Opinions Tue, 10 Sep 2013

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There is a paradigm shift in Ghana

By Augustine Ayinibisah Ayelah

One day after the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. elevated oratory to its highest level with his famous “I Have A Dream” Speech while utilizing African Traditional invocation of the land deities calling on mountains of the United States to let freedom ring, the Supreme Court (SC) of Ghana for the first time has paved the way for equality to reign for all its citizens regardless of ethnicity by rejecting the pleadings of the NPP petitioners to nullify the December 2012 presidential election results declaring John Dramani Mahama as President. We applaud the decision by the SC for not allowing the petitioners of NPP to use the court to stage a Judicial Coup d’etat.

Just like African-Americans seeking justice, fighting insidious discriminations, segregation, Jim Crow Laws and the Ku Klux Klan, Northern Ghanaians have never actually realized the benefits of the independence of their country. Whereas in the United States right-wingers and Tea Party zealots keep on touting the progress that has taken place since the abolition of slavery, yet obstruct every effort President Barack Obama makes to improve the standard of living for the American people, in Ghana, in the history of the country, the first president to be taken to court happens to come from the North. That alone was not empty rhetoric. There was a message and goal in there. That implied total disrespect and lack of dignity for the North. The goal was to obstruct any effort by President Mahama from implementing his policies so as to deny him any positive results in improving the lives of the Ghanaian people. I can say this with certainty taking the winner of an election to court has not happened since the return of party politics from 1992. President Rawlings won both the 1992 as well as the 1996 polls. Even though NPP vehemently rejected the results, and came out with a publication called the Stolen Verdict, neither Dr. Adu Boahen nor John Kuffour dragged Jerry Rawlings to court. In 2000, when the Electoral Commission declared John Kuffour as the winner, then Vice President Atta Mills did not appeal to the Supreme Court. The 2008 elections where the margin of victory was so close, one would think that was the right time to go to court, Akuffo Addo did not bother to take Atta Mills to court. He even attended his swearing-in ceremony at Independence Square. What do all these names mentioned above have in common? They are all from the South. The Freudian exclusion of Vice-President Kwesi Amissah-Arthur from the lawsuit speaks volumes of the disrespect some Southerners have against Northerners.

Whereas African-Americans confront their discrimination “head-on,” Northern Ghanaians and other minority ethnic groups, even though treated almost if not worse than in Ghana, (a land of their ancestors and the only land they have known for thousands of years) are in a state of denial and lack the motivation to mount a civil rights campaign for full equality and justice. With a land size of 97,702 square kilometers covering the three contagious regions of Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions with a population of over 4.2 million people are mistreated by their Southern neighbors because of climatic reasons. Whereas the South has an all-round yearly rainfall, the North has only two seasons of wet and dry and whenever the dry season takes over the land, there is nothing for the youth to do but to migrate down South for greener pastures and there the exploitation begins. The exploitation includes sharecropping, and closer to free labor. Such practices over the years have created a Southern Upper Class and a Lower Northern Class. A case in point is Education. There are 8 public Universities in Ghana. All 7 are located in the Southern part of Ghana. Is this a nation that recognizes all its citizens as equal or one area as first class and another as second class citizens? The people of the North want to make it clear to the rest of the country that we are Ghanaians too.

For 56 long years except 27 months that President Limann interrupted the rule by the South, Northerners were never counted when it came to power sharing, let alone exercising it. The marginalization of the North made Northerners to become used to their position in the political arena. In light of that, Northerners use to avoid the cross-fire between the Ashantis and the Ewes showering insults at each other over the social media. It used to be awkward not knowing which side to take. Fortunately or unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Instead of the “Thrill of victory and agony of defeat”, it has become the “Agony of victory and the thrill of defeat.” I think this is understood only in Ghana. Why is it so? It is because some Southerners refuse to suffer what we know as the “Agony of defeat.” Expect the insults. They are coming directly all Northerners - the whole North and it does not matter what ethnic group you belong. To the ignorant Southerner, anybody who is not an Akan is a Northerner or pepeni, ntani or ntafo. The name calling implies Southern superiority and Northern inferiority. But Southerners who are quick to call Northerners these names are quick to defend themselves that Northerners too call Southerners Kambonga. To the best of my knowledge, Kambonga (singular) and Kambonsi (plural) are not derogatory words. Kambonga means a warrior. It was part of the Military Structure of the Mamprusi Kingdom. It is almost like Asante Kotoko, Banda Kotoko, Nzima Kotoko or Dagomba Kotoko. Kambonaba by the Mamprusi is almost Bandahene to the Ashanti. The name calling also applies to any person who hails from any part of the North including some ethnic groups from the Northern part of Brong Ahafo. It does not matter what political affiliation. Even Dr. Mahamadu Bawumia, a Mampruga and who was the vice-presidential running mate to Akuffo Addo of the NPP cannot escape it. Under cross examination by Tsatu Tsikata, Attorney for the NDC, Dr. Bawumia made a mistake by stating that “We were not there.” That very day, supporters of the NPP did not take it lightly and started to call him stupid ntafo, pepeni in ghanaweb. The moment a Northerner reads, “Northerners are watchmen”, it does not matter what that Northerner’s standing in society is, it is a direct insult. It is a frontal attack and a collective humiliation. Why is it so difficult to call Northerners based on ethnicity? Instead of pepe, why not say for example, Dagomba, Gonja, Nanumba, Wala, Dagara, Gurunsi, Sisala, Builsa, Mamprusi, Kusasi and so on and on.

Now that President Mahama is at the citadel of power, all Northerners will be reminded of their past. They will be reminded of their place in the annals of Ghana’s history. They will be reminded that they were the latrine carriers an occupation Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., did not shun. He was assassinated in Memphis Tennessee while trying to help the City’s Sanitation Workers to organize its local union. They will be reminded that they were the watchmen. Remember the people who use to stand by the gate to make sure undesirables never entered the premises of the bungalows of the ruling class. As long as this tall Northerner kept watch over the bungalow from outside, there was another group of Northerners called “Boy, boy” - nameless Ghanaians who kept the inside of the house clean and sparkling. Among them was the “Cook” who prepared the food, while the “Boys” washed the clothes, ironed them, set tables and helped the owners wined and dined anytime they arrived home. When it came to bedtime, the owners slept in peace knowing very well they have nothing to worry about. Somebody is awake and at the gate making sure that those inside are safe and sound.

I almost forgot there was another group of Northerners who kept the lawns looking splendid and lovely by trimming hedges, pulling weeds, and planting and watering the flowers. Instead of calling them groundskeepers, they are called “Garden boys”. History is a sophisticated subject. “Boy” was a name given to a slave in the Americas especially in the United States. That was his name. He was a nonentity. He was not human. “Boy” was his first and last name. Children of the slave owner called him “Boy” and he called those children, “Master” or “Sir”. Far away in Africa, some ethnic groups due to their class are also called by this very name. These Northerners of Ghana on the other hand, are not enslaved. They have the will to leave and go wherever they please. Yet they are close to being slaves comparatively with the name assigned to them – “Boy”.

Within the grounds of the bungalow, there is the “Boys” Quarters and in it lived the “Boy, boy”.

How it is possible for children of “Watchmen, Boy-boys and Garden-boys” to rise to become leaders of a nation?

On January 20th 1977, when Jimmy Carter was inaugurated as President of the United States, a man who hails from the deep South, “Marching Through Georgia” (a song which celebrated the defeat of the South during the Civil War) was banned. Are there clear thinking Ghanaians who can figure out how not to disrespect President Mahama as Americans did during the late seventies in order not to disrespect President Carter? If not, why can’t the 49 members of Parliament from the three regions plus about 8 members from the Northern part of Brong Ahafo submit a bill banning these derogatory words from use in our country?

The saying that “Miracles do happen” comes to mind. It is also called the Mystery System of ancient times when Alkebulans or Africans at the time were crowded along the Nile Valley of Ganda (now Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda), Cush, (now Ethiopia), Nubia, (now Sudan and South Sudan), and Kemet, (now Egypt). Despite their unfortunate situation, they continued to hang in there raising their families believing that there is a brighter tomorrow. Their children seeing and sensing their parents’ humiliation, bowing before their Master’s children as young as they were, sometimes even younger, set their minds not to be in the same situation as their parents. They set their minds to excel in school and do the unthinkable or unimaginable and become Lawyers, Doctors, and Teachers. Others became Military and Police Commanders and Politicians. They exercised patience when it came to the rush for political power. As a political strategy, Northerners were only good for vice-presidents. Even after eight years as Vice-president, Aliu Mahama was not considered as a presidential candidate. He could not mount a credible primary run for the nomination of NPP. In spite of all the discrimination, Northerners participated in the electoral process for 56 long years and always voting for Southerners to administer the affairs of the land. The biblical saying of the “First shall be last and the last be first” kicks into high jeer and there comes a Northerner, as President of Ghana. Using the slavery analogy, President Mahama on the seat of power in the Republic of Ghana is almost like Barack Obama, the President of the United States. In politics, it is called a paradigm shift. The paradigm shifted when Europeans had to hand power to the first generation of African Leaders like Dr. Kwame Nkrumah and Julius Nyerere. The paradigm shifted when a descendant of an African whose parents would have been enslaved prior to the abolition slavery became the President of the United States. Power shifts and Ghana is no exception. Ask the ancient Kemetians (Egyptians). Power shifted from Kemet to Persia and then Greece. Ask the Persians (now Iranians) who was once a world power how it happened to them? It happened because power shifted. Ask the Greeks who were once a world power how they lost that position? Ask the Romans, the British, the French, the Russians, etc. Ask them.

In modern times on African soil, power shifted in Nigeria after a perpetual Northern rule came crumbling down and fast. Power shifted in South Africa when Apartheid (White Minority) lost control and the rise of Majority rule and Nelson Mandela was elected President. If Ghanaians can answer this simple question, “Does the paradigm shift apply to Ghana?” they will agree that it is about time, that a Northerner became President of Ghana. It is the right time for the North not because they were once Watchmen, Boy-boys, Cooks or Garden Boys, it happened because the paradigm has shifted. To those Southerners who believed that the children of the “Boy-boy, Cook, Garden-boy and Watchman” would remain in the exact positions like their parents, then, they are in a “La La” Land. To the Southerners who refuse to suffer the “Agony of defeat,” let they be informed that the paradigm has shifted. Our national founder Osagyefo, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah said it best, “Forward Ever – Backward Never.” The Northerners are marching on for their rights even if it means silently, with the rest of Ghana whether some Southerners know it or not and no one can turn them around. Let us move on together as a United Country.

Augustine Ayinibisah Ayelah


Columnist: Ayelah, Augustine Ayinibisah

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