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The Unfolding Indictment


Facts To Remember, Lest we ForgetDr J.B. Dankwa


In serious crimes such as the murder of the Ya-NA- the overlord of Dagbon and his forty kinsmen, DNA material found at the crime scene, could provide investigators with some of their most vital evidence. Thanks in part to forensic science, it is still possible, for example, to spot traces of DNA discovered in tiny particles of skin, blood cells or fragment of human hair even if all other verification have calculatingly been classified useless. Indeed, Ghana is yet to find ways of resolving its ancient animosities.

Stepping back from post-colonial angst, Ghanaians might have noticed that enemy to peace, is no longer the dawn-broadcast- ‘we the armed forces have taken over. The constitution is proscribed...’ but rather, per mouse click. Shattering web-surfing and radio phone-in profiles show our homeland as nation with two societies- divided by kingdoms and intolerant political views that despite a rush of republican constitution which tries to explain the two, stereotypes and mutual ethnic mistrusts reign supreme.

So, Drs Kwame Asamoah-Botwe and Kwame Okoaampa-Ahoofe Jnr., are just on spot in providing Ghanaians, especially, subscribers to the Ghanaweb, a true view of themselves. To we the confused, who have no clue to the talking-drums of our kingdoms in this big festival, we have some guidance of our troubled historical past.

In declaring war to the ‘silent brave’ in 1900, in the context of obroni’s unacceptable intermeddling with our endured traditional practices, Ohemaa Nana Yaa Asantewaa of Ejisu, said: “Brave men of our motherland, we face serious confrontation because of this governor’s insulting demand for our Golden Stool. We should remember that not long ago, the white man invaded our country and declared our kingdom a British protectorate. Let us not forget that this same man set ablaze Kumasi, our seat of government, after looting all the priceless treasures bequeathed to us by our forefathers.. Our king Nana Prempeh I, was arbitrarily arrested and deported to foreign land.. Today, the governor has come to demand the Golden Stool- the very soul of the Asante [unity?] nation…” (NA Magazine, Yaa Asantewaa on Stage, April, 2001, p. 6)

It must be explained that the Pan-Africanist Queen, must not be branded an enemy of Gold Coast because it was then ruled indirectly through our traditional authorities. In this sense, Asanteman- an established kingdom, was right in fighting for its own survival. As Fred Halliday argues, the word ‘nation’ or the doctrine of nationhood is of more recent origin, and indeed is as a result of change in the international system during the latter part of the eighteenth and the first part of the nineteenth century. Meaning comparable words in our traditions are variously, describing what today one would be calling tribes, groups of subjects of a monarch and communities. To this end, ideas of the ‘ancient’, the ‘primordial’, the ‘traditional’ and the ‘age-old’, invocation of history, all became central to our early nationalists (Baylis & Smith, (2001) p443).

This implies that the belief of the Enlightenment: self-determination of communities, i.e. the idea that where a group of people have a certain set of shared interests, they should be allowed to express their wishes on how these interests should be best promoted and not to be diluted. For example, in the absence of political party or any local organization that could safeguard the interests of our people, the year 1897, saw Nana Mensah Sarbah, launching the Gold Coast Aborigines’ Rights Protection in the face of a law which in effect was to convert all our lands to the British Crown land.

On this note, could Nana Yaa Asantewaa be unpatriotic to Gold Coast, by standing up against the British in the language that they could better comprehend or by invoking spirit ancestors of Sagrenti War (1874), where the British forces, perhaps, retaliating for Asanteman‘s assault on El Mina, in Mfatseman, around 1872, or like almost all African societies, Asantes unable to thwart European colonization? Undoubtedly, No. It is said that the nineteenth century ushered in new adversaries- British traders and colonial officials who strove to end Asante control of coastal towns and trade routes.

Between 1801 and 1824, Asantehene Nana Osei Bonsu, for example, resisted the spread of British influence, and led the defense of Kumasi when the British struck in 1824. So, in 1852, Akyem Abuakwa too, accepted the British flag and came under the administrative control of the British. Our history has it that Asonaba Nana Dokua, perhaps witnessing how Asanteman was controlling the affairs of the Kowufuo {Kwahus} and Nana Hemaa, undoubtedly learning from experience, influenced the Kwahus and in 1857, took them to the Colonial Government for their protection under the government's administrative authority (see, Okyeman/Asanteman. history.htm)

The fall of Bono, Adansi, Assin and Denkyira empires and ultimate emergence and expansion of Asanteman in size and strength, in and around Kumasi and beyond- hitherto, a collection of sovereign kingdoms under King Nana Boa Amponsem, not forgetting mass Adanse-Akyem exodus around late 1600 AD, indeed inflicted a lot of painful shared history. With the Adinkra War of 1818- that propelled the people of our modern day Akyem Bosome under the leadership of Nana Korangye Ampaw, deserting our mainland, Amansie, to be followed by the people of Akyem Kotoku in 1824 and perhaps, most significantly, Nana Kwaku Boateng, then of Asante Dwaben, refusing to submit to the Golden Stool, in 1832, when King Nana Osei Yaw Akoto, was the Asantehene, we may be puzzling why Osonaba, risked for the conquering Oyoko clan.

So simple was not that acceptance of British supremacy and citizenship in an era of scramble for Gold Coast or Africa. Yes, if there were those who could see among the blind, being there is not enough. To have an accurate say in history, one must share the experience. To have an insight of an unfolding story, we need to know the background Nana Yaa Asantewaa, as Osei Boateng writes, lost the war and was also deported by the British to the Seychelles Islands in the India Ocean where she died in 1921. But her devoted loyalty to the Golden Stool- the embodiment of the Asanteman, brought her remains back home and re-interred in a glorious ceremony at Ejisu in August 2000.

Nana Hemaa might have thought of their once pigeon-holed kingdoms and defeats. And the huge sacrifice of Nana Tweneboah Kodua and certainly, might have concluded that the crucial bond of Asanteman- Kokofu, Dwaben, Bewkwai, Nsuta and Mamapong that for example, their cousins- the Abuakwas, Bosomes, New Dwabens and Kotokus, egoistically failed to foster, lies in spirit- the Sikagwa Kofi that the obroni might have misconstrued its defilement, as a crush and perpetual subservience?

In her address to Asanteman, Asonaba Nana Yaa Asantewaa conscientiously said: “Countrymen, shall we sit and accept humiliation by these rogues? Arise! Resist the white man, whose sole purpose in our land is to steal and destroy. It is more honourable to perish in defence than to live in perpetual enslavement. I have seen that some of you are afraid…In brave days of old, chiefs would not have watched their king being taken away without firing a shot” Who could be this governor and soldiers?

We agree that today, the enemy to our peaceful coexistence is not the white man, not bombs but the cracks and rots in our history that dispersed us to occupy and inherit perhaps, one of the most mountainous parts of our Republic of Ghana which, arguably, might have projected us to kwaterekwa’s trajectory? We are not military strategists but we may all recall the Mutual Destruction Pact signed between United States and her Cold War foe- the Soviet Union. The gist in that agreement was that if you press the knob of your ballistic missiles, within the next second, mine will robotically, eject and all of us, here, all living creatures, wherever we were, would be utterly annihilated?

It must be echoed that collective security is still the catchword in contemporary politics? Yes, our elders have it that no one knows how the cat was killed. But it suffices to know that abaa yede abo Takyi no, yebetumi de abo Baah anaa? Nana Yaa Asantewaa, we think, was right for being aggressive in insisting that no white man would have dared speak to Asante chiefs of old like the way the governor spoke to you chiefs this morning. True, Nana was forthright in asking whether bravery of the Asante is no more. “I cannot believe it. If you men of Asante will not go forward…. I, Yaa Asantewaa, am prepared and ready to lead you to war!, she said” It appears the Akan Country is under stern designed siege. Are we ready to face the mutual destruction?

Lest we forget, our elders have it that opanin entena fie emma setwase emmo- meanining an elderly or statesmen are not alters of confusion but peace? It appears so, considering what our learned Brother Dr Kwame Asamoah-Botwe writes about our mysterious history: “My interviews (ethnographic research into Akyem history) with some Akyem traditionalists, including Osofo Nana Kwadwo of Kofi Gyemprem Shrine, Osabarima Adusei Peasah IV of Tafo and the late Professor Adu Boahen did not yield any conclusive result regarding the etymology of the name “Akyem.” Oyiwa!

It is true that long before its colonisation, Gold Coast, which had successfully competed in economic track and field while undergoing chemotherapy for tribal wars and protectorate, went from established kingdoms to proxy states of European powers. And indeed some of the effects of that depressing disillusioning turnabout are still being felt in Ghana. But with general elections around the corner and new thesis forcing its way to the Church gates at Luther’s Wittemberg, do we need to interrogate our republic and the spat involving Drs Danquah/Nkrumah, over the issue of patriotism and its hovering flaws after the deaths of Great Historians F. K. Buah and Adu Boahen?

Some dispirited or exalted readers may not agree with this argument because it has been pressed upon us to believe that after all, we are not who we think we are or were. Brethren, we are honestly, not assuming the position of “promised people as Stephen recounts the history of the Israelites in the Acts of the Apostles. But we have this question to ask: which of the prophets have our fathers not persecuted? (Acts 7 v 52).

By this, not overlooking the traditional showdown exhibited by the Asafo Groups of Asante/Akyem at Amanokrom, when Nana Wereko Ampem II passed away, we would have been careful of how the Asante/Akyem erupted following the death of Professor Adu Boahen, who in his life time, identified himself with Akyem Osiem. Indeed we could also speculate why Akyem/Asante historical factor is always overblown. Thanks our Nananom acted subtly in foiling that nefarious intellectual plot.

In truth, Ghana’s integration has been one of the greatest successes of the last half-century, merging together historically suspicious and economically disproportionate kingdoms into an even unitary state committed to a common set of new republican goals. However, that concerted effort to amalgamation by our determined ancestors, including the British, to fortify political union and foster economic sovereignty, was not simply ventured. There were stern rival visions for future course of our nationhood. So an attempt to re-draw ancient battle-lines, could be most unfortunate.

We do believe that independence as originally envisaged, is a great feat for the oppressed and is more than in text. The ideals, the stated principles, could have become something more than struggle for united people to promote unity of purpose and a mere flag waving. So with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, most of us and probably, political analysts, might have predicted a speedy end to Ghana’s post-independence discourses. How wrong we were, we failed to consider ancient wounds.

Indeed, Angelus Choiselus, the French theologian, has said that without the living presence of the past, the future cannot be created. But, could this strenuous drive to dilute the Akan genetic profile not consume our republic? Generally put, can Ghana afford to revive the nightmare of the Cold War? Chairman Rawlings once said that if Ghanaians were to be united in spirit like the Asantes, Ghana would have been really a paradise? Yes, struggling republic needs strong rock to build on. Now, it is possible. This will no longer disfigure it like an isolated forest cottage, to which its tracks have escaped its own architects. If even America and its war allies and foes- here, Japan and Germany, have overcome their differences for the sake of a better future, why not we?

If we agree that ethnic, political and economic motives play a part in wars, then could there not be some truth or a strong suspicion that the unfolding historical indictment of Dr J. B. Danquah and for that matter Okyeman, borders at least on imbalance national development and alliances that seek to anchor ideological supremacy and those who seek to thwart it, rather than a true patriotic tribute to Dr Nkrumah, a man who sought to unite Africa and the black race, despite its numerous self-inflicting chronic problems?

First Published at GhanaWeb on 29 June 2006




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