A recent Ghanaian News Agency (GNA) article had the Vice-Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) lambasting Fante immigrants in other parts of Ghana, who had achieved remarkable modicum of successes, for allegedly neglecting their geo-ethnic moorings. The article also had Dr. Wilhelmina Donkor, a senior lecturer of KNUST, calling for a radical re-migration of Fantes in other parts of Ghana, other than the country's Central Region, in order to “complement government efforts at enhancing educational development”(Ghanaweb.com 9/12/05).
Needless to say, on the face of it, the foregoing calls seem to be quite benign and, even in some respects, proactive, until one critically examines their implications for the greater multiethnic Ghanaian community. And particularly for somebody like this writer whose maternal grandfather and, well before the latter, his great-granduncle, spent a considerable span of their careers educating Fantes, such ethnocentric and pontifical statements reek of nothing short of the immitigably offensive. And going by the arguments of Professor Kwesi Andam, one would that the latter were Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Coast, rather than one that is located in the very heart of the erstwhile great Asante Empire. But, of course, such a call may be aptly deemed to be tantamount to nothing better than the rather unfortunate exhortations of Professor Andam and the latter's fellow sub-ethnic national, Dr. Wilhelmina Donkor.
Furthermore, could those of us non-Fante Akan, such as Akuapem, Akyem, Asante and Brong, whose diligent cultivation of cocoa plantations, Ghana's perennial economic mainstay, almost singularly developed the Ghanaian economy as we know it, disconsolately lament the fact that revenue from our efforts found their way into the development of educational facilities, as well as other infrastructure, in the Central Region of Ghana?
Indeed, as prominent academics, Professors Andam and Donkor would have done themselves, as well as the rest of us, better by first accounting for those factors which motivate any group of people to move from one part of any principality, or community, to another. Then also, it is quite interesting and significant to appreciate the fact that a sizeable percentage of the most successful Fantes were actually born and raised in areas other than the Central Region of Ghana. And on the latter score, of course, cognizance is duly taken of such distinguished global personalities as United Nations Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, and famed Ghanaian military general, Mr. Erskine. In some cases, to be certain, many of these Fante “immigrants” could not be aptly regarded as such. For sizeable numbers among their ranks have never, once, visited the various towns and villages where their parents and grandparents were born; and in more than several instances, the parents and grandparents of these Fante “immigrants” were buried, upon their deaths, outside the Central Region. Many among the younger generation also no longer speak the Fante dialect of their forebears with any remarkable modicum of flair or linguistic facility.
Professor Andam, an invested “Nwomasuahene” - or Academic Chieftain - among the Ekumfi people of Ghana's Central Region - was also reported to have disconsolately lamented the fact that the Fantes, putatively regarded as pioneering academics, “have now had most of the youth in [their] communities suddenly losing interest in education”(Ghanaweb.com 9/12/05). Indeed, had he bothered to look closely and more expansively beyond the geopolitical confines of the Central Region, the Vice-Chancellor of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology would have realized that the precipitous decline in academic standards and interest in formal education on the part of Ghanaian youth, in recent years, is quite generalized. And, needless to say, this dismal situation appears to have had more to do with the fact that for nearly two decades, Ghana was run by an unconscionable posse of cynics who exhibited no proactive regard for formal education. Which is partly why the Ghanaian News Agency reporter who wrote the story used the verbal progressive form of the adjective “loose,” instead of the more diction-appropriate verb of “lose.” And the fact that no GNA editor caught such a gaping howler, pretty much reinforces our argument.
Then also, to merely lament the fact that Fantes, who once were believed to have the highest literacy rate in the country, now appear to be fast lagging, in of itself, does not imply much. Here again, perhaps, Professors Andam and Donkor ought to be thinking in terms of the nature and quality of the old system of education provided all Ghanaians, including Fantes, particularly the extent to which the acquisition of such education enhanced or impeded the socio-cultural, intellectual and technological development of the country at large.
And while nobody could begrudge the Fante community of its celebration of a Fante Day, whatever the latter means, making such ethnically divisive pronouncements as Professors Andam and Donkor reportedly made in the Asante Regional capital of Kumasi, left much to be desired, as it were. One could readily imagine what the logical reaction might have been if either President Kufuor or the Asantehene had traveled to Cape Coast and made similar remarks to the Asante community in that part of Ghana. In sum, the most appropriate location for Professors Andam and Donkor to have made the statements attributed to them by the Ghanaian News Agency (GNA), ought to have been either in Cape Coast or wherever the royal capital of the Ekumfi Traditional Area is located.
And on the preceding score, it goes without saying that the statements attributed to Professors Andam and Donkor, by the GNA, eerily recalls one that was recently made by the most infamous Ghanaian outlaw. The latter statement was reportedly unleashed in the wake of the 2004 Ghanaian presidential election and the massive and blistering defeat of the Fante-born candidate of the so-called National Democratic Congress (NDC). Back then, some ethnic chauvinists and fanatical minions of Little Jeremiah were reported to be damning the entire populace of the Central Region for having supposedly blindly proffered their sacred mandate to an Asante candidate, instead of one of their own.
Yes, indeed, the precipitous decline in Ghanaian academic standards ought to be aptly lamented. But, perhaps, even more significantly, one ought to logically ask: Just what are the best educated among us doing to make education more appealing to our youth? Needless to say, a highly schooled ethnic chauvinist has no intellectual or moral edge over a complete illiterate and the unschooled. *Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., teaches English and Journalism at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of “Dr. J. B. Danquah: Architect of Modern Ghana”(iUniverse.com, 2005), and eleven other volumes of poetry and prose, all of which are available from Amazon.com, iUniverse.com, Barnes & Noble.com and Elibron.com. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.