Friday, August 3, 2007
Otumfuo Nana Sir Agyeman Prempeh II
· He restored the Ashanti confederacy
By: A. B. CHINBUAH
Heroes of Our Time
BY the time Otumfuo Nana Sir Osei Tutu Agyeman Prempeh II ascended the throne, the Ashanti Kingdom was a British conquered territory and colony. The kingdom was in a coma and the Ashanti confederacy had disintegrated.
The Asantehene, Otumfuo Nana Prempeh I, who had been exiled to Seychelles Islands in 1896 returned to Kumasi in 1924 as an ordinary citizen and later when good reports about him had been received by the British colonial office in London he was made “Kumasihene”. As such when he died in 1931 his successor could ascend the throne only as Kumasihene in the eyes and laws of British colonial power, irrespective of what the Ashantis thought.
It was therefore to the credit and eternal glory of Otumfuo Nana Sir Osei Tutu Agyeman Prempeh II that the Ashanti kingdom was restored in 1933 and he became Asantehene in 1935. From then on he ceased to be referred to as Kumasihene.
Otumfuo Prempeh II was born in Kumasi in 1892. His father was Okyeame Kwaku Owusu of Besease near Ejisu and his mother was Nana Akua Bakoma, daughter of Nana Yaa Akyaa, Queen of Ashanti. He was named Kwame Keretwie and christened Edward Owusu at the Kumasi Wesley Church. At the age of four, his uncle, Otumfuo Prempeh I, his maternal grandmother, Nana Yaa Akyaa, the Queen and other family members were captured and exiled to the Seychelles Islands by the British in 1896.
He also lived through the Yaa Asantewa was of 1900 which led to the annexation of Ashanti as a British conquered territory in 1901 and the exile of Yaa Asantewa and more family members to the Seychelles Islands.
His early childhood was therefore traumatic. He lived through a period of upheaval, instability and disintegration of his family and the Ashanti kingdom. During those hard times he decided to go to school. He enrolled at Kumasi Wesleyan Methodist School in 1907 and completed in 1915. During his school days he was a very active member of the Kumasi Wesleyan Church Choir. On completion of his elementary education he begun his career in business and for many years he was a trader in various parts of the country and beyond. He was fondly remembered as a storekeeper in Saltpond and other coastal towns before he ascended the throne.
He was a founding member of the Asante Kotoko Union which began as a literary Society but later joined the campaign for the return of his uncle, Otumfuo Prempeh I, from exile in the Seychelles Islands. In 1924 Otumfuo Prempeh I and other survivors returned from exile. He was allowed to live in Kumasi, first as a private citizen an later as Kumasihene.
In May 1931, Otumfuo Prempeh I died and the battle for succession started. The nomination of Otumfuo Prempeh II to the Kumasi stool was challenged by rival contestants but in the end he won and was elected and enstooled as Kumasihene under the stool name of Nana Osei Tutu Agyeman Prempeh II.
His greatest task on ascending the throne was to restore the Ashanti Confederacy which had ceased to exist since 1896 when Otumfuo Prempeh I was arrested and sent to exile by the British. He worked closely with the powerful Chiefs in the colony, the nationalists, the Ashanti chiefs and members of the Legislative Council as well as the chief Commissioner for Ashanti to have the Ashanti Confederacy Council restored in 1933.
On January 1, 1935 Nana Osei Tutu Agyeman Prempeh II was installed as Asantehene. This marked the full restoration of the kingdom and the Asanteman Council. The paradise lost, was regained. Needless to say it was a great joy and a warm welcome, and the chiefs and people of Ashanti were most grateful to him for regaining for them, their old and ancient kingdom.
They therefore supported him wholeheartedly when he set out to use tact and diplomacy once more to re-acquire the Golden Stool lands in Kumasi, which had been confiscated and vested in the British Crown after the Yaa Asantewa War in 1901.
In 1937 Otumfuo Prempeh II invited Mr. S.R. Wood to use his good services to petition Governor Arnold Hudson for the release of those Golden Stool lands. By the grace of God, the petition received a favourable response and resulted in the enactment of the Kumasi Lands Ordinance of 1941 which released the lands to the Golden Stool.
The enormous revenue that accrued from these lands were put to good use for the people. It bought economic prosperity to the kingdom. Kumasi grew to become a city and a beautiful one at that. It earned the name garden city. Because Otumfuo Prempeh II begun life as a trader and knew the benefits of that profession he encouraged his subjects to engage in business/commerce and industry. Otumfuo Prempeh II further urged his subjects to undertake education seriously which they did, and the results were tremendous. He used the Asanteneman Council to support bright and needy students.
Otumtuo Prempeh II was the first Asantehene to have joined his colleagues in the colony to seek the common interest of the people of the Gold Coast and Ashanti. He participated fully in the nationalist causes from 1934. He provided two delegates in the persons of the late Lawyer Sir E.O. Asafu-Adjeye and Mr. I.K. Agyeman to join Sir Nana Ofori Atta I’s delegation to London to protest against the Sedition Bill and the Water Works Bill.
He also opted for the integration of the Asanteman Council and the Gold Coast Legislative Council and made this known to the Secretary of State for the colonies during his visit to the Gold Coast in 1943. His decision was provided for in the Burns Constitution of 1946. The two Councils merged and the Asantehene came down from Kumasi to attend the inaugural meeting of the Legislative Council for both the Colony and Ashanti.
In 1947 the British government conferred on him the knighthood of the Commander of the British Empire (KBE) which showed the confidence the British government had in him and their pleasure for his services to his people and the Gold Coast.
He was neither involved in the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC) nor the Convention People’s Party (CPP) until 1954 when his Chief Linguist, Baffour Osei Akoto, founded the National Liberation Movement (NLM).
Initially the movement had as its aim the demand for higher prices for cocoa farmers but later on its paramount aim was to seek a federal from of government for the country. The formation of the NLM brought Otumfuo Prempeh II from hibernation into politics.
The CPP government therefore, after Independence in 1957 decided to deal firmly with the opposite in Ashanti and the Asantehene with the enactment of laws to reduce his powers.
The State Stool Lands Act of 1958 also transferred the Golden Stool lands from Asantehene to the Governor–General. A committee of enquiry was also set up by the CPP government to investigate the affairs of Asanteman Council under the Chairmanship of Mr. Justice Sarkodie-Addo.
The Brong Ahafo Region was created out of the Ashanti Region. All these acts of the CPP government from 1957 onwards clearly manifested to the Asantehene, Otumfuo Prempeh II, that Dr. Nkrumah was closing in on him to destool him if he could, so the Asantehene took steps to erase the perception that he was a NLM supporter. This pleased the CPP government so much so that in 1960 when the Asantehene became seriously ill and was operated on by Dr. Easmon, Dr. Bowesman and Dr. Evans Anfom at his beloved Kumasi Central Hospital, Premier Nkrumah visited him and had him flown to United Kingdom for convalescence. In the end, the Prime Minister and Asantehene smoked the peace pipe, reconciled and buried the hatchet for the good of the country.
When Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh paid a state visit to Ghana in 1961 they visited Kumasi. Otumfuo Nana Agyeman Prempeh II held a full State Durbar for her majesty and sat in state. He was opulently adorned in a blaze of Golden ornaments depicting the ancient pageantry of the Ashanti Kingdom. President Nkrumah was naturally delighted for the honour done to the country by Otumfuo’s durbar. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh had a taste and a vision of the magnificence of Ashanti ancient pageantry.
The reign of Otumfuo Prempeh II ushered in an era of restoration, stability and peace. The kingdom also strove for excellence and modernization. The towns and villages grew. Modern houses, schools, health centres and many other social amenities were built. Kumasi, the kingdom’s capital, because the second largest city in the country and boasted of the second largest hospital and university in the country. It rivaled Accra in all aspects of economic and social development. It was the only city with the National Cultural Centre and shared with Accra as the only cities with a horse racing course.
When the National House of chiefs was instituted in 1969, he was elected its first President. Otumfuo Prempeh II and the Asanteman Council released lands for the construction of its headquarters and all the above projects during his reign. One will not be wrong to call his period of reign as the “Golden Age of Ashanti”.
He was a patron of many social and sporting clubs in Ashanti and participated fully in their activities. He played golf and was a patron of Kumasi Golf Club. He took keen interest in horse racing and was a patron of the Kumasi Turf Club. His most memorable club activity was the annual dinner and ball-room dance hosted by the Kumasi Revellers Club of which he was patron and founding father. It was first held at Wimbledon Hotel and later on at Kumasi City Hotel. The pillars of this club and his great friends were the late Mr. H.R. Annan, father of the immediate past Secretary-General of the United Nations, and Ambassador Kobina Annan, the late Mr. Colling-Woode Williams, a hotelier and owner of Kumasi City Hotel, Mr. Baffour Osei-Akoto, his Chief Linguist, and Mr. Arthur Hudges, the Mayor of Kumasi, who supervised the beautification of the city, father of Rt. Hon. E.B. Sekyi Hughes, Speaker of Parliament.
During the second Republic he became a member of the Council of State in 1969 and held on to that honour until his death in 1970. In his life time, he received many awards and honours in addition to the K.B.E. The NLM conferred on him the Order of the Volta.
Otumfuo Nana Agyeman Prempeh II finally went to his village in May 1970 at the ripe age of 78. He was deeply mourned not only in Ashanti but throughout the country. He was laid beside his ancestors amidst pomp and pageantry.
He left a rich legacy and monuments of achievements for his subjects. The greatest of them all being the restoration of the kingdom, its traditions, customs and heritage, its pomp and pageantry and the modernization of a kingdom within the main stream of development in the 20th century.
Daily Graphic - Friday, August 3, 2007 Page: 11