Colossal and Colussus

Nana Yaa Ofori Atta

In the 15 months since he was appointed as the 15th Governor of the Bank of Ghana (BOG), Dr. Ernest Kwamina Yedu Addison, has stared into the abyss and faced down, that what it is his predecessors could not or refused to address.

On Wednesday, August 1, 2018, the Central Bank revoked the licenses of five class A/universal banks:  UniBank, the Royal Bank, the Sovereign Bank, The Construction Bank and BEIGE Bank.  He promptly merged them into a new entity – Consolidated Bank Ghana Limited – under the leadership of an official of KPMG.  Further, Addison has put on notice, that officials of the  5 banks, found to have played fast and loose with regulatory and financial rules, leading to their effective insolvency, will face prosecution.

The 5 Essential Questions and the ‘So What?’

The new Consolidated bank has been capitalised with GHC450 (usd$100) million and issued via bond, with assets of Ghc5.76 billion.  Some analysts say, that ahead of the December 31, 2018 deadline that requires recapitalisation of all banks (up from Ghc100 million to Ghc400 million), months after the BOG revoked the operating licenses of 2 former banks – Capital and UT – Addison, an Economist who has worked with the West African Monetary Union and the African Development Bank, will have to look closer to home. The colossal error some say, is that at a critical moment in recent regulatory history, the BOG went into induced sleep. … the single most commonly spoken language in Ghana …including that which now links Apedwa to Kyebi…. correspondence directly, or by minuting

Basic rules of journalism.  You do not have a story worth publishing/broadcasting until you can answer the ‘How, When, Why, Who, What and Where’.  Addison is an old and known hand at the BOG and he shows  impertinent signs of having the backbone to address uncomfortable questions.  How, why and when were the 7 banks granted licenses to operate in the first place.  What safeguards were in place then and now, if any.  Who was responsible for maintaining forward looking and close marking due diligence of the banking sector.  Ahead of December 31st 2018, when the new recapitalisation comes into effect, where else, will Addison and his powers to revoke fall?

Amantiremanmienu

‘Amantiremanmienu’, translated literally from Twi, the singular most commonly spoken language in Ghana, means ‘he who bestrode two worlds.’

It was in March 1928, that the colonial government of then Gold Coast created Stool Treasuries to provide ‘some small degree of relief for the general revenue of the Government while at the same time enabling the Native States to generate funds for minor works of public utility in their communities’.

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A full 100 years before our Governor Addison began his crusade to right the regulatory wrongs of the past, Nana Ofori Atta, the first western education Okyenhene, became the first Traditional Ruler in the Gold Coast Colony to establish a Stool Treasury in his State. Nana Ofori Atta served from 1912 – 1943.  He died a month, short of his 62nd birthday.

The Gold Coast Man

Okyeman Kanea, is one of the highest honours awarded for merit in the Akyem Abuakwa State.  Professor Robert Yaw Addo Fening, a beneficiary of the Abuakwa Scholars Fund, established by Nana Ofori Atta, is a recipient of this award.  He writes that Ofori Atta moved first and definitively on matters Stool Lands and Treasury, ‘in the expectation that it would obviate the possibility of stool funds being squandered and eliminate on one of the chief causes of destoolment.’

According to Addo-Fening, in 1927, Ofori Atta tabled bye laws under Section 40 of the Native Ordinance Act that provided for the appointment of a State Treasurer answerable to a 14 member Committee presided by the Omanhene and 13 others.  The State Treasurer was required to:

  • collect, receive and disburse properly of the exact amounts of moneys deemed as revenue or expenditure
  • keep accounts supported by necessary vouchers covering tributes, rents, tolls, tithes due to the statesmanship
  • enter into a cash book all items of revenue and expenditure
  • keep a cash register showing the nature and manner of all payments including the names of persons liable to pay and date of payment
  • payment of 5 percent of total oath fines
  • open a bank account for the state to lodge state funds
  • implement a formula for the disbursement of the States income.  Of which, 20 percent from all sources was to be paid into the State Treasury; one third of the balance paid as personal income to the Okyenhene and the remaining two thirds to be shared by sub chiefs and their Elders.

By 1942, when the State Treasury lodged 18,094 British Pounds in its accounts, Nana Ofori Atta had reduced the high incidence of stool debts, guaranteed a reasonable income for himself and his chiefs and embarked on a program of modernisation of Akyem Abuakwa through self help.

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He advocated for, founded and funded from the State Treasury the Kyebi Government Schools, the Kyebi Trade School to provide technical education and the Abuakwa State College.  Long before ‘Planting for Food and Jobs’, Nana Ofori Atta had established model agricultural farms.  From the Treasury he funded the construction of bridges, culverts and roads, including the one that now links Apedwa to Kyebi, constructed originally in 1916, at the cost of 1,500 without subsidy from the colonial government funds.

Nana Ofori Atta was the longest serving African on the Legislative Assembly, member of the Boards of Education (including Achimota College) and Finance.  In 1927, he was the first Traditional Ruler to be awarded a knighthood, received in 1928, from King George V, at Buckingham Palace.

I am Omanhene

It has been a deeply personal and humbling experience reading through my grandfather’s letters. He responded personally, until the very end to correspondence directly or by minuting in green ink to his Secretary.  In spite of or perhaps because of the many honorary titles bestowed on him, this Gold Coast Man, referred to himself as ‘I am Omanhene.’

On Monday, August 20, 2018, under the auspices of Osagyefuo Amotia Ofori Panin, Okyenhene (grandson of Nana Ofori Atta), Okyeman Kanea Addo-Fening will deliver in Accra, the first Memorial Lecture.  It is organised to coincide 75 years to the day that Omanhene went to Banso, the day Nana Ofori Atta died.  Addo-Fening is author of the iconic book, ‘Akyem Abuakwa, 1700 – 1943, From Ofori Panin To Sir Ofori Atta’.  His book will be relaunched by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, another grandson of Nana Ofori Atta.

Nana Ofori Atta had 44 wives, not all at the same time obviously.  The records on his sons and daughters is for now, not complete.  There were more than 100 of them, including Dr. Susan De-Graft Johnson (nee Ofori-Atta), the first female doctor in the Gold Coast, the first Ghanaian woman and the fourth West African to earn a University degree, the third West African woman to become a doctor.  She was awarded for her services in studying malnutrition in children.

A century on, I wonder what the Omanhene then – Amantiremanmineu – ‘he who bestrode two worlds’ would have made of Governor Addison’s clean up today, of the Banking Sector in modern Ghana.

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