Nana Ofori Atta I (October 11, 1881-August 20, 1943), or Aaron Eugene Boakye Danquah, was Omanhene (paramount chief) of Akyem Abuakwa from 1912-1943. During this period, he was one of the most influential chiefs of the Gold Coast.

The son of Emmanuel Boakye Danquah and Akosua Buor Gyankoroma, he was the half-brother of Dr. J.B Danquah (q.v), “the doyen of Gold Coast politicians.” He was educated in Basel Mission schools and at the Basel Mission Theological Seminary at Akuropon in Akuapem, some 30mi (48km) northeast of Accra. He had intended eventually to become a priest but changed his mind. First, he worked as a lawyer’s clerk in the chambers of Thomas Hutton-Mills (q.v), and later became a correspondence clerk in the customs department.

He joined the West African Frontier Force in 1900, serving as a sergeant in the Asante War of 1900-1901 (the Yaa Asantewaa War). He afterwards became a correspondence clerk in the office of the British governor, Major Sir Matthew Nathan (term of office 1900-1904) in Accra before resigning in 1903 to become the secretary of the Omanhene of the Akyem-Abuakwa in which capacity he helped to reorganise the state’s administration.

Boakye Danquah was enstooled in November 1912 as the Omanhene of Akyem-Abuakwa with the stool name of Ofori Atta I. He entered colonial politics when he was nominated a member of the Gold Coast Legislative Council in 1916. He was a good debater and orator, championing the cause of the chiefs and opposing the nationalists of the Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society (A.R.P.S). He also opposed the National Congress of the British West Africa, founded 1917-20 by J.E.Casely Hayford (q.v), and helped Governor Gordon Guggisberg (q.v) to destroy it. He was responsible for the passing of the Native Administration Ordinance of 1927, which established the Provincial Councils of chiefs of the Gold Coast, thus helping the British to carry out their policy of indirect rule, in spite of the opposition of the intelligentsia. From 1928-1943 he served on the legislative council as an elected member for the Akan section of the Eastern Province. He was appointed to the governor’s executive council in October 1942.

He was very influential with all the British governors under whom he served and was a member of several government committees. His interest in education was evident from his service on the Board of Education and on the Achimota College Council. His leaning towards the British made him enemies among the educated classes. But largely through the efforts of K.A Korsah (q.v), he was reconciled to his chief opponent, Casely Hayford and led the elected members of the Legislative Council to press for reform. He was the leader of the Colony and the Asante delegation which went to Britain in 1934 to protest against the Criminal Code Amendment Bill and certain laws passed by the colonial administration.

Nana Sir Ofori Atta - Person - National Portrait Gallery

The treatment he received from the colonial secretary, Sir Phillip Cunliffe-Lister (term of office 1931-1935), later, Lord Swinton made him a Knight of the British Empire (K.B.E) in 1927. He therefore supported the Gold Coast Youth Movement (whose secretary was his half-brother, Dr. J.B. Danquah), the cocoa boycott of 1937-1938, which opposed an attempt by 14 major firms to control prices and the movement for a more democratic constitution which culminated in the Burns Constitution of 1946.

Though Nana Ofori Atta could have used his influence to modernise Akyem-Abuakwa by giving it good water supplies, roads and health services, he spent most of his time on colonial politics. But he paid some attention to his capital, Kyebi 50mi (80km) northwest of Accra, where he founded the Abuakwa State College as the first secondary school in Akyem-Abuakwa. The college was supported by Akyem-Abuakwa but became government assisted after his death. It was headed by three of his sons in succession until the family tradition was broken in the 1960s.

He died at Kyebi in august, 1943.


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