The campus of the Bolgatanga Senior High School (Big Boss) turned into a crime scene when some unfamiliar men stormed the government school on Monday, 28 August 2023, openly stole goats owned by teachers and carried the animals to the palace of the Paramount Chief of Talensi, Tongraan Kugbilsong Nanlebegtang, to sacrifice them for a festival.
The raid came suddenly like a scene from an action film. But only at the end of the action did it become clear enough that the raiders had rehearsed their part very well against their unprepared victims.
The men, numbering six and paired up on three motorbikes, cruised into the school’s fenceless campus in the Talensi District at about 12:30 pm, their unexpected entry almost disrupting normal lessons and a paper at the ongoing West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).
They had no sooner alighted from their motorbikes than they started to capture and tie up goats which some teachers had pegged within the grassy areas of the campus to graze.
While they were capturing the goats from one spot to another, an assistant headmaster, who had left the campus with a teacher on a motorbike, returned. He was sitting behind the teacher on the motorbike when he spotted the men carrying three of his goats, which were the fattest among the goats he owned, away from the campus.
“Thieves!” the assistant headmaster and the teacher exclaimed, and switched to the direction in which the raiders were speeding away with all the goats captured from the campus.
They pursued the intruders through the campus through a narrow path. And when they got close from behind, two of the invaders stopped suddenly and turned their own motorbike horizontally to block the teacher and assistant headmaster.
The pursuing staff did not expect the obstruction. In their attempt to by-pass the sudden blockade through a bumpy edge of that narrow path, they almost fell together with their motorbike.
From police headquarters to palace
But they managed to maintain their balance. They found their way back to the relatively smooth path, leaving behind those who had tried to stop them.
“Naayee! Naayee!” the assistant headmaster and the teacher screamed in the Talen word for thieves as the pursuit continued outside the campus.
On reaching a tarred road that links Winkogo, the community where the school is situated, and Tongo, Talensi District’s capital, the two men slowed down their speed and placed a call to the District Police Headquarters, which was still ahead of the runaway intruders along that road.
They told the police on the telephone about the wrongdoing the palace men had perpetrated on the campus and asked the officers to block their way. Because they were riding while talking on the telephone, the police could not hear them clearly. For the sake of clarity, they took a breather on the edge of the road and explained again.
While they were explaining, the two men, whom they dodged and left behind minutes earlier on the campus, caught up with them and went past them.
After the telephone conversation, the assistant headmaster and the teacher proceeded to the police headquarters. On reaching there, they learnt that the intruders had told the police they acted according to “culture” and under instructions from the palace of the paramount chief.
Dumbfounded at the comments from the police, the two men went to the palace and sought answers from the palace elders.
“When we arrived at the palace, we saw the same men who had stolen our goats,” one of the school’s staff, who did not want his name known for fear of attack, told Media Without Borders.
“We complained to the elders. And the elders said it was part of culture and that the goats were to be slaughtered for a festival called Ging-gang. And the elders said even if we went inside to complain to the paramount chief himself, he would not even listen to us because it’s culture.
“I’m from this land; we have never heard of a culture of this nature in Talensi before, at this age. The police in the region are helpless and have failed on this issue. We are calling on the Inspector-General of Police to step in without fear of favour. This is an explosive crime. It can lead to mayhem,” he said with frustration.
‘It is stealing but we don’t call it stealing because of the sacrifice’— Palace elder
The assistant headmaster spoke to Media Without Borders, too, saying the incident could have turned bloody if the staff had carried weapons while chasing the palace men.
“We could not retrieve the goats as the elders claimed that once the goats had entered the palace, it was over and nothing could be done about it. In fact, the police told us some people in some other communities had complained, too, that their goats had been captured for the festival.
“Tradition is supposed to promote values and virtues, not stealing. If we had got weapons, we could have defended ourselves when they came to our campus to steal the goats. And things could have gotten out of hand if the students were not busy in class at the time they came,” the assistant headmaster said.
Calls placed to the paramount chief’s secretary, Richard Sunday Yinbil, went unanswered. He did not respond to the message sent to him via WhatsApp, either. But an elder at the palace, Francis Zassnaab, was available.
“When you pick something without the consent of the owner, it’s tantamount to stealing. But we don’t call it stealing because of the sacrifice. I’m one of the elders at the palace. We have our festival. Once they get the animals, they send them to the palace for slaughtering. They are brewing the pito today.
“The women went for the firewood yesterday. The sacrifice will come off on Sunday. We have done the soothsaying to choose the woman who will send the drums out for the dancing. A woman has been chosen. She is on her way from Kumasi,” the elder stated.
Meanwhile, the staff at the school say they have learnt the goat capture operation started on Sunday, 27 August 2023, and shall continue until Friday, 1 September 2023.
“In view of this worrying development, members of the school community are informed to safeguard their goats, especially the big fat ones, from now to Friday, which is the climax of the festival,” says a notice posted on the school social media platform.
The teachers want their identities protected following a confrontation their colleague, Milton Aberinga, suffered months ago at the hands of the District Chief Executive (DCE) of Talensi, Thomas Wuni Duanab, and the paramount chief’s secretary.
The two men, looking very bitter, confronted Aberinga at the school during instructional hours after a civil society he worked for, Development Research and Advocacy Network (DRAC), lodged a petition with the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) against some government appointees including the Upper East Regional Minister, Stephen Yakubu.
Source: Edward Adeti/Media Without Borders/mwbonline.org