The significance of Ghana’s independence day can be dated back to the Bond of 1844 when eight Fante chiefs surrendered their sovereignty to the British in exchange for protection from the Asantes.
Before the Bond of 1844, the British were one of the foreign occupants of the coast as far as 1553 but merely as traders with no intentions of exercising some forms of authorities over the lands of Gold Coast.
These activities of trade which was mainly in slaves led to the building of forts by the foreign occupants along the coast as first a protective fortress and then some sort of legally claimed territories of the Europeans.
As of 1700, trade activities at the forts had led to the creation of urban settlements mostly due to the lucrative nature of employment opportunities offered in and around the forts. This forced more inland people to move to the south and settled at the coast, providing various employments such as artisans, servants and soldiers.
The migration from the interior to the south had begun to dilute the traditional and the cultural identities of the people of the coasts especially the Fantes.
But that was less concern to the Fantes since the existence of the forts on their lands has made them the middlemen in trade connecting the interiors and the coast.
The Asantes who were the most powerful tribe controlling most of the interior lands were not pleased with the position of the Fantes as middlemen as the Asantes wanted the full benefits from their trades especially in slaves with the Europeans.
This led to the various invasions by the Asante into the Fante territories in the early 1800s beginning with Nana Osei Bonsu the then Asantehene.
The Asantes had successful invasions in the Fante lands and were able to defeat the powerful Fante forces which had been weakened by the introduction of outsiders. The most famous Asante invasion was on May 1806 at Abora, collapsed the Fante armies and the caused disputes among the Fante chiefs forcing them to lose their sovereignty to the Asantes.
The British as at that time like all other European settlers living and trading at the coast did not interfere in the disputes between the natives of the coasts and the Asantes until the conquerers of the coast had begun to force trade restrictions on the British and forcing the occupants of the castles and forts to pay royalties to the to them (Asantes) as they claimed that their conquering of the coast included the forts and the castles.
Another reason the Asantes intensified their control over the coast was the abolishment of the slave trade which meant their only source of income will come from tributaries.
Many attempts by the British (mainly the merchants who occupied the castles and forts) to reduce the Asante’s power over the coast proved futile. They called on the Crown to establish an administration in the Gold Coast to help protect their activities.
The first British to achieve some form of peace was governor Sir Charles MacCarthy, who led activities beyond the forts and gained the trust of the Fante chiefs through some of his judicial prowess among the natives of the coast.
But a much more permanent approached needed to be taken. This led to the introduction of Sir Commander Hills, who informed the House of Commons of the British parliament that he will only assume the position as a governor of the Gold Coast unless he had a full mandate over all the British territories in the land.
He arrived in the Gold Coast in February 1844 and with the help of Sir MacCarthy (who had been made a magistrate) was able to mobilize eight Fante chiefs including those of Denkyira, Anomabu, Cape Coast and Assin to sign a treaty with the British making them overlords and protectors of their lands in an exchange the chiefs were to abolish inhumane activities like human sacrifices and “panyarring”.
The treaty was signed on the 6th March 1844 which was later joined by more chiefs. The Asantes were the only resistance forces but they finally consented to it in 1901 after several failed battles against the British.
Though many African historians and pan-Africanists have criticised the decision of the eight chiefs for surrendering their sovereignty to the British in that manner, it was a decision that was rather vital for the chiefs at that time to protect their lands from the Asantes and also the treaty came with no tax payments which was better than the conditions imposed by their former overlords.
And after 113 years of the signing of the treaty, Dr Kwame Nkrumah and others who gained our independence deemed it wise to choose the same day of the signing of the treaty to reverse the decision taken 113 years ago, leading to the celebration of Ghana’s Independence Day on every 6th March.