31.01.2010 Feature Article

What We Don’t Know, Can Kill Us

What We Dont Know, Can Kill Us
31.01.2010 LISTEN

On January 30, 2010, I read an article on Ghanaweb that got me shaking my head in bewilderment. The said article was written by one M. Dade Bonsu, titled: President Mills Has Been Hoodwinked And Bamboozled By Rawlings. The responses and comments it garnered were very pugnacious. Words have edges and can be sharp like knives. In fact most inter-tribal conflicts have started, not first by gun fire, but by words, as the 1994 genocide in Rwanda would show. Clearly dark storms are gathering over Ghana, clouds that are pregnant with rife, acrimony and ethnic conflicts, even civil war. We are not there yet like what we are witnessing in Nigeria, but unless we arrest the trend, we might be tricked into it without realizing it, if we do not learn to separate trees from forests, and hold individuals, not tribes, for their actions or inactions. The said article produced a certain Ewe-list that it purported to be the number of our compatriots appointed by the Mills administration, which are indigenes of the Volta Region. One gets the impression that the indigenes of the Volta Region are over represented in the Mills administration and gauging by the comments column that followed it, one would think we can't wait to have Rwanda in Ghana.

For everybody reading this article I would beg you, on my knees, to come over to WWW.GHANATUBES.COM to watch some videos on the Genocide in Rwanda You may copy and paste the link below to go directly to the said video.

I think all of us need a dose of reality check. Let me tell you of my observations in the article. Like every article there are protagonists and antagonists. There are those for and against the article. Overwhelming majority of people in favour of the article were Non-Ewes, predominantly Akans. Those who were against the article were majority of the cases, Ewes. The battle lines were clear; Akans to one side and Ewes to another, with non-Akans and non-Ewes on the standby, not even trying to be peacemakers. This is a recipe for national disaster. Slowly but surely we are hardening hearts in our respective quarters whilst we retch up the rhetoric and political temperature. Somebody has written an article, a very controversial one, why wouldn't sober minds take the article, dice it up, and subject it to critical analysis to unearth the truths, half-truths and untruths buried in it, instead of venting our spleens with abandon? Perception is not necessarily reality, opinions are not facts and just because somebody says something does not make it like they have unvarnished truths and access to facts on the ground. The article was a good start for ethnic relations discussion, something that should be of common interest to all of us instead of jumping on each other like sharks in a frenzy food riot. I am of this opinion; that sometimes your enemy or opponent might be your best teacher, the one who challenges you and points out your blind spots, instead of those who would tell you what you want to hear. We have to learn to listen to each other in good faith even when we disagree instead of cursing and swearing expletives on each other.

The challenge and implied thrust of the article was: How do we all get along in a country whose fabric is a composite of communities and ethnicities? How do we achieve balance in the midst of constraints and competing challenges, demands and aspirations? What is the responsibility of national leaders and institutions to ensure that no sector or region is marginalized in the distribution of the national cake? What should Atta Mills, as captain and leader of Team Ghana do, to ensure all players are fielded or get their time on the playing field? What the writer put forward was nothing more than a cry for inclusion. That to me sounds not bad at all, as first read of the article might otherwise mislead one to conclude as tribalistic vitriol. In effect he was saying: A government must reflect the people it governs, proportionately, fairly, and adequately. All bricks must be used in building the nation. It is not right we build a minority leveraged and dominant administration when in fact the government was elected by majority of the people.

If we would cool our tempers and use our brains we would see or identify what factors and variables have to be employed to get a suitable outcome. Nation building is not an easy task; whatever you do, people would talk about you. What you have to do, as the one in charge, is to seek the ultimate optimal national interest and balance, using good governance and best practices to rein in inequalities, level the playing field and ensure everybody has a fair shake and chance at the opportunities available. We must as politicians serve the interest of the people who voted for us, not serve our own ambitions and parochial interests. What would it take Ghana to get to the next level? If I am the president, I would want to use all the players on the bench, I would want to build ladders of opportunities for everybody; I would want everybody off the fence and benches and join in the tasks ahead. It would be foolish as a team captain not to pass the ball to some players on the field because you don't like where they come from, or did not vote for you as team captain. If you do that, you would be helping the other team to win.

We as a country are in a global competition with every other country, if we are wasting time and talents and are discriminating amongst ourselves, it doesn't mean Malaysia or Korea or Malawi or South Africa is wasting time. I would have loved it if the author had listed all appointments and shown the tribal leanings of all the appointments in the Mills administration. That would have given his article even greater punch and credibility if the facts assembled would go and show that Volta Region is over-represented in the Mills administration. I remind you, Volta region is not necessarily synonymous with Ewe Region. Too often when we talk of Volta, some people tend to think we mean Ewes. Nope, Volta Region is miniature Ghana - all major tribal groupings are found there, even though the Ewes are the majority tribe. We have to be very careful about how we use statistics. Statistics to me is like a bikini or G-string on a lady. What it reveals is very important, but what it hides is even more tantalizing and breathtaking. Anybody can choose to show and spin an aspect of statistics he wants to show, but unless you have all the data your assumptions would be inconclusive and incomplete. That is what I honestly find wrong with the so-called Ewe list. Not that I endorse or condemn it in anyway. I am saying give me all the marbles to form an informed opinion. Perceptions could be very deceptive. But then I am also mindful that it would be next to impossible to get all the ethnic composition of all the appointments in any administration. There are some people here who think all Akans are Ashantis, they hear an Akan name and then they jump to conclusion that is an Ashanti. Let me tell you there are Boatengs, Oseis, Agyemans, Amankwas, Asumadus, Baffours, etc who are half Ewes, Gas, Frafras, Sissalas, Busangas, Gonjas, Kusassis, and Dagombas etc. So let us be very careful with how we use names to spin our politics. As I am saying I also know Quashigahs, Kweis, Mawutors, Amissahs, Mawulis, Does, Adanusas, Kallys, Djabas, etc who are half Akans, Gas, Krobos, and Mamprusis etc. These are the ties that bind, the bridges that hold and must be encouraged, saluted, and celebrated. They are the precursors of the super tribe - the Ghanaians.

The article should have emphasised jobs creation and the growth of the national cake not mere appointments. Now I would want to take a different route. My take is we are all fighting over government appointments because Ghana as a nation has failed to create jobs. It is an indictment of the various governments we have had since independence, not to have expanded the economy, create more jobs and opportunities, so that we would not be in this shark feeding frenzy that has garnered sharp tribal focus on the very few jobs around. For the lack of job opportunities in the regions and especially in the rural areas, many a young man, when he finishes school; sees nothing but Aban Adwuma - the civil service - as his only way out of the hell hole he is coming from. Wrong still is, the kind of education he has received does not prepare him with any requisite skills to be self-employed, government job becomes a do-and-die must have straw they need to hang on as they drift and get drowned in a sea of abject poverty and dearth of opportunities. Successive governments from independence, having failed to create jobs, just overload and pack the civil service, police and army to blunt criticisms from their foot soldiers and world banks. I worked before at CMB where I happened to be at an office which had five typists to three typewriters, in the early 1980s.

The signs are on the wall; we have to demand accountability from the empty heads who sit in governance of us. They have failed us, and we being gullible, are taking our frustrations on each other whilst the thieves dance all the way to the bank. The politicians buy mansions overseas with stolen and corruption money and ensure that they and their families get multiple visas - even diplomatic passports, so that in the event of any firestorm, they would all run away to safety overseas. The Asante, Ewe, Ga, Fanti, Frafra, Dagomba, Brong, Nzema, Dagarti, Sissala, Nkonya, Guan, Akuapim, Kwahu, Akyem etc, is not your enemy. Your real enemies are poverty, corruption, cronyism, nepotism, ignorance, illiteracy, unemployment and incompetent and mediocre governments and politicians. They are the reason why the economy is not growing. They are the reason why we have square pegs in round holes. They are the reason why there are no growth opportunities and avenues for you. They are the reason why we are angry and frustrated with each other. They are the reason why "Connection" means salvation in Ghana. They are the reason why we have mediocre middle level management class who are nothing but corrupt sugar-daddy drags, driving the whole economy down, through pay-to-play, kickbacks, patronage, nepotism, and cronyism. Stop the crabs in a barrel fights and focus on how to make education meaningful and grow the economy and also hold the leaders, politicians, and administrators to account. If everybody has plenty to eat, drink and wear, and a place to sleep, politics would recede into the background, and pursuit of happiness would become the national obsession. A house that is divided can never stand. United we stand divided we fall. Learn to love and respect your neighbours. They are humans too. Cheers!!!!!

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