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Why a Kufuor Should Marry a Rawlings!

Thu, 22 Apr 2010 Source: Pryce, Daniel K.

No one needs to suffer a panic attack over the “stentorian” title of this piece, as this writer is simply attempting to promote, rather peremptorily, the need for better interethnic harmony and cohesiveness among the Ghanaian populace, and what better way to do it than to encourage former president Jerry Rawlings to give one of his three daughters in marriage to one of former president John Kufuor’s sons! (I have not suggested the opposite scenario because Jerry Rawlings’ only son is actually too young to betroth any of the Kufuor ladies.)

Recently, India and Pakistan, the two nuclear-armed neighbors, were in the news for the right reasons: India’s best-known female tennis champion, Sania Mirza, had married Shoaib Malik, a national cricket team player from Pakistan. When the engagement was initially announced, there were uproars in both countries, with a plethora of reasons proffered by nationals of both India and Pakistan as to why this marriage was a terrible idea! Of course, with Pakistan, essentially, an androcentric society, the ordinary Pakistani male saw Malik’s move as an indication that India was bowing to its smaller neighbor. Similarly, a large number of ordinary Indians questioned Mirza’s intentions and wondered aloud if she could not find a local boy – an Indian – to marry!

At Mirza’s and Malik’s wedding, which took place in Hyderabad, India, a message was read from Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the ruling Congress Party of India, congratulating the couple and wishing them a wonderful future together! And in attendance at the wedding was Firdous Awan, Pakistan’s federal minister for Population and Welfare, who brought the couple gifts from the Government of Pakistan. In a speech, Awan said she was convinced that the marriage will improve cooperation between both countries and lead to peace eventually! The aforesaid international marriage is, indeed, a good one: it has the potential to unite two belligerent and feuding neighbors!

It is on a similar note, albeit not one between two countries but between two Ghanaian leaders with resounding and unequivocal influence over two of the nation’s most powerful political parties and tribes, that a Kufuor and a Rawlings getting married would unleash a wave of euphoria never before seen in the annals of the nation! Just imagine Jerry Rawlings as father-in-law to one of John Kufuor’s sons, and John Kufuor as father-in-law to one of Jerry Rawlings’ daughters! There is no better way to unify a feuding pair than to eternally amalgamate them as in-laws!

Certainly, the concepts of interethnic marriage, ethnic harmony and national unity are intertwined, which is why nurturing the practice of interethnic marriage is paramount for enhancing national integration and social stability – and there could be no greater example than uniting the Kufuors and the Rawlingses via the interminable and indissoluble bond of marriage. Additionally, interethnic marriages, especially among and between the nation’s most powerful families – more so involving those on different sides of the political divide – will obviate the likelihood of ethnic revolt in the future, with former president Jerry Rawlings’ marriage to Nana Konadu a prime example of all that is inherently idyllic about interethnic marriages.

Among the major Ghanaian tribal groups – Akan, Ewe, Ga-Adangbe, Mole-Dagbani, and Guan – Akans constitute 45% of the population, but Akans are themselves divided into many subgroups, such as Asante, Fante, Akwapim, Kwahu, Bono, et cetera – interethnic marriages may account for less than 15% of all marriages, which means that endogamy, essentially, accounts for over 85% of marriages in the country. The preceding is not a good sign for interethnic harmony. Although interethnic marriages have made inroads into the Ghanaian society, the thought-processes of many Ghanaians, especially of those steeped in tradition – these people are generally found in the rural regions – have changed little when it comes to accepting sons-in-law and daughters-in-law from groups outside of their immediate ethnic makeup, a situation that can, at best, be described as bigoted, insipid and obsolete.

In most small Ghanaian towns and villages, the populations are quite homogeneous, as most outsiders are unlikely to move to these areas, due to the absence of white-collar jobs. As such, members of one clan or family may constitute more than one-half of a village. Under such circumstances, marriage between two members of the same clan is considered the norm. It gets dicey, however, when the would-be partners hail from different tribes, or even different ethnic subgroups. If we are to progress as a nation, the Asante should embrace the idea of marrying an Ewe, a Ga-Adangbe should cherish the thought of betrothing a Fante, and a Mole-Dagbani should welcome the notion that tying the knot with a Kwahu should be based on the latter’s character and attributes, not on his/her ancestry, or lineage. Interethnic marriage is a surefire recipe for our nation’s cohesion, and we all need to embrace this view, in order to build a country that will, someday, become united and indissoluble.

Even with Ghana’s ethnocentric sagas, researchers continue to prognosticate a peaceful co-existence among the various ethnic groups. According to an article by Irwin Deutscher, titled “National Policy and Ethnic Enclaves: One Way to Prevent Intergroup Conflict,” which appeared in the winter 2001 edition of the Canadian Journal of Sociology, the Chieftaincy Act of 1971 has been a major reason why Ghana remains intact today, free of the implosions and ethnic infernos suffered by some of the nation’s neighbors in recent years. This legislation empowers chiefs to intervene in local cases, as well as “enforce customary tribal law related to such concerns as divorce, land disputes, child custody and the like. On the other hand, the act retains for the central [government] responsibility for the military, the judiciary, the economy and other national [issues].” The third aspect of the act “establishes regional and national assemblies where local chiefs ‘could discuss and govern their affairs.’”

This three-tiered system, amazingly, preserves each tribal enclave’s legacy and uniqueness, in the midst of a continuously evolving socio-cultural environment. It is for the aforesaid reasons sociologists believe that Ghanaians are unlikely to attack one another with machetes any time soon, which is why those who have chosen to denigrate and assail the chieftaincy system in Ghana are, in my opinion, antipathetic to national unity. What the chieftaincy institution needs, ultimately, is some modernization of its mores and practices. Let us not digress, however, as the attempt here is to analyze the cogency and potency of interethnic marriages in Ghana.

A few years ago, someone wrote a piece about the so-called “dance” between Jerry Rawlings and the Asantehene, at the latter’s deceased sibling’s funeral in Kumasi. What some of us did not realize was the simple fact that, so long as Jerry Rawlings remains married to an Asante, he will continue to be an irrevocable part of that ethnic subgroup. As such, construing Rawlings’ actions of that fateful day as more than just a simple reverence for the Asante King is, unquestionably, accurate: Rawlings’ actions were also about the oneness and closeness he felt with those gathered at the funeral. Interethnic marriages will promote our “Ghanaian-ness,” if our elders will jettison their ethnocentric beliefs, prejudices, and anachronistic practices, for these hoary beliefs continue to wound the hearts of young lovers, people willing to but usually unable to marry because one partner’s grandpa believes that marrying someone from a different tribe is anathema to his clan’s primordial traditions!

A marriage between a Kufuor and a Rawlings will, most likely, bring the ever-feuding Asante and Ewe ethnic groups together, at least on a socio-political level. At any rate, the union of Jerry Rawlings and Nana Konadu represents a positive facet of interethnic marriage: sticking together in spite of all the hate-filled innuendos and overt accusations that they have endured over the years. (This piece is not about Rawlings’ usurpations of power in 1979 and 1981 – and the concomitant tyrannical superintendence of the affairs of the nation – for which he is very lucky not to have been tried for subversion and executed!) If, in fact, the behind-every-successful-man-there-is-a-woman aphorism is veracious, then the reader should not trivialize the relevance of uxorial power and influence, for a wife can soften the heart of the king!

Let us jettison the cancer of ethnocentrism in our choices of future partners. Let us share our sons and daughters with others from outside our own ethnic groups, and we will produce a unified, strong and patriotic assemblage of men and women who will promote the national cause, rather than further their own parochial or ethnic programs. A Kufuor marrying a Rawlings will be brilliant – simply brilliant!

The writer, Daniel K. Pryce, holds a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University, U.S.A. He is a member of the national honor society for public affairs and administration in the U.S.A. He can be reached at dpryce@cox.net.

Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.