DWABEN is a place in Asante with a most fascinating history.
As one of the original amantoᴐ of Asante, it bears the name of both a state and its capital.
Dwaben is also revered by all who know the internal politics of the traditional ruling system of Asante, because its ruling house is drawn from the same Oyoko abusua (clan), as Otumfoᴐ the Asantehene.
This suggests that no insoluble problem can ever exist between Kumase and Dwaben. But there is a proverb which points out, sarcastically, that “abusua yɛ dᴐm!” (a clan is a large army!: i.e. “a clan contains persons of many different characters!”
Yes – so fortuitous are the ironies of history that the Asante Nation suffered perhaps its most serious internal “rebellion” when a dispute arose between the Asantehene and the Dwabenhene over sovereignty issues. The crisis led twice to the migration of a large chunk of the people of Dwaben from their homes, following an attempt by Kumase to quell the “rebellions”.
The fleeing Dwaben people were welcomed by the King of Akyem Abuakwa, who settled them in new towns on his land. The new townships were formed around today’s city of Koforidua, which assumed the name of “New Juaben.” Settlements near Koforidua also retained their old Asante names; hence we have, in the Eastern Region, such towns as Asᴐkᴐre, Afigyaase and so on, which have their counterparts in Asante.
Of course, it is not pleasant to recall disputes that occurred ages ago, and therefore, one would have thought that historians – who are the repository of knowledge about past events – would, of all people, be the least favourite scholars in the eyes of the inhabitants of places that possess a “controversial” history.
But the current ruler of Dwaben, Nana Otuo Sreboᴐ The Second, (I provide, here, a spelling of the name that accords with its pronunciation; it usually appears in documents written in English as “Siriboe”) appears to recognise that whereas the outbreak of disputes can bring bitterness, so also can the settlement of such disputes bring the joy of reconciliation!
Actually, history has put him in a particularly happy position, for whilst he rules Dwaben in Asante, his brother also rules as Paramount Chief at Koforidua, in the Eastern Region: (Omanhene of New Juaben) – a situation that is due entirely to the vagaries of history.
Now, whether consciously or not, Nana Otuo Sreboᴐ admires scholarship (he’s, in fact, a graduate in electrical engineering at the University of Science and Technology, Kumase.) So he and his elders have decided to honour Ghana’s foremost historian, the late Professor Albert Adu Boahen, by naming the most prominent “Square” in Dwaben town after him!
And – wait for it – they have invited no less a person than His Excellency the President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to commission the “ADU BOAHEN SQUARE “ at Dwaben town, today, 17 August 2021.
Professor Adu Boahen deserves the honour a thousand times, for he has personal roots at Dwaben, although he was born at Osiem, in Akyem Abuakwa. Apart from his elucidating and authoritative reinterpretation, in his books, of the historical relationship between African countries and the European imperialists (for instance) he was the man who exhibited great public-spiritedness by entering the arena of Ghanaian politics and fearlessly breaking “the culture of silence” that prevailed when our nation was under the rule of a military dictatorship headed by Flight-Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings.
Prof Adu Boahen not only gave a series of lectures (later published as The Ghanaian Sphinx: The Contemporary History of Ghana 1972-1987) laying the blame for the “culture of silence” squarely at the feet of the Rawlings regime (when Rawlings would much rather have placed the blame on the populace!) but, by doing so, he also departed from the norm expected of the “other-worldly” intellectual, who is supposed not to enter into active politics but to carry out his work in a maze of abstractions.
Adu Boahen broke the pattern to ask the electorate to vote to choose him as President, over the feared Jerry Rawlings! Most of his well-wishers thought he was doing something “foolhardy” by standing against Rawlings, and some actually expected him to lose his life in the process. He didn’t listen, however, and campaigned vigorously stood against Rawlings – to the amazement of many Ghanaians who only think of what has become known as “stomach politics”!
Admittedly, it was a very risky thing to do, since Rawlings and his supporters held all the cards – they were in charge of a ruthless military machine that had a monopoly over the use of force in the country, and which, also, maintained unfettered control over the use of the country’s financial resources.
As expected, the odds were too great for Adu Boahen to overcome, and he lost the presidential election of 1992 to Rawlings. But his supporters did not withdraw into their shell after the electoral defeat. On the contrary, they bravely exposed the electoral malpractices they said had been carried out on behalf of Rawlings, by publishing a booklet entitled “The Stolen Verdict”.
This booklet will eternally provide details of the dirty tactics and practices that can be utilised to win power, by a party that does not really believe in allowing the people to have their say in who rules them. In any case, the document opened the eyes of Adu Boahen’s own party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), and it guided them to reverse their fortunes and win the election that brought them to power in 2000.
So, it must be regarded as apposite that the people of Dwaben have invited President Nana Akufo-Addo to commission the ADU BOAHEN SQUARE, because , of course, Nana Akufo-Addo was the Campaign Manager of Professor Adu Boahen during the 1992 campaign, and therefore faced the same grave dangers as Prof. Boahen did, if not more.
Isn’t it remarkably educational that a town like Dwaben, whose name immediately takes one’s mind back to a vexatious history, should be one of the few towns in Ghana to recognise the value of true scholarship to such an extent as to name a public square – not after someone with bags of money, but someone with a mind immensely enriched by history – and who was not chary of relating unpalatable historical truths in his books?
That fact is also not an accident. For the Omanhene of Dwabeng, Nana Otuo Sreboᴐ The Second, is an unusual chief. He’s a graduate in electrical engineering of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumase. That background also, no doubt, explains the fact that he is the Chairman of the Council of State.
Do electrical engineers always value historians? That may form the subject of an academic thesis! What is not in doubt is that this particular electrical engineer obviously does! It is his appreciation of the world of learning – outside of circuit diagrams and magnetic fields, and which has earned him the friendship of the foremost historian currently alive, Prof. Addo Fening – that will be symbolised by the commissioning of the ADU BOAHEN SQUARE in his capital today!
May more events marking the appreciation of excellence in scholarship in Mother Ghana, follow in the wake of the magnificent example set by Dwaben. Of course, this will not happen unless our men of influence cultivate warm relationships with our scholars.
By: Cameron Duodu