This study is concerned with examining, investigating and assessing
the nature and significance of the protest and resistance of both urban
and rural Africans in Southern Ghana, or what used to be called the Gold
Coast Colony, to the British colonial policy of Indirect Rule during the
second quarter of this century.
It has been argued that there were various factors which frustrated
and made it impossible to establish a successful system of Indirect Rule
in the Gold Coast Colony, One such factor was that the Akan political
system was characteristically democratic in theory and practice. By
contrast, Indirect Rule was by nature authoritarian and autocratic. In
short, the democratic Akan political system and the autocratic Indirect
Rule system were contradictory and could not possibly co-exist.
Furthermore, in their opposition to the Indirect Rule system, the
African leadership maintained that the chiefs* rights of jurisdiction
were inherent in them by virtue of the position to which they had been
elected by their people and they denied that they were derived from or
exercisable at the will of the Crown. They argued that the Gold Coast
was not conquered or ceded and thus the British Crown could not claim
sovereignty over the chiefs. The result was that British legislation in
the Gold Coast avoided, until 19hh, any explicit commitment to the
absolute sovereignty of the Crown.
In addition, Western education, Christianity, economic growth and
the activities of the press, all tended to weaken the authority of the
chiefs and consequently contributed to the failure of Indirect Rule.
The educated Africans - used here loosely to refer to both the intelli¬
gentsia and the semi-educated "youngraen" - came out strongly against the
Indirect Rule system because, in their opinion, it tended to turn the
balance of political power in favour of the chiefa. The educated
Africans could not accept this as they considered themselves, and not
the chiefs, destined to the political leadership of the country.
It must be stressed, however, that the educated Africans were not
against chieftaincy; their respect for the position of the chiefs as
a representative of the stool was never in question. It was in fact
very misleading in the Gold Coast to speak of "detribalised" or "de¬
nationalised* Africans. Indeed one reason why chieftaincy survived in
Ghana was apparently due to the fact that even the educated elements
showed a great respect for it.
A second reason why chieftaincy survived was that under the customary
constitution the people possessed the power to destool their chiefs. If
the people felt that their chief had defied their wishes and supported
unpopular colonial policies, they would simply destool him. Thus,
fearing destoolment, the chiefs avoided close identification with or
integration into the colonial system.
Finally, some credit must also be given to the chiefs themselves in
preserving the dignity and prestige of chieftaincy. First, some of the
chiefs tried to accommodate themselves with educational and social changes
by seeking to educate themselves and their heir-apparents. Secondly,
some of the chiefs were very prominent in the leadership of the nationalist
Besides investigating the role of the educated Africans, an attempt
has been made in this study to throw new light on the role of the rural
people in the development of Ghanaian nationalism. It has been argued
that the rural people had a long and impressive record of anti-colonial
protest. What Nkrumah did was to exploit this discontent and dissatis¬
faction among the rural people and use it for his cause.
Finally, the study has explained and demonstrated that Africans*
anti-colonial protest, which took different forms, ranging from passive
resistance to "disturbances" and "riots", was organised, forceful and
above all successful. As a result, Indirect Rule policies such as the
Provincial Councils system, the Native Administration Ordinance, direct
taxation, the stool treasuries system, etc., were seriously challenged
and frustrated. In short, as a result of this African anti-colonial
protest, the classic application of Indirect Rule of the type developed
by Lugard in Northern Nigeria was never successfully applied in the
Gold Coast Colony.