You may have known or heard about a place in Accra called Madina, but do you know how that city came about? Let us go down to the history behind Madina.
Historically, Madina, suburb in Greater Accra Region and close to the University of Ghana (UG) campus, just like the UG and the Kotoka International Airport (KIA) all stand on land belonging to the La stool (state). La- people of Accra calls the place La Hee.
Professor Mary Esther Kropp Dakubu explains that Madina town was founded on 4 June 1959 out of La-Nkwantanang under the leadership of Alhaji Seidu Kardo after he and his people had to leave an earlier village on La land near Shiashi, close to the airport and the motorway.
History has it that Alhaji Seidu Kardo and his people had settled on the Shiashi land given to them by La Mantse,Nii Adjei Onano and his successor Nii Anyertei Kwakwaranya II. As a result of increasing population at Shiashi, Alhaji Seidu requested for a new land for his people and he was given land at mile 10, very close to the existing La village, Nkwantanang (Crossroads).
The original population of the people which moved with Alhaji Seidu comprise total initial population of 849 persons, including 81 from Nkwantanang: 30% Ga and Dangme, 12.8% Ewe, 0.7% Akan (1 individual), 23.6% northern Ghanaian, and 32.9% non-Ghanaian (from the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria).
Only a very small proportion of the Ga, Dangme, and Ewe, but all the northern Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians, were in Alhaji Seidu Kardo's group. Kropp-Dakubu (1997) explains that ‘there was originally an elaborate plan for the town to develop as an expansion of Nkwantanang, but because relations between these two groups were from the outset very bad, Alhaji Kardo eventually developed Madina without Nkwantanang.’
The name Madina (from Arabic: almaˈdiːna, which is means ‘the city` in Arabic and also refers city of western Saudi Arabia north of Mecca and holy site for Muslim pilgrims and where the Mosque of the Prophet, containing Muhammad's tomb, is situated) was given to the new land.by Alhaji Seidu Kardo, with the approval of the La Mantse, Nii Anyetei Kwakwaranya II and his council, at a function on 22 October 1959.
But the name Madina was rejected by the Klanaa division of La, powerful contenders for the right over this land. They preferred an indigenous Ga name. As a result, Paul Tagoe Commission was instituted to investigate the claims of the Klanaa division.
Tagoe Commission`s final report endorsed the name Madina for the new settlement, referring to the precedent of places in and around Accra, like Adabraka, Malam, and Fadama, that had also been named (in Hausa or Hausaized Arabic) by their founders. Kropp-Dakubu (1997) contends that as a concession to local feelings, however, the spelling "Madina" was adopted instead of "Medina" because this was perceived as less obviously Muslim.
After the resolution on the name Madina, in 1964, Alhaji Seidu Kardo was formally installed as headman of Madina by Paul Tagoe, the First Parliamentary Secretary with the approval of the La Traditional Council headed by Nii Anyetei Kwakwaranya II. The allodial rights in the land were held by the La Mantse and the La state; a portion of the land was reserved for the use of La (badi) people. Thus by the 1990s, each ethnic group had its own community head, and Alhaji Seidu' s son, Baaba, was recognised as Chief of Madina by at least some of them.
After the destoolment of Nii Anyetei Kwakwaranya II, the new La Mantse in 1991 changed the name Labadi to La and Madina to La Hee (New La). An article in the 12 October 1991 edition of Mirror newspaper confirmed La Mantse changing the name of Madina, stating that "Madina is not Ghanaian…The La Mantse is very apprehensive of the attitude of some community heads at La Hee (Madina) who are trying to brew trouble by arrogating to themselves the authority as land owners."
They went on to install a new chief for La Hee or Madina. The La Youth Association also stated that "[T]he installation of a La citizen as chief of La Hee as well as the change of name of Madina are all part of a program designed to reflect the heritage of the La people," but they obviously do not reflect the heritage of the residents of Madina. But the people of Madina, especially the descendants of Alhaji Kardo and other ethnic groups rejected this moves by the land owners.
A newspaper called ‘Madina Today’ was launched to fight against the change of the name Madina. Finally, the name Madina remained but the La owners still see it as La Hee (new La).
See Mary Esther Kropp Dakubu. (1997). Korle meets the sea: A sociolinguistic history of Accra. London: Oxford University Press, 1997.
By Kweku Darko Ankrah