5 March 2019
I first posted this article about one of our heroes who is hardly known to many, in 2017, exactly 2 years ago, on the eve of Ghana@60.
Akwamu defeated and ‘’colonized’’ Ga from 1680 to 1730, during which Akwamu reigned supreme along the coast.
Otublohum was established as a sub-state of Ga by Amo (Amu), who was Akwamu’s ambassador to Ga and nephew of the Akwamuhene. Amo’s 1st son was called Darko. This is my paternal genealogy.
An interesting figure during this period was a warlord called Asemeni, whose reputation for regular slave raids, business and negotiations was almost legendary.
Due to the slaves provided to European traders, Asemeni developed a good business relationship with the Danes (owners of the Osu Castle in the mid to late17th Century), from whom he bought his guns.
Shrewd Asemeni saw that just because the Danes occupied the largest Castle and controlled much of the trade on the coast, they were very wealthy.
He decided he was going to topple the Danes, take over the Castle and make money for himself, his militia and the Akwamu Kingdom.
He understood that the dominance of the white man was not because of the colour of his skin but rather his superior fire power.
The day he would get that fire power, he would be the boss. He believed it and hatched a plan to realise it. In 1693, Asemeni arranged to buy guns from the Danes, for which he mobilized about 80 men from his militia.
They all hid bullets under their clothing. In the Castle, once they were led into ‘’gun shop’’, they filled the guns with the hidden bullets and turned them on the Danes who quickly surrendered.
The governor according to one account was killed by Asemeni, whereas on another account he escaped through a widow to a Dutch controlled fort about 2 miles away. Asemeni sent the captured Danes to Akwamu as prisoners of war and servants of Akwamu.
Hoisting his flag over the Castle, Asemeni declared himself Governor and ruled for a year, commandeering trade and becoming very wealthy.
After a year, the Danish government paid a hefty ransom for the release of POW in Akwamu and negotiated a re-purchase of the Castle from Asemeni. He left the Castle a winner. The great lesson is that if you think and act smart, you can dish the same medicine to your oppressor.
A few years ago, I learnt the Danish government wanted to honour Asemeni with a statue or something at the Osu Castle, but the Ga-Dangme wouldn’t allow it, simply for lack of knowledge.
After his exit from the Castle, Asemeni settled in La as a successful businessman and brought wealth to La. The Danes were not happy with his proximity to the Castle, so they negotiated with him again for him to go far away whereupon he went to Ningo and was successful there too.
Still uncomfortable with his proximity, the Danes paid him to leave the coast completely and he returned home to Akwamu in 1703.
There is Akwamu in Otublohum, Asemeni might have left descendants in La and Ningo as well. So, his story is not just that of Akwamu but a Ga-Dangme story too. In fact, it is an African hero’s story – that an unlettered African could outwit a European superpower over 300 years ago is remarkable.
Clearly, Africans are not genetically stupid and we ourselves must believe we are capable of the best.
We should be celebrating Asemeni at our landmark independence commemorations like Ghana@60, but does the President even know of him?
I heard of Asemeni in public school Class 5. I grew up in a Ghana where the surest path to secondary education was the private primary school. History wasn’t a key component of the private school curriculum. At the university level, 90% came from the private system and 10% from the public.
The net outcome is an intellectual class with minimal knowledge of the true history of Ghana. We pontificate about the French, American and Russian revolutions and even Arafat’s intifada, but know nothing about the Asemeni Revolution.
Do you think this country is free and independent? To be truly independent, the content of our education must change very quickly.
The road leading to the Castle from the crossroads and the Independence Arch should be named after Asemeni. In my view, his take-over of the Castle signals the start of our independence movement.
Tswa omanye aba.