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Opinions Mon, 9 Jan 2012

Ewes and the “Herd Mentality” Accusation: The Zenith of Inanity

If Akadu Mensema – I suspect that this termagant writes pseudonymously on Ghanaweb.com – wanted her disrespectful “herd mentality” declaration about Ewes, which she has done a few times already, to elicit a strong reaction from people of Ewe descent, then she has hit the target, because I am very offended by such a demeaning and dishonest blanket statement about my Ewe ethnic group. Akadu Mensema has been known as a purveyor of ethnocentrism on Ghanaweb.com for quite a while now, but the aforementioned accusation is certainly unwarranted and unfortunate, and I call on this woman to offer an unqualified apology to the Ewe audience on Ghanaweb.com, before she loses whatever is left of her declining credibility on this leading and oft-accessed Ghana-leaning Web site.

It appears that, consciously or otherwise, many ill-informed visitors to Ghanaweb.com continue to make the oft-repeated error of associating all Ewes with the National Democratic Congress (NDC), and all Asantes with the New Patriotic Party (NPP). It behooves all well-meaning Ghanaians to properly delineate individual associations with political parties, and to not calumniously belittle whole ethnic groups. As an example, is Dr. Sammy Ohene, the renowned psychiatrist of Ewe heritage, who suffered a dastardly assault engineered by inebriated, malevolent members of the so-called Ewe-dominated NDC in the immediate aftermath of Election 2008, not a member of the NPP? As another example, what about the case of the NDC party executive, an Asante, who was threatened with death by NPP aficionados in Kumasi shortly after Election 2008? The preceding examples are sufficient to inform the reader that, when it comes to party politics in Ghana, it is terribly insincere to accuse any tribe of engaging in a “herd mentality.”

The lugubrious animosity towards Ewes in Ghana, spearheaded by Akadu Mensema and her ilk, especially in contemporary times, is inextricably tied to the Rawlings-led revolutions of 1979 and 1981, respectively, when many Ghanaians were secretly tortured and publicly humiliated by unruly soldiers who thought that their actions, like the conscious excision of a dangerous clot from an artery, were tantamount to the “purging” of corruption from the collective consciousness of Ghanaians. Today, however, every enlightened person of Ghanaian ancestry knows that members of every ethnic group, including the systematically maligned Ewes, were victims of the excesses of those so-called revolutions that improved the lives of none but the progenitors and members of the two putsches.

Another misguided and misplaced basis of the hatred towards Ewes in contemporary Ghanaian society dates back to the first few years after Ghana had attained political independence from Great Britain. Knowing that Ghana, as a nation, could not handle its domestic affairs without a functional civil service, Kwame Nkrumah encouraged an open-door policy for joining the civil service, which Ewes and, to an extent, Gas, knowing that their forebears did not have very many cocoa farms to bequeath to them in later years, embraced wholeheartedly. What soon followed was the disproportionately large presence of Ewes and Gas in the civil service, a trend that continued well into the 1980s, although Ewe and Ga dominance of the civil service has waned considerably in recent years. Let us ask ourselves this question: Should Kwame Nkrumah have allowed the employment into the civil service of people without the appropriate formal education, just to pursue an equitable distribution of government jobs to the citizens? Certainly, there was no grand design by Kwame Nkrumah, the most impartial Ghanaian president of all time and, of course, a non-Ewe, to populate the civil service with people of Ewe lineage. Every student of history knows how ethnocentrism and cronyism have devastated many African countries, especially those in sub-Saharan Africa.

Notwithstanding the unprovoked and alarming assaults – uttered and written – on Ghanaians of Ewe heritage, it is very likely that more than 50% of those reading this piece had been tutored by men and women of Ewe descent at some point in their lives. For many years after independence, Ewes, who were some of the first graduates of our training colleges, accepted job offers to the remotest parts of the country, sacrificing their lives and most enterprising years to give other Ghanaians an education. Are the insults heaped on Ewes today the “thank you” that we get for our forebears’ sacrifices for improving the literacy rates of all segments of the Ghanaian population? Silver and gold Ewes did not have, but what we had we gave to Ghanaians soon after independence: self-sacrifice in managing a civil service that was, and still is, important for government to function on a daily basis. Ewes did not “own” Ghana’s Civil Service in those days, but the government simply could not offer positions that required college degrees to those who had not acquired such. Things are different today, however.

In 1988, this writer undertook his mandatory national service in Ghana, teaching mathematics in an elite junior secondary school. With two classrooms at each grade level, I had to teach six classes twice a week, which totaled 12 sessions a week. I was 19 years old. At the end of that year, 90% of my Level 3 students had passed the national examination in mathematics. It was a record achievement! When I left the following year for the University of Ghana, many of my first- and second-year students at the time could not hold back the tears. I consoled them; in the process, I assured them that the school would find them a good replacement. My personal example, which excludes the long list of friends and acquaintances to whom I had offered free lessons in their preparations towards the G.C.E. Ordinary and Advanced Level examinations in Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and Mathematics, was necessary to point out my contribution to the growth of the nation at some point in the past, so I have every right to discuss Ewes’ contribution to national development.

A favorite uncle of mine, who had risen to the position of director of education in the Ghana Education Service before retiring a few years ago, taught mostly in the Sekondi-Takoradi metropolis in the 1970s and 1980s, when he could have brought his expertise to his own people in the Volta Region, if he were selfish and self-seeking, as some non-Ewes try to portray us. Today, some of his old students, and even mine, are doing great things for Mother Ghana, after going on to complete their university studies. There are, no doubt, thousands of examples of teachers of Ewe descent who made enormous sacrifices in non-Ewe-speaking areas of Ghana that others can share with us. I am not, however, suggesting that Ewes have not been protégés of non-Ewes, but I am attempting to show that the continual abuse of Ewes is downright disheartening and unwarranted, for my people, the Ewes, have contributed their fair share towards national development.

The fetid animosity towards Ewes must stop. We cannot build a healthy relationship with others outside of our own ethnic enclaves if we are continually burdened by imprudent suspicions and stale stereotypes. Only a slavo-colonial mentality – the preceding phrase was first used on Ghana-leaning Web sites by the wordsmith and scrivener Kwame Okoampa Ahoofe, Jr. – is worse than the dark hatred that many of us exhibit towards other ethnic groups in our common topographical enclave called Ghana.

Ewes do not vote en masse for the NDC, and Asantes do not vote en masse for the NPP. All Ewes did not support the Jerry Rawlings-led revolutions, and all Asantes did not support the Ignatius Acheampong-led coup d’état of 1972. All Ewes do not support the looting of state coffers by government functionaries of Ewe descent, and all Asantes do not support the looting of state coffers by government functionaries of Ashanti descent. We must be circumspect in our effusions and declarations when we visit Ghana’s Internet portals, for whatever we put out on the Internet becomes a permanent record with which we will be forever associated.

© The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, is pursuing a doctoral degree in Criminology, Law & Society at George Mason University. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from the same university. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached via e-mail at dpryce@cox.net, or followed on Twitter: @DanielKPryce. Requests to use any portion of this piece must be sent directly to the author.
Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.