Partisanship and Tribalism will only hinder our development

Sun, 24 Jan 2016 Source: Owusu-Nkwantabisa, Nana

Nana Owusu-Nkwantabisa

It’s been a while since I wrote an article for this forum. The healthy debate

that used to transpire on the platform is clouded with partisan and ethnic screaming.

Just check the number of comments posted to topics that call for healthy discussion

like what I am addressing in this article to inflammatory posts and conclude for


Back in 2013, I wrote the article ‘Corruption, Politics, and Tribalism killing

Ghana as a rejoinder to a comment made Nana Akenten Appiah-Menkah


balism-killing-Ghana-267752). Those 3 evils remain the major impediments to our

national development. In this article however, I want to address the latter two again

since corruption is so obvious. I also believe that the latter two among other things

fuels the first. We need to resolve these issues to unleash the continent’s


Partisanship?: I am a huge fan of democracy. I will confess that my

sympathies have lied more with the NPP tradition primarily because of its

commitment to promote a culture of liberal democracy in Ghana. I am an admirer

of both Kwame Nkrumah and Jerry Rawlings but refuse to support their political

traditions ONLY because of the autocratic cultures that they perpetrated. When you

hear me talk about Kwame’s vision and sense of urgency or contrast Jerry’s

leadership to some of his successors, you would question if my sympathies truly lay

with NPP. Well, my sympathies lie with Ghana and I detest partisanship and



While Nkrumah’s one-party state or Acheampong’s UNIGOV were seen as

tools for dictatorship, there is a lot to be said against multi-party democracy in

Africa and I am convinced that Africa must seek to define for itself what constitutes

liberal democracy. Multi-party politics as I have argued in other articles and as have

been echoed by people like Professor Lumumba of Kenya, in several respects, is

alien to the African culture. I have argued for parliamentary democracy akin to our

village councils or chief’s courts that are representative of every clan. Imagine that

all the best people from your constituency contest as independent candidates and

the constituency sends it’s best candidate (not the one imposed by the party favored

in the constituency) to parliament? Wouldn’t all parliaments be filled with the best

from each constituency? I have made the football analogy before - wouldn’t our

national team be the best from each region? Our parliament should be the

equivalent of our beloved Black Stars.

What about regional or district caucuses? All parliamentarians from a district

should be able

to unite and fight for a district instead of being divided by parties.

The party concept as my friend Lumumba and others will say is an import - part of

the Washington consensus concepts that we believe we must ‘ape’ to join the comity

of developed nations. We don’t have to. The world can also benefit from our

culture and an African export. Parties are divisive and Europe and America would

be grateful if Africa provided a solution for the whole world.

Our communities are divided, we waste millions on ensuring electoral purity

and our nations are on the brink of war because of this foreign construct. Where is

the will to stop this and do something right for Africa for once?

Tribalism?: I suppose you can see that if we eliminate partisanship, tribalism

although not eradicated, will be diminished. The NPP Akan tag and the NDC

non-Akan tag will evaporate. As Ghanaians, in all honesty, these ethnic divisions

only exist as a result of politics. We date, marry, fellowship, and work with each

other until a politician looking for power comes to tell us that those people are

against us. Our brains start making us believe that nonsense and then all our senses

are heightened to that and we start interpreting every individual’s efforts through

tribal lenses. We even take it into sports.

Let me share why I think that both of our founding fathers- J.B. Danquah and

Kwame Nkrumah were right in different respects and failed us by not seeking ways

to bridge their differences. JB believed that we should form and consolidate gains in

Ghana and celebrated our traditional societies - Okyeman, Asanteman, Anlo, Asogli,

Dagbon, Gonja etc. He was proud of our cultures. Kwame saw the need to go

beyond ethnic boundaries and unite the entire continent. There is no reason why

both virtues could not be pursued. There was no need to suppress and abolish the

traditional systems to achieve the continental dream. In Kwame’s mind, the

traditional system was an obstacle to the sweeping changes he was bringing to the

continent. As a transformational leader (and he was), he was moving with speed. I

would have advised him to bring all the chiefs along instead of ‘chasing them so they

leave their sandals behind”.

We are all proud of our ethnicities and would never accept subjugation. As a

continent, we have so many ethnicities but we have a common fate and so it is

important to embrace our common identity as Africans and fight for a common

cause. That was Kwame’s position and it is understandable but persuasion would

have worked better than coercion and imposition. Amidst the chaos that has

unfolded due to our inability to resolve our basic political questions, has corruption


Let’s rise as a nation and a continent united to address the fundamental

challenges of poverty, unemployment, underdeveloped infrastructure, basic health

care etc. and flee from the divisive tendencies that made us the worse victims of

slavery centuries ago and continues to keep us impoverished and destitute today.



Columnist: Owusu-Nkwantabisa, Nana