The Reign Of Nana Osei Tutu I


( 1695 –  1719 ) 

Nana Osei Tutu succeeded Nana Obiri Yeboah as the chief of Kwaman state later known as Kumase state. During his enstoolment, he promised his people that he would take up the great task uniting the Asante states. He was helped to achieve this aim by the great priest and chief of Agona, Nana Okomfo Anokye. Nana Osei Tutu and Okomfo Anokye were enstooled at the same time, Osei Tutu as Kwamanhene, and Okomfo Anokye as Agonahene in their respective towns. Osei Tutu succeeded hie uncle Nana Obiri Yeboah while Okomfo Anokye succeeded his brother Okomfo  Yamoa.

According to oral tradition, a meeting of the chiefs of Asante states was called by Nana Osei Tutu of Kumase. The main agenda was to unite under one of the chiefs. His stool would be greater than all the other stools, and any chief enstooled by any of the states was to swear the oath of allegiance to him. The old question of “Who would be chosen the head then”? again appeared. It was at this juncture that Okomfo Anokye explained that the problem would be solved by the ancestors and the gods. He would pray to the ancestors and the gods. At the end of the prayer, the ancestors and the gods would send a stool from the skies and the chief on whose laps it would descend and rest, would be the chosen chief. According to oral tradition, a festive Friday “Fofie” was chosen to be the day they would meet for the gods and ancestors to choose their king for them. When they agreed on the day, they were told by Okomfo Anokye to fast and pour libations to their ancestors and the gods until the chosen day. Then they dispersed to their various states.

On the appointed day, the chiefs met, each waiting to be the paramount chief or king elect. On that they, the atmosphere looked calm. Okomfo Anokye appeared amidst drumming and dancing. After some magical dances, he paused a little, jump here and there and began to all something from the sky. The drumming started again and the priest conjured. The sky became tense and a deafening noise was heard with lightning and thunderstorm. Then a stool studding with gold descended on the apps of Nana Osei Tutu. It, therefore, meant that he had been chosen by the ancestors and the gods as the unquestionable king of the kings of the Asante Nation. Fingernails and a small collection of hair from each chief were collected, all were burnt and the ashes, some smeared on the gold stool and the rest was mixed in palm wine for all the chiefs to drink.  Okomfo Anokye told them that the gold stool contained the spirit and soul of the Asante Nation. The real unity of Asante states began with the descent of the Golden Stool. Oral tradition has it that when the Golden Stool descended, all the states forming the union, collected their black stools, put them together and burnt them to interpret that the spirits of the departed chiefs had all joined together and entered the Golden Stool. The portion they drank meant that they had sworn to the gods and ancestors, which meant they had taken an oath to unite and forget their past individual histories. Nana Osei Tutu took the oath of allegiance to the golden stool and all the chiefs, and each of them, in turn, took an oath of allegiance to Nana Osei Tutu and the oath never to raise arms against the Golden Stool. That was the beginning of the Asante Kingdom. Nana Osei Tutu was, therefore, made the first King of the Asante Kingdom.
His first task was to avenge the defeat of the states had suffered from Dormaa people. This was done without delay and in a fearful battle, the Dormaa people were defeated and was driven from Suntreso where they were, to a faraway place. This was about 1698. Though the Dormaa state was defeated and annexed into the Asante Kingdom, their king or chief was made “The Soul Washer ” of Asantehene. The King,s Soul Washer is the person who offers sacrifice on behalf of the king to pacify the king,s soul. The Akans believe that every individual has a soul, which is divine and superior to the human body. This soul could become sick when aggrieved. Actions that can make the soul aggrieved include: (A)   A son or daughter abusing or beating the father or mother. Here, the parent’s soul would be aggrieved and in either case cause sickness or death. (B)  A dependent eg. Wife abusing the husband.  In all these, if the soul is not pacified and the culprit pardoned by the soul, the soul can cause the death of the offended or in the case of a wife offending the soul of the husband, the man,s soul could kill some of the woman,s children whom she had with the man.  As such the soul of the people are pacified whenever offences are committed against them.  Pacification of souls was done with mashed yam and eggs. Sometimes a cow, sheep or hen was slaughtered to pacify the soul. The offended had to dress in white to signify the cleansing of the soul. He would sit on a white stool and offer the items. He would also speak aloud the offence committed against the soul and plead for pardon. He would then leave some of the food in the room where he performed the purification ceremony and eat the remainder with the family. The king’s soul washer, therefore, is a very important person because he prays on behalf of the king for a pardon from the soul of the king. If this is not done it may result in the death of the king which is a tragedy to the state.     Giving this post to a defeated chief was a new strategy the new Asante Kingdom had adopted. Okomfo Anokye had ruled that any state they would defeat would not be called defeated state with their people regarded as servants but would be treated as brothers, with their chief being given an important position in the Asante Kingdom. Their next task was to wage a war against their masters, the Denkyira people. They had long found out that the Denkyira people had been treating them with contempt. They were not satisfied with the commodities they were asked to send to Denkyira every Akwasidae. Firewoods fetching was the work done by women and the red clay too was used by the women for House decorations and this was no job for men. Plantains fibre was used as a toilet article and that too was fetched by women. The Asantes, therefore, understood the whole issued of asking their men to send the commodities to Denkyira as being regarded as women. All put together was an insult to the men of Asante. It was during this time when this debate was going on that  Ntim Gyakari, the new king of Denkyira who succeeded the late  Boseanti, sent messengers to them with some demands which sparked their anger.

The demands were:
(A). That they were to send the Golden Stool to him because he was the overlord.

(B). That they should dissolve their union because they didn’t seek permission before its formation

(C) . That they should stop talking against Denkyira men who had sex with their young women who sent to serve at Denkyira, because it was a blessing for any woman who became pregnant by Denkyira Man , since she would get a baby with royal blood in him who would be better fitted to occupy a stool in Asante.

(D) . That each chief was to cut one of his fingers and add to the gold dust to be sent to Denkyira.

(E). That each chief was to send his favourite wife to Denkyira to serve at the Kings court.

To the chiefs, the gold dust was not difficult, but the demand for the Golden Stool which contained the spirit of the Asante Kingdom of the Asante Nation and which they had vowed to protect. That was the last straw the broke the camel,s back. Again no maimed person was allowed to occupy a stool in the Asante Nation, therefore, if the king was demanding their fingers, he was destooling them. They also viewed the demand for their wives to serve at the King,s court as downright disrespect for Asante manhood. The Asantes prefers death in the war to such insult. At this point they were silent for a while, then the chief of Dwaben, Nana Adaakwa Yiadom, rose up, condemned the whole message and swore to avenge. All the other chiefs supported him. They, therefore, filled the brass basin with stones to be sent to Ntim Gyakari instead of the gold dust he was demanding. They ordered executioners to cut the fingers of the messengers and add to the stones and also to kill the warriors among the messengers. Their actions meant that they had declared war on Denkyira. What next? Was there any possibility that they could match their overlord?. They were very sure their great priest and chief of Agona, Nana Okomfo Anokye would help solve the problem for them. He had performed wonders during their war with Dormaa people, so they knew he would repeat the feat.

Okomfo Anokye, when consulted, assured them that they would be victorious provided some men would give themselves up for sacrifices. Three men would be needed for the sacrifice. One would be buried alive and his hands would appear at the surface of the earth and two brass pan full of war medicine mixed in water would be put in the two palms for the warriors to bath before they left for the war front. The second volunteer would be butchered to death and his flesh thrown away for vultures to take to Denkyira land. Wherever any piece of the flesh would fall on the ground, the men of that place will lose their bravery and become cowards. The third volunteer should be in front of the marching soldiers. He was not to fire a shot even if he met an enemy. He should look on for the enemy to shoot him. It was only when he fell that the Asante Nation would be victorious. If he did not confront to that and shot a gun, that would be the doom of the Asante Nation.

Those who volunteered were:

(A)  Nana Asenso Kofo , chief of Adwumakasekese. He was buried alive

(B)  Nana Dikopim 1 , chief of Edweso. He gave himself to be butchered

(c)  Nana Tweneboa Kodua, paramount chief of Kumawu . He also gave himself up to led the marching soldiers. Though he was armed, he was forbidden to shoot, therefore he was killed.

After all the purifications and the necessary preparations, Nana Osei Tutu prepared to lead the Nation as War General. Okomfo Anokye asked Nana Osei Tutu to stay at home and ask another chief to lead. His explanation was that though Asante Nation will win the war, whoever led as the War General would not live beyond seven days after the war. Here too Nana Boahen Anantuo , chief of Mampong volunteered to lead the soldiers to the war. He, however, asked that since he was taking the place of Asantehene as War General, his stool should be next to that of Asantehene. As the Asantehene was occupying the Golden Stool, therefore his state should occupy a Silver Stool and this request was granted to him.

Like Nana Boahen Anantuo, the first three volunteers also made requests. Nana Asenso Kofo requests that after his death, nobody from his town,Adwumakasekese, should be killed or sacrificed in any form.  Nana Dikopim, the chief of Edweso, also requested that nobody from his clan ,Asona ,should not be killed or sacrificed in any form too. Nana Tweneboa Kodua also requested that nobody from his state should never be sacrificed in any form.

Again, whenever a drummer from any Asante states started drumming on the Atumpan drums, his appellation should be sounded to remind future generations that they too should sacrifice themselves for Asante Nation or Kingdom. So when all was set, the chiefs swore to Nana Osei Tutu that they would forever push forward, never would they retreat.   The advance guard was led by NanaTweneboa Kodua while Nana Boahen Anantuo led them as War General. Okomfo Anokye himself was at the war front and provided the magical antidotes. The battle was fierce but with determination and courage, the Asante Nation was victorious.   The king of Denkyira, Ntim Gyakari was captured at Feyiase and beheaded. Denkyira thus became subject to Asante.

These are the chiefs who sat together to plan the Denkyira war

Nana Osei Tutu                      ———-         King of Asante
Nana Tweneboa Kodua        ———-         Chief of Kumawu
Nana  Boahen Anantuo        ———-         Chief of Mampong
Nana Adaakwa Yiadom        ———-         Chief of Dwaben
Nana Onomapau                   ———-          Chief of Asumegya
Nana Kofi Dwaa Ayeboafo   ———-         Chief of Bekwai
Nana Agyeman Ampomfi    ———-          Chief of Kokofu
Nana Oduro Panin                ———-          Chief of Nsuta
Nana Wiafe Akenten            ———-           Chief of Offinso
Nana Dikopim                       ———-           Chief of Edweso
Nana Krobea                          ———–         Chief of Tafo
Nana Okomfo Anokye          ———–         Chief of Agona

After the Denkyira war, Asante Nation continued fighting to extend her borders. According to oral tradition, Adanse was a very powerful state before Denkyira subdued it and made it her vassal. When the Asante States became united and decided to fight Denkyira, Adanse state was contacted but, they refused to join the war and instead left for Akyem because they were not prepared for war. However, after the defeat of Denkyira, they came back to their land and agreed to form part of the Asante Kingdom. And this was during the reign of Nana Osei Tutu. The two most important wars waged by Nana Osei Tutu were the Dormaa war and the Denkyira war. The defeat of Denkyira earned Asante Nation the documents on the Elmina Castle which hitherto were in the possession of Denkyira.  Nana Osei Tutu,s reign was a great landmark in the history of Asante Kingdom. It was during his reign that the Asante Kingdom sprang from independent small states to form a strong union under one king and became a kingdom. He organised the nation on military bases, grouping the states into various war flanks. He built Kumase as the capital of the Kingdom. It was during his reign that Elmina Castle became the property of the Asante Nation. Many of the laws governing the Kingdom were made during his reign. According to oral tradition, he instituted the Odwira Festival in the Kingdom after the defeat of the Denkyira people.
Nana Osei Tutu laid a solid foundation for the Asante Kingdom. However, he gave too much freedom to the conquered states and allowed their chiefs to rule over their subjects instead of appointing ambassadors to the conquered states. This policy gave the states more freedom to organise their army to fight the Asante Nation again for their independence. One of such rebellions was that raised by Nana Boadu Akefun , the chief of Denkyira who succeeded Nana Ntim Gyakari. So Nana Osei Tutu had to organise his army to fight with Denkyira again, and Denkyira again was defeated just like a year after the first war.

Source: The Kingdom of Asante