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11.06.2005 Feature Article

Uniting a nation: Ghana and beyond

Uniting a nation: Ghana and beyond
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Hmm Osagyefo,

Were you ever considered 'tribalistic' during your time? You know after 'the first independence' was declared, the impression was that Sikaman (Ogyakrom to others) had been united, tribal wars were over with and people were going to marry within and outside tribes. You even took it a step further by 'overlooking' Ghana's beauties and marrying an Egyptian. 'Fathia fata Nkrumah', people would say. It baffles my mind. I love Ghana too much that I couldn't even think of doing 'Adwoa yɛ me yere, Yaa yɛ me mpena' with a damsel from outside Ghana. Osagyefo, but as you may know, you never know.

The more I read news all over Ghana; I feel there is a quiet tension beneath our peace and hospitality. My ears are on the ground in Ghana, and what I hear, is what I take. Ethnic tension is brewing and people seem to be disuniting the nation. However, in this present day, where the media 'sells headlines', maybe not all that is being reported in the news about this 'tribalism' thing is true. As someone would say, 'let's take it with a pinch of salt'.

Traveler John, our current president, has been accused of being 'tribalistic'. Most of his top aides are Asante and 'to add more gari to the soakings', so many people called Kufuor and a lot more who are related to him have top jobs in government and the public sector. Nepotism, that's what it's called. The opposition parties, with the help of the media, is fanning flames of tribalism left, right, center and Traveler John has continued his 'mouth arrest', preferring to travel all over the world meeting more Gisell Yajies and securing more 'investment' when he is needed to break his silence and come out to quell these allegations. Silence to some people means consent.

It is amusing how the National Disagreeing Committee is accusing the National Popular Party of tribalism. In Jerry Boom's time, Ashantis were marginalized; a lot of the top positions were given to Ewes, etc. Osagyefo, is that what you did when you came into power? I remember Kojo Botsio, Gbedemah, Krobo Edusei, etc, working with you for Ghana's good. You encouraged unity amongst Ghanaians through education, and empowerment of different tribes and regions. In all of this, you may have gone too far with your united, one-party state. Rwanda's genocide is fresh in the minds of movie goers all over the world; and I hope Ghanaians are yet to see the movie. In fact, if I had as much 'kaawohokɔdi' ('luuchi' or cash) as da bill gate, I would pay Africans to see that cinematic masterpiece. Simple tribal disagreements and loggerheads could go a long way to destabilizing a people's piece of mind and peace.

I think we have had enough of the bad news. Osagyefo, I think some of our media houses would disagree with me, because they are in the business of 'selling headlines'. Many things these days amount to capitalism, making-myriad-money ventures. Good news is marginalized in the background and even when it is reported, it hardly gets discussed. The same 'pull him down' (make-him-look-bad-so-I-look-good) attitudes rule on the airwaves. At least, we still have multi-tribal newspapers in the country.

Tribal tensions are not too far away from you, my friend. Visit Ghanaweb's 'Say it loud' forums or browse comments by visitors to Joyonline's news articles. It baffles my mind, are my people just that narrow minded or they are just dirty-mouthed? I love Africa, but sometimes I get way too 'nationalistic' when I am quizzed about Ghana. I talk about the hospitality, understanding and peace that we enjoy in Sikaman. However, I read Ghanaweb and I get a different vibe. Hopsitality? Peace? Where are all of Ghana's religious people anyway? When would we learn?

I think I am learning and I surely hope you do to. This is because, on the way to go check out Togo, you can see the problems, tribal problems that almost got out of hand. Cast your eyes to the Ivory Coast, clashes there continue and it is taking a while to stabilize the country. Needless to say, it's not been long since there were curfews in Tamale and the state of Dagbon was shaky.

Osagyefo, I think I am falling prey for the negative-bad news, headlines and information sale. So I will come straight to the point. We simply have to do away with all this tribalistic antics and 'politricks'. Ghana is too precious to get destabilized by tribal tensions. We are an up and coming success story and we can't destroy this good thing that we have going. Kwame, you even saw beyond Asante-Ewe rivalry to forge for unity for a whole 'diverse' continent, something that took the Yonkees years to accomplish. I am pretty sure we can unite our country of under 50 languages.

Let's take a cue from our young guns. Ghanaian musicians are continually collaborating in their professions, and sooner than later (we hope), all tribes in Ghana would appreciate the beauty of our talent in music. The music society (MUSIGA) has released songs of unity and peace. Hammer followed suit with 'Ɔdɔ ne asomdwoe', a classic where various artistes sing in various languages encouraging Ghanaians to unite and live in love and peace. Even Batman (yes, the 'Boi' aka 'pan pan pan' man) got in the act, with his Lambure (Nkabom) track. We haven't been listening, have we?

It was not surprising for the Asantehene to come out to ask non-Asantes to shun the attacks they were making on his people. However, it was shockprising to see him utter that Asantes would be forced to 'strike' if the tribal sentiments against them did not stop. Osagyefo, we may understand the word 'strike' differently, but we can both point to a 'striking force'. Otumfuo's second statement was uncalled for. As fate would not have it, non-Asantes harped on his second sentence, accusing him of trying to destabilizing the country with his warning of a 'strike'. Like we always do, we purposely overlooked the part where he asked all 'not' to fan tribal flames. It's about time, we started encouraging the good things we do, and because more of Ghana's good people are getting 'fed' up. Hehe, Osagyefo, but you know, Ghana is too dear to give up. After all, did you?

We need to take charge of our destiny as a nation and unite. The last thing we would want is tribalistic feelings, and pockets of Ghanaians not feeling involved in what we are trying to accomplish. Asantes, especially, in terms of their numbers and influence in government right now, should extend the olive branch to all the other tribes and encourage nation building. Traveler John should appoint people to the few 'needed' positions in his government by virtue of merit and not his idea of 'trust'. It definitely is not about appeasing everyone, but getting everyone involved, and what I like to call, 'rallying a nation'.

Ga youth have called for ownership of their land, because they feel Twi is becoming the more dominant language in Accra. That's the only potent reason they could give for any 'serious' democrazy demonstrations. Twi is expected to be a dominant language with more native speakers and the Asante kingdom was simply a great 'kingdom', a fact that can't be denied by any historian. Osagyefo, I feel like we need to encourage more inter-tribal language, promote other languages apart from Twi and appreciate all aspects of our culture. Anyone who tells me there is no money should look at the amount of money we are pumping into 'western culture' and 'broni waawu'.

Ghana's youth hasn't been blindfolded and fed this 'tribal' crap. We need to start from our future leaders. For one, they are the youth, our most energetic and enthusiastic students. The same people who would go on rampage and demonstrations are the same Ghanaians who would promote unity and stay away from the traditions that have bedeviled our march forward for social and economic prosperity. We must focus our energies on uniting our country, giving us all a sense of hope and a voice in the development of our nation.

Our media must back up as well. They are the mouthpiece for the nation and they should stop 'selling headlines' to make money. They should focus on using their superiority communicating abilities to ensure peace in the country and save us the 'Wahala'.

There is a part to play for everyone here, Osagyefo. Unless, our churches and mosques are constituted by tribes, they should be effective avenues to combat tribalism and conflicts amongst Ghanaians. Religion is supposed to unite and care for the neighbors in the neighborhood and not the brouhaha that the world seems to marketing 'of' it. It's more beautiful than confusing to walk into a church in Kumasi on Sunday and hear the congregation singing an Ewe gospel song. Just like back in the day, when we rapped to “Daavi medekuku”, it's about time that it is absolutely 'cool' to sing “Sumo joley, ohh ahh”.

Last but not the least, our bosses and our leaders must educate themselves. They must offer olive branches to their opponents shun the verbal attacks and trivial pursuits and focus their intellectual brains on Ghana's development. I hope our traditional leaders would show us the way, embracing each other and encouraging their kinsmen to do the same. They will replace the tendencies to strike with the opportunities to socialize and celebrate our hard-earned diversity. We aren't so different from Ivory Coast, Togo or Burkina Faso, the Europeans just happened to stack us together. So we either accept our boundaries and our neighbors in the biblical neighborly love or we reconstruct the borders and 'shockprise' our global counterparts with a united Africa.

The message is crystal clear. Anyone who can read English should understand. I am carrying this message to my boys down in Fankyenebra in a language that they can understand. Till I master a lingua franca to convince residents of Bolgatanga, Yeji, Hohoe, Kpando, Somanya and Dodowa, I will have to depend on you Osagyefo and all ye great men and women of Sikaman. I prophesy a united and focused nation because the messages, ideas and concepts of unity and peace are worth it. Sidney of Nananom fame, if you read me, hyɛ ɛkom ma me (prophesy for me).

Osagyefo, my pen has run out of ink. I have to go and write about African unity. Yes, this is the road on which I am driving on, but there are twists, turns, curves, bends, potholes, hawkers in the streets, and fine 'Abuskeleke' ladies that I am aware of. You know, my friend, as much as I like it, I am still in Africa.

Yours truly, Maximus Ojah. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.