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23.12.2004 Feature Article

In The Name Of Democracy, Stop The Fante Bashing

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Fantes have come under scathing attack since the Central region voted massively against the NDC Presidential candidate, Professor J.E.A. Mills, who is from the region. It was reported that in Kumasi Fantes were being taunted for "voting foolishly against" their own man.

Some people have gone so far as to call the Fante vote a "mistake". Of all these negative reactions to the "Fante vote" (if there was such a thing as that), one that stands out conspicuously is an article by Dr. Ekow Appiah Graham. His article, "The Fante Betrayal", is a rambling diatribe against the Fante people for doing what all adults should feel free to do without let or hindrance, i.e. to vote for the person of their choice.

I wonder what on earth makes these critics think that the Fante nation could be wrong and only they and a handful of other people are right. Do they think that all the Fante who voted against the Mills ticket are stupid, or incapable of seeing through situations and making a good judgement? For anyone to criticize the way another person, or group of people, voted in an election, or to wage a tirade against them for exercising their suffrage, is way too presumptuous. It gives me the impression that Ekow Graham and his group of whiners think they know better than all the Fante voters who rejected Mills. That certainly is an insult to the honourable Fante voters.

WHAT IF?

I have even heard and read another version of the Fante bashing which goes like this: President Kuffuor and the NPP are fortunate that the Fante voted so "unwisely". If they had voted the way they were "supposed" to vote, Mills would have won the elections. There is no "supposed way" to vote in an election. The only "supposed way" to vote is choosing who you finally decide to thumb print on the morning of the election and going ahead to put that ballot paper into the box. That should be the "supposed way" to vote. What a voter says and thinks about candidates, or which candidate a voter chooses to show open support of during the campaign doesn't have to be the same person they actually vote for. Voters should be able to change their minds at any time before a vote is cast.

The only time it is impossible for voters to change their minds is after the vote has been cast. Aren't we free to say one thing and do another? Aren't we even free to curry favour with people just to make them feel good while they are campaigning, only to change our minds and do something else behind their back? I know that is hypocritical, and am not saying it is good for people to do that. But let's face facts: we do it all the time to avoid friction and to win favours. And as long as we don't flout any law it is alright. Didn't Honourable Courage Quashigah shed emotional tears of joy at Abor in the Keta constituency when he saw the large crowd that had turned up at a New Patriotic Party (NPP) rally? In the end, didn't the people of Keta vote against the NPP, in spite of the seeming support that the constituency showed for the party? So if the Fante bashers are going to do "what if","but for" and "had it not been", we could come up with more. So here we go:

1. If Rawlings had fallen down a long flight of stairs and broken all the bones in his leg and ribs a year before the campaigns began, he couldn't have hit the campaign trail and driven Mill's votes down. Mills could then have won a little more votes to send the elections into a second round.

2. If the Ya-Na, Yakubu Andani had not been assassinated, the people of Tamale would have thought more favourably of the NPP. Kuffuor could have won in all three Tamale constituencies, and increased his votes, plus three more parliamentary seatsfor the NPP.

3. If Mills had married Nana Konadu Agyeman instead of Naadu, he could have won the Ashanti vote, or how about the next one.

4 .If Obed Asamoah, Hudu Yahaya, Ohene Agyekum, Fred Ohene Kena, etc. had all left the NDC for the NPP, their exit could have weakened the NDC base and driven the NPP's percentage of votes up.

5.It cannot get any more ludicrous than the next one. If Konadu Agyeman Rawlings had divorced her husband for infidelity, left the NDC and thrown her weight behind the NPP to show her Ashanti loyalty, boy, they sure could have buried the NDC.

These are laughable, almost insane, suppositions. But wait a minute; how different are they from the "if only the Fante had voted for Mills" assumption? In a post mortem analysis of an election, it is not normal to analyse the elections based on how some segments of the population would have voted and what it means for the elections. This analysis is normal in the run up to the elections; but once the election is over only the actual outcome of the election is used as significant data for interpreting the poll.

JOHN MAHAMA'S CRY

There is certainly a place for analysing how certain segments of the voting population cast their ballots. And that is what Honourable John Mahama, Member of Parliament for Bole-Bamboi has hinted at. He says, ....."only a credible research can really establish the facts". In projecting for the future as far as voting patterns are concerned, it is important to conduct investigations into how each identifiable group in the country voted. And this does not have to do with only the Central Region, but even places like the Volta and Ashanti Regions where it seems obvious to many why they voted the way they did. But of course for the Fante of Central Region, I agree that it would be worth the while to expend extra time and resources in getting into their minds to ascertain why, twice in a row, they have given it to a son of their land. Only a critical study of the issues would reveal the truth about the reasons for the Fante vote; and this is what Ekow Graham should be doing instead of blaming his people.

I don't understand why a guy with a Ph.D. at the end of his name would whip up tribal sentiments instead of conducting research into a socio-political phenomenon. I thought they teach candidates in Graduate school to do research instead of moving around with their feelings on phenomena that lend itself easily to academic enquiry.

I am sure that if Ekow Graham stops whining about the so-called "Fante betrayal" and ventures into Fanteland to investigate what he thinks is the "abomination of the Fante", he would discover a lot about their sophisticated political logic, because his people the Fante are a sophisticated lot, and this shows even in their voting style.

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE ORDINARY FOLKS

Quite often, many of the so-called educated take ordinary folks for granted and assume that they are simpletons. And yet, our "uneducated" ancestors built formidable social, political and military institutions which baffled the "White man" for decades before African societies fell to the European onslaught. Didn't our ancestors use seemingly simple but esoteric drum language to command armies in battle, communicate information to whole communities, and regulate life long before modern forms of communication were invented? Ekow Graham's scolding of the Fante creates the impression of a near-national Fante crisis -- as if the very existence of the Fante is being threatened by an invading enemy tribe. His harangue only stopped short of hitting the gong-gong and rallying the "Fante Confederacy" round for a war meeting. I guess he might as well have gone ahead to sing the Fante national war cry. Since he didn't, I will sing it for him:

Oburumankoma ee!, Oburumankoma ee! Oburumankoma Odapagyan ee! Oburumankoma Odapagyan ee! Oson! Oson akyi nyi aboa. (Please pardon my poor Fante) JUMPING THE GUN While a research buff may be putting the required tools together to begin research into this year's elections, permit me, folks, to jump the gun and go to town with a few hypotheses that might help to explain the Fante vote, ahead of a full-scale enquiry.

For starters, I think the Fante voters may have seriously considered voting for Mills. I think too that they made up their minds, changed it, made it up again, and then finally decided on what to do. Who doesn't want their home boy to be President? I still remember how my mother's people used to take pride in the fact that the heavily moustached Army General who led our country between 1978-79 was from their District. But then, the Fante probably could not bring themselves to see the President they would vote for becoming a stooge on the throne. They would rather have a different person for President than one of their own who would be tied to the boot straps of Jerry Rawlings, a hideous person that more than half of them probably hate anyway. Maybe, the Fante feel uncomfortable with their son's close relationship with Jerry Rawlings. Maybe they believe what many people have said in Ghana that if you vote for Mills you get Rawlings free, and they were probably too afraid to bring Rawlings back to power.

They had ceremoniously seen the guy off through the front door of the Castle, and were probably not ready to be a part of any thing that would secret the dude back to government house unceremoniously through the back door.

So their only way, I reckon, of effectively pushing Rawlings out of the door for good was to reject their own man. Maybe the Fante still remember the famous statement Mills blurted out some time ago that he will consult Rawlings 24 hours, seven days a week. Mills has been at pains to explain that statement away over the years, but I'll bet that the Fante probably still remember that and are too scared to hand power to a guy who would be waiting for notes from Rawlings before he begins his cabinet meetings. Maybe too, I have a feeling they have heard of all these rumours about the insults, and the slaps, and the pushing that their honourable son of the land has been receiving at the hands of Rawlings for going solo on certain decisions. As smart as the Fanta are, they might have figured out that a vote for Mills was tantamount to a continuation of the Mills-Rawlings "marriage", and therefore more slaps, more insults and more humiliation. By that reasoning, the only way to end that marriage and buy Mills his freedom was to end his political career, and for that matter his association with Rawlings. Who says Ghanaian rumours are all false. I'll bet on my last cedi that the Rawlings factor, more than anything else, might have played an enormous part in swaying the Fante mind away from their own son.

THE RAWLINGS FACTOR

Rawlings is anathema to thousands of people in Ghana. He is the bile that spoils the taste of good meat if it is not carefully separated from the liver. In real life when it becomes too difficult to detach the bile from the liver, you throw the whole liver away, as I did recently with the goat I killed for Christmas, to avoid spoiling your meat. Regarding Mills' candidacy, Rawlings was the bile attached to the liver. He was the colossus in whose shadow Mills stood; and anyone who wanted to take a look at Mills had to strain beyond the colossus to catch a glimpse of him. Thus, Mills' candidacy was the tragedy of the NDC's standard bearer shouting himself hoarse above the din of Rawling's cacophonous rubbish. In the end, Mills couldn't get his message across to many people, including, perhaps, his own Fante clan, because it got buried in the nonsense that Rawlings was spewing the whole time.

Could the Fante have seen this ridiculous situation and decided to have no part in it. You'll bet they did. The Fante had probably tried several times to separate Rawlings, the bile, from Mills the liver, and when they met with repeated failure they just dumped Mills with the bile still attached to him. If the Fante couldn't have Mills without Rawlings, then he was no good, I guess; which makes sense to me. Our elders have a saying that ,"kyere me w'adamfo na menkyere wo wo suban", which, as most of you know, means literally that if you would just show me who your friend is, I would show you exactly what your character is like. Don't they say that birds of the same feathers flock together.

THE VOLTA VOTE

Underlying much of the bashing for the Fante vote is the assumption that if the Volta Region's votes were cast wholly for the NDC/Mills and the Ashanti Region's votes went the same way for the NPP/Kuffuor, then the Fante should have voted for Mills, their tribesman. Let me hazard this guess, and I hope that no one hoots at me for this. What if the Volta Region did not give a massive endorsement of Mills and the NDC simply because the beginnings of the party are firmly rooted in Eweland? My assumption is that the Volta Region might have voted the way they did possibly because they think they have not benefited a whole lot from four years of NPP rule.

For heaven's sake, I hope that is the reason. It is better for us that this is the reason than anything else because by this reasoning, as more development goes to the Volta Region and as their lives improve over time, the region would gradually warm up to the NPP and reward them for a good job done. Or perhaps they could still be smarting under the perceived insult of Victor Owusu who, in the run up to the election of 1979, said some unkind things about them. If the first scenario is true, then I hope that during its second term in office, the NPP would redouble its efforts and, regardless of a low NPP representation in the Region, improve the conditions of the people in the region. Regarding the second scenario, if the perceived insult were the case for a low vote for the NPP, then through word and action, the party could prove to the people of the Volta Region that the label of arrogance they have tagged on them is not a true one. I may only be conjecturing, but these two considerations may have worked together, more than anything else, to take votes away from the NPP. If these were the reasons for the large Volta vote for the NDC's Mills, I could say that the people of the Volta Region didn't vote along tribal lines.

THE ASHANTI VOTE

If the above suppositions make any sense, I could then say the same thing of the Ashanti Region if I flip over what I said of the Volta Region. Could it be that the Ashanti Region voted for the NPP and Kuffuor because of concrete benefits the people of the Region have seen in the last four years? Maybe so, or maybe because of the potential for change and development which the Ashanti Region sees in a second NPP term. This is my assumption, and if that is right then no one can read any tribal meanings into the way the people of Ashanti voted. After all, if the Ashanti Region was moved more by tribal sentiments than reason and reality, why were they the ones who made life most miserable for General Kutu Acheampong? It was mostly in Kumasi that he was pelted with stones; it was mostly in Kumasi that he was booed; and most of the unflattering jokes that were spun about him came out of Kumasi. And yet General Acheampong was a son of the Region.

HOW ABOUT CANDIDATE EDWARD MAHAMA?

Folks, shouldn't we be be hearing the same pathetic whining from candidate Edward Mahama, about having being stabbed in the back by his own people? Mahama is from the North and he was running for President too. Wouldn't the North be proud to have another President?

I am sure they would. So why is Mahama not whining about the lack of Northern votes, or why aren't Northerners berating each other for an absence of loyalty and support? Is it because our Northern brothers are not as nationalistic as the self-appointed Fante war chiefs who are whipping up unnecessary Fante sentiments and crying over spilt milk? Of course, that is not the reason. Candidate Mahama understands that the people of his region know what they want, and that if he nor his party couldn't offer them, they were not going to get many votes from them.

I could say the same thing of Candidate George Aggudey. Even though I don't know which part of the country he is from, it is obvious that whoever his people are, they too did not vote for him. He might be an Adanbge, but I am yet to hear of any Adangbe bashing.

LESSONS TO BE LEARNED

Instead of ridiculing the Fante for the way they voted, Ghanaians must draw an important lesson from their voting patterns. We are one nation working hard to achieve greater unity; and one of the ways to bring about national unity is through the way we vote.

On this score, the Central Region is blazing a trail that no we can all emulate! I challenge all of us to take a critical look at this phenomenon and replicate it in other regions of the country. It would be a stronger Ghana when people would feel free to vote for any candidate of their choice regardless of where they are from, without feeling any pressure to vote in a certain way. That is why it is unfortunate that in Kumasi some Ewe and Northerners are taunting Fantis for voting against Mills when they who are not Fante voted for him. In fact, that is the beauty of a free exercise of a universal adult suffrage - that Ghanaians would not vote for candidates because they happen to come from their village. It is a blight on the principle of adult suffrage when people are publicly jeered or ridiculed for exercising their right in a certain way. Needless to say, such pressure may force people to vote in a certain way, not because that is what they want to do, but because they know that they are being watched. When that happens, it is democracy that suffers. And so I say again, that in the name of Democracy, the Fante bashing must cease! B.K. Obeng-Diawuoh Bardstown, Kentucky USA Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

B.K. Obeng-Diawuoh
B.K. Obeng-Diawuoh, © 2004

The author has 16 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: BKObengDiawuoh

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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