Building a Ghanaian national identity: Lessons from the ancient Asante kingdom

Date published: Friday, 11th March 2016

The Making of the Asante Identity
The identity we have come to know as Asante is a rather modern, by which I mean, relatively new, identity. It emerged between the 17th and early 18th centuries; it did not exist before then. In this, it has something in common with the American identity, which also did not exist until around about late eighteenth century. Before then, there was Virginia and New York and Connecticut and Massachusetts and Maryland and Delaware and New Jersey and the rest of the 13 British colonies on the eastern seaboard of North America. These colonies were related by a common language, geographic contiguity, and, most importantly, a common colonial overlord, the King of England. But each had a separate identity as a colony. It was not until after they had joined together in a war of independence against their common colonizer, and then, subsequently, transformed their triumphant military coalition into a political union bound together by allegiance to a new federal Constitution of the United States of America, that a common American Identity was forged. Hence, its motto “E Pluribus Unum”: Out of Many, One!
Those familiar with the history of the founding of Asante can already see the parallels. There was Kwaman, Dwaben, Mampong, Bekwai, Nsuta, Kokofu, Kumawu, et cetera, before there was an Asante identity. These micro-states were related to one another by a common language, a common neighborhood, and a common overlord, that being the King of Denkyira. But these micro-states were politically separate and autonomous of one another—that is, until they decided to come together, first, in the form of a military coalition or alliance to fight Denkyira. Upon defeating Denkyira, they then agreed to convert their ad hoc military coalition into a political union, their agreement underwritten by allegiance to a constitution symbolized by the Golden Stool. It was at that time that a new collective, federated identity, the Asante identity, was formed. Some historians suggest that the name “Asante” is derived from “osa nti” – because or as a result of war; meaning, it was the imperative of war—specifically, the war of independence against Denkyira—that brought them together to form a nation or common political identity.
It is important to note that, while many of these early states that comprised Asante were related to one another by “blood” or kinship ties, in the sense of belonging to a common clan—most notably, Oyoko—not all were so related. Importantly, Mampon, which became second in the order of precedence under the Asante Constitution, its Silver Stool next in importance only to the Golden Stool and its omanhene the Kontihene of Asante, was from the Bretuo clan, not Oyoko. Assumegya and Kumawu were Aduana, Offinso was Agona, etc. What this tells us is that, while the Oyoko clan predominated in number and came to hold the title to the Golden Stool, the Asante identity, right from the inception, cut across clan or “blood” lines. What mattered, above all, was a common allegiance to Sika Dwa, the Golden Stool. Asante Identity, then, was, from the very beginning, an inclusive identity, not closed or insular.
Indeed, one of the architects of the Asante Union, who, together with Osei Tutu, led and transformed the military alliance into a political union, the famous Komfo Anokye, a.k.a. Kwame Agyei Firempong, was himself originally a native of the distant, then Akwamu-controlled Akuapem, from Awukugwa to be precise. In this regard, Komfo Anokye’s role in the founding of Asante may be likened to the Caribbean-born Alexander Hamilton, who, though not a native of any one of the original 13 colonies, became one of the leading framers and architects of the American Republic and Constitution and, thereafter, General-- and first President--George Washington’s right-hand man. With the founding of the American Republic, Hamilton became the first Treasury Secretary of the United States, laying the foundation for its economic system. Komfo Anokye, too, though a native Akuapem by birth/parentage, joined with Osei Tutu in the war of liberation against Denkyira, became Asante at its founding and, thereafter, lived and died as an Asante—and, not an ordinary one, but as Chief of Agona, Asante. You can call him a “naturalized” Asante. However you describe him, Komfo Anokye’s story does affirm that the Asante identity, as originally constructed, indeed transcended ties of consanguinity.
Historians also teach us that many rebellious Denkyiras joined with the Osei Tutu-led military coalition to defeat their oppressive King, Ntim Gyakari, and subsequently returned with the victorious forces to their home states. They also became Asante. Ivor Wilks indeed reminds us that there are many important stools in Asante to this day, particularly in Kumasi, that trace their origins to Denkyira. The Asante identity, then, is an integrative, absorptive identity, much like the American.
As the Asante nation-building project grew in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, by a combination of conquest and diplomacy—which, by the way, is how all the great nations of the modern world, in Europe and beyond, have been formed--Asante came to absorb, assimilate, and incorporate other pre-existing identity groups. This expansive and integrative process reached far and wide, so that, at its height, Greater Asante, as we have learned, covered a territory larger than present-day Ghana. This process of state expansion and nation-building was brought to an end, and in many cases reversed, only by the intervention of British colonialism and colonial policy.
Historically, too, Asante identity has been remarkably accommodative and welcoming, co-existing freely and harmoniously with other identities and identity communities on Asante soil. This is evidenced in the communities of Fantes, Anlos, and other non-Asante that have long called Kumasi and Asante home. It is how the Fante New Towns and Anlogas of Kumasi came to be. Of particular note is Asante’s historical acceptance, and even co-optation in its royal courts and bureaucracies under many different Asantehene, of Islamic clerics and of the Muslim community, well before Christianity planted a foothold in Asante. All of these communities of identity, whether ethnic or religion based, have found a welcome home in Asante, some going into well over a century.
I would entreat you, as you build this new organization, to learn from the example and story of Asante. In particular, ensure that your organization’s doors are open to all who meet your definition of “professional” (whatever that means) and who come from, live, work, or in some other way choose to feel a part of or have a shared interest in Asante and its development. So, as you draw up your constitution and your membership rules, reflect on the opening remarks of Baffour Manwerehene, when he spoke of the enigma and difficulty of determining just “Who is an Asante” in our contemporary political geography. To that, I would add that, as you devise your rules of membership, ask yourselves whether the rules you settle on would include or exclude Komfo Anokye as a member.
The meaning of Asante for Ghana and its development: The uses and abuses of identity
As Ghana, too, is a state in search of nationhood, trying to build a common Ghanaian identity out of a diversity and multiplicity of sub-national identities, what can we learn, as a country, from the history of the making of Asante and Asante identity? A lot, if we study and take the history seriously.
First, the story of Asante teaches that a national identity is not a given. It is not something that happens accidentally; it is a project that must be pursued; it is something that must be purposefully constructed. The question is how? The Asante nation and the Asante identity did not drop from the sky, although one of its most enduring founding myths—a creation story, so to speak—involves Komfo Anokye’s magical act of conjuring the Golden Stool to descend from the heavens to rest on the lap of Osei Tutu. The Asante identity was created through purposeful and clever statecraft, including through the deployment of myth and unifying symbols—of which the story of the Golden Stool is the most notable.
What are our unifying symbols and creation myths as a country? What and how much purposeful statecraft have we invested into molding the Ghanaian identity? As the story of Asante teaches us, it is not enough, nor indeed is it necessary, to try to suppress or eliminate sub-national identities to make room for a national identity to emerge. Sub-national identities are not inherently antithetical or oppositional to a national identity. New Yorkers or Texans can be—indeed are--proudly New Yorkers and proudly Texan, yet all proudly American. A national identity—a sense of oneness—can be built on the foundation of sub-national identities. It’s a matter of what we do or wish to do with those sub-national identities.
Take our National Anthem, for example. How unifying is it? How does it make us all feel Ghanaian? What about it is Ghanaian? Why must it be rendered in English and in English only? We have had a Ghana Bureau/Institute of Languages for decades. Why can’t we have a national anthem whose lyrics and musical notes or melody are written and translated into and taught in all the major ethno-regional languages of Ghana, so that every Ghanaian living everywhere, whether or not a speaker or reader of English, can sing along in their own native language when the anthem is played? Why have a so-called national anthem that practically excludes about half the population, if not more, because it is written, sang, and taught in a language they do not speak, read, or understand? How is that nation-building?
We must go to Komfo Anokye and Osei Tutu for lessons in statecraft and nation-building, for their stories—and those of many of their successors--have a lot to teach us about How to/How Not to build one nation out of many.
Take the organization of the state, the Asante state. The rise of the political union called Asante did not come at the expense of the existing micro-states that came to constitute Asante. The Dwabens and Kokofus and Bekwais and Mampons and Kumawus were not dismembered or suppressed to make way for Asante. Though part of a political union, they still retained “home rule”, so to speak. Yes, they gained a new identity, Asante, but not by losing their old identities of Mampon and Dwaben and Nsuta and Bekwai and the like. The whole of Asante was not governed by one man sitting in the capital of the Union and issuing directives to be implemented by his appointed agents in different locations and communities across Asanteman. Control over all resources and wealth across all of Asante, notably land, was not centralized in the royal court in Kumasi. Each constituent state chose its own omanhene, though all had to swear allegiance to the Golden Stool—the Constitution.
Again superior statecraft and a good deal of diplomacy went into holding this delicate union together. For example, it had to take clever statecraft—a good deal of foresight and skills in strategic accommodation--for the dominant, mostly Oyoko founding states of the Asante union to cede to Bretuo Mampon, not another Oyoko state, the position as second in precedence and hierarchy within the union after the Asantehene.
Building a common national identity is not a one-time event; it is a continuous process that requires constant negotiation, give-and-take, and accommodation. The constituent units of Asante held together and stayed together because they must have realized that the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. There was synergy to be gained from coming and holding together. Every part had a role to play in the union, had a voice at the table, at the halls of decision-making, and had responsibilities and rewards from membership. It was a mutual-benefit and mutual-aid association, so to speak. That’s what nation-building must be about.
So, going forward, how else might we use or not use Asante identity—or any other identity for that matter—to advance the development of Ghana.
First, the how not. We must not use identity to engage in or pursue a game of zero-sum competition with other identity groups. A zero-sum game is one in which a gain by one sides necessarily means a loss by the other player. It is a game in which the whole does not gain or advance, as the gain by one must come at the expense or detriment of another. Ghana’s multiple sub-national identities must be engaged in positive-sum games, in building synergy, so that all groups benefit, and so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the path we have chosen as a country. Right from the beginning, we have pursued a policy of extreme centralization of power and resources in the national capital city, to a point where the entire country has been governed, by and large, at any given time, by one man located in one office in one city in one little corner of the country—with his directives and wishes carried out across the land by his personally appointed agents. Advocates of this mode of governance argued and believed, at the time of our independence as a country, that it was the best way to unify and develop the country rapidly and evenly under a common leadership and vision.
The result so far has not vindicated the proponents and advocates of this form of political centralism. In place of balanced development, we have reaped lopsided, unbalanced development, centered largely in Accra—or more accurately, in the elite enclaves and neighborhoods of Accra. Vast portions of the country have seen little or no development. Worse still, the distribution of development has come to depend on the political discretion, grace, and preferences of a small Accra-based elite. Nothing good that needs to get done anywhere in Ghana, and nothing bad that needs to get undone, can happen, it appears, without the intervention of the President or one of his agents. The initiative, creativity, and sense of ownership and responsibility that come with local self-government have been stifled. Local populations no longer feel the need to protect our mineral-rich local rivers and forests because they reason, not incorrectly, that those resources do not belong to them and, moreover, are not used for their benefit; they serve the needs of elites and cronies in Accra.
With all power and resources and development centered in and emanating from Accra, our politics have also become predictably Accra-centric. The effect has been to turn our national politics into a zero-sum game in which one or the other coalition of ethno-regional groups competes on the basis of identity against their perceived rival identity groups for control of access to centralized power, resources, and development. Political mobilization of identity for zero-sum competition and the counter-mobilization it necessarily provokes and invites are not the way to build a common national identity and unity. Partisan mobilization and counter-mobilization of identity for the purposes of a zero-sum national political control can only have a centrifugal or divisive effect on our nation-building project—and worse.
The remedy for this growing state of affairs does not lie in episodic and insincere exhortations from central state elites for “unity” and “oneness” among Ghanaians. The remedy to the picture I have painted lies in a serious and credible devolution of power and control over resources and development to local communities and clusters of local communities.
This must begin with the complete democratization of local government, with the election of the mayors of all of our metropolitan and municipal communities. I focus on the metropolitans and municipals because these are local government units of sufficient size and scale that, given commensurate taxing and revenue-raising powers and substantial enough block grants from the national treasury, can chart their own development under the direction of local leaders and administrations that the local communities themselves elect and pay. Currently, under the Constitution, all districts put together, including metropolitan and municipal assemblies, are entitled in a given year—constitutionally that is—to “not less than five percent of the total revenues of Ghana” as their allocation from the State to be used for development. Five percent! In practice, the percentage is usually more, but the important point here is that, constitutionally, 5% is all that our local government units, put together, are entitled to get out of our national revenues for development. Anything beyond that is essentially at the discretion of the Accra-based political class---which, essentially, boils down to the President and his party. This is an insult and needs to change.
Currently, there is an emerging multi-party consensus in favour of electing MMDCEs. But this is far from enough. Along with electing both local assemblies and local political executives, we must (1) increase significantly the revenue-raising and revenue-retention powers and sources of revenue of the local government units; (2) require that the MMCEs and their local administrations be paid and supported by local taxpayers, not from the Consolidated Fund; and (3) substantially increase the percentage of national revenues to which local government units, taken together, are constitutionally entitled. A minimum of 40%, with the percentage increasing progressively, seems reasonable to me. And the balance must be spent by the central government on capital projects throughout the country. In effect, the amount of uncommitted national revenues that is left at the center to be used according to the political preference and discretion of our central state elites must be substantially reduced.
It is important to underscore that, in terms of development and infrastructure, “national development” is merely the sum total of development in the local communities across the country. Thus, a pattern of distribution of development that concentrates development in the national capital city should not be confused with, or equated to, “national” development.
By decongesting, dispersing, and democratizing power and resources and development away from the elite enclaves of Accra and sending these back to our local communities and the Regions, we would stem and diminish the zero-sum identity-based competition for control of power and resources at the centre. Instead, when decisions over the distribution of the “national cake” (as we like to call it) are made at the local level-- because the bulk of national resources and revenues will have been sent back to local communities—“identity politics” will be forced to turn homeward or inward, where it appropriately belongs. In other words, inter-identity politics will be replaced by “intra”-identity politics, as local communities and identity groups hold their own kin responsible and accountable for their development or lack thereof.
One aspect of sub-national identity that the kind of devolution and democratization of power and resources I am proposing will tap into is the enduring strength of “hometownism” among Ghanaians—the very strong bonds of solidarity and community that we feel toward our hometowns. It is that kind of hometown or homeward-centered use of identity that we need, not the one that turns our sights and energies away from home to the center, there to compete in a vicious, zero-sum fashion with other sub-national identity groups and formations for crumbs from the table of our national elites.
This policy also applies at the individual level, in terms of how and where we must invest our resources and talents. That, too, must look homeward. By investing our private capital, including human capital, to help create wealth, markets, and jobs in our respective local communities and home regions, we shall be helping to build sustainable local economies and livelihoods, revive local agriculture and industry, and stem the out-migration of local populations and youth. To the extent that infrastructure often tends to follow population and population density, the increasing outmigration of populations from the rest of the country, including Asante, to Accra and its immediate environs will only go to further under-develop the rest of the country and increase the development gap between our hometowns and Accra. Thus, devolution and local democratization of power and resources must go hand-in-hand with private capital investment in our local economies. Again, there is no national development apart from local development: the “national” is but a sum total of the local. Therefore, we contribute directly to national development when we channel our investments and energies to developing our diverse local communities. To paraphrase a popular slogan of global civil society, we must “THINK NATIONALLY, ACT LOCALLY”.
There are a few more things we need to do, as a country, to turn our diverse identities into an asset, instead of a liability, for national development. Some of these are set forth in the Directive Principles of State Policy contained in Chapter Six of the Constitution. Let’s focus on just a couple.
Article 35, clause (5), says “The State shall actively promote the integration of the peoples of Ghana and prohibit discrimination and prejudice on grounds of place of origin, circumstances of birth, ethnic origin, gender or religion, creed or other beliefs.” This short provision is saying a few important things at the same time. First, it is acknowledging, implicitly, that forging a national identity and unity—“integration of the peoples of Ghana”—requires some active promotion by the State. It requires clever and purposeful statecraft. Second, in coupling this first duty or task with the prohibition of identity- and status-based discrimination and prejudice, the provision is saying to the managers of our State that “you cannot eat your cake and have it”: You cannot profess a commitment to national unity and a common national identity and, at the same time, pursue a policy, practice or project of discrimination and prejudice on the basis of identity, whether ethnic or religious. The managers of our state, our political and bureaucratic elites, must simply practice what they preach.
Clause (6) of the same Article 35 continues: “Toward the achievement of the objectives stated in clause (5) of this article, the State shall take appropriate measures to----(a) foster a spirit of loyalty to Ghana that overrides sectional, ethnic and other loyalties; and (b) achieve reasonable regional and gender balance in recruitment and appointment to public offices. . . . ”
Again, the coupling of (a) with (b) is instructive. If the State is to foster a common national identity that transcends all subnational identities then one of the things our State managers must work to achieve this is “reasonable regional . . . balance in recruitment and appointment to public offices.” The framers of our Constitution understood clearly that fostering a common sense of loyalty to Ghana that transcends subnational identity cannot be achieved by a policy of regionally—and, for that matter, ethnically—skewed recruitment or appointment to public offices. As a public office or job is a valuable source of power, influence, and livelihood, a pattern of recruitment and appointment to the public offices in the land that departs from the principle and policy of “reasonable regional balance” fuels and heightens zero-sum, identity-based political mobilization and counter-mobilization for control of centralized power, the capture of which holds the key to the public offices of the land.
These provisions have been a part of the supreme law of the land since January 1993. Have our successive governments taken measures, as they are commanded to do, to realize any of these constitutional policies and obligations? It is important to note that, the President of the Republic is constitutionally commanded to report each year on all the steps that have been taken or are being taken to meet the objectives spelled out in the Directive Principles of State Policy. In fact, this is a large part of what the State of the Nation Address is supposed to be about. If we wish to avoid the negative and divisive uses of ethnic identity, we must demand and ensure that our State managers act in compliance with the goals set forth in Article 35 of the Directive Principles of Development.
There is also Article 36(2)(d), which obligates the State to undertake “even and balanced development of all regions and every part of each region of Ghana, and, in particular, improving the conditions of life in rural areas, and generally, redressing any imbalance in development between the rural and urban areas.” Is the Ghanaian State, which lays claim by law to exclusive ownership of all natural resources of this land, including mineral and forest resources, all of which are located in rural parts of the country, honoring Article 36(2)(d)?
From what I witnessed the last time I travelled to my home village near Obogu (and when I say near Obogu, I mean Obogu is to the nearest whole number; the real location is about 8 decimal places away) a little over a year ago to bury my eldest sister Yaa Akyaa, as well as from what else I have seen in many travels and road trips across the country, it is obvious that “redressing any imbalance in development between rural and urban areas” is not a goal or policy over which our governments and State managers lose much sleep. As I drove back from my late sister’s funeral, I simply could not come to terms with the fact that a community that had generated and contributed so much cocoa and timber wealth to Ghana for so many decades could be so badly neglected and marginalized. The picture is not different in the rest of the country.
Again, there is a reason why the Framers of our Constitution continue to emphasize the need for equity in the allocation and distribution of public investment not only inter-regionally but also between rural communities (which tend to be more identity-homogenous) and urban communities (which are relatively more identity-diverse). Glaring and persistent spatial disparity in the distribution and allocation of public infrastructure and development, like ethno-regional disparities in staffing of public offices, serves to fuel zero-sum identity-based competition for control of political power in Accra. It is no wonder that our democracy has been reduced to a quadrennial ritual in which communities across the country, essentially, send their ethnic representatives to the national capital; ethnic representatives who, upon getting to Accra, help themselves to the bountiful national resources gathered there, only sending back home to their impoverished constituents and kin pieces of crumbs if they feel charitable.
I will now say a few words about the Council of State. I am a known critic of many of the institutions of the Constitution of the Fourth Republic. The Council of State is one of them. My objection is not with the concept necessarily; it is more with its composition and function. In its current form, I do not believe the Council of State delivers value for money. As an idea, the Council of State was supposed to represent the incorporation into our modern republican form of government of an institution borrowed from our traditional system of government, namely the Council of Elders. Traditional chieftaincy being monarchical, the Council of Elders is designed to inject a measure of local “democratic” consent, input and participation in the chief’s decision-making. The chief is thus enjoined to consult and take decisions on the advice of a council comprising the heads of the various stool-families or lineages represented in the community, the family being the basic unit of representation in traditional society. The decisions and fiats of the chief are thereafter issued and announced as decisions and fiats of the chief-in-council.
A Council of State that was modeled after this traditional institution would be composed, in substantial part at least, of leaders representing the various diverse “families” or social and other interest groups that comprise the national community called Ghana. This means, first and foremost, Chiefs and Queenmothers—drawn, for example, from all 10 Regions of the country by their respective House of Chiefs. A Council of State comprising two traditional leaders (1 Chief, 1 Queenmother) selected by each Regional House of Chiefs, with the rest of the membership drawn from and nominated by political parties represented in Parliament, faith-based communities, civil society, business, farming and fishing interests, organized labour, academia, and professional bodies, would better capture and represent the diverse shades of opinion and interests, as well as the social and political cleavages, that define our society than the Council of State as established by Constitution. I would limit the chairmanship of my Council of State to one of the Chiefs and Queenmothers, with the chairmanship rotating from one regional chief to the other in two-year intervals. If we had a Council of State of this kind we might not need to constitute a Ghana Peace Council to preach peace and national unity during election season and other moments when heightened political tension threatens to undermine social peace and cohesion. Besides playing a credible role in conflict prevention and mediation, a Council of State of the kind I propose would be well suited to counsel the President and monitor progress in achieving the Directive Principles of State Policy. A Council of State, such as we now have, that is dominated by designated retired public officers and individuals handpicked by the President (usually senior partisans of the President’s party) lacks broad social legitimacy and party detachment or diversity, and merely reproduces the Establishment. It is not surprising that we need a Peace Council or Group of Eminent Persons to intervene each time we appear to face or fear a political or social crisis.
Finally, the question of the resentment of Asante, or why Asantes appear to suffer exceptional resentment from other Ghanaians, has been touched upon in some of the earlier remarks. In my view, if we wish to get to the bottom of that question, we must take a good look at the teaching of Ghana history, specifically at the over-representation of Asante in our popular history and the corresponding under-representation of other groups and social identities in the same history. If you are a Kyirepon or Dagarti or Krobo or even Ga, you could go through a History of Ghana class without encountering any significant mention of your ethnic group or any of its heroes or founders. In my generation, the history of Ghana I was taught in “cyto” taught me about Osei Tutu and Komfo Anokye and about Yaa Asantewaa and also about a whole lot of so-called “Asante-Fante” wars, which were, of course, more proxy wars against British interests on the Gold Coast. I never learned a thing about other groups, except a little bit about the Fante Confederation. You probably would grow to feel resentment toward Asantes, too, if all you’ve been taught as Gold Coast or Ghana history is Asante militarism and dominance; about Asantes always fighting this or that war or conquering this or that group or territory. The inescapable impression one gets in this kind of historiography is of Asantes as trouble-makers, as aggressors, as belligerent. There is no context or nuance or theory of any sort in this conventional narrative. It is as if Asantes were just fighting wars for the sake of fighting them, or that military conquest as a mode of state formation was peculiar to the Asante. And, of course you will not learn in this taught history of the varied diplomatic and commercial alliances and ties that formed between Asante and other states like Dagomba or Ga or any other.
This Asante-centric view of Ghana history is what Ivor Wilks has called the “Whig Interpretation” of Ghana history--“the way in which the histories of the Gold Coast and Asante were shaped by the underlying view of England’s imperial destiny.” It is our history as told from the perspective of Britain’s imperial and colonial interests and policy; a “divide-and-conquer” historiography, if you will. And this way of telling our history, of measuring our heroes and villains from the viewpoint of British colonialists, is indeed quite pervasive. It is arguably why we ourselves reckon our most celebrated nationalist heroes, the “Big Six”, on the basis of the arrest records of the British colonial authorities following the 1948 riots. No mention of Boycotthene Nii Kwabena Bone II (who, by the way, was both Osu Alata Mantse and Oyokohene of Techiman, Asante, as he describes himself in his Autobiography) or of Komla Gbedemah or of any woman at all or, for that matter, of any Gold Coaster living outside Accra during that period. If only Nii Kwabena Bone or Gbedemah had been lucky enough to be arrested by the British colonial police they might also be celebrated today as heroes of our fight for independence.
The point I am making, which also applies to Asante, is that history is political, and how we tell and teach our history can unite or divide us—and yes, it can also mark out a particular group for exceptional resentment or vilification. We need a history of Ghana that has room in it for the diverse peoples and communities that constitute this national community; a history that is properly contextualized; a history that is alert to the danger of propaganda and stereotyping masquerading as history. Above all, we need to see the writing and teaching of our history as an important means, a vital resource and avenue, for the construction and making of a national identity.