Opinions Sat, 29 Apr 2006

Dogs of War -A Rejoinder

I would like to draw your attention to Ato Kwamena?s tirade against Northern Ghana the acerbity of which, weeks after its publication, still reeks in the air.

His article, ?Dogs of War??(Ghanaweb 02/03/06), far from being an informed discourse to examine our society, is a dishonest attempt not only to disparage northern political leaders but also to denigrate the northern regions and to cast aspersion on all northern people. The more I read his article the more I wondered why Dr Kwame Nkrumah?s dream of one nation, one people, one destiny later embodied in our citizens? charter can be so assaulted. It is one thing constructively criticising northern politicians but something else insulting all northern people.

Hatred for people who are different from you stems from prejudice or envy - the former being a manifestation of ignorance and the latter being borne out of low self-esteem. For example, out of ignorance St Paul, then Saul, became the scourge of Christians but later learnt the truth, changed his views about them and he, more than everyone else, wanted to be part of them. And due to low self-esteem followers of the Nazi and the British National parties, for example, who are the flotsam and the jetsam of their societies look askance at the success of others especially the Jews and blame them for their failure in life.

If Ato Kwamena (a pseudonym?) is envious of northerners I can understand why. Only recently a northerner, Archbishop Dery has been ordained a Cardinal of the Roman Catholic church in line to be the next Pope; last year a northern girl represented Ghana in the World Beauty pageant and this year another northern rose, Lamissi Mbillah will strut on the same platform and flaunt her beauty to the world, the two having won the Miss Ghana Beauty contests in 2004 and 2005 respectively; and to the chagrin of Mr Kwamena, there is not a time you listen to intellectual discussions on TV or radio that there is not a northerner demonstrating sheer intellect and breathtaking eloquence on every subject. This is hardly a picture of backwardness, a fact which sits very uneasily with Mr Kwamena who thinks northerners are backward. If it is envy I urge Mr Kwamena to understand that those individuals are neither southerners nor northerners but Ghanaians and we all as a country bask in their reflected glory. On the other hand if his blinkered views of northerners emanate from ignorance then I will like to candidly and politely address the discrete issues he raised in his article and I am sure at the end of the day he will have an open mind about northerners and begin to walk the path of St Paul.

Mr Kwamena pillories some northern politicians as ?being used as disposable citizens? with reference to their outspoken stance against ROPAB. Let us take a look at these politicians: Hon Mahama Ayarigah MP for Bawku Central - he is Opposition spokesperson on Legal and Constitutional issues. Havard-educated lawyer and only 31, his debating skills are a tribute to his first-class erudition. Bernard Mornah, PNC Youth Organiser - he is a young man of dignified disposition and has at this tender age evinced great organisational acumen having been partly instrumental in successfully organising the anti-ROPAB demonstration. Hon Ben Kumbuor (PhD Warwick) MP for Lawra Nandom - a repository of exceptional legal nous he is noted for being former President Rawlings?s legal advisor and an expert on parliamentary legal issues. Haruna Iddrisu MP for Tamale South - he cut his political teeth in the students? movement. At the NDC Communications Directorate, his flair for the Queen?s language takes the breath away. Undoubtedly, these are people who will go on to earn their place in the pantheon of great men and women of Ghana. Mr Kwamena thinks they are ?being used? by faceless politicians apparently referring to the former president whom he calls the Godfather in his other articles. He does not proffer any evidence for arriving at this conclusion but is only goaded by prejudice to think that northern politicians are not capable of being their own men and always act on orders.

Is the fact that they are all northerners not only accidental and what really brought them together by design is the fact that they constitute a crack team of legal minds needed by their party to fight the ROPAB bill? I do not think that it is difficult to understand that because the three MPs are lawyers their party chose them to serve as spokespersons on legal and constitutional matters including ROPAB. As Kwamena has heard these legal trio speak before, if he is honest can he not appreciate the fact that these MPs are the type of whizz kids needed by their party to flex their intellectual muscles on all platforms? As Ben Kumbuor is Mr Rawling?s lawyer, Mr Kwamena?s assertion that the latter is ?using? the former makes it the first time, at least so far as I know, that in the fiduciary relationship between the lawyer and the client it is the client who is exercising undue influence on the lawyer and not vice versa which is preposterous at best. If Mr Kwamena wants to know who has been ?used? it is the rubber-stamp NPP parliamentarians, some of them too dumb to understand the intricacies of legislation, who have been duped into perpetrating a monumental fraud of ROPAA on Ghanaians.

Mr Kwamena claims that northern politicians do nothing for their people and instead of promoting the interest of their people they waste their time talking about ROPAB. I don?t get him. Their constituents vote NDC/PNC. What interest of their people can these politicians serve more than to resist a hastily concocted ploy intended to asphyxiate the parties their people believe have their interest at heart? As for development projects, if Mr Kwamena shows me what Kwame Nkrumah as leader of Ghana from 1951 to 1966 did for his Nzema enclave, one of the most deprived outposts in our country and what Mr Rawlings, leader of Ghana from 1981 to 2000, did for his region I will show him what northern politicians during their short stints as mere MPs and ministers have also done for their people. The matter of the fact is that Kwame Nkrumah and Rawlings, irrespective of their human foibles, promoted national cause at the expense of regional and ethnic particularism. So do northern politicians. Unlike Mr Kwamena, these two leaders, their selfless tribesmen and northern politicians do not believe in a concept of north and south but one Ghana. Maybe, this will explain to Mr Kwamena why Mornah and Ayarigah are fighting to preserve Nkrumah and Rawlings? parties which identify with northern people and share their common aspirations. If Mr Kwamena really wants to know who are not serving their people?s interest it is the southern MP banged up in jail for trafficking drugs, those politicians who stick the middle finger in the air at Ghanaians by enjoying their international junket regardless of disasters and problems at home, those southern politicians living on borrowed time busily counting their dirty cocaine and kickback money instead of thinking of their constituents and those using precious time to battle the ever-increasing allegations of sleaze made against them.

Ato Kwamena claims that when northern politicians settle in Accra they forget about the north. In my life I have had a fair share of hearing absurdities but this stupid remark goes beyond the pale. It is the most preposterous remark I have ever heard about northerners. Just why some people think northerners don?t like the north is something I can hardly fathom. Even a simpleton should be able to understand that northerners live in the south mainly because of job prospects. Any northerner away from the north who is not nolstagic of the regions? beautiful landscape, the serenity of the shea-butter trees, the warmth of the once-a-week markets and the aroma of a day-old fresh milk is either fed with of life or is not a quintessential northerner. Northern MPs like all MPs are obliged to hold periodic surgeries with their constituents which they do. But then, if after fulfilling this duty a northern MP decides to spend more time in Accra so what? What if he has business interests there? Is Accra not our capital? After all, don?t most middle class people and MPs from almost all the regions in Ghana live in Accra more than they live in their respective regions? Why is it a problem when it comes to a northern politician? Since Ato Kwamena speaks the language of division, I would like to remind him that Accra is Ga-Adangbe land and because of the great character and hospitality of these people, at the last count Akans outnumber them in their own land. If Mr Kwamena cares to know, northern politicians decide to live in Accra for the same reason that those swarming the Ga-Adangbes are in Accra.

Mr Kwamena accuses northern politicians of using the word ?mayhem? with regard to ROPAB. This is barefaced dishonesty. The word in fact did not originate from northern politicians. All politicians across the country opposed to ROPAB had said that if the ROPAB was introduced it will cause mayhem which subsequent events and opposition explanation indicate that the word had not been used literally. Mr Kwamena refuses to understand this, gets his knickers twisted over it and always looking for a pretext to unleash a flurry of invectives on northerners screams, ?why is it that when it comes to issuing threats of mayhem ??.it becomes the job of the north?? Maybe he will want to correct our lapse of memory by telling us when the North ever issued threats of mayhem to the country. So far as I know the only threat of mayhem issued and, in fact, carried out in the country was in the south when the bomb-throwing and gun-wielding renegades of the National Liberation Movement wrought carnage on Ghana and their partners in crime exported bombs to Kulungugu. No Northerner has ever touched with a barge pole anything detrimental to Ghana.

Mr Kwamena also asserts that the north is backward and a threat to Ghana?s national security because of the inter-ethnic clashes there. To put the records straight there were the recurring clashes in Bawku, the Kokomba/Nanumba fight and the Ya Na?s assassination, all these not different from some natives of Brong Ahafo in the south being at each other?s throat with guns and machetes reported on ghanaweb(12th April, 2006). What I want to make clear is that those clashes in the north are despicable and are decried by northerners of every hue. But barring the assassination of the Ya Na, almost all the other clashes have been spontaneous involving the riff-raff and lowlifes of those societies. Compare that with the premeditated, calculated and coldblooded Kofi Kyintoh- style murders in the 80s for money juju that were perpetrated by respected pillars of southern society including a pin-stripe suited Sefwi chief and the murder and removal of genitals of an innocent mother by yet another chief in Brong all for ritual purposes and tell me which is more backward. These primitive atrocities were so appalling that all the perpetrators were shot by firing squad. Where did these monsters come from? The South. Only an illiterate northerner could be associated with such vortex of medieval madness. If all these primitive acts had happened in the north I am sure Ato Kwamena would have entreated all southerners to fast and pray for the world is coming to an end.

With regard to our national security, if Kwamena is honest he will take a cue from Jesus? universal quip on hypocrisy and remove the beam in his eyes before he criticises the speck in someone?s. He should first of all find out media allegation that a politician from the south recklessly slept with a woman of dubious Americo-Iraqi origin who turns out to be a blackmailer, a sexual peccadillo which the politician knew or ought to have known constituted a potential honeytrap. As some southern politicians are assiduously propounding theories that God did not create us to be infallible, is Mr Kwamena not eager to know the state secrets that this politician?s fallibility might have possibly let slip while whispering sweet nothings to his scheming lover? If Mr Kwamena is really interested in our national security he will also want to investigate why all of a sudden the southern part, of course, of our country has become a transit point for cocaine trafficking. He can also do us a favour and ascertain why the government wants to repatriate to Ghana and cut loose among us cocaine mules who will sell their grandmothers to make quick bucks now sodomizing each other in ?Bangkok Hilton? and other Thai jails and almost all of whom come from the south. He can also make the ?clean image? of his south even cleaner by doing something about the tsunami-speed with which prostitution-induced AIDS is spreading in the south. These are what constitute clearer and more present danger to Ghana and not a fight in Bawku which does not spill beyond the district.

Kwamena states that the North is ?the most unproductive (in terms of their contribution to the GDP). My beef with this statement is that apart from his wrong choice of words to describe the North as being the most economically deprived he presents his article in a way to insinuate that the economic situation in the North is the fault of northerners. That is a load of codswallop. In the north, the northerner?s main economy is tilling of the land. Unfortunately, he has no control over the vagaries of the weather, climatic change or soil formation and above all has no control over the national purse to start industrialisation.

In a sub-Saharan country like Ghana where the economy is a complete basket case and depends hopelessly on buy and sell, cash crops, timber, raw minerals and the recycling of foreign aid and loans, the level of a region?s contribution to the country?s GDP depends mainly on two things -the government and the land of the region - and not the people of the region. It will be pretentious for people from regions contributing more to the GDP of the country to think of themselves as being some superhumans. Simply, a region in Ghana contributing more to the GDP will be doing that out of luck either because the government have concentrated industries there or the land is endowed with natural resources which nature, and not the people, has put in the land. It will not be because people in those regions possess any qualities that people of other regions don?t have. In Chinua Achebe?s words, people from the more prosperous regions would have had their palm kennels cracked for them by benevolent spirits. I would like to illustrate this with Greater Accra, Central and Western Regions of Ghana.

Central Region. It has the tag as the least economically prosperous and worst in literacy level in the South. The land of Phillip Quarcooe, Kwegyir Aggrey, Kobina Sekyi, Quayson Sackey, Mensah Sarbah and the birthplace of one of the finest peoples of our land. Why is this region the least prosperous in the south? The answer is that the problem is not in the people but in the land or in the government. To the east of Central region lies Greater Accra Region which is far more prosperous than Central Region even though it is less than half the size of Central Region and with similar geographical features and even poorer vegetation. How then did Greater Accra Region become more economically prosperous than Central Region? The answer is simple. The government located the harbour, the airport, the industries and the ministries there. This industrialisation led to population growth and as the population increases it becomes economic imperative for more businesses including those owned by people from Central Region to be located there and the sum total is prosperity for Greater Accra Region. The prosperity of Greater Accra Region, therefore, is the outcome of government initiative and our combined contributions. To the West of Central Region lies Western Region which is richer economically and higher in literacy than Central Region. What can the good people of Western Region do that the equally good people of Central Region cannot do? Nothing. The only difference is that Western Region has timber, minerals and good soil for cocoa which nature and not the people of Western Region placed in the land. If Central Region had all these resources it too would be prosperous. Think about it, these principles apply to all regions in Ghana. It should be noted that the labour that work the industries of Greater Accra and the lands of Western Region come from all over the country and not from the indigenous people alone.

I hope Mr Kwamena understands why Greater Accra and Western Regions contribute more to the nation?s GDP than Central Region. If he understands this then he will understand the situation of the three northern regions even more. When the first secondary school was opened in Central Region it took about another eighty years before one was built in the north. While Central Region has the benefit of the sea the north has none. Central Region enjoys the advantage of geographical contiguity with four of the five most prosperous regions in the country. The north is insular and shares a border with only one- Brong Ahafo. Against this background, the north is analogous to a person blindfolded and with hands tied behind him and then challenged to a race. Notwithstanding all this, northerners have taken life on the chin and their inexorable progress in every facet of Ghanaian life has become phenomenal. I think people should recognise this and judge them accordingly from the nadir they have come from and not the heights they have reached.

Contrary to what many readers may think, I hold that Mr Kwamena?s article was predicated on ethnocentrism. If all Ghanaians ? both southerners and northerners ? were homogenously, say, Akuapem and everything else had remained the same he would have been less scathing in his portrayal of the north. But, northerners come with their languages and culture different from those of the south and anyone, just anyone from the south builds prejudices against them, sees them as a reflection of their regions? economic stagnation and begins to stereotype them. It is this farrago of prejudice and dishonesty that makes someone of average intelligence like Mr Kwamena think that he is more intelligent than legal luminaries from the north.

Did I hear anyone saying northerners should help themselves? They have always helped themselves. They are not lazy. They scour everywhere in Ghana to look for jobs. If their soil is good for cocoa they will grow it, if they have timber they will fell it and if they have minerals they will mine it. Despite the adversities of their land they have produced as many National Farmers and runner-ups as the entire south. In the absence of cocoa, timber and minerals in their region if the government starts any industrialisation drive there will not be a shortage of skilled labour. After all if the northerner can go to school he learns hard. Did I hear anyone say ethnic clashes are stunting development in the north? That is piffle. Northern Region - how many times in your life have you heard of Nanumba/Kokomba and Abudu/Andani fights? Long before these clashes why was there no development ? Upper East - in recent times there have been three or four clashes in Bawku but Bawku is just one town in the entire Upper East Region. What happened to development in the other parts of Upper East? Or it is the case of Bawku people having eaten sour grapes and the teeth of the whole Upper East being set against the hedge. Upper West - no one has ever thrown a stone, a brick or an arrow; no ethnic fight, no chieftaincy clashes but, ladies and gentlemen, it is the most deprived of all the ten regions of Ghana. I rest my case.

Northerners should not allow anyone to put down their politicians who are their leaders because these politicians exhibit better than normal tendencies of the African politician. After all, most of them are not corrupt. Northerners should remember that it is not only the tangible things like projects which their politicians can contribute to their region but there are also the intangible things like integrity and honesty with which they serve their country and which was evidently demonstrated by Dr Limann who did not have a multi-million dollar hotel or offshore accounts and by his example no one will see a northerner as a damn crook who given the chance will turn the running of the country into the running of a family business. Northerners should not put themselves down or allow anybody to put them down because in the face of their grim struggle against adversities they have always braced themselves to keep their heads above water. They should know that in any civilised society everything about them would have been examples of moral excellence. Unfortunately we live in a society where government apparatchiks are oblivious to the sin of spending 600 million cedis to install a fridge in their car when that money can free all the babies held hostage at Korle Bu hospital because their parents cannot afford to pay hospital bills. Don?t they call the northerner a fool who does not know how to ?chop? money because he will not steal in public office and don?t they say he is ?being used? because he is an encapsulation of humility?. Do you not hear southerners sniping at kaya yee (load carriers) which they think is northern damnation? In fact, it is an example of northern virtue. Tell me, if the south with all its economic advantages can be so hopeless as to spawn so many prostitutes to fill Accra and to export to Cote d?Ivoire, France, Holland and Germany where I know some southerners pimp their own wives why do you think that the economic desperation of the north will not produce women who too are desperate for money? The only difference is that most northern women will rather carry loads for money than go the debauched way of southern women. Do you hear anyone sniping at prostitution? No. But there is always derogatory reference to kaya yee and its links with the north as if it is a northern curse even though half of these kaya yee are in fact from the south. Lastly, northerners should not let anyone put their region down because their region despite its deprived conditions is a sleeping beauty and all it requires is a prince in the form of government to give it a kiss in the form of massive developmental funds. When this happens, with their intellect and integrity and, above all, imbued with the northern spirit they will realise that they, in the Ghanaian context, have won the highest price in the lottery of life.

Bismark Awusu

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Awusu, Bismark