Have you heard of the Gold Coast Aborigines’ Rights Protection Society?
It was an African association critical of colonial rule, formed in 1897 in the former Gold Coast, as Ghana was then known. Originally established by traditional leaders and the educated elite to protest the Crown Lands Bill of 1896 and the Lands Bill of 1897, which threatened traditional land tenure, the Gold Coast ARPS became the main political organisation that led organised and sustained opposition against the colonial government in the Gold Coast, laying the foundation for political action that would ultimately lead to Ghanaian independence.
The well-known people among these group were, J.W. de Graft-Johnson, J. P. Brown, J. E. Casely Hayford, and John Mensah Sarbah. But one person among these men was the bane of them being able to even travel to Britain to protest against this Bill but unfortunately, little is known about him.
He was in the person of Jacob Wilson Sey, the first real architect and financier towards Ghana`s independence.
He was the first Gold Coast (Ghana) millionaire, without him and the efforts of his colleagues, the British would have passed a Bill that would have made West Africa their property.
There were many great people who were the honour and leaders of their generations but who died unsung and their memories forgotten by posterity, so is that of Mr. Jacob Wilson-Sey, popularly known by his nick-name “Kwaa Bonyi”.
This nick-name he earned from his light hearted jokes which made many people consider him merely as a joker who should not be taken seriously. These people nicknamed him “Kwaa Aboan’nyi” which literally meant – there is Kwaw the ‘joker’. Wilson Sey of Anomabo, in Gold Coast now Ghana was one person who gave his all for his country and yet has not been properly rewarded. He was the first Gold Coast millionaire! His singular act of financing Gold Coast deputation to England to debate the Land Bill of 1897 saved the entire West African coast from their land being ceased as the Queen`s property.
Jacob was a co-founder and the first President of the Aborigine Rights Protection Society, which was bent on opposing the Lands Bill of 1897.
In this connection, Jacob led a deputation to present a petition to Queen Victoria in England and was received at No. 10 Downing Street to parlay with the Right Hon. Joseph Chamberlain, Secretary of State for the Colonies on behalf of the kings, chiefs and the people of the Gold Coast on the abrogation of the notorious Land Bill of 1897 which had appeared in the Government’s Gazette extraordinary No.8 dated 10th March 1897. The only two unofficial Gold Coast members in the Legislative Council at that time were helpless in blocking its passage.
The petition was signed by 15 kings made up of: Amonoo IV, King of Anomabu; Otu IV, King of Abura; Kwame Essandoh IV, King of Nkusukum; Badu Bonsa, King of Ahanta; Hima Denkyi, King Atta, King of Behin – Western Appolonia; Wiraku Atobura, King of Western Wassaw; Kwesi Ble, King of Atoabu, Eastern Appolonia; Nkwantabisa, King of Denkyira; Akyin II, King of Ekumfi; Kobina Kondua, King of Elmina; Kobina Hamah, King of Adjumaku and over 64 Chiefs from the western and Central provinces.
With the legal help of Edward F. Hunt, a solicitor from Sierra Leone who was assisted by a leading London firm of legal practitioners – Messrs Ashurst, Crips Co. and Mr. Corrie, Barrister at Law, the deputation consisting of Jacob Wilson-Sey (leader), Thomas Freeman, Edward Jones and George Hughes (both merchants at Cape Coast) succeeded in their mission.
They returned to the Gold Coast with a letter from Queen Victoria abrogating the Land’s Bill and a gift of her bust. This was later mounted on a plot of land near the sea which later came to be known as Victoria Park for durbars and other state functions. The bust was unveiled in 1925 by Princess Anne, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. (H/T Trip Down Memory Lane)