Opinions Thu, 9 Jun 2005

Rejoiner ? If All Ghanaians Were Fantes And Northerners??

Mr. Joseph Annor?s rejoinder to my articles bearing the above title was an attempt to obscure my core message by concentrating on the NLM and federalism issue. Perhaps Mr. Annor only wanted to write for the sake of writing, because he failed to refute or contribute to the positive ideas I put forward as an option for fellow Ghanaians.

The ideas are that we should see ourselves first as Ghanaians and then second as tribes, so as to allow for a consciousness that would recognize our common humanity and oneness of purpose. I feel disappointed that he used so much energy to accuse me of tribalism, and ignorance about politics, when in reality he does not show that he is in any way more versed in the history of Gold Coast prior to independence. I will explain shortly by responding to some major statements made in his article. Mr Annor wrote ??. Perhaps, Mr Kuyini has only read about federalism and does not know how it operates ??... Mr Kuyini wrongly assumes that a country can only be held together if it has unitary form of Ghana. It appears that people like Mr Kuyini equate NLM's agitation for federalism with tribalism because of their ignorance ??..,.?

The sentence in my article referring to federalism, and the NLM, which Mr. Annor got fixated on, read as follows: ?Prior to and shortly after independence these tendencies were seen in the regional movement such as the NLM in Ashanti, the Northern Peoples Party, etc. It took some skill and persuasion, and rather sadly some level of inhumanity for the Nkrumah regime to keep us united in our vision and purpose?.. The federalism advocated by some of these factions was not realised because it was driven by an undercurrent of dangerous ethnocentrism capable of destabilising the peace of the young nation?. Any one reading the above would realize that the intent was not to argue about the merits and demerits of federalism, but to charge that the federalism request did not succeed because of the ethnocentric undercurrents. Mr. Annor failed to note the phrase ??.driven by undercurrent of?..?. He equally failed to understand this statement and thought that I was condemning the federal system of government due to my ignorance about politics. From his deviated position, he tried to lecture me on the merits of federalism, when in fact it is who missed the point. I did not argue against federalism as a principle or system of government, but that in the context of the political climate of the period, one reason for the failure to gain support from the CPP was the undercurrent of ethic pursuits. Here again Mr. Annor switches my word ?ethno? to ?Tribalism?, which is related, but a separate issue. DID THE NLM AND NORTHERN PEOPLES PARTY HAVE ETHNIC BASES? YES! We know from the history that the NLM was formed in Ashanti after the 1954 election, while the Northern Peoples party was established in the Northern territories. There is no denying that both parties /movements had ethnic colourations. What is important to discern from the events following the 1954 election is that the violence between the NLM on the one hand and the CPP on the other hand, led to several deaths in the entire country; even in the Northern Territories. The other opposition parties were not in this battle between the NLM and CPP, because the killings and counter-killing were precipitated by the single action of the CPP?s propaganda chief in Kumasi. He stabbed to death Mr. E.Y. Baffour (a leader of the NLM), and members of CPP had to flee from Kumasi, even Nkrumah could not visit Kumasi. It is my opinion that such an atmosphere was not the best for negotiating a federal system of Government. The federalism demand had so much ethnic/regional sentiments attached to it, because the NLM and the Northern Peoples Party, which requested for a federal system of government were more inclined to swearing allegiances to their chiefs (Traditonal Authorities), and not the central government. This assertion I make is supported by the words of the late Alhaji Yakubu Tali (Tolon-Na) of the Northern Peoples Party and Joe Appiah (who was with the CPP and later became the spokesperson for the NLM ). Joe Appiah, speaking for the NLM in Britsih documents echoed this position clearly when he said that Ashanti did not want to substitute a British Raj (after independence) for a black Raj, in the person of Nkrumah or any other Prime Minister or President after Nkrumah. The Tolon-Na, also said that the northern people had been a protectorate since the time of Queen Victoria, and had an agreement with the British to be independent of any black power or authority. For this reason the north was not prepared to submit to Accra. And that if the British did not accept federalism then it implied they were reneging on their promise, and the outcome was nothing more than a sell-out of the northern people. On the basis of these facts, I stand by my argument that the federalism demanded by the regional movements had undercurrents of ethnocentrism. I argue further that if federalism had succeeded in that atmosphere of suspicion, antagonism, and outright hatred, it is more likely that conflicts would have arisen between the traditional authorities in the north and Ashanti on the one hand and the central government on the other hand. In such a scenario, who knows whether or not traditional authorities in other regions would have accepted political authority from Accra? I strongly believe that this would have culminated in the establishment of several small countries and not a single Ghana, as it exists today. Therein lies the argument in my first article, which Mr. Annor failed to discern.

The second issue is that Mr Annor says that ?Mr Kuyini is among the group of people who see anything particularly with Ashanti as tribalistic?. What a statement? If Mr. Annor has sympathy for Ashanti that is ok, but to accuse me of targeting ONLY Ashanti when the mention of the regional movements (NLM) in my article included the Northern Peoples Party as those asking for federalism, only reminds me of Chinua Achebe?s proverb- ? The old woman is always not at ease when dry bones are mentioned in a proverb?. My question is, why did Mr. Annor not equally say that I am tribalistic with regard to the northerners? The probably answer is, he is suffering from what I called earlier as ? tribal imprisonment mentality?. I did not mention Ashanti as the region voting on tribal lines because the TENDENCY to vote on tribal lines exits in all parts of Ghana. And for the sake of clarity, the crux of my argument was that people were wrong to target the Fantes for NOT voting on tribal lines in the last election, because they rather showed us the best approach for a prosperous Ghana. Those who vote otherwise may be making Ghana lose the benefit of good governance because they vote with their hearts/emotions and not their minds / intellect.

The third issue is that Mr. Annor charges that I am ignorant about the Gold Coast history, politics and federalism. Well, I have to admit that my area of specialisation is not politics. I hold a Ph.D in Education, and as an educator, I am at least aware and conscious of some important things- to undertake research for facts, to accept that I do not know everything, and to apologise for presenting wrong facts. That is why when people wrote to correct me regarding the portfolio of Prof. Nabila in the Limann administration; I apologized for the mix-up of facts. In the case of the NLM, Northern Peoples Party and federalism issue, I did not present the wrong information, instead I argued for a position based on the facts. It is MR. Annor who rather failed to read properly. Further to the issue of facts, MR. Annor wrote ?Similarly, the Volta Region only became part of Ghana in 1956 or so, when the people of Volta Region decided through a plebiscite to become part of Ghana. ??. some of the later groups may argue that Ghana was not borne as a nation until independence and they may be right?. Here, he exposes his lack of certain knowledge about the history and then calls me ignorant. Well, the trans-volta territory became a British protectorate after the Germans lost World War II. Further, the Tans-Volta Territory was not limited to the current Volta region boundaries, as Mr. Annmor suggests. It included all areas along that eastern corridor, through Kete Krach, Yendi, Bimbila, to Bawku. I also want Mr. Annor to know that the Northern Territories and Trans-Volta were not excluded from elections before independence as he claims. The Northern territories voted in the 1954 and 1956 election and the Trans-Volta Territory voted in the 1956 elections. In the 1956 lections, the CPP won in eastern and western regions, the opposition won in Ashanti and Northern Territories, but the opposition and ruling party shared Trans-Volta.

With regard to past elections results, Mr. Annor writes that Northerners voted for UNIGOV and Limann and that the assertion of voted distribution may not be completely true. Well, the UNIGOV concept/ election was not a multiparty election, but a referendum, and Mr. Annor should not confuse the two. In any case the Acheampong Government persuaded most traditional authorities including those in the north to tell their people to vote for UNIGOV and in return receive rewards such as money fertilizers and essential commodities. Many chiefs in the north and elsewhere came down heavily on any persons that attempted to campaign against UNIGOV. I was in junior years in secondary school and was recruited to campaign for the ?No? camp. My personal experience is one of fear because some colleagues and myself had to run away at dusk from a village in the Northern Region because the village chief got wind we had come to campaign for the ?No? camp. Such was the level of intimidation, which Mr. Annor would need to know as part of his future analysis of the UNIGOV results in the north. Regarding the Limann era elections, the other parties PFP and SDF won several seats, in the north, and thats why there was a second round.

Finally, on the charge of using history to illustrate my ideas as unnecessary, I am surprised, because Mr. Annor has forgotten the popular saying ?to remember the past and analyse the present is to plan for the future?. The truth is that it is only reasonable for me to focus on one issue at a time; and this time, it was nationalism and development. It may benefit Mr. Annor to read my other articles, and in line with his desire to see me concentrate on current conflicts/issues, I hope he will try to sell and/or assist with refining the positive ideas I put forward in my article for the better of Ghana.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Kuyini, Ahmed Bawa