had the privilege of hosting many of you here for our various Adae festivals and many other events. But the launch of a Gold Coin in our honour is something that we truly appreciate and sincerely thank all those who have made it happen. We are grateful to the young men who have been moved by our efforts to commemorate them in this manner and we are particularly thankful to the Bank of Ghana for giving them the nod to proceed.
Asante has been acknowledged for centuries as the Kingdom of Gold. The spirit and energy of the Asante nation is drawn from the Golden Stool and it was the wealth from gold which enabled Asante to build and sustain a Kingdom for four centuries.
In 2015, I was invited by Lord Williams, Master of Magdalene College of the University of Cambridge, to deliver the keynote address at the relaunch of the Professorship of African Archeology established in memory of our revered African icon Nelson Mandela. In my address to the distinguished audience in one of the citadels of knowledge, I touched on two things among others that should be relevant tonight.
The first was about the extraordinary story of the man said to be the richest man who ever lived. Two months before my address a group of economic historians had published a study of the richest men in human history. They compiled from their study a list of the 10 richest men of all time. It stretched from Emperor Augustus Ceaser of the Roman Empire, Emperor Shenzonong of China’s Song Dynasty, Genghis Khan of their Mongolian Empire, Emperor Akbar the Great of India’s Mughal dynasty and ran through the giants of the industrial revolution Andrew Carnegie and Rockefeller down to the colossus of the modern era Bill Gates. But the remarkable thing was that at the top of this pyramid was not one of these men who command the history of humanity. The person, identified by the study as the richest
man who ever walked the face of the earth was an African from the West Coast, King Mansa Kankan Musa of the Empire of Mali.
The Mali Empire took over after the collapse of the ancient Ghana Empire and King Mansa Musa came to the throne around 1312AD and ruled for a quarter of a century. In his time, he built Mali into one of the leading Empires in the world and organised the production and sale of gold along the West Coast of Africa stretching from the tip of the Sahal where he was based to the forest areas of what is today’s Ghana. History records the Pilgrimage of King Mansa to the Lands of Arabia’s in 1324 when he dispensed and lavished so much gold that it affected the Egyptian currency and the government literally had to beg him to stop. According to the panel, King Musa is the only person in history whose wealth was inestimable.
The significant point here is that part of the gold which made King Musa the richest man in human history came from organised trade and migration from his immediate empire to what came to be known later as Asante lands. This trade and exchange of gold provided the evidential basis for the connection between what was the Gold Coast and the old Ghana Empire which encouraged our founding fathers to propose the adoption of Ghana for our new sovereign state.
I also told the audience about the story of Ashanti Goldfields. In 1897, before Asante lost its sovereignty, two brothers from Fante, Joseph E. Biney and Joseph E. Ellis, arrived in Asante to ask for concessions to establish a gold mine. They had, on their own, undertaken geological studies to establish the quantum of gold in the hills around Obuasi. They were granted the concessions, appropriately, by the chiefs. The brothers then went to the City of London, with all their feasibility studies, to look for partners to join them in what they knew was going to be a highly profitable business. But while the City was excited about the prospects of the company, none wanted to be partner of the native boy. Thus the Biney brothers were compelled to sell the business to City tycoons who ran the mines from London for years before passing it on to South Africa. The mine became synonymous with General Spears and Tiny Rolland instead of the Bineys who started it all.
What these stories tell us is that Gold has been the backbone of this nation since the beginning of history. Gold was Asante and it was the clamour for gold which was the main driver of our colonial conquest. It was not without reason that we were called the Gold Coast. From the Gold Coast to sovereign Ghana, gold has played a major role in the growth and sustenance of our economy. But while the nation has gained enormously from the metal, and it is heartwarming to note that Ghana is still the largest gold producer in Africa. And yet, we cannot help acknowledging that legitimate questions remain about the proportionality of the benefits relative to the traditional areas from which the metal is mined.
When Asante was integrated into the Gold Coast, we gave up control of our gold resources which passed to the government. That has continued since independence with the central government controlling all our mineral resources while our traditional rulers control the land. But as we all know, the process by which we get to the mineral resources, entail tremendous damage to and degradation of the lands. So we have a situation in which the state glories in the glitter of gold while the owners of the land are left with the ravages from the degraded and despoiled lands.
The calamitous impact on our environment, compounded by the scourge of galamsey that has afflicted our country for some years now, has thrust Ghana and the mining industry deep in the throes of the debates about climate which is the greatest challenge facing humanity today. How do we reclaim our forest cover and restore our ecosystem? How do we ensure the adoption of sustainable practices in our mining industry? And how do we now ensure that the benefits of gold are truly reflected in the communities where it is produced?
It is true of course that there have been considerable improvements lately in the benefits accruing to our communities through our various interventions to mitigate the consequence of the mining activities. All the mining companies are now providing improved social services to the communities in which they operate but that is not to say that the social responsibility provisions necessarily address the need for a review of the entire system not only to address past inequities but to allow a greater role in the global stage for traditional institutions.
I need not draw your attention to the fact that it has taken an enterprising young business to device tonight’s event in recognition of our efforts to the nation. And as I have said, I am grateful to them, to the Bank of Ghana and to all of you who have supported the project. But the honour apart, I do not think that Asanteman, the Kingdom of Gold, needs to hide under a bushel if it seeks to engage in the any appropriate legitimate gold business. Nor do we have to be hesitant in seeking to take responsibility for the challenge of reclaiming our degraded lands, restocking our forests and in maximising the benefits to be derived from gold. That is why I am announcing tonight Asanteman’s commitment to tackle the challenge of deforestation and ensure the re-afforestation of at least 50 per cent of our degraded forest lands within the next five years. We want to be able to do this in partnership with dedicated green investment vehicles to drive the momentum for Ghana’s transition to a carbon neutral nation in accordance with our international commitments.
It is my hope that the success of the Commemorative Gold Coin we launch tonight will convince the nation that there is room for more innovative ways to help us maximise the basis of our nation’s wealth. Asanteman will play its part in this exercise and will encourage other traditional leaders to harness the creative talents at their disposal to make it a worthy global effort.
Obviously, a lot rests on the success of tonight’s event and its aftermath. Conscious of the fact that the success of such a project can be influenced by the environment and the climate in which it is held, I have agonised in the past weeks about the fact that the nation is passing through some of the most challenging times, with ill winds threatening to blow us apart and I feel there must be many who are wondering whether this is the right moment to be seeing to be jolly.
Your Excellency, Mi Lord Chief Justice, our forefathers who created the Asante Kingdom were truly unique in Africa. They created their own calendar embodying the spiritual and moral ethos. The Asante calendar provided for a period when the nation paused to give thanks for the blessings they enjoy, took stock of what they have done and planned for the way forward. They did that not once a year but once every 40 days which is when we mark our Adae festival. It is a period for spiritual renewal, to commune with our inner selves, take account of the challenges before us and, in abiding contemplation, resolve on the way forward. On the last Akwasidae of every year, we take stock of the year’s performance and rededicate ourselves to the challenges of the coming year. It is the way the energy and spirit Asante as prescribed by Opemsuor Osei Tutu 1 and his Obiri Komfo Anokye has sustained the Kingdom through good times and bad times for four centuries and we who are the heirs to their great heritage have no choice but to carry on.
Today marks the last Akwasidae of the year 2021. And what better than to use the moment to confront the unprecedented challenges facing our nation, and resolve not to be buried by them but to strive to turn the tide and regain the momentum of progress in our lives. So Your Excellency the Vice President, Mi Lord Chief Justice, before this honourable audience including the envoys of brother and friendly nations from across the world, I ask our leaders from all shades of political opinion, our social commentators who control the space for public discourse, and captains of finance and business whose enterprises depend on the climate for success, IT IS TIME TO STOP THE NATION BLEEDING TO EXTINCTION..
The good people of Ghana take great pride in their commitment to democratic governance. We have been proud to be an oasis of peace in an isle of torrent and our record as a thriving democracy has served us well and made the chosen destination of many investors. What we dare not forget is that Democracy is not a static object. Nothing in statecraft really is. Democracy is a work in progress. The British have avoided giving themselves a written constitution because the absence obviously gives British democracy the latitude and flexibility to float with the tide. The American Constitution, held as the gold standard of democracy, has been sustained by its scope for amendments to suit changing circumstances. In a sense, adaptability has been its source of sustenance.
We have been brought up on the notion that democracy simply means the minority have their say but the majority have their way. That may very well be, but in the cold world of real politic, it cannot be without caveats. As national and international problems become more complex, nations are finding that the smart and prudent way is to seek the convergence of different points of view. Thus across many jurisdictions today, one word has come to symbolise the lifeblood and the soul of democracy. It is called COMPROMISE.
Whether you are navigating through the labyrinths of international diplomacy or confronting the intractable issues of domestic politics, from the United States to Germany, from Israel to Japan, through all the land proclaiming their faith in democracy, the name of the game is Compromise. It makes sense. History and perhaps science too should tell us that when an irresistible force meets an immovable object, the inevitable outcome is chaos. When the art of governance becomes overly rigid and inflexible, it invites the search for an irresistible force and an unorthodox path to resistance. Or if you like, when you tempt fate too often you risk the danger of fate descending with unintended consequences.
We have been fortunate in our political journey to have moved on from a period when one political party dominated everything. Today, at least the two main political parties have each had a period in government. If we are honest, we will agree there is no perfect government and there will never be as long as different points of view prevail. And if we are honest we will also agree that there are no people in the whole wide world who love paying taxes. And yet there is no other way yet conceived by the human mind by which governments can raise the resources to provide for our needs other than by raising taxes. And I do not know of any form of taxes which is less painful than others. So, alas, governments of all hues will raise such taxes as they find necessary to meet our needs. And alas, if we are good citizens, we have to pay our taxes.
We elect people to represent us to make sure there is some equilibrium in what governments do. It is to our good that our representatives in Parliament subject the national budget to the most vigorous scrutiny and to call for changes. Governments must always have the humility to acknowledge and embrace useful inputs from all sources. But our representatives need also to bear in mind that it is not their role to either determine policy for the executive or to frustrate them from performing their legitimate duties.
The good thing in a democracy is that the people listen, observe and weigh what their leaders do over time and pass their judgement at the appropriate time. So our Parliamentary representatives can be assured that their contributions in the house are not wasted. The people have noted them and no doubt they will reflect on them when the time comes to determine the next phase in our governing process. That may be two years away but that is what democracy demands
What is important now is for them to turn down the temperature and allow the process of governance to proceed so that the people will retain their exclusive right to pass judgement on how they have been governed at the appropriate time. The captains of business and finance gathered here tonight need the certainty in our political climate to facilitate their successful operations. The global investment community seeks the certainty of our democratic commitment to encourage them to purchase our gold and invest in our economy. And the good people of Ghana want the reassurance that the democratic path they have chosen remain irreversible. So let the spirit of compromise prevail and drastically reduce if not completely eliminate the risk of our democratic governance being truncated by unforeseen circumstances.
May the storm soon blow over and Ghana continue to shine like the 24-carat Commemorative Gold Coin now and forever.Thank you for your support.And may God continue to bless our one indivisible homeland Ghana and Asanteman !!!!