Sir Ofori Atta left an awesome legacy — Otuo Siriboe
The man Nana Ofori Atta I
May I, first of all, thank the person who introduced me for his gracious comments.
One aspect of my life which I would have liked him to mention is that I am paternally related to the illustrious Nana Sir Ofori Atta I, whom we are celebrating today.
Nana Ofori Atta's father was called Yaw Boakye, who was part of the Juaben exiles in Akyem Abuakwa between 1932 and 1939.
Yaw Boakye was the nephew of Nana Asafo Agyei, Juabenhene, who later led the Juabens to found the New Juaben State around 1876.
In the traditional realm, therefore, Nana Ofori Atta is a grandson of the Juaben Stool.
It may interest you to learn that the name I was given at birth is also Yaw Boakye.
I wish to thank the organisers for the honour done me in inviting me to chair this function.
I accepted the invitation as this is another opportunity to demonstrate to all, the affinal ties between Asante and Akyem since days of yore.
Our common customs and usages bind us more together than people appreciate on the surface.
The appellation 'Kwaa' is specially reserved for our Kinsmen ie Asantekwaa and Akyenkwaa.
On Thursday, August 23, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, Asantehene, accompanied by a host of courtiers and attendants and with a full panoply of state regalia will join Okyeman at Kyebi to honour Nana Sir Ofori Atta I. My role today may be likened to that of John the Baptist, the forerunner.
This memorial lecture in honour of our illustrious monarch is to be delivered by the eminent historian and scholar, Prof. Addo Fenning an academic of high international repute.
His stature in academia reflects a long standing career from elementary school teacher, Tutor at Ofori Panin Secondary School and finally a long distinguished career at the University of Ghana, Legon spanning almost half a century.
His commitment to duty at Legon earned him various appointments culminating in his rise to Professor in 1994 and Head of the Department of History in 1995.
Prof has been honoured by the Akyem Abuakwa State as "Okyeman Kanea" You will all agree with me that there is no other person more eminently qualified to talk about the life and times of Nana Ofori Atta I, than Prof. Addo Fenning.
In his recent address at the 25th Anniversary of the Coronation of the Kabaka of Buganda in Uganda, the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, lamented the unfortunate mistrust engendered between traditional rulers and the rising political class in the heat of the struggle for the emancipation of Africa.
This mistrust had two grave consequences on the emerging states: first, the continent missed the opportunity to fashion the governance of the emerging independent states on the systems of governance rooted in our time-tested traditions.
and secondly, the mammoth pool of wisdom and knowledge among our traditional rulers was sadly shut out from any appropriate role in the governance of the new states.
Although he came before the period of the nationalist struggle and the race to self government,
the life and times of Amantiremamienu Nana Ofori Atta, stands out as probably the finest symbol of that tragic mistrust from which Africa is still struggling.
He was an extraordinary person who left an awesome legacy as paramount chief, as legislator, as a visionary leader who touched lives beyond his time and space.
His administration as Okyehene set a standard in local government which our local government authorities and experts would find truly remarkable.
He created the Traditional Authority Treasury to administer the funds of the stool from which they were able to initiate the development of infrastructure, including roads, drains and culverts and bridges.
As a member of the Legislative Council of the Gold Coast, his contribution to the enhancement of education and the general wellbeing of the country was second to none.
Aaron Kwadwo Dua or Aaron Emmanuel Boakye as he later came to be known, succeeded his uncle Osagyefo Amoako Atta 11, in 1912 at the age of 31.
He had no formal education beyond standard VII.
He had served as a solicitor's clerk and a Non -Commissioned Officer in the Army between 1900 - 1901.
Articulate and thoughtful
He later became the Secretary to the Okyehene between 1904 -1912.
It was soon evident following his enstoolrnent that this gifted young paramount chief was intellectually equal to the best products of any university from the "home country".
When he entered the Legislative Council, he quickly became one of its most articulate and thoughtful members.
Indeed, it is a humbling experience to read today his contributions to debates of the LegCo from the 1920s to his demise in 1943.
Proudly, he holds the record as the longest serving African member of the Legislative Council of the Gold Coast.
We have been told of the tremendous strides he made on the educational front with the establishment of trade schools, secondary schools, ABUSCO, compulsory education for stool heirs and the Okyeman Scholarship Scheme.
So,if today, his grandson, in the person of Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, is replicating an aggressive educational policy on the national front with the introduction of the free Senior High School system, one can conclude that it is indeed in his DNA and not out of political expediency.
It is refreshing to know that Nana Sir Ofori Atta I did not concern himself only with matters of Okyernan, in other words he shunned the "di wo fie as3rn" syndrome.
He championed the formation of the Provincial Council System which provided the Colony Chiefs a platform for discussing matters of local governance, culture and customary law.
He was an ardent supporter of the repatriation of Nana Prernpeh I from Seychelles where he had been exiled by the British for 23 years. He supported the restoration ofthe Asante Confederacy in 1935.
He was also an active advocate of the integration of Asante and the colony.
In recognition of his support for the restoration of the Confederacy and his love for Asante his successor Osagyefo Kuntukunukun was made the Special Guest of Honour at the Golden Jubilee of the restoration ofthe Confederacy in 1985.
When we look back on the quality of traditional rulers such as Nana Ofori Atta I and the impact they made on society, we have to question what might have been if we had managed to achieve a better fusion of the traditional and the political strands in the governance of our independent state.