Opinions Mon, 2 Mar 2015

NPP’s tribal bigotry will kill us

By : E. M. N. Ametor-Quarmyne

The hottest news currently circulating in the traditional and on social media in Ghana is a secret recording of a presentation made by Mr. Yaw Osafo Marfo, a former Minister of Finance and Education under the New Patriotic Party regime of President John Agyekum Kufuor, to the Council of Elders of the New Patriotic Party(NPP), in the Eastern Region, in which he was reported to have bemoaned the fact that even though about ninety percent(90%) of Ghana’s natural resources are concentrated in mainly five Akan speaking regions of the country, it is people who come from other regions without resources who are governing the country. “We should protect ourselves; we should protect our income. No one who is the source of income, the source of revenue, the source of resources gives another person without those resources the chance to rule over them”, he was captured on tape to have said to the Council of Elders of the New patriotic Party(NPP), among other things.

This pathetic reasoning of Mr. Osafo Marfo, even though it sounds distasteful to many fair minded Ghanaians, should not be so surprising to those of our country men and women who have been close watchers of our politics, particularly those who are conversant with our pre-independence political struggles leading to independence on 6th March 1957. It was this same thinking which led Baffour Akoto, the then Asantehene’s Chief Linguist to form the opposition National Liberation Movement(NLM) which advocated the split-up of the Ashanti region (which at that time included the present day Brong Ahafo Region) from the rest of the then Gold Coast(now Ghana) on the pretext that it was their resources which was the source of wealth for the country(Gold Coast). They became known in local twi parlance as the ‘matemeho’ party or the separatist party, whose violent political activities, even after independence (was to make the country almost ungovernable in those days) led to the enactment of the now famous Preventive Detention Act(PDA), to save the nascent nation from disintegration.

Mr. Yaw Osafo Marfo’s statement is even more intriguing if one comes to think of it dispassionately. The Present running mate of the flagbearer of the NPP, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo is Dr. Mahmud Bawumia a Mamprusi from Walewale in the Northern Region of Ghana. This is the third time Dr. Bawumia will be on the ticket of the NPP in presidential elections, having been Nana Akufo-Addo’s running mate on two previous occasions in both 2008 and 2012 respectively. Is it the thinking of Mr. Osafo Marfo that because Dr. Bawumia comes from ‘resource-less’ northern Ghana, he does not deserve to succeed Mr. Akufo-Addo in the future as the NPP’s Presidential candidate let alone become the President of Ghana?

Now, this kind of thinking explains the shabby treatment given to the late Alhaji Aliu Mahama who served two solid terms of eight years as Vice President of the Republic of Ghana under President John Agyekum Kufuor. During the primary elections for the Presidential Candidate of the NPP in 2007, that illustrious son from Northern Ghana, succeeded in garnering only an abysmal 146 votes(6.3%) out of 2,285 valid votes cast at the NPP congress of that year, held at the University of Ghana, Legon. That was in contrast to Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s 1,096(47.96%) votes and Allan Kwadwo Kyerematen’s 738(32.30%) valid votes. Of all those who stood for consideration for the flag bearership of the NPP in 2007, none was as qualified in political experience for the position of Presidential candidate than a serving Vice-President at the time, His Excellency Aliu Mahama. But the NPP flatly rejected him because in that tradition, if you don’t come from an Akan region then you don’t qualify to be on their ticket, because in their thinking you don’t qualify to be the President of the Republic of Ghana, by virtue of your accident of being born in the Northern, Upper East, Upper West, the Volta Region or Greater Accra Region.

Mr. Yaw Osafo Marfo is not alone in this line of thinking among adherents of the New Patriotic Party or members of the Busia-Danquah political tradition to which the NPP belongs. A long line of such bigotry and discriminatory sentiments and expressions exist to demonstrate the nature and thinking of the New Patriotic Party and its Danquah-Busia tradition.

During a session of the 1969-1972 Parliament, Mr. Victor Owusu a Member of Parliament on the ticket of Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia’s Progress Party, Attorney-General and later Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Busia regime of the time described EWEs as ‘inward-looking’ people. That statement was to come back to haunt Mr. Victor Owusu in the campaign leading to the 1979 general elections, when he was the Presidential Candidate of the Popular Front Party(PFP) of the Danquah-Busia tradition. Even though he was said to have begged EWEs for forgiveness and tried to pacify them with a full grown bull, he was to lose the elections of that year(1979) to Dr. Hilla Limann of the Peoples National Party(PNP) of the Nkrumahist tradition, and was blamed severely for the defeat of the Danquah-Busia tradition in that election. How such a highly educated and ‘civilized’ person could descend so low as to make such bigoted statement beats my understanding entirely if not for tribal bigotry.

If you think the Danquah-Busia political tradition learnt anything from that Victor Owusu episode then you must be badly mistaken. Most recently, in the run-up to the 2012 presidential elections, a number of NPP’s high ranking officials, mostly of Akan origin, made derogatory and inflammatory statements targeted at persons from other tribes and regions particularly Northerners, Ewes and Ga people.

Of particular note was the statement made by Hon. Ursula Owusu now a Mrs. Akorfful, to the effect that if it was not for the benevolence of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah’s free education policy in the 1960s, President John Mahama and a host of other Northerners in government would have been in the bush herding cows. Implying that the President’s parents could not have afforded his education, had it not been for a free education policy at the time. That statement was made in utter ignorance and fell flat in the face of the evidence and facts. President John Mahama comes from an illustrious family and his father was a well educated man of considerable means and repute in the Northern Territories as the Northern Region was known at the time. Mr. Emmanuel Adama Mahama, father of President John Dramani Mahama was a well trained Teacher and later, a successful Politician and Farmer. He was the first Member of Parliament for the then West Gonja Constituency in the Northern Region and was the first Regional Commissioner(Minister) for Northern Ghana in the First Republic. How Ursula Owusu came to the miserable conclusion that such a personality as Mr. Emmanuel Adama Mahama and many others of his type and caliber could not have been in a position to educate their children must be anybody’s guess, if not for pure tribal bigotry.

Not to be undone, Hon Kennedy Agyapong, NPP Member of Parliament for Assin Central, at the time, in a flight of rage, on his ‘Oman fm’ radio station, called on Akans to kill EWEs and Ga people and declared war on the Republic of Ghana over a simple issue of voter registration. Kennedy Agyapong was known to be maverick and erratic at times and it was not too surprising to hear him make such a divisive public statement, particularly as it was getting to national elections of which tensions were high. But even then such a statement was unpardonable.

Most surprising of such bigotry was a statement made by Hon. Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu the current Minority Leader in Parliament and MP for Suame Constituency in Kumasi. He was reported to have said that there was no Ga person worthy of leading the NPP as its presidential candidate. At the time he made such an incendiary statement, the Chairman of the NPP was Jake Otanka Obetsebi Lamptey, a Ga man, and the NPP also has in its number such distinguished Ga persons as Mr. Ayikoi Otoo, Chairman of the party’s legal and constitutional Committee and a former Attorney-General in the NPP Government under former President J. A. Kufuor and Professor Michael Ocquaye who in the previous Parliament was a second Deputy Speaker of the august house. As a matter of fact, since the inception of the NPP in 1992, most of its chairmen had been Ga people including the venerable B. J. da Rocha, their first Chairman, and Mr. Odoi Sykes in addition to Mr. Jake Obetsibe Lamptey, the immediate past chairman. How all these well distinguished persons were of no consequence in the eyes of Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu remains to be understood, if not for pure bigotry.

Since the election of Mr. Paul Afoko, the current chairman of the NPP, a Northerner from the Upper East Region, the man has not known peace. Not a single day passes without one incident or another aimed at disturbing his peace of mind or ridiculing him. At a recent press conference, he had to be rescued from some irate party supporters wielding cudgels and threatening his life, who thought he had no right to call a press conference to explain matters of importance to the rank and file of the party and Ghanaians in general. Now, I believe he can understand his unfortunate position, as it must have dawned on him that he is unwanted in the midst of a party of Akan bigots. Nothing he does would ever please them. It is simply the case of the poor chicken dancing before the predatory hawk. No matter how beautifully of skillfully the chicken dances it will never please the hawk, which is only waiting for an opportune moment to flay the poor chicken.

But in all this, has anyone heard Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party utter a word? But why would he? His silence only betrays his own standing in these matters of tribal bigotry. A similar tribally divisive statement in 2012 which became known as ‘yen Akanfuor dee ye dor yenho’ (as for us Akans, we love one another) made during a meeting with NPP activists in the run-up to the 2012 elections, also raised similar resentment nation-wide. In this particular episode involving Osafo Marfo, Nana Akufo-Addo has not spoken because he endorses completely the sentiments expressed by his colleague and confidant.

How does Dr. Bawumia feel now? Since the last elections in 2008, he has devoted time working the entire three regions of the North winning votes for the NPP. The results of his efforts were clearly shown in the 2012 elections in which the NPP wrestled from the NDC some seats which it considered safe. Since his re-nomination by Akufo-Addo as his running mate, for 2016, Dr. Bawumia has moved residence from Accra and is now domiciled in Tamale, capital of his home region, where he is seen hob-nobbing with the locals at ‘pito’ bars, hair dressing salons and playing ludo among others, trying to convince his people to shift political allegiance from the NDC to the NPP.

Yet to the minds of the likes of Yaw Osafo Marfo, Ursula Owusu, Kennedy Agyapong, Osei Kyei Mensah Bonsu, and their hentchmen in the NPP, Dr. Bawumia by accident of birth, coming from ‘resource-less’ Northern Region does not deserve to be the President of Ghana. But he deserves to work hard for the victory of an Akan-Akyem man, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to become President of Ghana. Why not? They did the same thing to Alhaji Aliu Mahama, so why not Bawumia or any one from the other Non-Akan regions. In the minds of the NPP, we should serve as their hewers of wood and drawers of water, but not fit to rule.

It is these feelings of entitlement which were the causes of devastating conflicts and civil wars in some African countries in recent times. Readily, Ivory Coast, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Liberia all come to mind. The disruptions of social life and the damages done to the economies of those countries must be lessons for us in Ghana. We have a reputation as a tolerant people and we have lived up to that reputation till now. Let no one put sand in our ‘gari’ for us.

Torfiakwa; God forbid.

Columnist: Ametor-Quarmyne, E. M. N.