For an opinion or commentary writer in Ghana these past four/five years, there’s been no shortage of subjects to choose from. Just when you think you have heard of the most ridiculous, ludicrous, incredulous, profane, tragic, annoying, or downright crazy, something comes up and your head spins even faster!
What should be the positive ones, like, like, let’s say, the stuff that should bring out the best in us as a people, is compromised by the petty partisanship of “onka yɛ who”. It should not have come to that! Those who wanted to get rid of John Mahama, overrated themselves with the make-believe impression of a Midas Touch to transform Ghana in “18 months”! Time, a very short time, has exposed the ponderousness of the big lie! The Toxic Touch may be more like it now!
An example of this Toxic Touch was when a little girl at Wesley Girls High School tickled the national conscience – one way or the other – with the no fasting imposition by her school authorities during Ramadan 2021. The subsequent backlash in which the leadership of the Christian community in Ghana waded in and seemed to gang up against her with a needless quarrel they picked with the Ghana Education Service (GES) drew troubling and unnecessary religious battle lines.
The national mood, had already, before that, been showing unacceptably high doses of bigotry with the discourse veering into the direction of who owns Ghana: the “majority” Christians or the rest of us? The question that had been agitating my own mind, for a while now, in fact, since a so called “national” cathedral was imposed on the nation by Dr., Dr., Dr., Akufo-Addo, some four years ago, has been where all that proselytizing would eventually lead us to.
His mantra of “we are in the majority”, referring to Christians in Ghana, in justification of his “national cathedral of Ghana”, has since been picked up by those Christians already chafing at the bit to start such a crusade in this multi-faith, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural secular country. For those people, the triple honorary doctorate laureate is something of a Richard the Lionheart, with sword drawn, galloping into Jerusalem to fight a holy war!
But should being a Ghanaian be related to one’s religious beliefs or religion and not nationality? I believe we are guided by our constitution in matters of nationality, which is secular. Judaism, the originator of the triumvirate of the Abrahamic religions has not gained much root here but the other two, Christianity and Islam have thrived and today influence several swathes of the Ghanaian spiritual environment.
So influential that Ghana’s “Domesday” exercise, Census 2021, which started last week with house counting), has become a contest between Ghanaian Christians and Ghanaian Moslems, each encouraging adherents to come out and be counted, almost like campaigning for political party followers to “come out and register massively in your numbers to vote.” The Christians want their “majority” to be confirmed by the census and the Moslems also want to prove that their numbers are far more numerous than being held out!
What therefore should be a simple, benign exercise in statistical data collection for development, has now assumed a potentially malignant sectarian religious rat race. I have seen and read posts from both sides – not really worth reproducing here – that suggest that the census is an all-die-be-die religious affair.
If all these exhortations would see us cooperating with the authorities to bring out a count as accurate as possible, that would be desirable, but if it is, as I suspect, a fertile breeding ground for religious hegemony, then we must prepare for vigorous post-census disagreements and a nation more divided, with dire consequences.
I have to pick my words very carefully, what with words like blasphemy, irreverence, apostasy, fatwa, unbelief, all very heavy religion-based words that could be unleased in my direction by those who will not like the language of this opinion piece. Our constitution is right in acclaiming our right to worship – or not – and respect for our holy books’ authority in determining our theologies, but in no way should that diminish, overthrow, or subvert our nationhood – that which binds all of us, whether we were born in this or that faith. The attempt by some people, whether through their so called “national” cathedral or in words and deeds, to proselytise their faiths above our secular constitution cannot be the right way…
I reached out to a crony of mine who usually peer-reviews my opinion pieces to pick his mind. His response was tailor-made for my concluding paragraphs today, though it was originally an exchange between him and his daughter:
“She asked me how we [can] stop the mad religiosity and prepare our youth for the future. Below is what I sent her:
We have it upside down. Made in God’s image means we have a powerful brain to create and invent! Not to spend the time praying for Him to come and save us! From what? Our own ineptitude!
Insist on religion being a private affair.
Compulsory teaching of mathematics and science at basic education. Science is about facts and proof. No matter your religion, you cannot dispute the fact that we all have blood, bones, muscles, etc., in our bodies. This is verifiable. A bacterial or viral infection will make you ill, it has nothing to do with curses and witches. You investigate and find a cure, not anointing oil.
Teach critical thinking as a course throughout high school and develop a resolution-oriented culture for students and citizens.”’
And true, as we gear up for our own Domesday Book, the above should be the catechism and not who is more or less Ghanaian due to religious numbers –a wasteful data that cannot add to or divest me of my “Ghanaianess”.
We should never lose sight of the fact that our diversity in ethnicity, religious persuasions, our varied traditional practises, all work together to weave that beautiful cloth we proudly wear, and call “Ghanaian Hospitality”! It is a trait all Ghanaians are truly proud of. It is against such a background that we have our national symbols like kente (which is now universal) from our forest regions and fugu/batakari from our savannah grassland regions, also acclaimed internationally and the many, many cultural artefacts that make our country a truly unique place. It is they, which now define our identity to ourselves and to the world and allows the strength and space to be tolerant. Any attempt to artificially tilt the delicate balance will lead to PERFECT DISATER!
Any government or politician, who will use his or her personal mode of worship or faith, to try to redefine us, does us wrong and other faiths that feel so discriminated against would have the right to disagree and express it even if it is only in the matter of a national census...
Let us by all means remain loyal to the faiths we were born into, or those we have adopted by choice or even the non-faiths of agnosticism or atheism, but at the same time, allow our nationality to bind us all together in the service and progress of our country. May we have a useful Domesday exercise.