Obed Asamoah

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Picture of Dr. Obed Yao Asamoah

Dr. Obed Yao Asamoah (born 1936) is a politician from Ghana. Asamoah is the longest serving foreign minister and Attorney General of Ghana under Jerry Rawlings from 1981 to 1997. Asamoah was educated at King's College London and at Columbia University. He was a lecturer in Law at the University of Ghana. Some of his famous students include Professor John Evans Atta Mills (the former president of Ghana), Tsatsu Tsikata, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, current flag bearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), etc. In 2002, Asamoah replaced Rawlings as head of the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), beating former defense minister Alhaji Iddrisu by just 2 votes. In 2006, he lost his chairmanship position in the party. Not long after the defeat, he later resigned from the party. After accusations of having "stolen" about a 10 thousand cedis (which he had reported lost from his bedroom) in the mid-90s,[citation needed] on August 28, 2006, he and other politicians (most of whom also resigned from the NDC) launched a new political party, the Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) of which he is the life Patron. Despite speculation that Asamoah would run for President in 2008, he declared that he never intended to run for the presidency and would not seek the Presidency but instead work to win victory for his party in that year's national elections.[citation needed]. In October 2011, Dr. Obed Asamoah and his Democratic Freedom Party (DFP) re-joins the National Democratic Congress (NDC)which he helped form. He described as "wasteful thinking", suggestions that the DFP merged with the NDC because of ministerial appointment offers. He said the decision by the party to re-unite with the NDC is purely based on the growing internal democracy within the NDC.

Early life and education[edit]

He was born the tenth child of William Kofi Asamoah and Monica Akosua Asamoah, farmers of Bala in the Likpe Traditional Area of the Volta Region of Ghana on 6 February 1936. The Volta Region comprises part of the Gold Coast and British Togoland, with the latter being part of the German territory of Togo, administered first under the League of Nations as a mandated territory and subsequently under the Charter of the United Nations as a trust territory. Germany lost Togo at the end of World War I; the traditional Traditional Area fell under the British administration. His mother, was the second wife of his father following the death of his first wife, who bore him two girls. His mother was married young after being spirited out of Ejisu in Ashanti. She was the daughter of an Ejisu chief who married a woman taken from Likpe during the Ashanti invasions of the Volta Region. Her relatives now inhabit Donoaso in Ejisu, whose chief today is Nana Okyere Baffour II and a relation of his. The Ejisu family are descendants of Yaa Asantewa. Obed Asamoah's family connection with Ejisu continues in exchanges of visits and attendance at funerals by both sides.

This connection would give rise to misinterpretations of his political alliances and sympathies. For example, it fuelled speculation after the 1969 elections that he had defected to the Progress Party, led by Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busiawhich won massively in Ashanti and other Akan areas of Ghana. He had, however, won a seat in the Volta Region on the ticket of the National Alliance of Liberals (NAL), led by Komla Agbeli Gbedemah, a veteran associate of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. The speculation was undoubtedly fuelled by some suggestions in the press that, given the Akan-versus-Ewe schism demonstrated by the results of the elections, it was advisable for Dr. Busia to appoint him to his cabinet. Even now he is often labelled a Danquah-Busia offshoot. Admittedly, this is also founded on the fact that he was the General Secretary of the United National Convention (UNC), led by a veteran Danquah-Busia politician, Mr. William Ofori Atta (Paa Willie), and subsequently the General Secretary of the All People’s Party (APP), formed by the merger of the UNC with the Popular Front Party (PFP) in 1981, under the leadership of Mr. Victor Owusu, another Danquah-Busia stalwart.

He was argumentative and active in childhood teenage years. Everyone said he had to be a lawyer, and he looked forward to being one. On one occasion when elders of the village had to settle a dispute between his father and the owner of an adjoining land who had uprooted plants demarcating boundaries in an effort to trespass onto their land, the arbitrators planned to otherwise demarcate the portion of the boundary where the plants had been uprooted, but I suggested that they should go over the entire boundary in case the neighbour intended to uproot some more. The elders congratulated him for making a clever suggestion that would forestall similar disputes in the future. He was celebrated as a budding lawyer. Later, he also ruled against his mother in a dispute between her and one of his father’s two daughters by his father's first wife. His mother expected partisanship from him, but she did not get it. His fairness was appreciated, although certainly not by his mother.

His interest in law was preceded by an interest in medicine when I fell into a fire as a boy.

His childhood inclination for law eventually won the race and he became a lawyer. When he was a student at Columbia Law School, he developed a friendship with one Reginald Bannerman, who, together with Justice Bruce-Lyle and him, later formed the legal partnership of Bruce-Lyle, Bannerman, and Asamoah, Attorneys. When he resigned from the University of Ghana in 1969, he worked as a partner in this firm until he was appointed a Secretary (Minister) in the Rawlings government in 1982. His legal association with Reginald Bannerman started when they were both pupils in the law chambers of Edward Akufo-Addo, a renowned lawyer,on his return from England in 1960. Edward Akufo-Addo was later to become the Chief Justice in the latter part of the First Republic and President of Ghana in the Second Republic.

Under the guidance of his elder brother, he passed the Common Entrance Examination in 1949. Then, he had to undergo an interview process with the officials of the secondary school along with the other pupils from the Volta Region seeking admission. This was held in Ho on the campus of Mawuli School.

It was there that I met my lifelong friend Capt. Kojo Tsikata, who had also arrived for the interview, from Keta. When the results of the interviews were released, he found that he had gained admission to Achimota School, and so had Kojo Tsikata.

It was during his secondary school years that his eyes opened to the political world. At the time, there was a local dispute over the Likpe Traditional Area joining the Atando Native Authority, with headquarters at Hohoe. His father and the chief of his village, whom his father served as the chief linguist, supported association with the Native Authority. The disagreement within the Traditional Area nearly degenerated into a war. This issue was linked to the conflict between the Togoland Congress, which advocated the reunification of British and French Togoland, and the Convention People’s Party (CPP), led by Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, which favoured unification of British Togoland with the Gold Coast prior to the attainment of independence. Those in our Traditional Area who supported the CPP also opposed the Atando Native Authority.

He took the O' level Latin in 1955 and proceeded to Britain in 1956 to complete the sixth form at Woolwich Polytechnic before going on admission to King’s College, London University. He also enrolled at the Middle Temple Inn of Court for the professional qualification. While at the university, he also became a member of the Middle Temple Inn of Court. Three years went by soon enough, and he graduated, took the Bar examinations, and passed. He obtained his LL.M and J.S.D at Columbia University in New York and his JSD thesis was on the The Legal Significance of the Declarations of the General Assembly of the United Nations.[1]

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Political offices
Preceded by
Dr. Isaac K. Chinebuah
Foreign Minister
1982 – 1997
Succeeded by
Kwamena Ahwoi
Preceded by
G.E.K. Aikins
Attorney General and Minister for Justice
1993 – 2001
Succeeded by
Nana Akufo-Addo
Party political offices
New title Leader of Democratic Freedom Party
2006 – present
Incumbent