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Naa Dode Akabi: The Guan woman who became the first female ‘king’ of the Ga state and was buried alive



Based on multiple accounts of her life and rule, it is safe to say that Naa Dode Akabi, the ‘king’ that ruled the Ga state for over 25 years, between 1610 and 1635 was a figure that divided opinions, not only among the people she ruled but even historians who made efforts to chronicle her story.

There is a faction of historians who paint the story of her being an unpopular, tyrannical and autocratic woman who forced her way onto the powerful seat of ‘king’ of the Ga State.

There is also the faction, which forms the majority, who writes the story of her life and reign to reflect how she broke the glass ceiling to become the first non-male, non-Ga and non-priest leader of the Ga people.

However, there is a convergence for both schools of thought. Both sets of historians have an appreciation of her as a great leader who masterfully combined indigenous Ga rulership methods and European style to effectively rule the Ga people for nearly three decades.

Her reign, as has been reported, was anchored on powerful legislations which were geared at empowering women and also moving the Ga state from a theocracy to a law-based one.

How did she become a Ga chief

The interesting thing about Naa Dode Akabi is that she was not a Ga in the first place. She was a Guan and a princess of the Awutu people. Her association with the Ga state was a result of her marriage to a powerful Ga chief known as Mampong Okai.

It is reported that she ably supported her husband under whose reign the Ga state witnessed a significant rise along the coastal areas through the annexation of smaller states during wars and playing middlemen in the gold trade between Europeans and Africans from non-coastal areas.

When her husband, Nii Okai died in 1610, custom required their firstborn, Okaikoi, to become the king but he was deemed to be too young to fill the vacuum left by his father.

Determined not to allow the kingship title leave her family, Nana Dode took the decision to become regent of the Ga State until her son came of age.

How did she rule

Since her ascension to the throne was a shift from the norm, Naa Dode had to do things differently to entrench her stay and make herself a powerful king.

Owing to the fact that she was a woman and could not become a Wulomei, which was the major requirement in becoming a King in the theocratic Ga State, Naa Dode had to rule with extremely stringent rules that kept her state together.

Since she could not derive powers from the gods, Naa Dode is known to have instituted one of the most unforgiving punishments for rule-breakers in the Ga state. Among the punishments for law-breakers, were self-exile, death, sending men to hunt wild animals without accoutrements, fines, among others.

Another distinctive feature of her rule is that, unlike previous practise where stools which were taken to war, were done without anyone sitting on it as the stools represented the presence and power of the deities, Naa Dode led her people into wars by sitting on the stool. It is believed that the concept of sitting on a stool came from this. She is generally believed to have introduced much display of jewellery and colourful attire into the institution of chieftaincy.

She continued the expansion strategy of her husband and won a number of wars which made the Ga State huge and powerful along the coastal areas of ancient Ghana.

How did she die

Naa Dode is said to have been buried alive after falling into a pit which she asked to be dug for persons who broke her strict rules.




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