The role of King Tackie Tawiah I: King Tackie Tawiah Memorial Lectures by Nii Armah Josiah-Aryeh


                                                      THE ROLE OF KING TACKIE TAWIAH I

To pull to pieces is, after all, the work of a child…our chief duty as Citizens is to build up our country, mould our nation, and help to effect the uprising of our race…In all circumstances of life – “Be wilde, Be bolde, and everywhere Be Bolde.”[1]

We come now to the high point of this series of lectures; the role of King Tackie Tawiah I in the modern history of Accra and the importance of his reign in the development of Ghana into a nation-state. Coinciding with the formal colonisation of the Gold Coast in 1874, King Tackie Tawiah’s reign usshered in a period of systematic institutionalisation of European concepts and systems in the motherland. Johannes Zimmermann’s translation of the Bible into the Gá language in 1865 and the earlier works of various missionaries, African and European, had already created the basis for the introduction of mass Christianity. The transfer of the capital to Accra in 1877 gave the Gá-Dangme a central role in the spread of colonial European ideas across the Gold Coast and beyond.

From the traditional perspective the emergence of King Tackie Kome I and victory at Katamanso had created a new militarism and surge of confidence, leading to various military campaigns in the Volta area. The reception of European ideas was therefore received by a Gá-Dangme at the height of its military prowess and ready to spearhead the propagation of such ideas. In many ways, the new era in Gá-Dangme affairs commenced with the divine ordination of Tackie Kome I; it continued steadily through the reigns of Nii Ofori Gakpo (Kpakpo) (1856-1859) and Nii Yaotey (1859-1862). In the person of King Tackie Tawiah they found yet another bold and fearless leader to lead the building of the new nation.

Tackie Tawiah’s fourty-year reign provided the basis for Gá-Dangme entry into the modern era. Widely recognised by both Europeans and Africans as King of the Accras, Ga Manche Tackie Tawiah was a fearless military general and wise leader. Like Caesar, Tackie Tawiah returned to Accra at the head of many a victorious military expedition. His reputation for bravery, invincibility and sagacity grew as he advanced in years, increasing the stature of the Gá-Dangme.

Born to the Ga royal family of Teiko Tsuru We at Kinka,[2] Tackie Tawiah (originally known as Nii Quarshie Tawiah) succeeded to the stool in 1862, shortly before colonisation of the Gold Coast. He was descended in a direct line from Ayi Kushi, the first Gá king in recorded history. Tackie Tawiah lived and reigned for some time under the Dutch flag. King Tackie Tawiah’s charisma, bravery and authority derived in no small way from psychosocial factors in Gá-Dangme society which ascribed to him the combined mystical force of the Gá royal households as well as the added spiritual authority of the Sakumo oracle. To the Gá-Dangme still enthralled by the extraordinary military exploits of Nii Tackie Kome I, the hallowed name and prestige of the deceased leader attached to his grandson. King Tackie Tawiah succeeded to his predecessors’ role as senior military leader of all the Gá, Dangme and Akan states of South-eastern Ghana.[3]

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The forging of new GaDangme Unity and the Katamanso War: King Tackie Tawiah Memorial Lectures by Nii Armah Josiah-Aryeh



To lead the Gá-Dangme you need the courage of Okaikoi and the sagacity of great high priests. It is a task in selflessness and courage. In all things be bold and fearless, seeking above all to ensure the security and happiness of the people. Like a good tree the strong nation requires continual pruning and reform. The good leader sleeps not for an hour, constantly seeking the interests of his people

In this Lecture we examine the factors that led to the emergence of the Gá-Dangme as major players in the political scene of the Gold Coast; look at the principal reasons for the Katamanso War. Accra started to emerge from its short eclipse; the short reign of Ofori Tibo saw the the re-stabilisation of Gá-Dangme politics.

The emergence of Tetteh Ahinakwa or Momotse and Okaidja as King of Accra and chief of Gbese respectively led to a reform movement which tried to cleanse the city of corruption and re-establish its politics on a sounder footing. Princes Tetteh Ahinakwa and Okaidja had been ransomed to the Dutch and had gained considerable Western education; they were therefore in a relatively good position to stand back from Gá society and objectively analyse its failures and difficulties. However, once they acceeded to office they lacked a reform party to carry out their reformist programme in the various Gá-Dangme quarters and towns. Attempts to involve the manbii or citizens were not entirely successful.

Attempts at reform were interrupted by periodic intervention in the affairs of their kinsmen at Anecho. Much of the royal treasure was lost during journeys to and from Anecho. Tetteh Ahinakwa took the Ga and Adanse stools with him on his expedition to Anecho where he died; Prince Teiko Tsuru, who had joined the king in his campaigns at Anecho and Krepe was in his old age made king, leaving the task of reform in the hands of Okaidja.[1]

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History of GaMashie to 1824: King Tackie Tawiah Memorial Lectures by Nii Armah Josiah-Aryeh


                      HISTORY OF THE GA MASHI TO 1824

The death of Okaikoi marked the end of the Ayawaso period; many Gá retired to Anecho or Little Popo (also known by the Gá as Tóng)[1] in present-day Togo, but the bulk of the population resettled or joined kinsmen along the coastal strip. At any rate, increasing trade with Europeans had rendered the coast or Little Accra more attractive than Ayawaso. Prince Ashangmo, the son of the king’s brother Okai Yái,[2] continued a long guerrilla campaign against the Akwamu, defeating and driving them to Fanti.[3] Eventually Ashangmo retired with all the Gá from Labadi down to Ningo to Little Popo.[4]

Thus, the death of Okaikoi marked the beginning of a long period of uncertainty in Gá-Dangme history. The period immediately following the death of Okaikoi has generally been assumed to be one in which Gá-Dangme power waned completely; however, a more critical assessment reveals the reversion of the Gá-Dangme states to the condition of principalities. Barbot, in his Letter 10[5] speaks of Accra, Labadi, Ningo, etc, emphasising that they were separate kingdoms.[6] Barbot further suggests that even within Accra, Jamestown was quite a separate political entity from Ussher Town: “The village of Soko (Jamestown) situated under this fortress is also much enlarged ever since, by a large number of families of the neighbouring village Little Acra, under the Dutch fort, who have settled at the former, after the devastations of the Aquamboes at the latter.”[7] This appears to cast doubt on the scale of the defeat suffered by the hands at the hands of the Akwamu; for as Barbot observed it was a mere village which was overrun by the Akwamu. On the other hand, as already observed the other Gá-Dangme towns has reverted to a state of independence.

Other writers seem to place heavy emphasis on the seizure of Christiansborg Castle by Asameni as evidence of Akwamu power in Accra, ignoring altogether the role of the Gá chiefs in planning and authorising the seizure. Asameni was merely an agent of the Gá king. In the words of Barbot:

“The Danish fort at Acra…was possessed by the Portugueses …the Danes redeemed it…and so possess’d it till the year 1693, when the Blacks surpriz’d it in the following manner, expelling the Danes and keeping possession of it for some time…This misfortune of the Danes was occasion’d by the death of several of their garrison, and they having done some insults to the king of Acra, that prince studied revenge, and observing the Danes had much confidence in one Assemmi, a Black who having a great interest in that country…he ingaged him to contrive how to surprize the fortress.”[8]

Asameni, son of an Akwamu man and Labadi woman, subsequently deceived the Danes into permitting him and a number of Accra and Akwamu men to enter the fort with the ostensible view to purchasing fire-arms. Having loaded the fire-arms Asameni and his men overcame the Danish soldiers and administrators. Afterwards “the king of Acra and the Blacks intirely stript it, and took a booty of above seven thousand pounds sterling: the fort was given over to the treacherous Assemmi who garrison’d it with his own Blacks…trading with all the European ships that came thither.”[9] This seizure of an European fort, often regarded as an isolated instance in Black Africa, appears to have been a re-play of the earlier destruction by the Gás of the Portuguese fort which existed in Accra between 1500 and 1578.[10]

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The Prophets and influence of Religion: King Tackie Tawiah Memorial Lectures by Nii Armah Josiah-Aryeh



This brief Lecture considers the influence of religion on Gá-Dangme society. As was shown in chapter Gá-Dangme society was originally a theocracy in which the fore-telling priests exercised enormous authority. Naturally, a number of prophets have in Gá-Dangme history come to be associated with important events; above all, considerable authority and sanctity came to be attached to the Word of the high priest or prophet. In this way, a number of distinguished prophets and high priests of forceful personality and high moral standing have acquired a special place in the social history of the Gá-Dangme. Boi Tono, Borketey Larweh, Lomoko, Ayitey Cobblah, Numo Ogbarmey, Numo Yaotey and Numo Tete form a unique line of prophets whose works and utterances may be said to constitute a veritable theology of Gá-Dangme religion.

Like their Old Testament counterparts, the Gá-Dangme prophets were concerned about the social and moral condition of their people; and sought to enforce a severe moral ethic as a way of ensuring religious purity based on the codes of Ayi Kushi. The slave trade, wars, famines and moral decay provided the background for the careers of the more remarkable priests. The human misery which attended the slave trade became a favourite theme for the religious hierarchy. Dealings at the local Salaga slave market (Akpee shika or “money galore”) so drew the ire of the of the predecessors of Numo Ayitey Cobblah that they took to regularly chastising the powerful slave merchants. Sakumo tsoshishi, Naiwe and Korlewe became places of refuge for freed slaves.[1] Once an escaped slave made his way to any of those sanctuaries he was considered to have completely regained his or her liberty and to have become a naturalised citizen.

Boi Tono had himself been concerned about the possible decadent effects of slavery on Gá-Dangme society; as a result, he increasingly admonished the political authorities to show more sympathy for the poor and the enslaved. On the whole Boi Tono successfully cautioned the Gá-Dangme against participation in the bloody wars through which slaves were procured. So highly was Boi Tono regarded that in 1734 the Dutch assumed that he was the king of Accra; indeed, the Amugiwe sub-house of the Gá ruling house is said to have been established by Boi Tono and his descendants.[2] He was said to have adverted by prayer a terrible famine that stalked the land shortly before his death, thus saving the Gá-Dangme from a scourge which had devastated the hinterland. Boi Tono also repeatedly appealed directly to individuals not to follow the iniquitous and murderous ways of foreign tribes, and to reject foreign gods. The reward for observing the commands of Ayi Kushi, he counselled, was prosperity for the individual and his descendants. Much of the exhortation of Boi Tono seemed to have been adumbrated by Borketey Larweh.

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Traditional law and procedure in the Royal Court: King Tackie Tawiah Memorial Lectures by Nii Armah Josiah-Aryeh



In this Lecture we consider briefly the nature of traditional law among the Gá-Dangme and the role of the king in maintaining a system of law and order.[1] In view of the customary nature of a large corpus of traditional law, some attention is paid to the dispute settlement process before heads of families and other traditional functionaries. Overall, a picture emerges of a well-organised legal structure in which both law-giving and sanctions play a vital role. We, however, leave entirely to one side the vast amount of customary case-law developed by the Ghanaian courts since colonisation in 1874. We believe that in this way the nature of Gá-Dangme customary law can be distilled from the actual practices of the people unpolluted by the various concepts which have crept into the official customary law of Ghana.

It is widely acknowledged that the principles laid down by Sarbah, particularly in his Fanti Customary Laws[2], have shaped the nature of Ghanaian customary law. At the same time it cannot be gainsaid that the principles of official customary law formulated by the courts, partly through reliance on Sarbah’s work, derive largely from cases involving a disproportionate number of Gá-Dangme. Uncritical reliance on the decisions reached in such cases would therefore have the effect of importing Sarbah’s notions into Gá-Dangme traditional law.

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Traditional constitution of the Gadangme: King Tackie Tawiah Memorial Lectures by Nii Armah Josiah-Aryeh



Order constitutes the heart of any disciplined structure; an army of iron-hearted men can never achieve victory without orderly regimentation. A prosperous society can only be built on a sound constitutional structure

3.1 The general constitutional framework

This Lecture begins our examination of the traditional legal structure of the Gá-Dangme by considering the nature of the traditional constitutional framework. Underlying the rigid social structure of the Gá-Dangme is a well-defined traditional constitutional framework. At the apex of Gá-Dangme constitution is the triumvirate of Gá, Krobo and Ada kings – sovereigns of the three major parts or (man-wudzi) of modern Gá-Dangme. Known as the Three Kings or Mantsemei ete, the core territory or mantiase of each king is divided into recognisable quarters, invariably ruled by royal princes. Quarter organisation is based on the number seven, representing the number of actual or hypothetical groups in which the Gá-Dangme arrived on the coastal plains.

The number seven has therefore been institutionalised and conventionalised into the traditional constitution. True, there are several towns whose quarters are less than seven; but this represents a dysfunction of the political system rather than an aberration. In former times, the number seven had always been restored when due to amalgamation or the accident of migration the Gá towns and quarters had been reduced in number. Thus, people from Osudoku and from Labadi were invited to constitute the Gá towns of Osu and Teshi; in this way, the principle of man-kodzi kpawo (seven-branched town) was restored.

In turn the territory of the Gá-Dangme as whole is divided into man-dzi or urbanised areas and kosé, the country. The major traditional towns of each King are further subdivided into quarters. Each town is headed by a manche-wulu or nene   ? (major chief); the quarters of the major towns are headed by quarter chiefs or divisional chiefs.

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The rise of Ayawaso: King Tackie Tawiah Memorial Lectures by Nii Armah Josiah-Aryeh


                             THE RISE OF AYAWASO

 “Ayawaso was a city on a hill whose light pierced the surrounding darkness, and brought purity and knowledge to people far and wide. If we are to know ourselves completely, we must first seek knowledge of the thoughts and deeds of our forefathers at Ayawaso; and write them upon our hearts.”[1]

The second part of these Lectures deals with the kingdom of Ayawaso. Although Ayawaso is widely recognised as the first centralised kingdom to emerge on the Gold Coast, its role in the development of modern Ghanaian culture seems to have been generally under-researched. Reindorf’s work has largely documented the extent of Ayawaso and its connections with the early kingdoms of the Gold Coast; but the detailed political history of Ayawaso as well as the social and economic systems which underpinned Ayawaso culture have barely engaged the attention of historians.

There is evidence to suggest that Dangme civilisation preceded Gá culture. Prior to the centralisation of the Gá-Dangme states, Osudoku appears to have been the epicentre of Dangme culture;[2] the founder of the Dangme dynasty is identified as La Nimo.[3] By the time of the rise of Ayawaso there were about thirty major Gá-Dangme towns strewn across eminences on the Accra plains; these were united by the Gá priest-kings into a centralised kingdom.[4] What is known about the Accra plains prior to the emergence of the Gá-Dangme kingdom is owed to archaeologists. Anquandah has suggested that the Accra plains were inhabited during the first four millenia before Christ by Later Stone Age hunter-gatherers who were given to fishing for fresh water molluscs along the inland waterways of the Odaw, Densu and Nsaki rivers;[5] little is known of the identity of these Stone Age inhabitants.

Under King Ayi Kushi and his son Ayitey the Gá dynasty, organised around key Gá Mashi quarters, started to assert its authority across the Accra plains, exploiting well-defined Ga-Dangme social arrangements to ensure solidarity amongst scattered subjects and to maintain authority. It has been suggested that the Gá dynasty had a “prince with a few body-guards who had commission to rule over the Tshis [Akyems] in the interior.”[6] Although the connection between the Gá dynasty and the ruler of the interior is not defined, there is ample evidence, particularly in the royal names of Ofori, Ankama, Ayikuma, etc. (which are common to the Gá and Akyem royal households) to suggest a blood connection between the Gá and Akyem rulers.

Ayitey is said to have marched with the Gá, Dangmes, Obutus, Awutus and the Twi prince to establish the inland kingdom of Ayawaso.[7] It is thought that fourteen large towns were founded by the Gá alongside Ayawaso; these included Akpadegon, Amonmole, Fanofa, Dokutso, Pletekwogon, and Kushibiete or Legon.[8] Several other towns were established by sub-divisions of the Gá. These included Wodoku, Lashibi, Wodode, Wo-Akwamu, which belonged to Nungua; Tebiano, Podoku, Lakanmabi or Ashaman and Takimabi, which belonged to Tema; and Ladoku and Ajangote, belonging to Labadi. The various towns founded across the Accra plains as well as the rest of the Adangmes, Agotimes, Akwamus and Akwapims were absorbed into the kingdom of Ayawaso which is said to have extended from Aharamata to Popo beyond the Volta.

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