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Asante Kings of the Twentieth Century - Otumfuo Opoku Ware II 1970 - 1999

Otumfuo Opoku Ware II, known in private life as Matthew Jacob Kwaku Adusei Poku, was born in Kumasi on 30th November 1919 and became Asantehene in 1970 with the stool name Otumfuo Opoku Ware II, after the death of Prempeh II. He attended Adisadel College in Cape Coast . He became a surveyor and worked as a building inspector with the Kumasi Town Council from 1937 to 1940. He also worked with the Public Works Department and the Royal Airforce as a building draughtsman and surveyor from 1941 to 1943 and later at the Asantehene's land office in Kumasi .

In 1952 he left for the United Kingdom to study law and was called to the Bar at Middle Temple in 1962. In 1968 the National Liberation Council appointed him Commissioner for Transport and Communications. In 1970 he was appointed Ghana 's Ambassador-designate to Italy , but he returned home shortly afterwards because of the death of his uncle Nana Osei Agyeman Prempeh II. On 6th July 1970 he was introduced to the chiefs and people of Asanteman Council at the Manhyia Palace as Asantehene-elect and on 27th July 1970 installed as Otumfuo Opoku Ware II, at the age of 52, the 15th occupant of the Golden Stool.

Otumfuo Opoku Ware II brought chieftaincy into the modem age of the Twentieth Century. He created paramountcies for other Asante tra­ditional areas when he felt it necessary. He created new positions of reward for service and development such as Nkosuohene, or chief of devel­opment, Sompahene, stool for good service, Aboafohene, helper of people, and Dwantoahene, sympathetic chief through whom people could seek help. Otumfuo Opoku Ware II was elected unopposed as president of the National House of Chiefs for four terms of three years each. All cases, which came to him at the National House of Chiefs and to his own Manhyia court, were adjudicated with fairness. Through his instrumen­tality several chieftaincy disputes were settled out of court. He impressed upon other chiefs in Asante not to allow political affiliations to destroy the revered institution they swore to uphold and protect. During his reign, Otumfuo Opoku Ware II projected not only the Golden Stool of Asante but also the institution of chieftaincy in Ghana and exposed it to several parts of the world. There were also important events which portrayed the wealth and glory of Asante . For example the Kingdom of Gold Exhibition in the United Kingdom in 1980 and Asante Kingdom of Gold in the United States of America at the Museum of Natural History in 1986, which were both attended by Otumfuo Opoku Ware II.

One of his other great achievements throughout his twenty-nine years reign was working with governments of different persuasions. In all he dealt with eight different governments, namely the Ankrah's National Liberation Council (NLC), Busia's Progress Party (PP) regime, Acheampong's Supreme Military Council (SMC I) and Akuffo's (SMC II), Rawlings' Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC), Liman's People's National Party (PNP) and the two successive Rawlings' governments of the Provisional National Defence Council (PNDC) and National Democratic Congress (NDC) governments. To have gone through all these unscathed meant that he possessed immense tact and wisdom. Otumfuo Opoku Ware II engaged in extensive international travel, promoting Asante and Ghanaian culture as well as his love for peace and unity. He died at Manhyia in February 1999.

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