The Biases of the elephant against the lion and leopard: Mamprugu, Dagbon and Nanung are the three main sister states/kingdoms of Naa Gbewaa in Northern Ghana. The other sister state/kingdom is the Mossi Kingdom in Burkina Faso. The Builsa Chiefdom, Nabdan Chiefdom, Talensi Chiefdom, and the Waala Chiefdom are the other smaller states of Naa Gbewaa in Northern Ghana. These Gbewaa States are descendants of Naa Gbewaa and the Aboriginal Dagbamba who traced their origin to one ancestors.

The sad story at stake, is when kingdoms from a common ancestor failed to leverage on each other’s strengths and opportunities but rather begins to attack each other psychological or physical. According to oral literature by the late Bimbilla Lung-Naa Alhaj Abdulai 2008, as at the time the property of Naa Gbewaa and the “Nam” was going to be shared among the three great sons, Galinkuna Tohagu, Gmantambu and Nyagsi, son of Naa Sitobu.

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Galinkuna Tohagu was the elder. That is, after the death of Zirli, Kufogu, and Sitobu, Galinkuna Tohagu (Founder of Mamprugu Kingdom) was next as the elder. That is the reason, Mamprusis are the elders because the founder of Mamprugu Kingdom was the first to receive his share of the properties and the regalia of Naa Gbewaa “Nam”.

Naa Nyagsi, son of Sitobu was next and Naa Gmantambu (Founder of Nanung Kingdom) was third respectively at Namburugu “Nam Tariya Tuu-Gbuni”, located in the present-day Karaga District. It is a historical fact, and nobody can take that away from Mamprusis. I became worried when I sited an article titled: “THE PATIENCE OF THE ELEPHANT AND THE ARROGANCE OF THE LION AND TIGER”. When I perused the article,

I became sad. Hence, the reason for writing this article (THE BIASES OF THE ELEPHANT AGAINST THE LION AND LEOPARD) to educate all the Gbewaa Kingdom as one people from a common ancestor. The Elephant is the Totem of Mamprugu. The Lion is the Totem of Dagbon, and the Leopard is the Totem of Nanung. The arrogance of the lion and Tiger instead of Leopard is referring to Dagbon and Nanung by the author of the article: “THE PATIENCE OF THE ELEPHANT AND THE ARROGANCE OF THE LION AND TIGER”.

This article is not a counterattack on the previous article from elders of Mamprugu Kingdom but to provide accurate information on the evolution of the Gbewaa Kingdoms. Such that readers will appreciate the genealogy of the Gbewaa Kingdoms as one people with the same or similar cultural practices, custom,s and tradition.



According to author of the article (THE PATIENCE OF THE ELEPHANT AND THE ARROGANCE OF THE LION AND TIGER) “It is not for fun that when the Children of the Great Naa Gbewaa split to form the tripartite Kingdoms thus Mamprugu, Dagbon and Nanung and they decided to choose among the wildlife animals that would depict their nature, the Mamprusi depict the symbol Elephant, Yooba (Dagombas) picked the symbol Lion whiles Nanumbas choose the symbol Tiger”.

I would like to bring to his attention that the right term to use is Totem and not symbol as he applied in his grammar. Totem is defined by Oxford Dictionary as “A natural object or animal that is believed by a particular society to have spiritual significance and that is adopted by it as an emblem”. Also, “A person or thing regarded as being symbolic or representative of a particular quality or concept

Read More : The Bugum festival ( Buɣim chuɣu) among the Dagomba people

The author also lied by holding to the fact that the totem for Nanung is a Tiger. The totem for Nanung is a leopard and not a Tiger. He can refer to the Northern Regional House Chiefs and a Handbook on Totems in Ghana by Okyeame Ampadu-Agyei for confirmation. The totem “Leopard” symbolizes how fearless and worries Nanumbas are in fighting.

Again, the author holds as facts that “Tohugu, the eldest among Naa Gbewaa children and the grandfather of Mamprusi asked his Younger brother Sitobu the grandfather of Yoobas (Dagombas) to cross the White Volta and establish his Kingdom in the Yoo (Forest) which gave them the name Yooba. And point his hand (Nuu) at a certain direction and asked one of his younger brothers Gmantambu the grandfather of Nanumbas to establish his Kingdom there hence the name Nanung (Naa Nuu-Kings Hand)”. These are more of speculations than historical facts.

Naa Gbewaa survived with a good number of children. According to some old school of oral tradition that Naa Gbewaa gave birth to nine children, others are of the view that the children were fifteen. Whatever it may be the most important thing is that, in his life, he gave birth to several children, but only seven (7) of them were very popular. First child was a female called Katchiogu (Pakpong Katchiogu: Ofa Nam Cheri) or Yentaure; named by French. It is based on this, they praise every Princess (Pakpong) “Katchiogu”, next was Zirli, Kufogu, Sitobu “Sigri-Nitobu, Duri-ni Nam”, Tohagu (Galinkuna Tohagu) and Gmantambu.

Other children of Naa Gbewaa included Kuhu-Naa Shebeei, Sinson Naa Buhuyeligu, Karaga-Lana Beimoni (he was the last born of Naa Gbewaa), Zantandana Yirigipeili and Yemo-Karaga Lana Karateili.
It important to put on record that after the death of Sitobu resulted in the succession dispute and the partition of the Gbewaa Kingdoms.

As such, Bagli Tindana facilitated the resolution of the succession dispute and the partition of the Gbewaa Kingdoms. I humbly suggest to the Author, Badigamsira Inusah Abdul-Majeed to conduct further research to update his article (THE PATIENCE OF THE ELEPHANT AND THE ARROGANCE OF THE LION AND TIGER).
Furthermore, he claimed that “Nayiri point his hand (Nuu) at a certain direction and asked one of his younger brothers Gmantambu the grandfather of Nanumbas to establish his Kingdom there hence the name Nanung (Naa Nuu-Kings Hand)”. This is more a rumour than historical fact.

The ethnic name “Nanumba” is a corrupted Nawuri statement whenever Naa Gmantambu invites the Nawuris to a meeting in Bimbilla. They do make this statement in the ancient times; “Naa Nuba” meaning, “Go and hear and come”. In those days, only few of the Nawuris could speak Dagbani/Nanunli, so those who understand the language were always chosen to attend meetings of Naa Gmantambu. After which they will go back home and passed the information to the others. The long stay of Nanumbas with Nawuris, as well as inter-marriages corrupted the original Dagbani that was spoken by the aboriginal Dagbamba to the present day Nanunli dialect.

Read More: The Northern Ghana Tourism Development Strategy: A Dagbon Perspective.

The partition of the Gbewaa Kingdoms did not happen out of fun or peace and harmony but as a result of a succession dispute at Bagli in 1400. The rhetorical question is, who would have waited for the other to ask him to cross the White Volta or point his hand at a certain direction to go and establish their kingdoms? It is on record that the partition of the Gbewaa Kingdoms into three was as a result of a succession dispute like what we are experiencing today in some of the Gbewaa Kingdoms.

More so, the author holds as historical facts “The King of Mamprugu was named NaYiri (Naam Yiri) meaning he is the embodiment of Royalty and is the home for the Yooba (Dagombas) and Nanumba”. It is more of a shopping list of speculations than historical facts. The kingdom was one during the reign of Naa Gbewaa and Naa Sitobu.

The succession dispute arose when Naa Sitobu Mandated his son, Naa Nyagsi and mysteriously entered the ground at the Bagli Tindana’s Palace in 1400. The succession dispute led to the partition of the Gbewaa Kingdoms and they parted at “Namburugu Nam Tariya Tuu-Gbuni” after they received their share of Naa Gbewaa property and the Insignia.

The question again is, how did it become a home for Yooba (Dagombas) and Nanumba. Mamprusi called it Nayiri because that is their traditional headquarters and the seat of the king of Mamprugu Kingdom. The spelling and pronunciation “Nayiri” is in the Mamprungli dialect. If it was a home for both Yooba and Nanumba, the name would have been unique to represent as Gbewaa represent all the kingdoms. Yooba (Dagombas) and Nanumbas called it “Nayili” meaning chief’s palace.

Narrating the biases of the Elephant, the author further indicated “a covenant was made at this juncture that, whenever a Dagomba or a Nanung have an issue, they should come to Mamprugu and should a Mamprusi also have issues they should consult Dagombas and/or Nanumbas.

This was primarily evidenced when the Dagombas had civil war with the Gonjas during the era of Naa Darizegu and was defeated with Naa Darizigu killed at the war leading to the displacement of their administrative capital from Yani-Dabari (Diare) to Yendi. Naa Luro upon succeeding the skins of Yani seek refuge from the NaYiri and Mamprugu and later on wage war with the Gonjas and reclaimed victory”. I am very surprised and wondering where the author got these speculations. During the reign of Naa Dariziegu and Naa Luro, the traditional administrative headquarters and seat of the king of Dagbon was at Yani-Dabari. The war between Naa Dariziegu and Gonjas was fought on Gonja Land and not on Dagbon Land. The same as that of Naa Luro. It was during the reign of Naa Tituguri, son of Naa Luro, the administrative capital of Dagbon was relocated to the present-day Yendi due to war between Naa Tituguri and the Gonjas.

Naa Luro regent (Zuu Titugri) also remained on the skin as Yaa Naa. It was then the Gonjas mobilized forces to attack Naa Titugri with the reason being that there was confusion among Dagbon chiefs and for that matter when they attack Naa Titugri, the other chiefs will not support him in the fight. As such, their chances of conquering him will be high and if they conquer him, it means they have conquered the whole Dagbon.

Indeed, they attacked Naa Titugri (Zuu Titugri) and no chief from Dagbon supported him in the fight against the Gonjas, nonetheless Naa Titugri defeated the Gonjas.

The historical fact is that Tohagu was the eldest son of Naa Gbewaa during the resolution of the succession dispute and the partition of Gbewaa Kingdoms at “Namburugu Nam Tariya Tuu-Gbuni” which was facilitated by Bagli Tindana and assisted by Namburugu Tindana, among others. It is for this reason Mamprusis emerged as the elders. However, the Skin Titles “Nam” are equal. An oath was sworn by the three sons. For more information refer to the above heading: Overview of the Gbewaa Kingdoms, sub-heading, Succession Dispute, and the Partition of Gbewaa Kingdoms.

According to the author, “after the demise of Yaa Naa Gungobli (Wumbei), there was a feared competition as to who should be enskinned Yaa Naa. The kingmakers upon realizing there could be conflict seek help from the then NaYiri (Naa Atabiya) and Naa Zangina was enskinned peacefully”. I perfectly agree with these as historical facts and the effort of Nayiri (Naa Atabiya) on his role as a Sole Mediator during the trying times of the Dagbon chieftaincy succession crisis. The author should have been writing on these important historical events that will foster unity among the Gbewaa Kingdoms.

the author is of the view that “for over Eight (8) Centuries the NaYiri have always acted as the Elephant that he is.  Thus, anywhere he goes Peace prevails.
It is well known that the Elephant is an herbivore and does not cause any harm to other inhabitants of the jungle but rather serve as a refuge to inhabitants whose lives are under threat”. I think the author did not understand the totem of the Mamprugu Kingdom. The totem of Mamprugu (Elephant) is a symbol of authority. Damba, a festival that is celebrated annually, is reverence for the totem (Elephant). Elephants are endangered because of the activities of poachers in traditional area. They, however, occur occasionally around the Gambaga Scarp.

The author further holds as historical facts that “the Lion, on the other hand, is a carnivore and feed on only flesh and will feed on anything when it is hungry. When the Lion is hungry, it will even feed on its very own. Animals whose lives have been threaten by the Lion often seek refuge from the Elephant”. The author’s interpretation of the totem of Dagbon (Lion) is either mischievous or did not understand what the Lion represents. The totem of Dagbon (Lion) symbolizes how Dagombas fight fiercely like lions. The Yaa-Naa sit on Lion skins including other wild animals’ skins as the king of Dagbon.

Read More: The Resilience Of A King – The Fall & Rise of Bimbila Na Salifu

The author holds grievance “the NaYiri have been a peace mediator for the past centuries and will always be. Thus he (NaYiri) is not perturbed by the current posture of the Dagombas in their bit to sabotage to creation of the North East Region.
But let it be known to them that the Capital of Northern territory in the Precolonial era was moved from Gambaga to Tamale and Mamprusi saw nothing wrong with that because we thought we were brothers”. The author should get it right that Dagombas were not in any way against the creation of North East Region. They were concerned with Cheriponi being caved out from Northern Region to North East Region. It is a known fact by all that Cheriponi is under Dagbon Traditional Council. No traditional leader will look on for some part of his/her traditional area to be taken away.

On the relocation of the administrative capital of Northern Territory from Gambaga to Tamale, was not the influence of Dagombas. The administration of Northern Territories was established at Gambaga by our colonial masters in 1896 to 1906. The administration lasted for a decade after which they thought it prudent and relocated the administration to Tamale in 1906. The reason for the relocation was for quicker communication with both the south and north than the former which was in the north-eastern corner of the territory. It is important to note that the administration of Northern Territories was established at Gambaga by our colonial masters and later relocated the administration to Tamale by the same colonial masters.

The author tagged Nanumbas, like Dagombas as arrogance but could not prove the wrongdoing of Nanumbas. Is it because Mamprusis are elders and can at any time rain insults on any of the other Gbewaa Kingdoms? Hmmm. The author should apologies to Nanumbas.


We should write on historical events that will foster unity among the three Gbewaa sister kingdoms and the related chiefdoms.

An annual durbar of chiefs for the four Gbewaa Kingdoms in Ghana and Burkina Faso and the other related chiefdoms. The durbar should be organized on rotational basis.

Mamprugu Kingdom should develop a very good strategic plan to market their kingdom to the world for very a good exposure.

A common website should be developed to showcase the culture, custom and tradition of the Gbewaa Kingdoms to the world. I’ Fusheini Yakubu has taken the lead and contracted a consultant to develop the website. It is at the developing stage.


AN APPEAL: The Writer will like to publish this expanded version of this article into a book and he is seeking a producer to partner with him to publish it. If You Like to be the producer of this project. please contact the writer with the address below

Fusheini Yakubu
Email: millysdec@gmail.com
Tel: +233-243418562 or +233-202833838



A handbook on Totems in Ghana by Okyeame Ampadu-Agyei.

Bimbilla Lung-Naa, oral Literature source, 2008.

Fusheini Yakubu, History of the Gbewaa States – Part I, New Edition, 2013.

Ibrahim Mahama – History and Tradition of Dagbon, 2004.

Oxford English Dictionary.

Rattray, R. S. 1932. The Tribes of the Ashanti Hinterland, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press’ repr. 1969).

Shinnie, P. and P. Ozanne. 1972 Excavation at Yani Dabari’ Transactions of the Historical Society of Ghana No. 6.

Tamakloe, E. F. 1931 A Brief History of the Dagbamba People (Accra, Government Printer).

The Patience of the Elephant and the Arrogance of the Lion and Tiger, an Article by Badigamsira Inusah Abdul-Majeed, 2020.


Mr Fuzzy

Fusheini Yakubu is a Nanumba by tribe from Bimbilla. He is the Founder and Executive Director of Millennium Youth Skills & Development Centre (MILLYSDEC), a Non-Governmental Organization based in the Northern Region of Ghana.


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