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20.02.2010 Feature Article

Re: The bestiality of tribal bigotry

In an article titled “The bestiality of tribal bigotry”, published on 2/5/2010, and carried on 'myjoyonline.com', the writer, Kingsley Nyarko, (PhD), made a number of assertions which I wish to comment on. He told us he was going to instill '...in our soul the appreciation of tribal affiliation as a distinct social feature in societies that is needed to promote progress and development.' He mentioned also the fact that key members of the NDC accused the previous government of being tribalistic and that the 'favour' is being returned today what with the NDC also being charged with the same 'crime'. To Kingsley Nyarko, PhD, these are 'baseless' charges and that even if those accusations were true, 'what's wrong about that? Are they not citizens first, before their tribal or political leanings' he asked. Here are my responses to the issues raised:

First, if Dr. Nyarko has been following events in the country, he would have read or heard about one Cletus Avoka. This man Avoka, since he became a Minister, has decided to use his 'power' to place his people in 'appropriate places'. The ones that we know about include his blatant disregard for laid-down procedures and forcing his way through to get students from his area into Senior High Schools. He has since admitted to this and insisted that the said students had the necessary qualifications. Again it is reported that he led a team of about 94 recruits from his area to the GIS Training school at Assin Fosu. He ensured their admission even though these 94 had not gone through the admission process.

And herein lies the problem of tribal politics. So if anybody wants to know why some of us cry foul anytime we see one particular tribe dominating the government, this is one classic example. When we have ministers with this frame of mind and such an 'inward-looking' agenda, can we really blame those who complain about the lopsided and skewed distribution of political appointments to favour certain tribes? To push these issues further; let's just take a look at the recent appointments by President Atta Mills: Alban Bagbin for Water Resources, Works and Housing; John Tia for Information; Martin Amidu for Interior; Mahama Ayariga for Trade and Industry; and Inusah Fuseini for Energy. We all do know which part of the country these gentlemen come from. If each of them is of the same frame of mind as Cletus Avoka, can we just imagine how they are going to make sure 'their people' get everything? And from 'Tractorgate' we do know already that people like Ayariga and others have no qualms at all about manipulating the system to achieving their own self-interest. When Cletus Avoka insists that those students from his area were qualified, the question is what about the thousand and one qualified students all over the country? Don't we have a situation in this country whereby, for lack of adequate resources, qualified students do not make it to their schools of choice? What happens to those students? If those students do not have a minister like Cletus Avoka from their area, then what happens to them?

Second when Kingsley Nyarko, PhD, says “ Don't we realize that the beauty of politics lies in the use of constructive debating of issues, explanation of the channels of realizing designated programs and policies geared towards improving the lots of the people, and not the reliance on ethnocentrism?”, I believe he is oversimplifying the issue at hand. Yes we may all want to see that happening, but that is the ideal situation which is a far cry from what is happening now on the ground. Nobody knows what the other person is thinking in the head unless and until that person says or does something. Can we just say we are all Ghanaians and so it does not matter if political appointments are in favour of a few 'minority' tribes?

The big question is, has Ghana ever been a country of 'one' people? Have we ever seen ourselves as belonging together with a common destiny? If you ask me the answer is NO!!! Those who disagree with me may need to go back to the history books and check. Throughout the history of this country, (then Gold Coast), we have always been a group of 'different' peoples; and that is how it has been since. If we were one people, how did it happen that, in the fight against British Imperial rule, certain tribes fought on the side on Britain against fellow peoples of the Gold Coast? If we were one people would the office location for the former president be an issue?

When Dr. Nyarko asks the question “Are they not citizens first, before their tribal or political leanings?” my question to him is this: where have you been all these years? The current Chairman of the Council of State stated, rather proudly, that he is an Ewe first, before a Ghanaian! He is not alone in this line of thinking!! So if this Chairman happens to be in a position to decide public policy or even political appointments; and he comes up with people of his own tribe, should I sit down unconcerned and believe that he has the best interest of the people, in my village, at heart? Especially since I know his philosophy and what he believes in?

I have said this before and I will repeat here: there is nothing wrong with the concept or institution of tribes. After all it was God himself who gave us tribes. And there is absolutely nothing wrong for anybody to be particularly proud of his or her tribe. It only becomes a problem when it feeds into our body politics. That is why I have insisted time and again that we should have a system of fair and equitable representation when it comes to political appointments. We do know the population count of the individual tribes in this country, thanks to our Census data. If the government is going to be by the people and for the people, let each tribe has its representation, fairly, based on its total population.

When the whole country comes to this appreciation, I believe we would do away with these accusations and counter accusations every time there is a change in government. Each area, region or tribe would be represented and we can then see to the business of the people. So when Cletus Avoka decides to do his own thing, we can be assured that there would be others to take care of the rest in their respective constituencies.

To conclude I would like to state emphatically that I am not condoning the actions of Cletus Avoka, neither am I encouraging it. All I am saying is that every part of this country deserves some 'privileges' and these privileges should not be restricted to only the Avokas and the Ayarigas. If that calls for the enactment of laws, then by all means, let's go ahead and get those laws in place.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr had it right when he said “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that's pretty important”

So yes the law cannot make a man like another of another tribe, but it can certainly make him do the right thing as required by law and give the other his due, and that is mighty important!!!

Written and submitted on February 20, 2010
Yaw Opare-Asamoa
[email protected]

Yaw Opare-Asamoa
Yaw Opare-Asamoa, © 2010

The author has 55 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: YawOpareAsamoa

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