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25.06.2005 Feature Article

Stop This Ethnic Politics

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I would be very grateful if you could allow me space in your widely read newspaper to bring to the notice of the general public a dangerous trend of ethnic politics trying to rear its ugly head in the newly created Sawla-Tuna-Kalba district of the northern region.

I read with utter dismay a story carried in the Friday, June 17, 2005 edition of the Ghanaian Chronicle purported to be coming from the respected King of Gonjaland (the Yagbonwura). As a citizen of the Sawla-Tuna-Kalba area and a Gonja from a royal family myself, I owe it a duty to set the records straight. To start with, I am yet to be convinced that the story which seeks to bring division among the various tribes of the new district, who hitherto, have been coexisting peacefully, is actually coming from the overlord of the Gonja traditional area as we are being made to believe.

The story as carried by the paper is full of factual inaccuracies. The Chronicle reporter purported that the “Yagbonwura had pleaded with President Kufuor to nominate an aboriginal Gonja at least for the first time as the DCE, in order to build peace and tranquility among the people in the area”. In any case anybody who knows the history of the new district would agree with me that if there is any tribe that could be described as aboriginal, then that should be the Vaglas. As a matter of fact, there has always been peace and tranquility in the place and the appointment of a Vagla DCE would further enhance the existing peace in the district.

The Lobis and Vaglas have never been at each others throat, as the chronicle story wanted us to believe. It should be noted that as a result of intermarriages between the Vaglas and Gonjas dating back into centuries, one cannot talk of a neutral Gonja when dealing with Vaglas and other tribes, as almost every Gonja in the area is in one way or the other related to the Vaglas. Thus the Gonjas and Vaglas have virtually become one. The Vaglas speak both Vagli and Gonja and vice versa.

As for His Excellency, the President's nominee for the position of DCE, one cannot begrudge the Yagbonwura if he is not his preferred candidate for it is quite human to like or dislike somebody but the fact still remains that the president's nominee is the man of the people (the people's choice). In any case, as the story clearly indicated, it is the prerogative of the president to nominate whom he deems fit for appointment as a DCE. Hence no traditional authority can hide under the guise of ethnicity to force any particular candidate on the president. It is rather sad that whilst the government and other stakeholders are trying to bridge the ethnic gap among the people of the nation for accelerated development, your story rather seeks to sow seeds of discord between the various tribes of the Sawla-Tuna-Kalba district. At least we should draw lessons from other parts of Africa like Cote d'Ivoire, Burundi and Uganda not to whip up ethnic sentiments.

It is quite not logical for the Yagbonwura's linguist (Afuli) to seek to portray the NPP government in bad light by arguing that government was punishing the people for its poor electoral showing in the new district. If Mr. Afuli has his facts right, he would have realised that if the government was going by election results the new district would not have been created in the first place. It should be put on record that since 1992, the NPP has been performing poorly in the area, and in fact, the results of the 2004 elections was an improvement over previous results. Afuli and his group should also know that the high office of the Yagbonwura is above party politics and should not drag the name of the respected king in the mud. By now, he (Afuli) and his like-minded colleagues should have realised that the creation of new districts and for that matter, the appointment of DCEs by the president is not to reward or punish any particular area for election results, but rather to bring accelerated development to the doorsteps of the people.

For someone to talk of the DCEs of the area always being Vaglas and other tribes as claimed by the paper, is simply trying to be economical with the truth, as the Sawla-Tuna-Kalba district is a new district and this is just the first ever DCE being nominated by His Excellency, the President. Again let me set the records right that in the history of the then Bole district from which the new district was carved, Gonjas have always dominated in terms of DCEs for the area dating back to the PNDC era. For instance Alhaji Amadu Seidu (a Gonja) now MP for the Yapei-Kawsawgu Constituency was the district secretary. He handed over to Hadrat Fuseini (a Gonja) now with the GES, Bole. Since the 1992 constitution came into being, the only Vagla DCE is one Edmond Polly. Mr. Polly handed over to Madam Veronica Ajara (a Gonja). When the NPP came to power in 2001, Mr. Mahama Akati (a Gonja) was made the DCE. Mr. Akati handed over to Alhaji Sulemana Adams Achanso (a Gonja), and now Madam Sala Forgo also a Gonja has just been nominated to take over from Alhaji Achanso as DCE for Bole. Hence for any body to try to deceive the whole world with the assertion that, Vaglas have always dominated, as DCEs for the area is most unfortunate. If there is anybody trying to sow seeds of suspicion and discord among the people, then, it is Afuli and his cronies, which of course is bound to fail.

As I write now, the people of the new district are strongly routing for the confirmation of the president's nominee as DCE for the area. In fact, I did not want to divulge into the background of the president's nominee (Mr. James Kipo Sunyehzi) because I thought he deserved some privacy. But as the saying goes, necessity compels the butcher to kill a fly. If one talks of a suitable candidate to preserve the traditions of the area as is being argued by your story, then Mr. Sunyehzi could not have been more qualified. From his father's side traditionally, his clan is the custodians of the traditional armoury and manufacturers of ammunitions for the Gonja traditional area (“Bu boyipo”). And so far as the funeral rites of a departed Yagbonwura is concerned, by tradition if Mr. Sunyehzi (although a Vaglaman) and his people do not take the lead then nothing can be done. His mother hails from Yipala who are the warriors of Gonjaland (“Mbonwura”). The nominee also has relations in Kong who though speak Wali are related to both Gonjas and Vaglas. So, who is more qualified to preserve the traditions of the area in this case?

Furthermore, the nominee has contributed immensely to the course of the new district and Gonjaland as a whole. As a student, he was the President of the Sawla Students Union (“SASU”), a non-tribal Students group of the area. His tenure as president saw many development projects for the Sawla Township and its environs, including the hooking of the Sawla Primary and J.S.S to the national electricity grid, clean up campaigns and organizing free vacation classes for students in and around Sawla. Also whilst at the University of Ghana, Legon, Mr. Sunyehzi was the Secretary to the Gonjaland Students Association, a group seeking the welfare of Gonjas and other tribes on Gonjaland. When he became Secretary to the Graduate Student's Association of Ghana (GRASAG) whilst pursuing his MBA, he was very instrumental in finding accommodation for most students of Northern extraction including Gonjas on Legon Campus. These are demonstration of his services to Gonjaland and its citizenry.

I strongly believe that the story could be coming from someone who is peeved for loosing out in the race to become the DCE for the area to Mr. Sunyehzi. I also believe the respected King of Gonjaland (the Yagbonwura) as a father of the land could not have corroborated in stories of this nature which seeks to sow seeds of disunity among his people. His role as we all know has been that of rallying the support of his people to fight common enemies of the area including, hunger, poverty, environmental degradation, diseases and illiteracy among others. Nat Mahama Sawla. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Nat Mahama
Nat Mahama, © 2005

The author has 1 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: NatMahama

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