Despite his power and authority, the overlord of the Wala Traditional Area in the Upper West Region has a limitation: he is forbidden from setting his feet or eyes on one of the communities under his rule.
Mangu, a suburb of mainland Wa, has long been held as a forbidden land for every Wa Naa since a predecessor overlord went missing in the bush of the community about 600 years ago and was never seen nor traced till date.
Naa Gura I succeeded Naa Sorle I, first overlord of the Wala Kingdom established around the 15th century, but he endured an ill-fated reign cut short by his mysterious disappearance and untraceable destination.
As one of the legends that set the Wala kingdom apart, Naa Gura I was said to have heeded to the advice of a traditional priest of his kingdom who cautioned him against leading his people to war when an enemy rose up against the Wala kingdom.
According to the priest, Naa Gura I was unlikely to survive the war if he stayed to challenge the kingdom which was threatening his own people and kingdom.
The priest, it is said, was concerned about the chief’s life and survival and upon his advice, Naa Gura I decided to leave town for a while until the war subsided. With a few subjects at his service, he left the town through Mangu, which today is just a five-minute drive from the Wa Naa’s Palace at the centre of town.
At Mangu, Naa Gura is said to have told his subjects to excuse him to attend to the call of nature behind a thick bush.
When he appeared to have overstayed in the bush, the subjects called out to him and then set out to look for him if he needed some help only to find his sandals, spear and other personal garments lying at a particular spot.
What started as suspicion then became a nightmare for the subjects who feared that the chief might have been eaten up by some wild creature.
But there was no trace of his blood or any pieces of his flesh in the wide area of bush; not even at the spot where his sandals and spear were found.
Following a fruitless search for him in far and wide areas, the mystery of his disappearance deepened and the search party was subsequently recalled.
When nothing else seemed possible, both subjects and elders resigned themselves to fate, hoping against hope that Naa Gura I would return some day. Decades later, a successor was named and enskinned when all hopes of the return of the second Wa Naa were lost.
Mangu, as fate would have it, has since assumed special relevance in the Wala kingdom in matters of the survival and reign of the Wa Naa in a manner that perhaps many might never have known.
The portion of bush where Naa Gura I’s items were found and from where he vanished has been preserved over the centuries as a sacred shrine – and now called the Naa Gura shrine.
The shrine as it stands today is about 80 feet long on all four sides, and walled to save what remains of it from further encroachment and total wipeout.
It is the ground where rituals of sacrifices are performed for the Wa Naa when they assume the throne to plead that the fate that befell Naa Gura I should not befall any other succeeding Wala overlord. Similarly, every Wa Naa sitting on the throne must stay away from Mangu in order not to invite the fate of Naa Gura I upon them.
That Naa Gura I must have passed on by now is not in doubt, but why he vanished without a word or hint and what became of him are what have triggered this aspect of custom and tradition to preserve any other Wa Naa.
Wala Traditional Council
The Wala Traditional Council as constituted today boasts high profile intellectuals and career professionals, including Naa Seidu Braimah Nubalanaang I, Chief of Guli, which is one of four paramountcies under the rulership of the Wa Naa.
The Guli Naa explained in an interview that every Wa Naa had sought to preserve the traditions and customs related to Mangu in order not to risk the uncertain consequences.
As part of the culture and tradition of the Wala kingdom, the four royal gates rotate the occupancy of the throne, which is currently held by Naa Fuseini Seidu Pelpuo IV, the 34th man to ascend the Wa Naa throne.
Naa Seidu Pelpuo IV hails from the Busa Gate and has ruled since 2007 after succeeding Naa Yakubu Sorle II of the Nakpahe Gate who ruled from 2002 to 2006. Before them, Naa Sidiki Bomi II of the Najeri Gate had ruled from 1964 to 1978 before Naa Momori Bondiri II of the Jonyuole Gate took up the reins from 1984 to 1998.