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Elites

 | 
João de Pina Cabral
, 
Antónia Pedroso de Lima

Part II. Choice and Tradition

4. Elite Succession Among The Matrilineal Akan of Ghana1

Nana Arhin Brempong

Texte intégral

Introduction: The Changing Basis of Legitimacy among the Akan

  • 1 I am grateful to Nana Asante, Registrar of the Ashanti Regional House of Chiefs, for the biographic (...)
  • 2 'Stools' and 'skins' are the physical symbols of traditional political office in the forest and sav (...)
  • 3 An area within the jurisdiction of a traditional paramount ruler, oman hene, that is, one who does (...)

1This chapter seeks to show that, within the framework of hereditary matrilineal succession to stools2 among the Asante and other Akan peoples of central and south-western Ghana, there is a trend towards the selection of the highly educated, professionals, or successful businessmen as stool occupants in the traditional state or 'traditional area';3 and that these successful competitors for stools belong to Ghana's educated or business 'elite', defined as 'functional, mainly occupational groups which have high status' (Bottomore 1964: 8). The presumed or actual members of the elite are identified in the Akan language as mpanyimfo, the elders, echoing the gérontocratie nature of traditional government, the members of which were generally men of mature age. The mpanyimfo are indicated by their lifestyles-the possession of cars, European clothing, the location of their houses and their types of house, which all point to their high positions in government, administration or business, and to their potential membership of the modern ruling group. It is argued that this trend is a concomitant of the colonialist and post-colonialist transformations in the economic, political, and socio-cultural systems of the peoples of Ghana, which have altered the roles of traditional office-holders to the extent that they are obliged to demonstrate qualifications similar to those of the players in national politics; and that the trend suggests incipient changes in the basis of legitimacy in stool occupancy.

2The chapter proceeds as follows:

1. the first section describes the rules of succession in traditional Akan polities;

2. the second section the colonialist and post-colonialist transformations and their effects on aspects of traditional rule;

3. and finally, the third section the succession to Asante stools.

3The ethnographic 'present' is used here to describe the rules of succession, though there has been considerable change in their operation, because informants usually present the old rules without regard to changes in their application by the various bodies of selectors of rulers in Akanland. I have avoided the term 'chief, usually found in the literature on African political systems, because I have long felt that it does not adequately convey the ideas associated with Akan traditional rulerships. In place of 'chief, I use the term 'power-/authority-holders', depending on whether or not there is delegated authority, or the terms the Akan themselves use for the various grades of power-or authority-holding. I shall use mainly material from Asante for illustrative purposes, since I know it best.

Hereditary Sucession and The Traditional Elite

4It should help appreciation of the present-day trends in the application of the Akan rules of succession to outline what are said to be the traditional rules, and the character of the elite that they engendered.

5The Akan consist of sub-groupings distinguished by their occupation of well-defined territories and distinctive though mutually intelligible dialects of the Fanti-Twi language. They predominate in five of the ten regions of Ghana as follows:

Group

Region

Asante and Brong

Brong-Ashanti

Asante

Ashanti

Akuapem, Akyom, Asante

Eastern

Agona, Assin, Denkyira, Fanti, Twifo

Central

Ahanta, Aowin, Nzema, Sefwi, Wassa

Western

6Akan-speaking peoples are also to be found as temporary or permanent migrants (Dakubu 1988: 52-6) in the other regions, particularly in Greater Accra, the location of the national capital.

  • 4 There is considerable literature on Akan political organization; the basic texts are: Sarbah 1897, (...)

7As far back as their memory goes, the Akan have always lived in centralized political systems, in polities or states that they call aman (sing. oman). The Akan state is usually an aggregation of towns/villages, and their dependent or satellite settlements, farms or hunting lodges, the embryos of villages and towns. The territory of a state is divided into districts (amansin, sing, omansin) occupied by capital towns (Nhenkro, sing. ahenkro) and their dependent settlements. The district may also be seen as a purely geographical area in which a number of states may be located. Within a state, there is a hierarchy of three basic offices: headship of the state, omanhene; headship of a division of the state, ohener, and headship of a town/village, odikro. The rights of succession to these offices, or stools, are regarded as the corporate property of the matrilineal descendants of the real or presumed founders of the capital town of the state; or of the division; or of the town/village. These descendants are known as royals/aristocrats, adehyee, and thus qualified to compete for the offices when they become vacant on the death or destoolment, removal from the stool, of an incumbent.4

  • 5 The electors, known currently in Ghana as kingmakers, normally consist of the most important of his (...)

8The headships of these royal offices are male and female dualities: the occupants of both must belong to the royal descent group and complement each other. But there is a difference in the manner of their appointment. A male ruler has absolute discretion in appointing his female counterpart, though he may engage in constructive consultations with his councillors. But a female ruler (ohemma) is permitted to name a successor to a vacant stool to the electors5 only after due consultation with the elders or heads (mpanyimfo) of the segments of the royal lineage; and the electors have the right of acceptance or rejection of the nominations by the royal lineage.

9In the past, the royal lineage was guided by two basic rules that tended to enhance lineage unity. They were the rules of seniority and alternate succession. Senior men in age were expected to precede the junior; and succession to office was circulated among the men and women of the major segments of the lineage. Thus the offices of the ohene and ohemma were expected to be occupied by men and women of different segments. It is obvious from newspaper accounts of succession disputes that these rules are not now strictly observed. Early in the 1950s Busia stated that lineage unity was under heavy siege (Busia 1951: 211-17).

  • 6 Known as the 'blackened' stool, usually kept in the stool room or stool chapel, nkonuafieso, and 'f (...)

10The consultation process means that the Akan reject the rule of primogeniture, combining the hereditary with selective principles. It is conceded that the maternal relatives of the founder of the town and occupant of the first consecrated stool (apunnua)6 of a polity collectively have exclusive rights of succession to the stool. But it is also agreed that the ruled, represented by the heads of the major subordinate units of the polity, have the right to consultation and choice among the eligible successors. Therefore the choice of an ohene is an outcome of consultations between the ruling house(s) and the ruled.

11These elements of negotiation and joint exercise of rights in the elective process are the basis of flexibility in the process and its adaptability to changing circumstances.

  • 7 Busia 1951: 211-17; also Ashanti Confederacy Council (ACC) Minutes 14 June 1935, in particular the (...)

12Wilks has suggested that the founders of the early Akan states, both in the forest areas and also in the coastal hinterlands, were men of enterprise, abrempon, who used their acquired wealth to purchase labour for the clearing of the virgin forests and started the process of expansion. Attempts were apparently made to re-enact the tradition of the use of wealth for the acquisition of followers or retainers and hence of power in the 1920s and 1930s: Wilks reports an applicant for two Kumasi stools as stating that though he knew himself to be customarily unqualified for their occupancy, he felt himself qualified in his application on the grounds of his wealth, while the legitimate successors were poor (Wilks 1979: 10-11; 1993: 91-120). In 1935-1940 the Asante traditional rulers, organized in the Ashanti Confederacy Council under the headship of the Asantehene, increasingly protested during meetings at the rate at which non-royal persons were seeking headships of traditional states and their sub-divisions through the offer of considerations of various kinds to the kingmakers (Busia 1951: 211-17).7

13In addition to their hereditary rights of succession to the stools, the matrilineal descendants of the founders of states also constituted the economic elite. They were heirs to the wealth of the original founders of the state: land, gold and labour in the form of slaves, war-captives, debtors and pawns. The wealth of the aristocrats facilitated a distinctive life-style for them, though the simple nature of material culture in the period before colonial rule meant that distinctions in life-style were discernible mainly in personal wear and adornments (Bowdich 1873).

14The administrative system of the Akan states was patrimonial. It was an extension of the king's household or palace, and the personnel collectively known as gyasefo, the people at the fireside, were retainers recruited from a variety of sources: the children of slave wives, war-captives, purchased slaves, the children of debtors, pawns, and free dependants (Rattray 1929a: 116). In Asante, an early law accredited to the first Asantehene, Osei Tutu, 1685-1712/17, which accorded Asante citizenship to these servicemen and forbade public references to their origins, promoted voluntary immigration of people from the neighbouring areas into Asante, some of whom entered the king's service (som).

  • 8 Rattray 1929a and 1929b; Wilks 1975,1989: 414-76; McCaskie 1995: 27, 37-73, 1980: 189-208; Yarak 19 (...)
  • 9 Baffour Osei Akoto, a senior counsellor, okyeame, of the Asantehene, told me of this meaning of obi (...)
  • 10 On the remuneration of court officials, see Wilks 1989; McCaskie 1980.

15Rattray, Wilks, McCaskie and Yarak have shown the complexities of the palace organization, and also the sources of remuneration in a non-wage economy.8 In sum, practically every aspect of the Asantehene's private and public life was the subject of ministration by a distinct group of attendants who had a head: for example, adwarefohene, head of the bathroom attendants; anonomsahene, head of the stewards; daberehene, head of the bedroom attendants; nsumankwahene, head of physicians (Rattray 1929a: 116). The heads and the servicemen (nhenkoa, servants of the King) were remunerated, as in all patrimonial systems, by means of their participation in the administrative system: land grants with settled bondsmen and the exercise of judicial authority over them, a source of 'income'; benefices from the state in the form of shares in war booty, and commissions on tribute, tax and levy collection; shares in judicial fees; extortions in the judicial process; and trading capital. These were sources of wealth that formed the basis of their status as a political and economic sub-elite. They were collectively known as obinom; individuals were known as obi, an important person.9 They may be distinguished as authority-holders, permitted by the heads of state and its divisions to exercise authority.10

16Headships of the units of the palace organization were the gift of the heads of the political units. But over time, the process of appointment became subject to consultation with the 'elders' of the position, though the King's will always prevailed: consultation did not mean a veto.

Colonial and Post-colonial Transformations in The System of Traditional Rule

17Traditional rule and its system of succession in the period of sovereignty were subverted by aspects of colonial and post-colonial governments (Busia 1951: Chapters 8-9 and Arhin 1991: 27-47).

18As is well known, after two centuries of trading on the Gold Coast and its hinterland, the British imposed their rule over those territories; the present Central, Eastern, Western, Greater Accra and Volta Regions, collectively known as the Gold Coast, in 1874; the present-day Ashanti and Brong Ahafo Regions in 1896; and the present Northern, Uppereast and Upperwest Regions, then known as the Northern Territories, in 1901 (Fuller 1920: 214; Melcalfe 1964: 524).

19Colonial rule meant the abolition of the sovereignty of the traditional states and their subordination to the colonial authorities, represented by the District, Provincial and Chief Commissioners and the Governor. The colonial government assumed the right of recognition of existing or newly-appointed traditional rulers, which meant the right to accept or reject the choices of the kingmakers. In Kumasi and elsewhere in Asante, the colonial government imposed individuals as traditional rulers for services rendered during the Asante revolt of 1900-1901. In certain areas in the Northern Territories the colonial government substituted traditional rulers of the Akan type for ritual figures, such as custodians of the earth, who had previously been moral leaders, with powers of persuasion only in dispute settlement (Rattray 1927; Fortes 1940: 239-72).

20In the Akan areas, the assumption by the colonial government of the right to make and unmake traditional rulers subverted the traditional system of government by consent. It is true that the right of consent or rejection was exercised by a gerontocratic body of elders. But the elders, heads of political sub-units, normally represented the peoples of those units, so that there was, as both Rattray and Busia have tried to show, an element of non-formalized democracy in the system of government: the democratic element was strengthened by the correlative rights of the electors to remove rulers from office (Busia 1951: 64; Arhin 1994: 148-58).

21In addition to the formal attack on traditional rule as the erstwhile embodiment of the sovereignty of indigenous government, and the subversion of 'custom' as the sanction of the right to rule, there were other aspects of the colonial situation that encouraged attempts at usurpation of the rights to office by what may be described as 'new men'. These aspects were the introduction of formal education; the 'rise' of an economic subelite as a consequence of changes in the economy; Christian proselytization; and changes in the roles of traditional rulers, resulting from colonial and post-colonial legislation.

  • 11 See Sarbah 1897, 1906; Arhin 1992.

22Formal education began first in the Fanti areas of Elmina, Cape Coast and Anomabo, where the European trading forts were situated. Although education was at first limited to basic reading, writing and arithmetic, it was later broadened in scope and intensity when the 'merchant-princes' or principal trading men sent their sons to be educated in the United Kingdom. A result of this intensified education, principally through the agency of the Christian Missions, was to produce a body of educated men. These at first sought to support traditional rulers in safeguarding their authority against the encroachments of creeping colonialism, in such organizations as the Fanti Confederacy Council 1870-71, and the Aborigines Right Protection Society (1894-1947), but later competed with them for the leadership of the people in the search, successively, for constitutional reform and independence from Great Britain.11

23In Asante between 1896, when colonial rule was imposed on a supposedly dismantled Kingdom, and 1935, when the kingdom was restored as the Ashanti Confederacy Council, intensified education by the Christian Missions and the colonial government at the capital towns of the Asante traditional states produced bodies of educated men who organized the Asante Kotoko Society in 1916 (Fuller 1920: 214-29; Busia 1951: 102-64 and Tordoff 1965: 188-204). The Kotoko Society included the future Asantehene, Sir Osei Agyoman Prempeh II (1931-70), and had two aims: to persuade the colonial government to repatriate the exiled Asantehene, Prempeh I, from the Seychelles Islands, and also to guide the Asante rulers in 'modern' ways. As in the other Akan areas of the Gold Coast colony, the educated Asante were later split into adherents and opponents of traditional rule, grouped, respectively, in the United Gold Coast Convention (UGCC), founded in 1947, and the Convention Peoples' Party (CPP), in 1949.

24Changes in the economy under colonial rule reinforced the effects of education in the emergence of new men, who, by virtue of their wealth, were potentially rival leaders to the traditional rulers. The major changes in the economy were the introduction of cash cropping, mainly cocoa and marginally kola and coffee production, and an increase in retail and wholesale trading undertaken as agents of the European mercantile firms (Fuller 1920: Busia 1951 and Tordoff 1965).While there had been trading in the days before colonial rule, the expansionist Asante state had sought to regulate the acquisition and display of wealth in order to protect the integrity of the political system. One of the principal means of doing this was the exaction of taxes and levies, including death duties.

25In 1901 and 1933 the Asante Akonfofo, wholesale and retail traders whom I have elsewhere called a 'non-literate sub-elite', protested to the British authorities against the proposed re-imposition of death duties, alleging that the exaction of those duties had hindered socio-economic progress in the days before the British (Arhin 1986: 25-31).

26The Asante Akonkofo were the 'new men' in Asante. Some of them had acted as the collaborationists of the British in the Yaa Asantewa War (1900) against the British, and been granted the occupancy of some major stools (Tordoff 1965: 132; Wilks 1979: 6-7). On the whole, they opted to operate within the framework of traditional rule, while, as may be seen in the deliberations of the Ashanti Confederacy Council, some of them sought to use their wealth to 'buy' stools and replace legitimate heirs (Busia 1951: 211-17). They interpreted legitimacy in terms of economic success-a throw-back to the origin of the Akan states, so Wilks suggested (1979: 6-7).

27Christian proselytization, which started on the Gold Coast in the late eighteenth century and intensified in the second half of the nineteenth, spread to Ashanti in the wake of the establishment of British rule. In all the Akan areas, Christian converts not only professed themselves freed from the 'worship' of the deities of traditional religion, but also from those services to the traditional rulers that they thought were associated with the veneration of ancestral spirits, such as was expressed in the libations during the periodic Adae and Odwira festivals. The converts considered as 'pagan' the ancestral spirits, nsamanfo, held in the Akan system of belief as the principal custodians of the material and non-material welfare of the political community, whose living descendants were therefore entitled to rule.

28The converts also believed drumming and dancing on state occasions to be hateful to the Christian God. They protested at the ban imposed by traditional councils on farming in certain farm areas and on days dedicated to the Earth or river deities, which amounted to a defiance of the authority of the traditional rulers by the converts. The protest and defiance added to the crisis of confidence in traditional authority created by the activities of the colonial ruler (Busia 1951: 191).

  • 12 Arhin 1991: Busia summarized his findings on the weakened position of the traditional ruler as foll (...)

29Between 1874 and 1951, when Africans first entered the government of the Gold Coast, Ashanti, the Northern Territories and Togoland, the British successively attempted first to weaken and then to strengthen traditional rule. Early legislation sought to make it clear that traditional rulers were subject to the will of the British Government through the Governors of the Gold Coast and their subordinates. Later legislation, particularly the 1927 Native Administration Ordinance, also enacted for Ashanti and the Northern Territories in 1935 and 1948, made the Councils of traditional rulers junior partners in colonial rule, as local government bodies and as units in the colonial court system.12

  • 13 See a review of the Report of the Watson Commission set up by the Government of the Gold Coast to e (...)

30It was as local government bodies and courts that the traditional councils antagonized the 'young men' by their levies and what were perceived as judicial extortions. In 1949 the 'young men' left the UGCC, led by lawyers and businessmen who were closely allied with the traditional rulers, and joined the CPP, led by the literate lower middle class. The leaders of the CPP thought that the traditional rulers ought to have only ceremonial functions.13 Accordingly, when they won and exercised effective political power in 1957-1966, they stripped the traditional councils of their local government and judicial functions, and also retained the colonial government's erstwhile right of recognition of traditional rulers. They set up regional houses of Chiefs and gave them the responsibility of re-examining customary laws in various parts of the country for the purposes of uniform codification, and of the settlement of disputes among the traditional rulers. But traditional rulers were deprived of their financial base when the new local government bodies were granted portions of land revenues, formerly the preserves of the traditional councils. The 1969 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana established a National House of Chiefs, as a national integrative device, but with the same functions as the Regional Houses of Chiefs.

31Enactments by the colonial and post-colonial governments on traditional rule diminished the customary roles of the traditional rulers. They were no longer war leaders, law-makers or law-enforcers. The significance of their role as 'priest chiefs' was greatly reduced under the onslaught of Christianity and the exigencies of colonial rule that, as in Asante, discouraged the major festival of Odwira in the fear that it would rekindle what they thought were the dying embers of Asante nationalism. The traditional councils no longer regulated economic activity through the observance of the periodic festivals; and therefore traditional rulers, already impoverished through the workings of the political economy of colonialism, ceased to be economic leaders. It became clear in the course of the twentieth century that in order to cope with the demands of their mediatory position between the colonial authorities and the educated and economic sub-elites, Akan traditional rulers had to be educated: the most successful traditional rulers on the Gold Coast, such as Nana Sir Ofori Atta I, Omanhene of Akyem Aboakwa in the present Eastern Region (1916-43) and Nana Sir Tsibu Darku, Omanhene of Assin Attandasu in the Central Region (1930-1982), were educated and offered examples to the Asante rulers.

32The mediatory role of traditional rulers in the context of the colonial and post-colonial government entailed the following sets of activities: leading the political community into 'modernity' while safeguarding the essentials of the customary value systems; liaising between the central government and the political community for the purpose of attracting community development, roads, schools, health posts, and market-places; and mobilizing the people for communal work or financial contributions for public projects. These roles required education, and Table 4.1 below showing summaries of the biographies of the principal Asante rulers indicates the Asante response to the challenge of the new leadership roles.

Modern Asante Rulers

33The impoverishment of traditional rulers and the progressive minimization of their significance during the rule of Convention Peoples' Party apparently made traditional political office unattractive, so that one needs some explanation to account for the tendency of well-educated, professional men and apparently prosperous businessmen to contend for, and sometimes to pay heavily for, succession to stools, particularly in Asante.

Table 4.1: Summary of the Qualifications and Careers of the Asantehene and Asante Amanhene

Table 4.1: Summary of the Qualifications and Careers of the Asantehene and Asante Amanhene

a. Nana Oduro Numapau is also an oil palm grower, and a former Deputy Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Ghana.
b. Nana Otuo Sereboe II is perhaps the most enterprising Asante Omanhene. He has been a block-maker; and he nurses oil-pam seedlings for sale to his people in order to encourage agricultural diversification among them. He recently won the National Award for small-scale industries.
c. The Akyempim stool is reserved to the sons of Asante Kings, and, since they belong to their mothers' clans, the stool cannot be said to be 'owned' by any particular clan.

34Two possible explanations come to mind. Firstly, the Asante and the other Akan groups regard rights in the stool as the highest possible kind of property. Therefore fellow lineage members and members of political communities generally put a good deal of pressure on the highly educated and others to secure the ancestral property in the legitimate line against possible usurpers.

  • 14 The periods of the military regimes in Ghana were: 1966-1969, 1972-1979, 1981-1992.

35Secondly, while the democratization of local government and the courts and the introduction of partisan politics debarred traditional rulers from areas of 'partisan' politics and reduced their influence, coups d'état enhanced their political status. The military regimes that have ruled Ghana for twenty-three out of forty years of independence14 (1957-1997) used the 'durbars' or meetings of traditional rulers and their peoples as forums for delivering messages to, and eliciting the support of, the people. In the periods of prohibited 'party politics', traditional rulers replaced regional and local party bosses as agents of politicization and for securing legitimacy for the military or 'revolutionary' regimes. In effect, stool-holding became an alternative means of securing political influence for those unable or unwilling to engage in national party politics: such aspirants have had to match the prestige of the performers in national politics, such as members of parliament.

  • 15 It is widely believed in Ashanti that two or three of the major Asante rulers have very weak claims (...)
  • 16 1 was told that in one town in the Kumasi traditional area, the contestants paid ȼ1.2 ($500 in curr (...)

36Table 4.1 shows the level of education and savoir faire and the variety of employment of the major stool occupants in the Ashanti Region. The present Ashanti Region covers roughly the area of the old Asante Union, which since 1699 has been under the headship of the Asantehene. Table 4.1 shows that stool occupants are becoming increasingly educated, and that, in the contest for stools, the highly educated invariably win; sometimes the winners have rather tenuous claims to the stools.15 In 1943, only the then Asantehene and Esumegyahene were literate to the elementary school level. The table also shows that nearly all the major stool holders are successful professionals who also command considerable resources. The biographical data that form the basis of the table show that many of them are engaged in other businesses than stool-holding, now scarcely regarded as full-time occupation, so that they need not depend on 'stool revenues' for their upkeep. Indeed, modern stool electors or 'kingmakers' prefer affluent candidates who, even in clear cases of rightful claims, are expected to make heavy payments for various purposes.16 The heaviest givers succeed in securing the stool. In sum, kingmakers exploit the keen competition for stools to make money for themselves while apparently preserving the framework of legitimacy. It is extremely doubtful that the possession of 'blue blood', without professional qualifications or wealth, is sufficient to enable one to obtain a major stool. And there is increasing evidence that where there is wealth a clan membership rather than the membership of a localized lineage may be accepted as a qualification for a major stool.

  • 17 Busia 1951: 211 quotes the Asantehene Osei Agyeman Prempeh II as saying: 'It is a disgrace for any (...)
  • 18 On the Asante lineage and its sub-divisions see Fortes 1950: 252-84.

37Having noticed the growing significance of education as a qualification for stool occupancy, it appeared to me that the members of the stoolowing lineages would respond to the growing trend by showing collective interest in giving maximum education to potential successors, so that stool or public revenues would be used for the purpose:17 in the 1940s, the Ashanti Confederacy Council imposed levies throughout Ashanti for the purpose of raising funds for scholarships for secondary and university education for Ashanti students. But when asked about the education of their young royals, a senior member of the Asante royal family denied collective interest in the education of the younger generation; he stated that the education of children was the exclusive responsibility of the child's father or real, not classificatory, mother's brother. It became clear that, since, traditionally, competition for stool occupancy was between segments of the stool-owing localized lineage,18 which, as stated above, led to what Goody calls 'circulating succession' between segments, members of such segments would not collectively but severally seek education for their young members. Detailed investigation would show that the most successful competitors for stools are those whose fathers or mothers' brothers gave them high education.

38There is also evidence of growing segmentation within royal matrilineages in the area of corporate rights in property and stool revenues. In the more economically important cities and towns, including Kumasi, members of the royal lineages are given plots of building land. But the wealth accrued from stool revenues, such as from building plots, tends to be expended on members of the stool occupants' minimal segments or their own children. I have heard complaints in several state capitals about the increasing impoverishment of royals belonging to segments other than those of past or present stool occupants. This, in part, explains the present intense conflicts and drawn-out disputes over succession to stools in the Akan area. These conflicts are essentially over the actual and potential wealth incidental to stool occupancy.

39It facilitates the trend towards what may be called the auctioning of the rights of stool occupancy that voting has nearly replaced consensus-seeking in the making of power-holders. In situations of dispute with the female ruler, representing the royal lineage, or among the kingmakers, the latter resolve the matter by majority decisions. The resolution of disputes by voting has usually been followed by litigation at the judicial committees of the Regional and National Houses of Chiefs and the Supreme Court. These are the bodies authorized by the 1969, 1979 and 1992 Constitutions of Ghana to resolve chieftaincy disputes.

Conclusion

40It has been argued in this paper that the flexibility of Akan rules of succession has enabled present-day selectors of their rulers to adapt their selections to the demands of the changing roles of traditional rulers. The selection of the members of the modern Ghanaian elite as traditional rulers is, perhaps, a continuation of the original Akan tradition of choosing those the state drummer calls 'men among men' or abrempong, men of enterprise, as fit to rule. But, clearly, the basis of the right to rule is undergoing transformation from the membership of a royal family to the possession of elitist qualifications. It is quite probable that, in the not very distant future, royal lineages without members with elitist qualifications will lose their rights of succession to those with affluent and educated members pretending clanship ties with the legitimate heirs.

Notes

1 I am grateful to Nana Asante, Registrar of the Ashanti Regional House of Chiefs, for the biographical data used for the construction of the summary table on the careers of the present major Asante traditional rulers.

2 'Stools' and 'skins' are the physical symbols of traditional political office in the forest and savannah areas of Ghana respectively. The king of Asante (Anglicized as Ashanti), Asantehene, is said to sit on the Golden Stool, sika kokoo, signifying his incomparable wealth.

3 An area within the jurisdiction of a traditional paramount ruler, oman hene, that is, one who does not owe customary allegiance to another traditional ruler, is known to the Constitution of Ghana as 'traditional area', meaning 'state'. Such an area is normally divided into divisions headed by ahene, usually translated as 'chiefs'. I have tried to avoid the word 'chief because it does not convey adequately the indigenous ideas about rulers.

4 There is considerable literature on Akan political organization; the basic texts are: Sarbah 1897, 1906; Rattray 1927; Busia 1951. For an early account, see Bosnian 1705.

5 The electors, known currently in Ghana as kingmakers, normally consist of the most important of his subordinates, abrempon (sing, obrempon), who compose his council.

6 Known as the 'blackened' stool, usually kept in the stool room or stool chapel, nkonuafieso, and 'fed' and 'served' drinks during the forty-day Adae ceremony: see Rattray 1927.

7 Busia 1951: 211-17; also Ashanti Confederacy Council (ACC) Minutes 14 June 1935, in particular the Adontinhene's contribution; and the Minutes of the ACC for 13 June 1935

8 Rattray 1929a and 1929b; Wilks 1975,1989: 414-76; McCaskie 1995: 27, 37-73, 1980: 189-208; Yarak 1990: 279-87

9 Baffour Osei Akoto, a senior counsellor, okyeame, of the Asantehene, told me of this meaning of obi, othewise understood as 'somebody'.

10 On the remuneration of court officials, see Wilks 1989; McCaskie 1980.

11 See Sarbah 1897, 1906; Arhin 1992.

12 Arhin 1991: Busia summarized his findings on the weakened position of the traditional ruler as follows:
The more fundamental causes of destoolment have been indicated in this and previous chapters: the rivalry among royals; the confused state of custom in a society in transition from a subsistence to an exchange economy; lack of defmiteness about the chief's functions: his loss of economic resources: the emergence of the educated commoner or the successful cocoa farmer: the presence of a superior authority. These and the other changes discussed have destroyed the correlation between the chiefs political power, religious authoirty, economic privilege and military strength, with consequent decline in his prestige and authority.

13 See a review of the Report of the Watson Commission set up by the Government of the Gold Coast to enquire into disturbances in the Gold Coast Colony in Arhin 1991.

14 The periods of the military regimes in Ghana were: 1966-1969, 1972-1979, 1981-1992.

15 It is widely believed in Ashanti that two or three of the major Asante rulers have very weak claims to their stools.

16 1 was told that in one town in the Kumasi traditional area, the contestants paid ȼ1.2 ($500 in current value) ȼ1.3 and ȼ1.5 million respectively and that the candidate who paid ȼ1.5 million won the stool; see Busia 1951: 112-16 on discussions by the Asante rulers on the matter.

17 Busia 1951: 211 quotes the Asantehene Osei Agyeman Prempeh II as saying: 'It is a disgrace for any chief not to train his nephews who will succeed him in future. The practice of offering and accepting bribes in connection with the enstoolment and destoolment of chiefs is very bad and should be stopped.'

18 On the Asante lineage and its sub-divisions see Fortes 1950: 252-84.

Table des illustrations

Titre Table 4.1: Summary of the Qualifications and Careers of the Asantehene and Asante Amanhene
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Légende a. Nana Oduro Numapau is also an oil palm grower, and a former Deputy Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Ghana.b. Nana Otuo Sereboe II is perhaps the most enterprising Asante Omanhene. He has been a block-maker; and he nurses oil-pam seedlings for sale to his people in order to encourage agricultural diversification among them. He recently won the National Award for small-scale industries.c. The Akyempim stool is reserved to the sons of Asante Kings, and, since they belong to their mothers' clans, the stool cannot be said to be 'owned' by any particular clan.
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Auteur

(Kwame Arhin) (Ph.D. London, D.Litt. Oxford) is Chairman of the National Commision on Culture of Ghana and was formerly Professor and Director at the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Legon. His areas of academic interest are the History of Asante and the transformations in African political and social institutions. Among his publications are Traditional Rule in Ghana: Past and Present (Accra, 1985) and The City of Kumasi Handbook (Cambridge, 1992).

© Etnográfica Press, 2000

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