Opinions Mon, 22 Dec 2003

Anti-Ashanti (Asante) Feeling Must Stop - A Rejoinder

Regarding the above subject, the despicable attempt by some to reduce discussions/debate of our individual and collective pre-colonial history to the epithet 'tribalism', is not only unpatriotic, anti-intellectual, and immature; but also obfuscation of the issue.
And when others try to imply that a recounting of such history (as written by Lawyer Kwame Arhin in response to some hilarious historical gyrations by some misguided people), which the historical record -- both oral and written -- decidedly favour a particular group is politically motivated, is pathetic. To further impute such corrective historical writings, as being concomitant with the intentions of the current ruling political party, is indeed, tantamount to political witch-hunting!
With the advent of the Internet, a Ghanaian Online discussion group called Okyeame became infamous for its 'Asante bashing', in the 1990's. Matters such as “Kente is not from Asante”! “Okomfo Anokye is not an Asante!!” “Asantes are slave traders!!!”, were some of the more taunting subjects peddled in that era; intended to address it was claimed, Asante ‘arrogance and well-being’! Even a respected First Lady of Ghana waded in by reportedly belching out that she was ‘ashamed to be an Asante’. Why? But the sky did not fall!!!
There should be nothing wrong at all with people debating issues pertaining to our common history. The country called Ghana did not simply descend from the atmosphere to the feet of the British. We must be mature enough to be able to discuss, and write about the history of the pre-colonial nations that became modern Ghana. Whatever happens in the process, ought be considered as part of the growing pains in nation-building. To attempt to sweep such history under the mat because of the fear of so-called ‘tribalism,’ is tribalism and immaturity resplendent!
To wit, the conflicts afflicting some countries in Africa, which some people who have commented on Mr. Arhin’s response, insinuate as reflecting the writing of such ‘tribal’ history, is simply misguided. What we have in Africa are political armed robbers who tap into the poverty and corruption, and then use guns to secure the national treasury, for their own use.
Indeed, by speaking openly and dispassionately about our historical differences, it would help to build a new NATIONAL historical perspective that forges unity and the national interest. The lesson would be: What did all those wars provide us? The need for unity of purpose would be even more sanguine under the circumstances. Countries as diverse as Germany, Italy, Britain and South Africa, have constructed similar national historical perspective.
It is a historical fact, that the imperial British had to defeat the imperial Asante in 1826; and again in 1874, in order to effectuate a new nation called Ghana. Had the Asante defeated the British; or had the Asantehene Prempeh I, acquiesced to British entreaties of bribery and subterfuge, in the same fashion as did the monarchs of the kingdoms of Lesotho; Swaziland; or Botswana; the history of the territory that became Ghana would have been much different.
This is an intellectual exercise to inform and educate, not a descent into so-called ‘tribalism’. When one tries to amalgamate disparate people or ideas, without confronting their differences, to better weave them together, one encounters bumps on the road!
Thus, the issue regarding the above topic in the Daily Graphic, and the Chronicle newspapers, re-surfaced on Okyeame, the Internet discussion group, recently.
To which I posed the questions below, in response to a posting by one of the followers of someone styling himself the Ga ‘spiritual leader’, and others who have waded blind-folded, it appears, into the discussion with laughable ahistorical bantering in the Ghanaian newspapers, and on Ghanaweb.com.
Needless to say, answers were not forthcoming; because answering the questions would deflate the ‘spiritual leader’, whose ahistorical rantings can only be matched, by his lack of proper and useful divination!
Chief Ade Sawyer, I asked:
It looks like this (anti-Asante bashing) is just a re-hash of our long, 5-month debate on Okyeame in 1998, specifically on Asante-Ga affairs: between Ade, Ganyobi, Taflatse, Numo Nortse Amartey, Nii Okai, etc., etc., on the Ga side; and myself (or as a Liberian would say, my one), on the Asante side.
It seems to me that, unfortunately, African history of the constituent ethnic groups are never discussed in a dispassionate manner. Otherwise both Arhin and the so-called 'spiritual leader' would raise these central questions, to better understand pre-colonial Asante-Ga (and Asante-everybody), relations:
1. Why did the Europeans on the Accra (and indeed the entire Ghana) coastline pay royalties on the Forts and Castles situated on Ga lands (and elsewhere on the coast), to the Asantehene from about 1742 to 1826? Written European (i.e. Dutch; Portuguese; English; Danish; Swedish) contemporary records confirm this sort of transaction. The names of officials of both Asante and European interests are there. The National Archives in Accra has records available! How could the envoys of the Asantehene come all the way from Oseikrom, to collect such tributes on buildings situated on someone else’s land?
2. Why did some Ga citizens from about 1742-1826, swear the Asantehene's Great Oath (Ntamkese) in Accra to Asante envoys who lived in Accra to oversee the Asantehene's interests in Accra, so that these Ga citizens would rather have their cases adjudicated upon in Kumase? What were/are the implications of such practice? Recall that Nii Okai and your guys, upon calling on Prof. Larry Yarak of the History Dept at Texas A&M University (author of the seminal book, ‘Asante and the Dutch’), to join the debate, and ‘debunk’ me, were chagrined that the professor merely confirmed the above, and cited written European archival records, to back that up!!
3. If there was never a war fought between the Asante and the Ga, per se; (and indeed, I admit that there never was an Asante-Ga War); in the same manner as there was say, Asante-Denkyira War, or Asante-Akyem War; it must be explained how the Asantehene managed to get royalties paid to him on Castles and Forts built on Ga lands, with obviously Ga labour? Again, both written records and oral traditions confirm this! How did the Asantehene accomplish this feat; and why did the Ga and the Europeans acquiesce to this. Was it by magic; divination; diplomacy; war; or all of the above?
4. Why was the Treaty of Fomena (post-British and Danish led Dodowa War of 1826), signed between Asante and the British in 1831 necessary? And why did this treaty specifically ask Asante to renounce claims to "all the territories south of the River Pra" (i.e. roughly the present Greater Accra; Eastern; Western; Central; and part of the Volta regions)?
5. Why did the above Treaty declare those territories 'south of the River Pra', thenceforth, ‘British Protected Territories’. Why did the Chiefs of these territories seek such protection? What conditions imposed on those areas necessitated such ‘protection’ under the British?
6. Why, upon further confiscating additional Asante territory in 1874 (post-Sagrenti War of 1874), did the British constitute those new territories and the ‘British Protected Territories’, into the British Colony of the Gold Coast? Why was it expedient for Britain to defeat Asante, militarily, before it could achieve her imperial ambitions?
7. Why didn’t the British declare Asante part of the Gold Colony in 1901 (post-Yaa Asantewaa War), instead of declaring Asante separately, a Crown Colony? You see, as the Akan proverb teaches: The ‘bathroom got wet, prior to the rainfall’!
Please note, that it was Asantehene Osei Agyeman Prempeh II who, in 1946 wisely made Asante an administrative part of the Gold Coast, thus ending a separate Legislative Council set up by the British for Asante since 1901; thereby unifying Asante with the rest of the Gold Coast. A policy that also ended the titling of books in a manner such as, “The History of the Gold Coast and Asante”!!
Ade, I think answers to the above questions, as well as any questions you and the 'spiritual leader' may contribute, would help to educate people. Subsequently, people would understand that merely writing about, or telling our pre-colonial 'histories' ought not constitute 'tribalism', and that using 'tribalism' to undermine the significance of our collective histories does damage to ourselves, and our nation.
I hope the 'spiritual leader' would engage in divination to uplift people, rather than engaging in 'feel-good' imaginary historical write-ups; and puerile historical masturbation, merely to assuage his lack of proper divination.
Kindly forward the above questions to your 'spiritual leader'. Maybe he can divine some answers; or as is his wont, imagine some answers!!!!!!

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Ellison, Kofi