HIS ROYAL MAJESTY OTUMFUO OSEI TUTU II
‘In the olden days, kings led their people for war but today, we have to lead the people for development’ – This has been the guiding philosophy of the Asantehene, His Royal Majesty Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, since ascending to the Golden Stool [Sika Dwa] of the Asante Kingdom on April 26, 1999.
While his forefathers fought wars to conquer territories for the Asante Kingdom during their reign, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II born Barima Kwaku Duah, has been fighting against illiteracy, injustice and underdevelopment in Ghana and Africa.
For 20 years, Otumfuo has not only successfully ruled over the Asante people, he has proven to be more than a monarch to becoming a revered leader in Ghana and globally for his human centred policies, initiatives and enthusiasm for the development of Africa.
His achievements within the last two decades of his reign, have been phenomenal to the extent he is considered to stand taller among the 15 Asante kings before him. For the period, he has spearheaded Ghana’s socio-cultural and political stability, and worked towards national development.
Unlike his contemporaries, Otumfuo has carefully worked his way out of his traditional jurisdiction or if you like, chieftaincy role over the years, to become a key influencer in Ghana’s politics without being partisan. It is thus not surprising that some traditional and political leaders have engaged him to tap his tactics and strategy of effective and forward-looking leadership.
Not long after he was enthroned, Otufuo Osei Tutu II was nicknamed King Solomon, an accolade he earned by using his tact, wisdom, and traditional diplomacy in resolving and brokering peace within the chieftaincy and political circles.
When Ya Naa Yakubu Andani II, the King of Dagbon in northern Ghana, was gruesomely murdered on March 27, 2002, and triggered a tribal conflict between the Abudus and the Andanis, Otumfuo was called on by the government to find a lasting solution to the conflict which dragged for over a decade.
At a time that the instability in the Dagbon area had become an albatross on the neck of the country with many people dying and others being maimed due to the tribal conflict, Otumfuo led some respected chiefs in Ghana to mediate and resolve the tribal quagmire.
His mediation efforts paid off in 2019 when the people gave peace a chance and allowed for the successful final funeral rites of the late Ya Naa Yakubu Andani II, leading to the enskinement of a new king for the people in February 2019.
In the political arena, when the stakes and tension were high ahead of the 2012 general elections, the Asantehene as always, demonstrated leadership and stepped forward with other stakeholders, to champion a peace pact between all the presidential candidates in the 2012 presidential election. This led to the presidential candidates agreeing to what became The Kumasi Declaration. In the document, they agreed to uphold Ghana’s stability and preserve its democratic credentials by conducting themselves in a manner devoid of plunging the country into chaos. “From today, let’s make the Kumasi Declaration one of the pillars of elections, committing us to avoid electoral injustice and other negative acts,” Otumfuo asked of the candidates at the signing event in 2012. His intervention, ensured peace during and after the elections to the extent that the losing candidate in that presidential election, Nana Akufo-Addo and his New Patriotic Party, resolved not to use violence but the Supreme Court to settle post-election disagreements on some of the results. This gave Ghana plaudits for upholding rule of law and further deepening its democratic gains.
In the area of Education and health, Otumfuo’s contribution has been remarkable. His Royal Majesty established the famous Otumfuo Educational Fund to provide assistance and support, to brilliant but needy school pupils and students across the country. More than 20,000 students from the basic to the tertiary level have benefited from the scheme today. A number of school new buildings have been constructed under the Fund and dilapidated ones have also been renovated while other schools have also been supplied with learning and teaching materials. A teacher award scheme has also been instituted under the Fund to motivate teachers to offer their best.
The Asantehene has for the last decade, ensured massive infrastructural and human resource development at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology where he has been the Chancellor of the school. This has improved teaching, learning and training at the school. For the 20 years that he has sat on the Sika Dwa, His Royal Majesty Otumfuo Osei Tutu has reshaped the focus of the chieftaincy institution in Ghana, which some argued, was losing its essence in modern times. His accomplishments have positioned him as one of the greatest statesmen in Ghana now.
THE ASHANTI KINGDOM
The Ashanti Empire was a pre-colonial West African state that emerged in the 17th century in what is now Ghana. The Ashanti or Asante was an ethnic subgroup of the Akan-speaking people and was composed of small chiefdoms.
The Ashanti established their state around Kumasi in the late 1600s, shortly after their first encounter with Europeans. In some ways, the Empire grew out of the wars and dislocations caused by Europeans who sought the famous gold deposits which gave this region its name, the Gold Coast. During this era, the Portuguese were the most active Europeans in West Africa. They made Ashanti a significant trading partner, providing wealth and weapons which allowed the small state to grow stronger than its neighbors. Nonetheless, when the 18th Century began, Ashanti was simply one of the Akan-speaking Portuguese trading partners in the region.
That situation changed when Osei Tutu, the Asantehene (paramount chief) of Ashanti from 1701 to 1717, and his priest Komfo Anokye, unified the independent chiefdoms into the most powerful political and military state in the coastal region. The Asantehene organized the Asante Union, an alliance of Akan-speaking people who were now loyal to his central authority. The Asantehene made Kumasi the capital of the new empire. He also created a constitution, reorganized and centralized the military, and created a new cultural festival; Odwira, which symbolized the new union. Most importantly, he created the Golden Stool, which he argued represented the ancestors of all the Ashanti. Upon that Stool, Osei Tutu legitimized his rule and that of the royal dynasty that followed him.
Gold was the major product of the Ashanti Empire. Osei Tutu made the gold mines royal possessions. He also made gold dust the circulating currency in the empire. Gold dust was frequently accumulated by Asante citizens, particularly by the evolving wealthy merchant class. However, even relatively poor subjects used gold dust as ornamentation on their clothing and other possessions. Larger gold ornaments owned by the royal family and the wealthy were far more valuable. Periodically they were melted down and fashioned into new patterns of display in jewelry and statuary.
If the early Ashanti Empire economy depended on the gold trade in the 1700s, by the early 1800s it had become a major exporter of enslaved people. The slave trade was originally focused north with captives going to Mande and Hausa traders who exchanged them for goods from North Africa and indirectly from Europe. By 1800, the trade had shifted to the south as the Ashanti sought to meet the growing demand of the British, Dutch, and French for captives. In exchange, the Ashanti received luxury items and some manufactured goods and most importantly, firearms.
The consequence of this trade for the Ashanti and their neighbors was horrendous. From 1790 until 1896, the Ashanti Empire was in a perpetual state of war involving expansion or defense of its domain. Most of these wars afforded the opportunity to acquire more slaves for trade. The constant warfare also weakened the Empire against the British who eventually became their main adversary. Between 1823 and 1873, the Ashanti Empire resisted British encroachment on their territory. By 1874, however, British forces successfully invaded the Empire and briefly captured Kumasi. The Ashanti rebelled against British rule and the Empire was again conquered in 1896. After yet another uprising in 1900, the British deposed and exiled the Asantehene and annexed the Empire into their Gold Coast colony in 1902.