Meet Ghana’s first white traditional chief

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Born in Shrewsbury, Nana Kofi Onyaase, was the first white traditional chief of the Gold Coast after his contract with the British colonial administration ran out.

Born Jimmy Moxon, he won the country’s admiration as a British servant when he advised local farmers to switch to the cultivation of food crops from cocoa, this saved a lot of people during the Second World War.

Kwame Nkrumah’s government kept him on at the information Ministries. Later, he was given a contract to assist the Volta River Authority (VRA) with publicity about the construction of the Akosombo Dam.

He served as a District Commissioner in various Gold Coast stations, including Dodowa, Aburi, Kpandu and Accra, at a time when the “DC” was the local potentate, and many – arrogant and insensitive – were hated by local communities.

The king of Aburi offered to make Moxon a noble. He made him the Onyaasahene and Ankobea of Aburi.

The “white nana” carried out his functions seriously and respectfully. He settled disputes, sat on the royal council and coached a soccer team.

To him, rural administration was an opportunity – which he grabbed with both hands to immerse himself in native tradition and customs. This served him well when he came across Ghanaian politicians.

Moxon got the second-highest-ranking Order of the British Empire (OBE) award in the year of Ghana’s independence.

Jimmy Moxon died in 1999 aged 79; at that point, he was Ghana’s Director of Information Services.

A shrine has been placed in the silk cotton tree that gave him his tribal name; Nana Kofi Onyaase.

 

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