Togbega Gabusu VI desecrated the dead and the womb of the Earth, the Tomb.
He piled the land with crime and guilt, he torched the ancestral path of life, he murdered the dead twice over, stanched the span of his reign, the peace of Hohoe has been rend and the gods are suspended amidst rancor and mayhem.
You have no right to pile upon peoples sorrows and pains. You have rained storms and curses upon the land, Mawu is aggrieved, and we are doubly-bereaved.
In the beginning, there was land before the arrival of man, Togbevi Gabusu, no man owns the land, for the land is the spout of life, the land belongs to all, the land is us all.
“We have nothing against each other. They befriend and marry our women, and we also befriend and marry their women,” he said.
Alhaji Karimu’s father was one of the earliest settlers in Hohoe whose fathers came to Hohoe in the volta region of Ghana in 1938 and Hohoe has since been their home. He personally has very close ties with the indigenes of the area.
Togbega Gabusu VI, the paramount chief of the Gbi Traditional Area, was his teacher and he still has a very close relationship with him.
“I see him as my father because we’re very free. When I organised a football league in Hohoe it was in Togbega’s house I kept all the equipment,” he said. “If anybody ever told me that such a thing will happen in Hohoe between the Muslims and Gbi people I would never believe it.”
Indeed, not many people would have believed what went on in Hohoe that fateful Monday, June 11, 2012, could ever take place. It was a slideshow of events that reached its tragic climax that Monday morning when the security apparatus failed to act based on available intelligence.
The violent clashes between the Muslim community and indigenes of Hohoe were sparked by the exhumation of the body of a 120years-old Imam, Alhaji Alhassan Sani under the direct order and supervision of the traditional ruler Togbega Gabusu VI.
Earlier, the Gbi Traditional Council had issued an edict ordering the Muslim community to exhume the body of a 20-year-old man who had been electrocuted and henceforth stop burying their dead on Gbi land which was a very awkward, strange and unacceptable culture in the eyes of the good people of Ghana and Africa as whole with regards to culture, social norms and respect for the dead.
Togbe Agyeman, the divisional chief of Gbi Abansi and spokesperson for the Gbi Traditional Council, explained that the order to exhume the body was issued before the death of the Chief Imam because the Muslim community had defied the order of Paramount Chief of Gbi Traditional Area, Togbega Gabusu VI, to apologise to authorities of the Hohoe Municipal Hospital and pay for some damages some Muslim youth had caused at the hospital.
An incidence which the police were already handling with investigations ongoing, this prompted the police to issue a statement to the traditional council to desist from any form of actions(rulings) which may lead to provocations.
The youth were said to have become furious when they were snubbed by authorities of the Hospital in demand of the dead body of their relative, this led to assaults on some nurses and mortuary attendants when they unfortunately thought the corpse which the hospital authorities were about to convey to mortuary was theirs, a practice they said was against Islam.
“There was a woman who died as a result of snake bite so the mortuary attendants were coming for that woman but our youth who were already angered due to the ill-treatment of their deceased relative thought it was their corpse,” Alhaji Mairiga, spokesperson for the Hohoe Muslim Community, narrated. “It led to a scuffle and the mortuary attendant sustained injuries.”
“The hospital authorities went to complain to the police about the incident, Togbega Gabusu VI upon hearing the news sent a word to the Zongo community that they had gone too far and needed to render an unqualified apology to the hospital and make sure they replaced all the items they had vandalised, but they refused,” Togbe Agyeman(the divisional chief of Gbi Abansi and spokesperson for the Gbi Traditional Council) said.
He explained that the Municipal Chief Executive of Hohoe, some members of the Muslim community and other prominent persons went to plead with the Gbi traditional authorities but the discussion was not concluded.
“The Muslim community had informed Togbega that, per their tradition, they did not bury their dead after 4pm. Togbega, having this at the back of his mind, said it was even past 4:30pm so they should come the following morning for the two parties to resolve the existing problem before the burial of the Chief Imam,” Togbe Agyeman narrated.
Alhaji Mairiga admitted that there was no official permission to go ahead and bury the Imam but while the discussion was ongoing, those of them at home had signals of a possible resolution of the misunderstanding.
“We had information that there was the possibility that Togbega would allow the burial to take place. Immediately we arranged for the final prayer for the corpse,” he said.
According to him, they were still waiting for the final message from the meeting between the Muslim leaders and the traditional authorities of Gbi, but “you know the crowd and agitations. They decided to bury him. Once they said there was the possibility that it [their plea with the Togbega] would be accepted, we took that as permission and went and buried the Imam.”
He said the following morning the Muslim community discovered “to their horror” that the body of the Imam had been exhumed, stabbed and dumped on the road to Santrokofi, a town between Hohoe and Jasikan.
Togbega Gabusu and his Gbi Traditional Council have ordered the exhumation of the body as a punishment to the Muslim community.
Alhaji Mairiga said the Muslim community consulted the Bla Division of Gbi, the landlords of the Muslim community, and they advised that the body be re-buried at the Imam’s residence or any mosque of their choice so that they meet with authorities of the Gbi Traditional Council to resolve the issue.
He said they were in the process of burying the Imam at the mosque when they heard that a section of the youth upon orders from the Gbi traditional council were in their numbers with weapons of all kinds to prevent the Muslims from re-burying their 120years old deceased Imam. The Muslims youth in efforts lf defends and struggles went to the the residence of Togbega Gabusu and vandalised his house and set two of his vehicles ablaze.
The indigenes also mobilised and carried out reprisal attacks. The Muslim youth had retreated but the anger was visited on shops and other businesses owned by members of the Muslim community. Three persons were killed while others sustained various degrees of injuries.
Usman Yusif, 24, saw and greeted his father early that Monday morning and again saw him briefly at the burial of the Chief Imam at the mosque. He later heard that his father, Usman Abdulai, was shot. The 60-year-old second-hand clothes dealer had gone to salvage his stock when he heard about the burning of shops. But neither he nor his property was saved. His son later saw his lifeless body at the Hohoe Municipal Hospital, where the health authorities had tried desperately to save him.
“He was shot in the head and neck,” Yusif said. He said they had to go and bury him in Kpando. Muslims in Hohoe have since been burying their dead in other districts, pending the resolution of the existing differences.
In all, 101 shops and their contents were set ablaze. A curfew was imposed but that did not stop the burning of two more Mosques and residences that Monday night.
Ali Iddrisu had to be whisked into the Barclays Bank for safety when Gbi youth stormed his two shops. The traumatised trader said he lost more than GH¢100,000.
“After the first attack, some of the things did not burn so later in the day I went and selected them but when I finished and was about to send them home they returned and burnt the rest,” he said.
The Gbi Traditional Council issued an ultimatum to the Muslim community to return the regalia that were missing when the chief’s house was vandalised, but relaxed the ultimatum due to intervention from different authorities. Togbe Agyeman said the return of the regalia was one great step to peace and reconciliation.
But even as the mystery of the missing regalia is yet to be unravelledand the victims still count the cost of the destruction, there is still a way out – forgiveness. The only lasting solution to the Hohoe crises is forgiveness from both sides.
The effect of war, our wise elders say, is like rain. It doesn’t fall on only one roof.
My piece of word to our traditional leaders is that “kingship is no toy for toddlers”