One of the jokes making rounds in Ghana has it that a Dagomba man went to the livestock market in Bolgatanga to buy a sheep. As he was sampling through to make his choice, a native of Bolga approached him and teased him why he was bothering about shopping for a sheep since his home was full sheep. What he meant was that all Dagombas are animals worth the dignity of a sheep. He did not make a distinction between an Abudu and Andani.
This vignette is a footnote to the fact that there has never been a worse time to be a Dagomba. The people of Dagbon have become the punching bag of Ghanaians of all walks of life for the fact that those three fateful days of March 2002 have secured our place in the history books as the people with the flair for committing the mother of barbarity. And what is even disappointing is that the office of Ya Na, apart from being traditionally and culturally rich, is economically and politically not resourceful. Its purchase on the development and economic fortunes of the people has been minimal under postcolonial governance. It has rather exacted a heavy negative social and economic toll on the people in the last two years as anarchy prevails under an economically and socially hurtful state of emergency.
Dagbon as at now is like a sinking ship lost at the sea of underdevelopment, with its captain soaked in stupor, dazed and inept. We either sink into the bottomless pit of the ocean of poverty and underdevelopment or we knock our leaders out of their slumber to captain us into the still waters of stability, peace, and development. Yes, we can do the latter while we still morn the senseless, barbaric and dastardly murder of the Ya Na and 40 of his staff. And we can also do so while we continue to wait for the murderers to be found and brought to justice.
We can start by informing our MPs, be they Abudu or Andani, that we are tired of living under a state of emergency. We should inform them that their leadership position demands them to find solutions to Dagbon?s problems. They should stop identifying themselves or speaking as Abudu or Andani and reach out to both sides as true representatives of the people. They were not voted on the ticket of Abudu nor Andani.
More importantly, we should tell our Vice President Aliu Mahama that we have been expecting him to use the high office of VP to mobilize for the resolution of the conflict, and the revamping of the image of Dagbon as the place for economic investment. We still think it is not too late for him to deliver. While addressing the opening of the 8th Security Services Games on July 5 this year in Accra, Vice President Aliu Mahama is reported to have told the Security agencies that national security is not only about defending the nation against external aggression and that ?The fact that Ghana is an island of peace in a turbulent region should not be taken for granted? These were his words. He probably forgot that Dagbon has been a boiling and turbulent lake in pacific Ghana. We should remind him that Ghana?s record of a peaceful country is blemished by the fact that we in Dagbon have been living under a state of emergency for two years. His position as the most senior political leader from Dagbon requires of him to initiate a process of reconciliation. He has missed several opportunities of reconciliation already, but to be late is better than not acting at all.
The efforts at reconciliation initiated by the official government machinery through the Ministry of Interior have obviously failed us. The Dagbon crisis needs revolutionary initiatives, not by government officialdom, but by prominent individual Dagombas in government, the opposition and in the non-governmental and private sectors. Any prominent Dagomba, who goes to bed each night without putting in an effort to resolve the crisis in Dagbon, without reaching out to the other side, should consider himself or herself as having failed the people. And history will not be kind to his or her legacy.
We should tell Lawyer Ibrahim Mahama that our youth have got their lives to live, not under a state of emergency, but under a regime of peace, stability and development. We should tell him that his several years as Rasputin to the late Ya Na Yakubu brought Dagbon no good. Oh yes, that is true! Rather, it exacerbated a regime of hate and acrimony that simmered into the bubble of March 2002. We should ask him what legacy has he got for Dagbon, now that he is in his autumn years? With all the nearly three decades of being the de facto kingmaker of Dagbon what has he to show for trophy? We should tell Lawyer to stop advising Andani youth not to interact with their Abudu brothers. His silver-hair should purchase us some wisdom of reconciliation and not the poison of acrimony and division that he continues to sow.
To our Abudu and Andani leaders we should tell them that we need peace and development more that anything else. And given their trench warfare mentality now, there is no way we will get to that. The quest for peace is not the responsibility of our leaders alone. As individuals we should reach out to our neighbors of the other gate and tell them we cannot spend all our entire lives in resentment, hate and acrimony. The first victim of anger, fury and resentment is the person who carries it in his heart. It is time to abandon hate and reach out for reconciliation. Every Dagomba has a stake in this collective effort to secure peace for Dagbon. As an individual, please light one candle in your corner, as your yeoman?s contribution to the reconciliation process and peace will breakout soon in all the four corners of Dagbon.
Those who identify themselves as Abudu and Andani should engage each other in a healthy and civil discourse. It is only when they speak to each other that we can know how far we have to go to secure reconciliation. The silence is too deafening, yet the foot soldiers of the two gates at home continue to take the signals of silence as a code for war. As part of the process of resolution we should avoid the spineless practice of branding those of us who prefer not to belong to any of the two sides. The current regime of a bi-polarized Dagbon badly needs people who can extricate themselves from any of the two sides for a centrist position.
Both Abudu and Andani sides have moderate elements. This is the time for them to start talking together with the centrist. We know that it was a lunatic fringe of the Abudu that plunged us into the crisis. We also know that it is the ultra conservative wing of the Andani that has profited from the three decade of non-engagement. It is time to look for the moderate Abudus and Andanis to start talking seriously. You know why? Because we have a collective unavoidable destiny called Dagbon. No more no less.
Assist Professor, York University,
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