Dagbon has over the years been branded (justifiably or not) as a conflict prone area, with little to attract tourists and other travellers to the area.
This brandishing of Ghana’s oldest kingdom has forced the area and its rich cultural heritage to remain in its shells, with the world unable to appreciate the history of the area.
According to Dagban and Asante historians, the now famous Ashanti Kingdom was established during the reign of the 20th Yaa Naa (Yaa Naa Gariba I). However, today, Otumfour’s kingdom has remarkably been able to package itself as the most organised traditional area with rich culture and history through tourism.
Tourism is very important to the development of any country, state or kingdom, unfortunately Dagban has not been able to take full advantage of that sector, despite its huge tourism potentials.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council in a report in 2017, tourism contributed GH¢573.3 million, representing 6.2 percent of GDP in 2017.
This means, tourism could become an important avenue for revenue mobilisation in Dagbon if well harnessed.
Since the carving of the Savannah and North East Regions from the Northern Region, there has been little of what is left in the tourism sector for the new Northern Region.
The famous Mole National Park, the Larabanga Mosque, the Salaga Slave Market and the Gambaga Escarpment have all been taken out.
So what will attract tourists to the Dagbon area?
As said in the beginning, as the oldest kingdom in the country, there are hundreds of undeveloped historical sites in the kingdom that can easily be transformed into tourist attractions.
The centuries old Naa Gbewaa Palace, built between 1554 and 1570 AD by Yaa Naa Luro has a potential of becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site if well marketed to the rest of the world.
The Gbewaa Palace is the seat of the King of Dagbon and has stood since the mid-1500s, even though it was burnt down by the Germans in the Battle of Adibo in 1896.
The German Schutztruppe and Askari paramilitary police led by the Lieutenant Valentin von Massow burnt down the Palace and the entire Yendi village after the Battle of Adibo on December 4, 1896.
However, the Palace was later built again by Yaa Naa Alassani in 1899 and it has since stood. The Palace could easily attract thousands of tourists if its history is well told and marketed.
The Adibo community, which is sited on the Yendi-Bimbilla is the village where the Germans first came into contact with the Dagomba forces at the Battle of Adibo, till date, according to some residents, traces of the war is still very visible at the specific place of the battle and somewhat sacred now. This historical area could been developed to become a tourist site.
The graves of the notorious slave raider, Babato, the German cemetery in Yendi where most of the victims of the Adibo Battle were laid to rest, could all be mapped as very attractive tourist sites. With all these, the Dagbon capital could easily become a tourist destination for local and foreign tourists.
NAA SHITOBU TOMB
Another very huge undeveloped tourist site can be found in Bagli, now a farming community in the Karaga District.
In this community lies the tomb of Yaa Naa Shitobu, the founder of the Dagbon Kingdom who according to Dagbon historians died in 1414.
Yaa Naa Shitobu was the son of Naa Gbewaa, founder of the Greater Dagbon kingdom which in present day Ghana covers the entire Northern, North East, Upper East and Upper West Regions.
His tomb has become a shrine where the Chief of the area, the Bagli Tindana guards. An age long practice of serving the tomb supper is still practiced even today.
However, it is disappointing to note that the community has been left under developed, in fact it was connected to the national grid only last year.
The Tatale hills, the Yong Duuni community, where the adventurous Yaa Naa Nyagsi, son of Naa Shitobu and grandson of Naa Gbewaa died after killing the Tindana (Chief Priest) of Yong Duuni in 1432 is yet another potential tourist attraction. His tomb till date still exists.
Hundreds of such historical places are scattered across the Dagbon area, the Ghana Tourism Authority in collaboration with the Dagbon State can locate those places, package them well and market them to the world.
Dagbon has a rich history, a history everyone will be intrigued if told.
A time will come when there will be no more lands to sell, our traditional leaders therefore need to come up with innovative ideas to keep the resources coming in and certainly, tourism is one area they cannot overlook.
Image: Naa Gbewaa Palace, 1875