Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for giving me the opportunity
to pay this tribute in memory of the late Naa Abeifaa Karbo II, Paramount Chief of Lawra Traditional Area and the immediate past Member of the Council of State.
Mr. Speaker, the late Abeifaa Karbo II was born on the 7th of January 1927 in Lawra. He had his elementary education in the Lawra Native Primary School and the Tamale Government Boys School between 1935 and 1943. He later attended the Government Teacher Training College in Tamale from 1944 to 1948. After some years of teaching in schools within the Lawra district he was elected as the first Member of Parliament for the Lawra- Nandom constituency in 1954, a position he held up to 1965.
While in Parliament, Mr. Speaker, he studied law at the Faculty of Law at the University of Ghana and the Ghana School of Law. He was called to the Ghana Bar in 1965.
I have had a very close association with Naa Abeifaa Karbo II, affectionately called Chief Karbo since 1974. I first met him personally in the company of two childhood friends to solicit his support for a tree-planting exercise we were undertaking in Lawra town as a student association.
Beyond giving us financial support for the project, he offered us pieces of advice that became a lasting memory to us. Since then I have related to him more closely, particularly when I was in difficulty. In terms of custom, I should normally refer to him as my maternal uncle, being of the Kusielle clan as my mother. I however, preferred to refer to him as grandfather when he became the Lawra Naa, to befit his status as the Paramount Chief of the Lawra Traditional Area. Though Chief Karbo had influenced our lives and many
others of my generation in the area in many ways, I would like to place only three occasions on record in his memoir.
First, when I was to enter the university,
I got admission into the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) to do Land Economy, and Law in the University of Ghana. I still remained undecided until I visited him in his Accra home at the Airport Residential Area. When I put my difficulty before him, he made a remark which did not only help me to decide to read law but also was to later become a prophetic remark.
He told me lawyers can work almost in every job but land economists can work only in a couple of jobs. He added that even after graduating in land economy, I might want to do law one day to be an authority in land matters. Two of my friends, Mr. Speaker, who did land economy, are currently studying law in the Ghana Law School.
Second, I visited him when I was a research assistant to the Committee of Experts which drafted the 1992 Constitution. I wanted to have his views on some constitutional proposals, given his experience as a member of the 1968 Constitutional Commission. After our discussion, he asked me whether I would like to take part in the 1992 Parliamentary Elections. I said no; I did not like party politics. He smiled and asked me who then from the Lawra/Nandom constit-uency I thought would represent us in Parliament and use the “beautiful Constitution” which we were drafting. I said I would think about it.
I was later to go back to him in the year 2000 to inform him that I wanted to contest the parliamentary elections for that year, and in his typical manner, he again smiled and asked me for which party. I said the
National Democratic Congress (NDC). He told me the party was not what was important to him but the suffering of our people. He gave me invaluable details of his own political past, particularly in opposition, and the lessons I needed to learn. He told me to let my mind decide my political actions and not my stomach. He advised me to always be on the side of my people and never make enemies in the quest to be a Member of Parliament. He wished me well; I thanked him and left.
Third, I visited him when I returned from the United Kingdom to do my PhD fieldwork. I went to interview him on the history of land relations in the Lawra Traditional Area. He asked me to go and speak first to the Tengan sob (Tindana or earth priest) at Yikpee and come back to him the next day. On my return he gave me a lot of information and handed to me a pile of documents I could not find even in the National Archives both in Tamale and Accra. These documents proved most useful to my understanding of the customary land law of the area.
Chief Karbo II was a man of many
words, a teacher, a lawyer, a politician, a public servant and above all a traditional ruler. In performing all these roles, a common thread run through all of them. He kept to his principles about life even under very tempting and difficult situations. It did not surprise me, Mr. Speaker, to learn that as early as 1947 he and Mr. E. A. Mahama, then students in the Government Teacher Training College in Tamale, protested against the rule which obliged northerners, both students and teachers, to wear the smock at all times on school premises. He certainly was a leading northern figure in the anti-colonial struggle of the late 1940s and the 1950s.
The late Chief Karbo II had served this country in many capacities and high offices. He was a member of the National Commission set up in 1996 to enquire into