NANA SIR OFORI-ATTA I
Nana Sir Ofori-Atta I was educated at the Basel Mission Elementary School at Tosen (Anum) between 1888 and 1893. His father had assumed duty there in 1886 after his ordeal at Asuom. Kwadwo Fredua Agyeman continued his primary school education at Kyebi and Abetifi. In 1894, he was admitted to Begoro Basel Mission Grammar Boarding school (the equivalent of today’s SHS) and became the pride of the school. Young Aaron Emmanuel Boakye Danquah (A.E.B. Danquah) was admitted to the Theological Seminary at Akropong Akuapem in 1898, preparatory to a possible, fuller course in Theology in Germany. He qualified as a “Certificated Teacher” in 1897, but realised he was not cut out for a career in ministry. And by age 18, he had taken up the post of a Solicitor’s Clerk at the office of Lawyer Hutton Mills with the intention of picking up the “elementary principles of the law before proceeding to England to study for the bar.
A.E.B. Danquah left Hutton Mills’s office in 1900 to work at the Correspondence Branch of H.M Customs. Serving as a sergeant in the Gold Coast Volunteer Corps at the start of the Yaa Asantewaa War (1900-01), he accompanied Captain Wilcox as a Non- Commissioned Officer. He obtained employment at the Office of Governor Nathan at the end of the war and accompanied him as his interpreter during his tour of Cape Coast and Sekondi.
After that, he worked briefly with Goldfields of Eastern Akim in 1902 and later with Obuasi Mines in 1903, before joining his sibling, Alexander Eugene Apea Danquah, to work as Joint-Secretary to their Uncle, Okyenhene Amoako Atta II.
Apea Danquah died in 1907, leaving his younger brother as sole secretary. And by 1909, A. E. B. Danquah was being widely touted as “the brain behind the Omanhene’s throne”.
Little wonder that the kingmakers unanimously approved of his nomination and election to succeed Nana Amoako Atta III (Kwaku Sreko), who was destooled on November 26, 1912, after a short reign of twenty-one months.
The new Omanhene adopted the stool (throne) name of Ofori Atta, a name cleverly contrived to honour and perpetuate the memory of Akyem Abuakwa’s two foremost heroes: Nana Ofori Panin who re- established the state as a leading power on the banks of River Birim in the late 17th century; and Nana Amoako Atta I, whose dogged resistance to colonial penetration of Akyem Abuakwa led to his five-year exile in Lagos and eventually to his death in detention on February 2, 1887 in a British prison in Accra.
HIS CONTRIBUTIONS TO EDUCATION
The Okyenhene’s faith in education as a tool for progress was clearly articulated in a memorandum that he sent to the Presbyterian Synod meeting at Kyebi on July 11, 1941, barely two years before his death. He wrote: “I do and shall always emphasise that education should be regarded as one of the foremost duties of the chiefs towards the community; and any chief who fails or neglects his duty can hardly be deemed worthy of his trust.
Four years into his reign (1916), Ofori Atta backed the formation of the Abuakwa Scholars’ Union.
The Abuakwa Scholars’ Union, of which J.B. Danquah was a member, proposed a levy of 10 per cent to be collected “on all proceeds from land alienation … to be set apart for national needs”. The Okyeman Council enthusiastically adopted the proposal, albeit at a lower rate of five per cent. A bank account was opened in the name of Okyeman in 1920. The fund was not sustainable and soon lapsed.
As a member of the Legislative Council, the Okyenhene supported the 1925 Education Ordinance, a brain child of the Educationist Committee on which he served for five years. The Ordinance gave all schools the opportunity to qualify for financial assistance by meeting certain prescribed standards of efficiency.
Between them, the mission schools in Akyem Abuakwa received a total of £4,038.84. The payments intended for the defrayment of teachers’ salaries had the effect of encouraging the missions to open more first cycle schools in remote parts of the colony, in collaboration with the chiefs and their communities.
Female education occupied a lowly place on the Colonial Government’s scale of priorities, and Ofori Atta continually urged Guggisberg to pay attention to it. Though sympathetic, the governor could not oblige owing to a dearth of African female teachers. Consequently, female education continued to lag behind that of boys. By 1927, there was not a “single girl” in the state who had passed Standard VII.
At a durbar for Guggisberg at Kyebi, the Okyenhene described the neglect of female education as a “national disaster”. And at the sitting of the 1927- 28 Select Committee of the Legislative Council, he urged the government not to shirk its responsibility in the matter of female education.