We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools

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Thu, 2 Jul 2020 Source: Yanick Noah Agboado

In recent weeks, there has been tension across some parts of the Volta region especially around the Aflo border. This was as a result of the deployment of a combined force of military personnel and other security agencies across the border towns in the country stretching from Aflao in the Ketu South constituency of the Volta Region, Upper East Region, Upper West Region and North East Region.

Different school of thoughts have given divergent reasons for the deployment of the troops. For instance, the Member of Parliament for Adansin Asokwa constituency, Hon. K.T Hammond said the reason for the deployment was to prevent non Ghanaians who are alleged to constitute current Ghana’s voter register from entering the country through the numerous unapproved routes to register to vote in the upcoming 2020 general election.

However, both the Minister of Interior and Defense have also said the essence of the deployment was to aid in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic by preventing foreigners from entering the country through the numerous unapproved routes around the border towns. They argued that the exercise was necessary because of the continuous increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the country which has so far claimed over one hundred precious lives.

The deployment of these heavily armed men has created animosity, fear, and panic among the rank and file of the people of the Volta region with some residents alleging that they are being assaulted and brutalized by these armed men. They said the presence of the security personnel is impacting negatively on their daily livelihoods since most of their economic activities are around the Togo-Ghana border or across the border.

The developments in that region have attracted the attention of opinion leaders, chiefs of the region, former presidents and other statesmen and women across the country. This has led to the issuance of statements condemning the alleged intimidation and brutality by some of this security personnel and the mode of deployment.

In all these happenings, what is becoming scary and worrying for most of us are the warmongering statements being made by some politicians, chiefs and opinion leaders. For instance, statements such as “ a war has been declared on the people of Volta region” and “ because we are peace loving does not make us cowards; when the fire is lit, there will be no turning back and the fire will consume everything in its path”. These are the words of some opinion leaders of the region. These statements are so scary and have the potency of preparing the minds of people and psyching them up for reprisal attack and must be condemned in all uncertain terms.

However, you cannot also blame people for making certain strong statements and responses especially when they feel aggrieved and intimidated in their own territory. Also, when ethnocentric statements have often been made towards certain group of people suggesting that they are less important in a nation. This will obviously lead to bitterness. It is often said that when you push a man to the wall, it is then you see the lion in him.

We are one nation with a common destiny. We cannot make the progress we desire in a state of animosity, chaos, hatred and bitterness against one another. We must develop our country in the spirit of love and be transparent towards one another. The derogatory and ethnocentric statements of who is a Ghanaian and who is not a proper Ghanaian must be stopped. These were similar statements that plunged countries such as Rwandan and others into civil war. We must stop treading that slippery path because our nation is a very unique and beautiful one with diverse people living in it.

As a student of leadership, I cannot sit aloof without contributing to the national discourse and making some meaningful suggestions that will bind us and propel our national development agenda. It is often said that when good men fail to speak, evil triumphs. Hence, it is time for all of us to be citizens rather than spectators and speak against these developments before events escalate into a situation that will eventually derail the peace and stability of our beloved country.

Analyzing certain ethnocentric and press statements emanating from recent events across part of the Volta and Oti region, reminds me of a question posed by my lecturer in Poverty, Welfare and Development course. He asked “is Ghana a Nation or a Nation-State?”. In this article, I will attempt to answer this question and distinguish between the two words.

The modern-day nation of Ghana has different ethnic groups with their peculiar languages and common descent. For instance, we have the Anlos who reside in the south-eastern parts of the Volta region of Ghana with common language, Ewe and historical antecedent while we have the Ashantis who are part of the Akan ethnic group also residing in the Ashanti region. They have their common language, Twi and cultural heritage. We also have the Dagbons who reside in the Northern region of Ghana who are bound with common historical and cultural heritage. This is just to mention but few. Hence, these are individual nation-states who have agreed to come together and live together to form a common nation with a common political or governance system.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a nation as “a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture or language inhabiting a particular country or territory”

Again, a nation could be defined as “an aggregation of persons of the same ethnic family, often speaking the same language or cognate languages”- www.collinsditionary.com

From the above definitions, we as Ghanaians may not have common descent or ethnic family, history, culture or language yet in the wisdom of our forebears agreed to aggregate all ethnic groups and nation-states into one common nation called Ghana. They believed that it was politically and economically wise to live together as a nation but not individual nation-states. Hence, the formation and declaration of Ghana as a nation which is backed by the Ghana’s Independence Act 1957. This then makes the nation a sovereign nation comprising different ethnic groups and nation-states.

Having this at the back of our minds, it is appropriate we act towards one another and other ethnic groups living in the nation with diplomacy, respect, and decorum. We must desist from making comments that will infuriate other ethnic groups and our comments should at all times be seasoned with salt and foster national unity

However, if we continue on the path of making derogatory statements and remarks and looking down upon other ethnic groups and nation-states living in the nation, then this may be a recipe for disaster. In other words, this may spark ethnic conflict and plunge the nation into a state of anarchy which may eventually erode the gains and developments we have made as a nation in all sphere of life including socio-economic and political gains.

I will conclude by reminding us all of a quote of Martin Luther King Jr. which says “we must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools. A word to the wise is always enough.

Columnist: Yanick Noah Agboado