The future monarch was born under the name Jacob Matthew Poku in Kumasi the capital of Ashanti, then the Ashanti Protectorate, in 1919 into the Ashanti royal family. At the time, Prempeh I was Asantehene, as the Ashanti Emperor-King is called, before being succeeded by his nephew Prempeh II in 1931. Prempeh II in turn was Opoku Ware II’s uncle, making the boy one of several candidates to succeed him, as to be decided by the Queen-mother, or Nana Asantehemaa. After attending Anglican school, Poku went to Adisadel College in Cape Coast.
Then, he worked as a building inspector and later for the Public Works department from 1937 to 1943. After that, he was trained as a surveyor and worked on the Kumasi Traditional Council Hall and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.
In 1945, he married another member of the royal family, Victoria. In the 1950s, he moved to the United Kingdom to study law and was admitted to the bar in 1962. Returning to his native country, he worked in the capital Accra first and then set up a firm in Kumasi. Through his success as a lawyer, Poku was able attain a great respect in Ashanti politics. In 1968, the National Liberation Council military government appointed him to their executive board as Commissioner of Communications.
In 1970, he was named ambassador to Italy, but shortly thereafter his uncle, the King of the Ashanti, Prempeh II, died. Due to his legal and political successes, he was chosen to succeed his uncle and enthroned as the Asantehene. As King, Opoku Ware II maintained a good relationship with Ghana’s President Ignatius Acheampong, and later Jerry Rawlings.
He focused on trying to implement the traditional justice of the Ashanti tribe, rather than becoming involved in national politics. Much like his predecessors, he rarely appeared in public and usually had a spokesman represent him. When he did appear, he was as tradition demands covered in gold and wore an intricately woven kente cloth.
In 1995 or 1996, Opoku Ware II’s wife Victoria died. On February 26, 1999, the King himself died. He was succeeded on April 26 by Otumfuo Nana Osei Tutu II after a period of mourning.[ He was survived by his three children Nana Osei, Gifty 1950-2018 and Leslie Poku.