President Mahama insults Asanteman

Thu, 8 May 2014 Source: Kennedy, Arthur Kobina

Irmo, SC

7TH May, 2014

President Mahama’s insult of Asanteman should outrage every Ghanaian. Addressing the Ashanti Region members of the NDC in Kumasi at the start of his three-day visit, President Mahama engaged in very divisive ethnic stereotyping. He said, “Planes can land morning, afternoon and evening at the Kumasi Airport; we have also brought in new equipment to manufacture shoes for soldiers (at the Defense Industries Holding Company Limited). But there is an Akan proverb which says no matter how nice the dance of the fowl is, it never impresses the hawk—when the fowl dances for the hawk, the hawk never finds it beautiful.” This was bad but he wasn’t done. He continued, “Don’t let this deter us because for you in Kumasi, even if we construct roads tarred with gold, you will say we’ve done nothing.” To make matters worse, the next day, Hon. Mahama Ayariga, another Northerner, defended the President’s unfortunate remarks. He said, “The President has said it the best way he could. I think that, what the President said is about our attitudes sometimes and this is specific to some political groups, the attitude of never appreciating anything done by opponents.” Incredible.

Might the believe, by this or a future government that a particular region will not appreciate any effort towards its development lead to this or that future government doing less for that region and more for another region that is perceived as “more appreciative” of the government’s efforts? Can this lead to discrimination between regions?

First, let me clarify my locus in this matter. It is dual. I am offended first, as a Ghanaian and second, as one whom though a Fanti by birth, was brought up as an Ashanti.

When the President talked about Ashantis not appreciating anything done by the government, did that include the hundreds of thousands or maybe millions who voted for him and other NDC candidates?

When Ayariga brought up the attitude of never appreciating things done by political opponents and said this was specific to some political groups, was he thinking of the NDC and the North or the NDC and the Volta Region?

Imagine for a moment what would happen if Nana Addo, Nduom, Frimpong Boateng or Kyerematen were to say something similar to what the President said in the Northern Region. For a President who, together with his allies has complained about not being respected because of his ethnicity to say what he said was unfortunate—very unfortunate. It is an outrage that those who have made a career of bashing the NPP and its leaders for ethnocentrism should be silent. The Ashanti region NDC, the NGO’S, traditional rulers and religious leaders should all be demanding that the President withdraw his hurtful words and apologize.

If the President wanted to make a general point, since charity begins at home, why did he not use the Northern region or the Gonja ethnic group to make the same point—in reverse?

The President should apologize to Asanteman and all who may be offended by his remarks—without equivocation. He has made a habit of making irresponsible ethnic statements in his speeches. In the heat of the 2012 campaign, he urged Northerners, if they wanted a President to vote for him instead of for Dr. Bawumia. These remarks and the attitudes that bring them, undermine our unity and our pride in the Presidency.

While we must condemn the President, we must acknowledge that the President is only the most recent and visible practitioner of the dark art of ethnic politics. While contesting Kufuor, the late President Mills once urged people in Central Region not to vote for President Kufuor because as a “habanadzeyi”, he did not understand the problems of fisher folk. Earlier, President Rawlings had condemned the personal hygiene of all Fantis. Of course in 2012, there was “Yen akanfuo”, “We will not permit non-ethnic Gas to vote” and “We shall chase out Ewes and Gas” by Nana Akufo-Addo, Nii Lante Vandapuije and Kennedy Agyapong respectively.

Now, for the avoidance of doubt, I do not wish to imply that any of these people is necessarily an ethnic bigot. I am asserting that those comments, regardless where or who they come from, undermine our unity and social coherence. I know that I will be attacked for what I have written here but as a Ghanaian who wishes my nation well, I believe we must call things by their proper names and condemn bad things if we are to progress as one nation.

As a native of the Central region which has proudly voted for both NDC and NPP presidential candidates, I call on our leaders to stop dividing us.

We are Ghanaians—not Anlos or Ashantis, not Brongs or Bimobas, not Gas or Gonjas, not Fantis or Frafras etc. I am proud to state that even in 2008, according to polling nearly 3% of Central Regioners who voted for the Mills-Mahama ticket did so because of the presence of one John Mahama who hailed from Bole—not Biriwa.

Let the President apologize and let us move forward together—in unity.

Arthur Kobina Kennedy

Columnist: Kennedy, Arthur Kobina