Here is a sample essay on the features of the pre-colonial Akan political system.
Long before the coming of the Europeans to West Africa, and the beginning of colonial rule, there were numerous states with well-organized political structures.
The Akan states in Ghana, for example, included Denkyira, Akwamu, Bono and Asante.
In this essay, I will discuss the essential features and structure of a typical pre-colonial Akan political system. I will use the Asante Kingdom as my main example.
1. The Paramount Chief
At the centre of Asante political structure was the institution of chieftaincy.
The paramount chief (Omanhene) was the most powerful political figure. He was the custodian of the ancestral stool which was the symbol of unity and continuity .
Once enstooled, the paramount chief performed legislative executive, judicial, military and religious functions.
2. Council of Elders
Another important feature of the pre-colonial Akan political system was the council of elders.
According to one colonial administrator, Rattray, every action and command of the chief would have been discussed in private and agreed upon by his councilors.
Thus a chief could not function on his own except with the support of his council of elders
3. The Queen Mother
The next feature of the Akan pre-colonial political system was the office of Queen mother.
She was a store of knowledge regarding ancient custom and power and her political judgment was considered as being sound sound.
The Queen Mother in the Akan political system played a pivotal role, alongside the Council of Elders, in the selection of a new chief.
In addition, she was consulted on vital issues concerning the state. She also supervised all matters related to morality of citizens especially those concerning women and girls.
4. Divisional Chiefs
The Akan political organization had room for divisional and sub-chiefs: Benkumhene, Nifahene, Adontenhene and Kyidomhene.
Apart from collecting taxes on behalf of the Paramount Chief, the divisional were put in charge of the state’s armed forces.
The Nifahene and the Benkumhene were respectively in charge of the Right Wing and the Left Wing. The Adontenehene and Kyidomhene were in charge of the Reconnaissance Forces and the Rear Guard respectively.
5. The State Linguist
Linguists were the other office holders in the Akan political set-up. They had the singular duty of being the link between the Chief and all visitors.
Anyone who wanted to seek audience with the Chief had to see them first. The Chief usually addressed his audience through the State Linguist.
In addition to being the Chief’s spokesman, the linguist (okyeame) was also the chief’s confidant and counselor.
His symbol of office was the Linguist’s Staff which had judicial and political functions.
A linguist was versed in the traditions of the kingdom.
6. The Chief’s Court System
To ensure social justice, each Akan state had a court which was presided over by the traditional ruler.
Sentences of a fine, banishment or even death penalty were meted out to persons found guilty of either criminal or civil offences.
There were both superior and local courts presided over by the paramount chief and sub-chiefs respectively.
7. Asafo Companies
Well-organized youth groups commonly called Asafo Companies performed para-military functions.
Primarily, the Asafo was a warrior organization of the common people or the youth. It arose out of national crises when, in the face of external aggression, the people had to come together and organize themselves into a fighting force to defend the state.
Through them, the commoners became an effective political force. They could make certain the removal from office of the traditional ruler provided they were united against him.
Besides, the Asafo companies performed a number of social functions, including road work, sanitation and other duties.
8. The Treasury
Each pre-colonial Akan kingdom had a treasury into which revenue from all sources was kept and disbursed. The funds in the state treasury were used for such purposes as military campaigns, development projects and general administrative expenses.