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26.12.2004 Feature Article

About Fantes and Allegiance---A rejoinder

About Fantes and Allegiance---A rejoinder
26.12.2004 LISTEN

The above article published on December 21, 2004, written by Priscilla Impraim is a total insult to all Fantes. The article belittled the collective intelligence of Fantes and maligned their character by comparing them to Asantes. Are Asantes the standard national yardstick in Ghana, which must be used to measure the success or failure of any tribal group in Ghana? This kind of thinking fuels and deepens tribal tensions in Ghana. And it also opens up Fantes for unnecessary ridicule and stereotype as it gives haters of Fantes the mudsling to shoot at them. I want to make it clear that every tribal group in Ghana has its own weaknesses and strengths, depending on one's social lens or frame of reference. Nevertheless, Priscilla chose to concentrate on the exaggerated weaknesses of Fantes rather than their strengths to indict them for voting NPP. She thinks she has done a good job by adding to Graham's short-sighted indictment of the collective wisdom of Fantes in the recent elections. Like Graham, Priscilla has not undertaken any ethnographic investigations to find out why Fantes voted overwhelmingly for the NPP. That would have been a great learning experience for both of them. Instead, both are indulging in wide speculations and insulting Fante people.

Both Priscilla's historical accounts and sociological analysis of Fantes are fraught with inaccuracies and half-baked truths. First, she speculates that the Asantes led by Yaa Asantewaa fought to end the so-called Slave Trade. Critical historians knowledge that the singular bravery of Yaa Asantewaa was an act of resistance against colonial annexation of the Asante kingdom, rather than resistance against the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. This is the punch line: Yaa Asantewaa would not have mobilized the Asantes to oppose British colonialism if the colonial masters had not attempted to annex Asanteman. Today Yaa Asantewaa is celebrated and remembered as an anti-colonialist, not an anti-slave Trader. Though the distinction between the two roles is tenuous, it is crucial in order to understand the orientation of actors in history. This simple analysis, however, shows that historically Asantes rose up against any political calculations that are inimical to their perceived interests.

For example, Asantes were more or less responsible for bringing down the Acheampong's regime when they perceived Union Government as a threat to their interests. Asantes (led by then Asantehene) did not like Nkrumah because he refused to accept Asante's demand for federation instead of a unitary nation-state. The Asantes thought that they would be able to preserve and maintain Asanteman in a federal system. Thus, their loathe for Nkrumah had nothing to do with his tribal background. Even with that, Nkrumah still had a massive political support-base in Kumasi. Perhaps in the recent elections, the Asantes voted in record numbers for NPP not because Kufour is a tribal affiliate but because his government is pursuing market-economy policies and democratic principles that serve the interests of Asantes. If Kufour's government were to do otherwise, the Asantes are more likely to vote against him. Second, Priscilla blames the Fantes for the Slave Trade while she turns an intentional blind eye to the roles of others in that devilish trafficking in human beings. Most tribal groups in Ghana, including the Asantes, were implicated in the Slave Trade. Yet Priscilla set aside the Fantes for vituperative blaming. Third, Priscilla states that an Asante's first allegiance is to Asantehene; second to Asanteman; third to his or her uncle; forth to his brothers and sisters and then to himself. This is an oversimplification, inaccurate depiction of an Asante's ladder of social allegiance. An Asante's social ladder of allegiance is not fixed; it slides and changes depending on the circumstances of the time. Of course, Asantes respect and honour Asantehene and even most Asante's children are socialized in that way. But Asantehene does not tell Asantes how and who they should vote for in an election. As well, Priscilla does not understand that our current political arrangements and other modernization of our economic and social structures have led to a drastic reduction of the traditional power-base of the Asantehene and has almost rendered him an irrelevant institution. The present Asantehene is so smart to realize this fact. That is why he has invented a new role for the Asantehene in the form of establishing the Otumfuo Scholarship Fund and engaging in other development projects. As for the allegiance to one's uncle, this is an outmoded practice. Now I can speculate that most Asantes owe more allegiance to their parents than to their uncles; and more to their children than to their siblings.

Forth, Priscilla states that Fantes have an unbridled tendency to pursue advanced degrees such as Masters and PhDs, and that they prefer to work for some one instead of setting up their own businesses. From my observations, the pursuit of advanced academic degrees is now an infectious mentality spreading not only in Ghana, but the whole African continent. This is because the average African believes, whether true or false, that an advanced degree is a prestigious social symbol of power and of knowledge. Even Asantes who were in the past stereotyped for having an aversion to academic pursuits are now showing a steadfast interest in accumulating these degrees. So why ridicule Fantes?

Regarding entrepreneurship and risk-taking, it is a continental problem of Africans. Even in Ghana most tribal groups have little interest in entrepreneurship and it is uncommon to see a university educated person running a business of his or her own. Contrary to popular conception, a store or merchandising is not the only venture one must construe as a business. A business also includes production such as crop farming, poultry farming, animal farming, manufacturing (both primary and secondary), and services (medicine, dental, accounting and taxation, legal, transportation, and a variety of consultancy services). A Canadian friend of mine once remarked in a joking way that African are good at two major things: establishing schools and churches. And he bemoaned his observation that Africans are not taking an interest in setting up factories that would produce their consumption needs. Anyway, I personally dream that a time will come when our educational institutions would offer programs in entrepreneurship at the certificate, diploma, degree or post-graduate level. Such entrepreneurship programs would be practical with a sound theoretical base and with an emphasis on the absolute truth that people create jobs and wealth and the government merely regulates and distributes the wealth of the nation using its legal and constitutional legitimacy. Thus, the lack of entrepreneurial spirit is a systemic, national problem in Ghana, and not exclusively Fantes' problem.

Finally, Priscilla's criticism of Fantes as Europhilic is also an illusory observation. Nonetheless, Europhilia is a problem of Africans in general and Ghanaians in particular. Europhilia is not simply an excessive love and respect for white Euro-Americans, but it includes attempts to model our social, cultural, economic, and political institutions on those of Euro-Americans. It also includes using Euro-American standards and precepts to judge our traditional institutions and attempts to import and transplant Euro-American cultural values in our society. Europhilia also implies essentializing English language as the only acceptable medium of communication in our schools and in our daily social interactions. Having delineated the characteristics of Europhilic behaviour, I can say emphatically that Graham, Priscilla's mentor who wrote the article “The Fante Betrayal” published on Ghanaweb on December 16, 2004, is a full-blown Europhilic. In his diatribe against Fantes for voting NPP, he referred to president Kufour as a poor communicator in English. In his Europhilic mind he believes that having a command of oral English language is an important skill that every Ghanaian president must possess. A non-Europhilic mind by contrast, would demand that Ghanaian president must have a command of the indigenous languages in Ghana, after all Ghana is not formally an English-speaking country.

From a discourse analysis of Graham's article, it seems that he also prefers Dr. Mills to Mr. Kufour because of differences in academic attainment rather than leadership abilities. But academic achievements are not necessarily synonymous with leadership abilities. Leadership has more to do with solving practical human relations problems than with reading volumes of texts or writing lengthy abstract academic essays far removed from the centre of action or events. Traditionally, our leaders observe proper decorum in picking their words to communicate to their people. They are not permitted by the council of elders to either insult the people or use obscene words in public. They are also required to control their emotions in public and maintain a stable composition and countenance even in the face of a crisis. This explains why our traditional rulers often spoke through an interpreter. Certainly, modern conditions demand more from our national leaders than those I have described. However, those virtues of a traditional leader are still worthy of emulation by our modern leaders. Though I am a CPP supporter, I have lots of admiration for president Kufour's matured way of handling Rawlings. In spite of Rawlings' persistent insults and vituperations of the president, he has kept his composure and refrained from returning fire, so to speak. And this has helped to contain Rawlings who, in psychoanalytical terms, has a deep-seated penchant for confrontational politics and rowdyism.

What authority does Priscilla or Graham has to criticize the pattern of voting in Central Region, while similar voting patterns in other regions of the country are left uncommented? Do they think their educational achievements make them superior judges of the political decision of a group of people? No matter your social or academic accomplishments, your judgment is not of a superior quality compared to the collective judgment of a group of people. To think otherwise smacks of colonialist thinking, that posits that the colonial/neo-colonial master knows better than the colonized! It also resonates with the Euro-American judgment of the world --- Americans dictating how a group of people should behave socially, economically, and politically. However, this is the general attitude of educated people in Ghana. They feel that their education gives them superior intelligence and acumen for making sound political decisions than their uneducated or the semi-educated counterparts. They feel that they are best qualified to govern the nation but this attitude conjures up images of internal colonialism. And certainly it is one of the causes of our contemporary development problems in Ghana. Not until educated Ghanaians desist from their superior, know-all mentality and respect the collective wisdom of the people, we are more likely to remain as a banana republic. These strictures do not apply to an educated Ghanaian who wants to bring about progressive social changes in Ghana. Even social changes necessitate bargaining, negotiating, and dialoguing with a broader constituency of the society in order for the changes to seep into the social fabric. Social changes also require an intimate knowledge of Ghanaian cultures and history Y. Fredua-Kwarteng is mathematics educator and social scientist in Canada. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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