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And Mills took it ‘home’ – A Rejoinder

Mon, 6 Apr 2009 Source: Jeffrey, Peter

Ethnicity in sub-Saharan Africa is considered as a lethal weapon, which some unscrupulous politicians have used to destabilise their countries in the past. Prior to the ethnic violence that engulfed Kenya during their elections a few years back, the country was seen as a bastion of stability. The spread of small arms and manipulation of ethnic tensions in the three northern regions of Ghana are an explosive mix which if care is not taken can engulf the whole country. Professor Ata Mills, a product of Kwame Nkrumah Ideological Institute and an Nkrumaist, knows that in order to forestall the instability among ethnic groups created by the last government, must act soon to curb the spread of ethnic agitation and bring justice to the corrupt politicians who want to creat instability for political gain.

Like Kenya before the violence, Ghana is fast becoming a conduit for arms and narcotic shipment destined to countries further afield and to Europe by South American criminal gang aided by criminal elements in Ghana. In addition to narcotic, Ghana is fast becoming vulnerable to weapons trafficking because of its geographical location (shipments of narcotic and weapons takes few days to cross the Atlantic from South America) in a very crime and conflict ridden sub region.

The founder and father of modern day Ghana, Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah, from the very outset, took a position which rejected the division of the country (federal system of government as was being propagated by the then opposition, led by Joseph Boakye Danquah) on ethnic grounds. Dr Kwame Nkrumah considered the institution of chieftaincy and religion, and not tribal affiliation, as a unifying bond uniting Ghanaian people regardless of tribal contradictions.

Like Dr Nkrumah and ex President Rawlings before him, in his acceptance speech as President elect, Professor John Evans Kofi Ata Mills, firmly emphasised his willingness to be the president of all Ghanaians and not just of one ethnic group and continue with inclusive government policy.

Ato Kwame Dadzie’s assertion that President Mills is wrong to make his inaugural visit, since becoming President, to his home region (ironically President Mills, Ato Kwamena Dadzie and this writer’s mother are indigenes of Central Region) and not to Ho or Tamale, as an insult to the people of Volta and the three Northern regions who voted ‘en masse’ for the President’s party, is not only wrong, but dangerous. Making such ‘blatant and unguarded’ comments, considering the already ethnic tension in the country, must be condemned in no uncertain terms. During his trip to Cape Coast, President Mills reminded his compatriots that he will be the President of all Ghanaians and not just the President of ‘Fantes’. The President also made it absolutely clear that he will ensure that the proceeds from the emerging oil (located in this writer’s home region, the Western Region of Ghana) are distributed equitably among all the regions of Ghana, and that development would be distributed evenly. Western Region produces over 40% of Ghana’s wealth, yet the region is as poor as the three northern regions!

Ato Kwame Dadzie is quiet right to point out that during the campaign for the last December 2008 elections, both the New Democratic Congress and the New Patriotic Party were wrong to seek legitimacy (by inflating electoral results in Volta and Ashanti regions respectively) on by playing the ethnic card. With diverse culture and well over 200 spoken languages, Ghana is considered as a unique country, because, unlike the countries in the sub region, Ghanaians are united through common heritage (inter-marriages and ‘bond’ fostered through education - secondary boarding school system). However, by rounding up on the President’s visit to his home region as a ‘slap in the face’ for the rest of the country, especially our Voltarian and Northern brothers, Ato Kwamena Dadzie’s analysis is plan crass and absolutely trash!

Unlike other countries in Africa where there is lack of ethnic homogeneity, Ghana is stable because soon after independence, President Nkrumah gave priority to human development rather than playing one tribe against the other. Thus, he introduced free education in the three northern regions, plus instituting a scholarship scheme for children of cocoa growing farmers. Nkrumah actively encouraged inter-tribal marriages amongst the people. Successive civilian and military “gangster” regimes after the overthrown of Nkrumah’s CPP government made the conditions in Ghana worse that a large number of citizens migrated. An estimated two million Ghanaians left the homeland to neighbouring countries between 1975 and 1981. The first assertion of ethnic cohesiveness in Ghana was felt during the expulsion of large number of Ghanaians from neighbouring countries in 1983, which reached its climax in 1985. The ‘returnees’ from every region of the country, including second generation Ghanaians, were personally welcome ‘home’ by then Chairman Rawlings of PNDC and the country and supported to integrate into their various communities. The ‘bond of common heritage’ and the PNDC’s policy of ‘one Ghana, one destiny’ which galvanised into a massive assertion of Ghanaian nationalism culminating into Rawlings becoming a darling of the Ghanaian people. Rawlings, who is married to an Ashanti, is seen as non-tribal and champion of the common man by the Ghanaian people.

Much has been written about the ‘common heritage bond’ which is supposed to keep Ghana together proved to be very fragile during the eight years of NPP administration. President Mills who served as Rawlings vice in the (P) NDC second administration saw how weak the ‘bond’ is because the NPP whose leadership is made of up of Ashanti and Akyems were perceived to be ‘tribalistic’ and ‘corrupt’ by the country. The December 2008 election has proved to be an important indication of ethnic politics as a major factor in national elections where there was clear electoral verdict on tribal grounds. Expressing tribal sentiments is not a negative thing to do, provide those who want to defend the rights (this writer can claim moral authority for speaking out for his compatriots in his home region - Western Region) of deprived groups are above contradictions. As Ato Kwamena Dadzie is very much aware, the reality is, behind, the ‘tribal card’ the so called leaders have their own vested interests. Classic example of hypocrisy of the so called leaders who play the ‘tribal card’ for votes but once elected and in power do nothing for bringing development to their respective areas but rather sit in Accra and lord over their people!

Peter Jeffrey, London.

Columnist: Jeffrey, Peter

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