The Twi speaking Akans comprising of the Akwamu, Guan, Fante, Denkyira, Brong, Akyem, Kwahu, Sefwi, Wassa, Asante, Akwapim, and Assin people historically migrated from Mesopotamia (an area of the Tigris-Euphrates river system now forming part of Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey and Iran ) to Africa and formed part of the ancient Ghana empire. Their migration southwards was borne out of their search for arable farming lands, evasion of inter-empire wars and desire for religious freedom from invading Muslim religion with roots in Arabia that later extended into North Africa
The Asantes in the course of their southward migration settled in the Adanse area and originally lived as clans comprising of Oyoko, Bretuo, Aduana, Asona, Asene, Ekuona, Agona and Asakyiri clans. There were inter-marriages among the clans which led to increased population and the attendant establishments of new towns to cater for the population surge around the 15th Century.
With the passage of time, the Asante clans stated waging wars against each other leading to disunity and weakness. The weakened unity among the clans made it easy for other tribes to wage wars against them. It was during one of such wars that the Denkyira’s conquered the Asantes, made them subservient and compelled them to serve and regularly pay tributes in the form of firewood, plantain fibre and red clay to Denkyira
It was around this period that Nana Obiri Yeboa, King of Kwaman had a dream which he revealed to Okomfo Yamoa of Agona, the dream was interpreted by Okomfo Yamoa of Agona to mean that their ancestors compared the Asante states to a broom which when bound together is almost unbreakable, but when separated the broom sticks are easily breakable. He therefore enjoined all the Asante states to come together and form a united front. Nana Obiri Yeboa subsequently called a meeting of all the Asante Chiefs on the need to form a united front and liberate themselves from the bondage of Denkyira.
The Chiefs after extensive deliberation agreed to the formation a loose confederation with each state independent in all matters except defense. Nana Obiri Yeboa was appointed war leader with the responsibility of mobilizing and coordinating all the Asante states to fight and defend themselves from attacks by neighbouring Akan state.
The confederation had hardly taken off when their closest neighbor Dormaa Brong state heard of it and waged war against all the Asante states and defeating all in the process. The Asante states also lost their prominent Chiefs such as Nana Obiri Yeboa, Okomfo Yamoa of Agona and Dwamena Akenten of Offinso. The defeat informed the decision of the Assntes to form a stronger union capable of withstanding any future aggression.
After the death of Nana Obiri Yeboa due to injuries he sustained at war with the Dormaa Brong state, Nana Osei Tutu succeeded him as the Chief of Kwaman state which later became known as Kumase state.
Nana Osei Tutu had during his enthronement in 1695 as the chief of Kwaman state made a solemn promise to his people to take up the great task of uniting all the Asante states. He was helped to achieve this feat by the great priest and Chief of Agona, Nana Okomfo Anokye. Nana Osei Tutu and Nana Okomfo Anokye were enthroned at the same period in their Chiefdoms as Kwamanhene and Agonahene respectively.
Oral tradition says a meeting of all the Chiefs of Asante states was called by Nana Osei Tutu of Kumase with the main agenda being the amalgamation of all the Asante Chiefs under one paramount Chief whose stool would be greater than all the other stools. As expected the question of who should be chosen as the paramount chief arose and the great priest and Chief of Agona Okomfo Anokye explained that the problem would be solved by the ancestors and the gods by offering prayers and supplications to them. He said 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 paramount chief.
A festive Friday “Fofie” was chosen as the day that all the chiefs would all converge for the gods and ancestors to choose their King from amongst them. They were advised by the great priest Okomfo Anokye to continually fast and pour libation to their ancestors and the gods until the chosen day.
On the appointed day, under a calm atmosphere the Chiefs converged and as expected each was anxiously hoping to be the paramount chief elect. The atmosphere looked calm. Great priest Okomfo Anokye appeared amidst drumming and dancing, after some magical dances, pausing and then jumping in different directions, he began to summon something from the sky. Drumming started again and the priest conjured, the sky became tense and a deafening noise was heard.
Then suddenly a stool studded with gold appeared and descended on the laps of Nana Osei Tutu signifying that he had been chosen by the ancestors and the gods as the unquestionable King of the Kings of the Asante Nation.
Finger nails and small piece of hair taken from each chief were burnt, some of the resulting ashes were smeared on the stool and the rest mixed in palm wine for all to drink.
Okomfo Anokye told them that the stool contained the spirit of the Asante Nation. The potion they drank meant that they had sworn to the gods, which meant they had taken an oath of allegiance to unite and forget their past individual histories. Osei Tutu took the oath of allegiance to the stool and the chiefs, and each chief in turn took an oath of allegiance to Nana Osei Tutu and an oath never to raise arms against the Golden Stool.
That was the beginning of Asante Kingdom, Nana Osei Tutu was therefore made the first king of the Asante kingdom and he reigned between 1695-1717.
His first task was to avenge the defeat the states had suffered from the Dormaa people. This was carried out without delay and in a fearful battle the Dormaa people were defeated and driven from Suntreso to a faraway place in about 1698. The state though was defeated, it was however, annexed into the Asante Kingdom and their King was made “the soul Washer” of Asantehene. Giving appointment to a defeated Chief was a new strategy the new Kingdom had adopted. Great priest Okomfo Anokye had warned that any conquered state should never be called a defeated state and their people never regarded as servants but treated equally as brothers and their Chief given an important position in the Kingdom.
The next task was to wage war against their masters, the Denkyira people. They had long known that the Denkyira people had been treating them with contempt and had also become dissatisfied with the commodities (tribute) they were asked to send to Denkyira every Akwasidae. Firewood fetching was the work done by women, Red clay was used by women for house decoration and this was not the job for men, Plantain fibre was used as toilet article and that too was fetched by women. The Asantes therefore understood that the Denkyira King was merely insulting and ridiculing them by insisting that their men carry the commodities to Denkyira, a task traditionally meant for Denkyira women.
While the Asantes were still strategising on what to do with the humiliation suffered in the hands of the Denkyira people, Ntim Gyakari, the new King of Denkyira who succeeded the late Boseanti, sent messengers to them with some demands which sparked the anger of the Asantes. The king’s demands were:
- That they were to send the Golden Stool to him because he was the overlord.
- That they should dissolve their union because they did not seek permission before its formation.
- That they should stop talking against Denkyira men who had sex with the young Asante women who went to serve at Denkyira, because it was a blessing for any woman who became pregnant by a Denkyira man, since she would get a baby with royal blood in him who would be better fit to occupy a stool in Asante.
- That each chief was to cut off one of his fingers and add to the gold dust to be sent to Denkyira.
- That each chief was to send his favourite wife to Denkyira to serve the King’s court.
To the chiefs, the gold dust was not difficult, but the demand for the Golden stool which contained the spirit of the nation and which they had vowed to protect was not negotiable.
Again no maimed person was allowed to occupy a stool in the Asante Nation, therefore if that King was demanding their fingers, then he was de-stooling them. They also viewed the demand for their wives to serve in the King’s court as downright disrespect for Asante manhood.
The Asante preferred death in war than to be humiliated by the demands made to them by the Denkyira King. They were initially silent in responding to the demands, then the Dwabenhene, Adaakwaa Yiadom, rose up, condemned the whole message and swore to avenge. All the other Chiefs unanimously supported him. They therefore filled the brass basin with stones to be sent to King of Denkyira instead of the gold dust he was demanding. They ordered executioners to cut the fingers of the messengers from Denkyira and add to the stones and to also kill the warrior among the messengers. Their action was a declaration of war on Denkyira their overlord.
Basking on the euphoria of the previous feat performed by their great priest and King of Agona, Nana Okomfo Anokye in their previous conquest of the Dormaa people, Okomfo Anokye when consulted gave assurances that victory was certain provided three men would have to give themselves up for sacrifices. One would be buried alive with his two hands appearing above ground earth and two brass pans 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 the men of that place would lose their bravery and become cowards. The third volunteer should be a paramount chief. He would be armed and he would 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 conform to that and he shot his gun that would spell doom of the Asante Nation.
Those who volunteered were:
- Nana Asenso Kofo, Chief of Adwumkasekese who was buried alive.
- Nana Dikopim I, Chief of Edweso, who was butchered to death
- Nana Tweneboa Kodua, Paramount Chief of Kumawu, who 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 requested for another to lead explaining that though Asante Nation would win the war, but 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. Asantehene was occupying the Golden Stool therefore his state should occupy a Silver Stool and his request was unanimously granted.
Like Boahen Anantuo, the first three volunteers also made requests. Asenso Kofo requested that his after death, nobody from his town, Adwumakasekese, should ever be killed or sacrificed in any form. Dikopim, the Chief of Edweso, also requested that nobody from his clan, Asona, should be sacrificed in any form. Nana Tweneboa Kodua also requested that nobody from his state should ever be sacrificed in any form.
Again, whenever a drummer from any of the Asante states started drumming on Atumpan drums, his appellation should be sounded to remind future generations that they too should sacrifice themselves for the Asante Nation.
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 Tweneboa Kodua while 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, the Asante Nation was victorious.
The king of Denkyira, Ntim Gyakari, was captured at Feyiase and beheaded. Denkyira thus became subject to Asantes.
The Chiefs who sat together to plan the Denkyira war were:
|Nana Osei Tutu I||King of Asante|
|Nana Tweneboa Kodua||Chief of Kumawu|
|Nana Boahen Anantuo||Chief of Mampong|
|Nana Adaakwaa Yiadom||Chief of Dwaben|
|Nana Onompau||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, the Asante Nation continued the annexation of their territories through wars.
According to oral tradition, Adansi was a powerful state before Denkyira subdued it and made it her vassal. When the Asante states became united and decided to fight Denkyira, Adansi was contacted but she refused to join them and instead left for Akyem because she was 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. This was during the reign of Nana Osei Tutu.
The two most important wars waged by Nana Osei Tutu were 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 Asante Nation metamorphosed from small independent states to form a strong union under one King and became a Kingdom. He organized 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 Denkyira.
Nana Osei Tutu laid a solid foundation for the Asante Nation, however, he gave too much freedom to the conquered states by allowing their Chiefs to rule over their subjects instead of appointing ambassadors to the conquered states. This policy gave the states freedom to organize their army to fight Asante again for their independence. One of such rebellions was that raised by Boadu Akefun, the chief of Denkyira who succeeded Ntim Gyakari. Osei Tutu had to send his army to fight and conquer Denkyira again, just a year after the first war.
Fifteen Kings have reigned as the Asantehene from the time of Nana Osei Tutu in 1695 to the incumbent Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II.