By Mahama Haruna
In celebration of the Global Day of Parents on 1st June, 2020, former President John Dramani Mahama wrote in memory of her Parents.
Writing about his father the late Emmanuel Adama Mahama, former President John Dramani said;
“It’s a Global Day of Parents. I honour the memory of the man who has made me who I am. I draw my education, communication skills, human relations and political instincts from this great man. May your gentle soul continue to rest in peace”.
Also writing about his mother (Hajia Aniba Nnaba Suluwu) the former President wrote; “You gave birth to me & nurtured me. I draw my patience, tolerance, kindness and humility from this great woman. May your kind soul continue to Rest In Peace”.
Who was E.A. Mahama, father of President John Dramani Mahama and who was Hajia Aniba Nnaba Suluwu?
Let me start with EA Mahama.
Emmanual Adama Mahama (E.A. Mahama) hails from Bole in the Savannah Region of Ghana. His father was a traditional Chief called Gbenfuwura (Chief of Gbenfu) Adama. Chief Adama hails from Kotobiripe a subset of the royal gate of Jaga (Jagape) at Bole.
A British colonial policy was enacted that made every Chief to enroll at least one child into school.
E. A. Mahama was the one selected among his siblings and therefore started his early education at Kpembe in the East Gonja Municipality under the British Colonial adminstration and later continued his education at the Bagabaga Training College which was the highest educational institution in Northern Ghana.
E.A. Mahama started his working life as a Teacher but later became a clerk to the Bole Native Council. He again became a Clerk to the Gonja Native Council which was the highest post for a Gonja educated indigene in the colonial administration.
He was later promoted as State Secretary meaning he was the Registrar to the Yagbonwura and the Gonja Native Council, the biggest post for a western educated person in those days.
E.A. later became a politician and was one of the popular Northern politicians shortly before and after Ghana’s independence. He was one of the lights of the North in contemporarily Ghanaian politics.
As part of the March towards self government, a new constitution was introduced in the Gold Coast in 1954. Under the constitution, there was first legislative Assembly of one hundred and four members, all of whom were elected and then a cabinet which was to be responsible to Parliament and not to the British colonial Governor. Elections were fixed for June 1954 to usher the country into self government. The election was held following the approval of a new constitution on 29th April 1954. The new constitution meant that assembly members were no longer elected by the tribal councils, the Assembly was enlarged, and all members were chosen by direct election from equal, single-member constituencies. The election was won by Kwame Nkrumah’s Convention People’s Party (CPP) which took 71 of the 104 seats.
In the Western Gonja Constituency of the Northern Province of Ghana, the election was between E.A. Mahama and Abutu Mahama Abbot (later Yagbonwura Kurabaso) who were both former clerks of the Gonja District Council. While E.A. Mahama stood on the ticket of the Convention Peoples Party (CPP), Abutu Mahama Abbot stood on the ticket of the Northern Peoples Party (NPP). E.A. Mahama won amidst protest by Abutu Mahama Abbot and his supporters that the election was rigged in favour of E.A. Mahama but the rivalry between these two brothers was later resolved. E.A. Mahama and Abutu Mahama were cousins and so the family had to do a lot of work to reconcile the two.
Now in the face of an impasse between the CPP and the NLM over the direction of the country with regards to independence, the British government decided to call an election in 1956 to decide which of them had the support of the majority in the country. The British Government stated it would agree to a firm date for independence if a reasonable majority for such a step were obtained in the Gold Coast Legislative Assembly after a general election.
The election known as “The Gold Coast Legislative Election,1956” was won by Kwame Nkrumah’s CPP.
In the then Western Gonja Constituency, the election was a once again a hot contest between E. A. Mahama and Abudu Mahama Abbot (Yagbonwura Kurabaso). While E.A. Mahama again stood on the ticket of the Convention People’s Party (CPP), Mr Abudu Mahama (Yagbonwura Kurabaso) stood on the ticket of United Party (UP).
Considering the aftermath repercussions of the elections on family ties, Abudu Mahama decided to rescind his decision to contest the election and pave way for his coursin E. A. Mahama to the surprise of all his supporters at the final rally before the election.
But it is said the then Bolewura Awusi intervened during the 1956 election by making Kurabaso to step down after telling him he was destined to become a great Gonja Traditional Chief but not a politician.
Abudu Mahama later rose through the Gonja Chieftaincy structures to become Yagbonwura (King and Overlord of Gonja).
Even after Abudu Mahama (Yagbonwura Kurabaso) stepped down, the then District Commissioner H.D. Brew said not until he sees a letter signed by Abudu Mahama that he had stepped down he would consider him as still in the contest to become MP. On the day of the close of nominations Mahama Abudu’s withdrawal was not certain. The supporters of E.A. Mahama who were mostly the educated elite like B.A. Saaka, S.S. Sakara, Amantana Dramani led E.A. Mahama to Ward Brew to resolve the issue. Ward Brew insisted that not until he sees a letter by 12:00noon on the day before the election, he will consider Abudu Mahama as a candidate.
Mr Yahaya Mahama (now Nyinyangewura or Yipalawura) who is a biological brother of Abudu Mahama Abbot (Yagbonwura Kurabaso) but supported the CPP was to rush to Bole for Abudu Mahama (then Mandariwura) to sign the withdrawal letter.
E.A. Mahama and his supporters waited with breadth. It was a big surprise Mr Yahaya Mahama (now Yipalawura) returned from Bole to Damongo with the resignation letter of Abudu Mahama before time paving way for E.A. Mahama to contest unopposed as MP for Western Gonja.
This particular incident rekindled the good relation between E.A. Mahama and Abudu Mahama Abbot.
After the pro-independence parties won a convincing majority, the Prime Minister Nkrumah’s government issued a white paper containing proposals for Gold Coast independence in May 1956. The British government agreed to grant the colony independence. This happened on 6th March 1957, with the country renamed Ghana.
Abudu Mahama Abbot (Yagbonwura Kurabaso) was with E.A. Mahama at his swearing as an MP of the First Republic of Ghana and supported E.A. Mahama as MP from 1957 to 1966 when Kwame Nkrumah’s government was overthrown.
E.A. Mahama therefore served as MP from 1954 to 1966 and also served as the first Northern Regional Commissioner under Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s government, later moving to Accra to serve as Parliamentary Secretary and later a Minister in Kwame Nkrumah’s government.
E.A. Mahama was detained after Nkrumah was overthrown by the NLC.
Former President Mahama in his book, “My first Coup d’etat” explained the chaos of the coup and his resultant journey around the country in an attempt to find his father and other family members through the chaos:
“The military had taken over the flagstaff house, which was the official residence of Dr. Nkrumah, and then had gone on to take over the broadcasting station. It was announced over the airwaves that there had been a coup d’état. All the ministers of state, members of parliament, district commissioners, chairmen and secretaries of the ruling political party as well as a long list of other people of interest were requested to report to the nearest police station for ‘their own safety’. Dad gathered a few things, got in his car and drove to the police station, where he was sent into interrogation and then, much to everyone’s surprise, placed into custody”.
E.A. Mahama after his release went into commercial farming becoming a very wealthy rice farmer.
E.A. Mahama later played a role in bringing the Peoples National Party (PNP) under the leadership of Hilla Liman to power in 1979 and went into exile after the 31st December coup by J.J. Rawlings”.
President Mahama in his book; “My first Coup d’etat, 2011) page 230-238 further explained his fathers situation in 1981;
“With the 31st December coup in 1981, as with the June 4 coup in 1979, the different classifications were announced on the radio – MPs, ministers, party officials – and in some cases, people’s names were also announced. They were asked to report with immediate effect.
…We’d been listening as the announcer called each name…as soon as he said ‘E.A. Mahama’, we all stopped what we were doing, turned our heads, and stared at the radio. The sound of his name hung in the air…Dad was not safe anywhere in Ghana.
…We drove from Bole to Sawla which is an eighteen kilometre distance. It was where one of our cousins, Al Hassan lived.…when we got back to Al-Hassan’s, he told us he’d sent someone on a motorcycle ahead to clear the way for us. Al-Hassan joined us in the car and we drove along the road toward the Cote d’Ivoire border.
The borders that were drawn by the former colonials were done without regard to ethnic groups, tribes, indigenous languages, or families. Subsequently, most of the borders divide things that should have been kept whole. We had a relative in Kalba, Bukari. He was a smuggler…smuggling was a lucrative profession. People would go into one of the three Francophone countries that border Ghana to buy soap, canned food and other necessities. They would bring these goods into Ghana illegally with the intent of selling them… “.
As indicated earlier even though E.A. comes from a royal family, he decided not to take any traditional chieftaincy title after several overtures (especially after Kwame Nkrumah’s government was overthrown). It was a big issue within the family.
The family insisted that E.A. Mahama was a royal and therefore enskinned him Zenpewura (Chief of Zenpe) post humously, that is shortly after his death on 14th June 2001. His enskinment took place before his burial on Friday 22nd June, 2001 at his hometown of Bole.
Before his death E.A. Mahama predicted severally that his son John Dramani Mahama would become President of Ghana but never lived to see the Presidency of his son John Dramani Mahama.
Now who was the mother of Former President John Dramani Mahama?
The mother of former President John Dramani Mahama, Hajia Abiba Nnaba Suluwu popularly called ‘Maame’ because of her cooking skills was born in Busunu on 6th March, 1931 to Tindana Suluwu and Bonshewu (Buranishi- Awu) all of Busunu in the West Gonja Municipal of the Savannah Region of Ghana.
Maame did a lot to help her parents at home at a young age, but had to run away because she was being forced to marry a man she did not like. She run to live with her aunty.
In Busunu there was a man called Jamani Gurgu who was a friend to the father of former President John Dramani Mahama ( EA Mahama).
Apparently E.A. Mahama had discussed with Jamani Gurgu that he was looking for a lady to marry. At that time E.A. Mahama was a Teacher and Teachers were called “Secretary” at the time.
E.A. Mahama then a young and extremely handsome man had a motorbike which he used to ride from Damongo to Tamale. On one of his usual trips Jamani Gurgu stopped him in a rush saying; “Hey hey Secretary”.
Secretary stopped and Jamani Gurgu told him; “I have a friend- a lady you may like. She has run away and is living with her aunty because she is being forced to marry someone she doesn’t like”.
Secretary said; “can you call her so I can take a good look at her”. Jamani Gurgu limped off on his one leg. Within a matter of minutes he was back with the lady. He said; “Secretary that is her”. Secretary asked the lady; “I understand you are getting married to somebody, why don’t you like the man”.
The lady did not respond and remained quiet. She was shy. Secretary told Jamani Gurgu that this was her taste because she has all the features that he likes.
Secretary told Jamani Gurgu that he would return the next and see the ladies parents, but before he left.
Secretary asked the lady whether she likes him. The lady responded positively.
The next day Secretary returned to ask for the ladies hand. In those days asking for a ladies hand was not as expensive as it is today. The ladies parents quickly told him what to bring to ask for her hand. The Secretary left and brought all those things in a weeks’ time and presented them to the parents.
The lady was handed over to him. He comfortable asked carried his queen away on a motorbike. They lived for sometime in Damongo whilst E.A. Mahama was a Teacher until he became the Member of Parliament for Western Gonja.
The marriage produced Alfred Mahama (Businessman), John Mahama (former President of the Republic of Ghana), Samuel Mahama (UK) and Michael Mahama (Farmer).
They had to later migrate to Accra where they lived until E.A. Mahama passed on the 14th June, 2001.
Whilst ‘Maame’ was with E.A. Mahama in Busunu, she attended night school and was enrolled in the ‘SINGER’ school of fashion design. ‘Maame’ was an exceptionally good student and came up top of her class. ‘Maame’ was also a very good baker and an excellent cook.
‘Maame’ was generous and would share everything with everyone.
‘Maame’ was a very traditional Gonja woman and a devout Muslim. She accepted her role as a wife to her husband and did agree that polygamy is part of the tradition of the part of the world she came from. ‘Maame’ was hard working and was concerned about the good upbringing of all E.A. Mahama’s children including those from other wives of E.A. Mahama.
Hajia Abiba Nnaba Suluwu passed to glory in Accra on 14th June, 2016 aged 85. She was described by the former President as a woman of strong conviction.
As a devout Muslim, she was buried in her hometown Busunu in the West Gonja Municipality of the Savannah Region on 17th June 2020, in line with Islamic tradition.
Coincidentally 14th June is that date both EA Mahama and Hajia Abina Nnaba Suluwu passed on.
1st June, 2020.