United Asante States Under Nana Osei Tutu I

United Asante States Under Nana Osei Tutu I

Nana Osei Tutu succeed Nana Obiri Yeboa as the chief of Kwaman state later known as Kumase state. During his enstolment he promised his people that he would take up the great task of 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, Okomfo Anokye as Agonahene. Nana Osei Tutu succeeded his uncle Obiri Yeboa while Okomfo Anokye succeeded his brother Okomfo Yemoa.

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,then the question of “who would be chosen the as head” appeared.

It was at this juncture that Okomfo Anokye explained that the problem would be solved be 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 that 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 libation 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 elect.  The atmosphere looked calm. Okomfo Anokye appeared amidst drumming and dancing.  After some magical dances he paused a little, jumped here and there and began to call something from the sky.  Drumming started again and the priest conjured. The sky became tense and a deafening noise was heard. Then a stool studded with gold descended on the laps 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.

Finger nails and a small collection of hair from each chief were collected, all burnt and the ashes, some 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 portion they drank meant that they had sworn to the gods, which meant they had taken an oath 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.

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 where they were, to a far away place. This was in about 1698. Though the state was defeated, it was annexed into the Asante Kingdom and their king was made “the soul Washer” of Asantehene. Giving post to a defeated chief was a new strategy the new kingdom had adopted.  Okomfo Anokye had ruled that any state they would defeat would not be called a defeated state with their people regarded as servants but would be treated as brothers, with 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 found out that Denkyira people had been treating them with contempt. They were not satisfied with even 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 the whole issued of the Denkyira king asking their men to carry these commodities to Denkyira meant that they were being regarded as women.  All put together was an insult to the men Asante.

It was during the time when this debate was going on that Ntim Gyakari, the new of king Denkyira who succeeded the late Boseanti, send messengers to them with some demands which sparked the anger of the Asantes.

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 did not seek permission before its formation.
  • c) That they should stop talking against Denkyira men who had sex with the young Asante women who went 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.
  • d) That each chief was to cut off 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 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.  That was the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

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 destooling them. They also viewed the demand for their wives to serve at the king’s court as downright disrespected for Asante manhood.

The Asante prefers death in war to such insult. At this point they were silent for a while, then the of Dwabenhene, Adaakwaa 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 warrior among the messengers.  Their action meant that they had declared war on Denkyira.  What next? Was there any possibility that they could match their overlord?

They were sure their great priest and king 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 sacrifices. One would be buried alive.  His hands would appear at the surface of the 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 the 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 a 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 a gun that would be the doom of the Asante Nation.

Those who volunteered were:

  • i. Nana Asenso Kofo, chief of Adwumkasekese. He was buried alive.
  • ii. Nana Dikopim I, chief of Edweso, gave himself up to be butchered to death.
  • iii. Nana Tweneboa Kodua, Paramount of Kumawu, also gave himself up. He 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 to lead. His explaination was that though Asante Nation would 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.  Asantehene was occupying the Golden Stool therefore his state should occupy a Silver Stool.  This was 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 Asante.

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, Asante Nation continued fighting to extend her borders.

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 sprang from independent small states to form a strong union under one king and became a kingdom.  He organized the Nation on military base, 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 and allowed their chiefs to rule over the 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.

Source:manhyiaonline.org