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Opinions of Thursday, 1 April 2010

Columnist: Akumfi-Ameyaw, Abubakar

Tano-Subin: The Brong-Ashanti Divide

(Part 1)

By Abubakar Akumfi-Ameyaw (A.K.A Kofi Manhyia)

From time immemorial, the Tano-Subin issue has been a torn in the flesh of the people of Brong Ahafo Region and well meaning Ghanaians. Historical facts have been distorted and doctored by those who have vested interest in the issue to score cheap points and tensions continue to pile up as the years roll by. Generations after generations have been at a lost as to when the matter will come to an end for peace to prevail. That is why we have found it expedient to publish the truth, nothing but the truth about the Tano-Subin issue, following historical facts and figures to buttress the points. It was Sir Winston Churchill, the famous British statesman and writer of the 19th century said “The farther backwards you can look, the farther forward you can see”.

Historians look back. The simple reason why they do so is to find what went wrong or right in order to move forward confidently. Those who fail to look back as historians do are prone to disaster. No wonder lives are lost daily as a result of chieftaincy fracases. We will therefore seek your indulgence to read this piece, which is a historical fact concerning the Tano – Subin issue and make your own judgment as to who is right and who is wrong. In other words, we would like to bring the case to the public court of justice.

The Bono Kingdom was the first centralized Akan State in the present day Ghana and part of Cote d’ Voire, with its capital at Bono Manso. Between 1290 and 1750 Bono Manso State was enjoying a reasonable level of economic growth. Bono means the first and hence the people were described as “Akandifo”. Akan is derivative name. “Twi Kasa” the language of the Bono is a derivative of the name of a Bono King Nana Twi. In modern day Ghana, we have Bono Twi, Asante Twi, Akwiapim Twi, Fanti Twi. etc.

When the Ashantis were passing from the Mossi land to their present place they were treated nicely by the then Bono King, that was about 500 years after settling at Bono Manso Area. The Ashantis served the King of Denkyira when they settled at Asantemanso and later Kwaman. Some states around the Kwaman area were united together by Nana Osei Tutu I and Okomfo Anokye and fought Denkyira (their overlord) in 1699 and won. It evolved into a great empire. After this achievement, instead of trading or working hard to get the wealth and traditional accoutrements to merit the acquired position, they decided to fight the Bono State to rob them unjustifiably.

There was no bad blood between the the Bono King and the Asantehene until later years when an Ashanti called Baffoe Pim planted a seed of discord between the two kingdoms. Baafo Pim who had been settled by the Bono King at the village of Okora Asan and his two elderly brothers (village of three old men) placed the powerful state into the hands of the Ashantis through treachery. This treachery happened when the Bono King gave Baffo Pim some gold dust in kegs to be given to the Asantehene as a gift. It is noteworthy to add here that since the Techimahene and the Asantehene are brothers from the same Oyoko clan, it was not unusual for such a gift to be given to the Asantehene. Baffo Pim, replaced the gold dust with gunpowder which signified an invitation to do battle in those days.

As a result of what Baffo Pim did, the first Techiman and Asante war broke out. The heart of the Bono Kingdom was confiscated by Nana Opoku Ware I and given to Baafo Pim as his reward and made him King of Nkoranza.

Subsequently, the Bono Kingdom boundary with Offinso (Asante) was pushed as far as Kuntunso from around Abofour and Asuosu (Mfutudwaneemu). Thus, the Bono King remarking “Aha yiaa Korara Nsua” which became the name of the next village after Kuntunso. The Queen mother, Ohemaa Dwamena and the Buoyem Chief were sent to the Asantehemaa’s palace to teach them how to use the stolen Booty. Takyiman then became a vassal state of Asante. One may ask why all these lands were taken from the Bono Kingdom but was not allowed to serve the Ashanti with his lands? As they were serving Denkyira with their lands and all other states they conquered were serving them with their lands. They say Takyiman will be greater than them if made to retain those lands.

In 1818 the Ashanti – Gyaman war broke out and Takyiman was forced to send troops in support of Ashanti as well as seven powerful priests who were renowned for their power with the gods Tano and Ntoa. The seven priests who were also chiefs of their respective towns, were. TUOBODOM-TWOMPRO, BUOYEM-IMPRISI, TANOSO-AMPROFI, TANOBOASE-TAAKORA, NCHIRAA-KUKURO, BRANAM-TEW AND OFFUMAN –NTOA. Takyiman casualties in this war were enormous, since the Asantehene used the Takyiman contingents as shock troops. After the victory, Osei Bonsu Panyin expressed his great satisfaction with the Takyiman war effort and invited the Takyimanhene, Nana Kyereme Kofi and his seven priests to take part in the victory parade in Kumasi. The Asantehene informed Nana Kyereme Kofi that from that time onwards his powerful priests and the towns on which each chief ruled would be no longer his. That is the seven most prosperous towns in Takyiman, were also confiscated by the Asantehene to add to all that he had taken from Takyiman. Their taxes were now to be paid into the Ashanti treasury, and jurisdiction over them passed through Kumasi chiefs, who administered these towns according to the wishes of the Asantehene.

Takyimanhene himself was courted with Nsuasehene, the Tuobodomhene with the Sumankwaahene, Buoyemhene with the queenmother of Ashanti, Tanosohene with the Ahenkrohene, Tanoboasehene with Mmentiahene, Nchiraahene with Nsumankwaahene, Ofumanhene with Adumhene and Branamhene with Dadeasobahene.

Countrymen, permit me to mention here that in 1896, the British fought and conquered the Ashantis and thereafter deported the then Asantehene Nana Prempeh the Seychelles Island. Upon the deportation of Nana Prempeh I in March, 1896, King Kwaku Gyarko of Takyiman signed a Treaty of Friendship and protection with Queen Victoria of Great Britain on 5th of June 1897 at Nkoranza. The King of Takyiman entered into the Treaty in his right as a high contracting party and a sovereign of his Kingdom on the one part with Queen Victoria of Great Britain also as a high contracting party and a sovereign in her own right on the other part.

Countrymen, this shows clearly that Takyiman was independent at this stage and was not under Asante’s domination. The villages reverted to Takyiman.

Again, Asante became part of the Gold Coast Colony by law in January, 1902 and all the former territories gained independence. The villages in contention were restored to Takyiman by the Colonial Government and Takyiman administered these villages from then till 1935.

In the mid 1930’s Lord Luggard’s policy of Indirect Rule had been a great success in Northern Nigeria where he ruled through powerful chiefs in whom he centralized power.

This was very appealing and a welcoming relief to the Colonist in Gold Coast as the requirement of expatriate staff of trained administrators grew rather larger and became a real burden for the colonists.

The colonists in Gold Coast decided to centralize all powers in the Northern part of the Gold Coast in one influential chief through whom they could rule. They saw in the Asantehene an ideal central authority and did all they could to subjugate hitherto independent states to the Asantehene so as to rule through him. Thus the restoration of the Ashanti Confederacy.

Nananom, countrymen, it is very clear that what the colonists sought to restore was a union of sovereign independent states by way of a league or an alliance under the accolade Asante or Asante Confederacy. It was in line with this principle, that upon the proposal for the restoration of the confederacy, Nana Yaw Ameyaw, Omanhene of Tekyiman, by letter dated 11th February, 1933 to the District Commissioner, Wenchi – Kintampo District laid claim to the Bono Manso the ancient capital of the Bono Kingdom now Nkoranza. Thus, if Government proposes now to patch all the broken traditions and conform to the order of our native customs in a peaceful restoration it should be restored to him, but his request was declined.

Takyiman then refused to join the confederacy when it was restored in 1935. Six out of the ten of the Brong Divisions were opposed to the reconstitution. The six included, Dormaa, Abease, Atebubu, and Drobo.

The District Commissioner at Wenchi, who knew nothing of the history of Takyiman that is, the confiscation of its most prosperous villages, taken into captivity of Bono’s intelligentsia, the craftsmen, goldsmiths, weavers, carvers, the musicians, the precious and wealthy things of the Kingdom by the Ashantis and the paying of heavy taxes to enrich the Ashantis had the Takyimanhene Yaw Ameyaw (1928 – 1935) destooled for perceived maladministration when he refused to join the confederacy.

His successor, Nana Kwasi Twi (1935-1936) had no option but to submit to the pressures put on him and his people by the British Government to join the Ashanti Confederacy. The British for the purpose of Indirect Rule and administration wanted Ashanti as large an area as possible. But the Asantehene and the Kumasi chiefs wanted Takyiman again under their rule to punish them for their refusal to join the confederacy at its inception in early 1935. Takyiman finally joined the confederacy in November, 1935 as OWNER IN POSSESSION of all the nine villages in contention. That is after the 1897 treaty with Queen Victoria of Great Britain and officially when the British severed the town from Kumasi Division and handed them over to Techiman in 1900 after the Yaa Asantewaa war.

A committee of privileges was established as a sub-committee of the Ashanti Confederacy Council to examine the conflicting claims of various chiefs in the confederacy to the allegiance of the stools and to the ownership of the lands. It sat from 18th June 1935 to 3rd January 1936. Takyimanhene and his elders appeared before the committee of privileges, a non-statutory body with purely advisory functions temporary in nature.

The committee sat at 9:00am an Monday 18th November, 1935 with the following as members; The Chief Commissioner major F W F Jackson was the president, The Asantehene Otumfuo Osei Agyeman Prempeh II as member, The Bekwaihene Nana Kwame Opoku IV as member, The Adontenhene Nana J. K. Frimpong as member and the Agonahene Nana Kwadwo Apaw as member. Suprinsingly nobody from Bono was part of the committee. No wonder in the face of such injustice as far as the composition of the committee was concerned, Nana Takyimanhene lost the case at the end and the villages were re-confiscated.

This was how the Chief Commissioner started the meeting “I congratulate the Takyimanhene and his elders that they have joined the confederacy, and I hope that it will be beneficial to their Division. We have met here this morning relative to certain villages which are being claimed “FROM TAKYIMAN”. This refutes the claim by the Asantehene and his Asante chiefs that Takyiman came to the committee of privileges to claim the nine villages. Takyiman could not have laid claim to what she was already holding when she appeared before the committee of privileges. This temporary committee which was not set up by statute as a necessary feature of Ashanti constitution but as an administrative committee with purely “advisory function took these villages again from Takyiman and gave them back to Ashanti and later the Tano-Subin Council was established, referring to the villages in the valley of Tano and Subin in bono area. The Takyimanhene Nana Kwasi Twi, who appeared before the committee was destooled by the Takyiman people. Nana Akumfi Ameyaw III ascended to the thron in 1944, he continued with the struggle for the villages. These villages included the seven villages seized from Takyiman by the Asantehene Osei Bonsu, after the Gyaman war of 1818. Nana Akumfi Ameyaw III fought for the nine villages in a long chain of litigation starting from the Asante chief commissioner’s court to the Privy Council in London with Dr. J.B Danquah as the solicitor representing the Takyiman Traditional Council.

(To be continued)