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BOAKYE KYEREMATENG AGYARKO.
An alliance between Asante and Akyem has always been pivotal in the political arrangements and history of both the Gold Coast and Ghana . Whenever there has been a monumental achievement this centre of gravity has played its veritable role. In more recent times however, we have been treated to an incessant speculation about how Asantes and Akyems are at each other's throat in a fight to the death. Here are the contours of the alleged strife. In the lead up to the 1979 general election a struggle within the Danquah-Dombo-Busia tradition saw the breakaway and formation of the United National Convention (UNC) headed by Paa Willie Ofori-Atta. The Asante faction, the Popular Front Party (PFP), led by Victor Owusu went into the 1979 election already limping and damaged and lost the election as a result. It is alleged that the Asante rump has not forgotten and forgiven the UNC, and by extension Akyems, for this disaster.
A newspaper article recently stated that, “the Akyems think that Kufour does not like Akufo-Addo because he still bears a grudge against them from the 1979 PFP-UNC split that deprived Victor Owusu victory in the elections held that year”. The paper even states that, “that split is still a festering wound in the party, although in public the NPP tries to put a brave face about that difficulty”.
If there ever was a piece of political news sustained more out of sheer ignorance or vice, this will be it! The earlier those who parrot this piece of fabrication out of ignorance go back to review that history, the better.
The propaganda around this issue has been carefully spun in such a way that it is made to appear that it is the two sub-nations – Asante and Akyem that are at war and this involves or must involve every single Asante or Akyem. That cannot be the case. There are many Asantes or Akyems who do not belong to the Danquah-Dombo-Busia tradition and cannot be drawn into this shadow boxing match based on political beliefs which they do not subscribe to. Those who have become willing tools in this vile propaganda ought to look at themselves and the facts again. The fact is that there is no fight or conflict, political or otherwise, between Asantes and Akyems. The leadership of these two sub-nations will serve their people well by not allowing this propaganda to take root in the psychology of their citizens. Indeed, there may be some mischievous political elements, bitter about their past. They are also well advised to let their bitterness know their boundaries and not draw whole nations into a false war.
Secondly, there is a vast population of Asantes and Akyems who were not even born in 1979 (31 years ago) when these events unfolded. Yet because they are Asantes or Akyems they are being drawn into a fake fight that pre-dates them. That cannot be right for an adult population to so mislead and misuse its younger population. Within the NPP itself, many are those who were also not around or too young to have witnessed or understand the events of 1979. I dare say that it is criminal to force-feed this generation with distorted and truncated versions of events of those heady times. Those who have set themselves up as “war lords” in their own petty courts must understand that they bear a responsibility to this party and nation. They only have to look at the false dichotomy of hatred that was set up between Hutus and Tutsis and the consequences of those actions. We must ask ourselves, to whose benefit does such a forced conflict inure?
There is also another very disturbing twist in this saga. Why are Akyems the only ones being blamed for the break-up in the tradition in 1979? There is such monumental dishonesty in all of this. Are Akyems being blamed because the UNC was led by an Akyem? Why are the Asante stalwarts who were at the forefront and heart of UNC such as the late R.R. Amponsah, Okatakyie Akwasi Amankwaa Afrifa, N.Y.B Adade being spared? These gentlemen were not Akyems. They hailed from Adidwan, Mampong, Konongo and Nsuta in Asante, respectively. There were also many non-Akans such as Obed Asamoah , Dr. Agama, Peter Ala Adjetey and others. Those whose agenda is to propagate this fiction even conveniently forget or omit the fact that Dr. Jones Ofori-Atta (Akwasi Jones), younger brother of Paa Willie stood on the ticket of PFP against the UNC at Begoro and won. The question that ought to be asked of those pushing this false conflict is why level your anger against the Akyem and not all who were involved in this business? Simple. Some embittered tired souls who in 1979, could not see beyond their noses, and could therefore not be gracious and accommodating in their posture to their personal differences, and who are afraid of the harsh judgment of posterity are trying to colour this issue in order to revise history and spare themselves the just condemnation of posterity. They are trying to make fiction into fact and fact into fiction. These were their personal battles, which led to a national tragedy. It is over. The younger generation could care less about their foppishness or foolishness. They should leave the matter there and not visit it upon or widen it to engulf Asante and Akyem. There are also those who are summoning the ghost of 1979 for their own current agenda. That is as bad as it gets for it is now nothing but a cacophony in our ears. As we use to say, they should stop wasting our ears. We know and understand that this past does not get us power in 2012 or any other time.
To those, particularly the younger generation, who have blindly bought into the propaganda that the Akyem are the adversaries of Asante, and who have unwittingly become soldiers of a false cause, I have this to say, open your eyes and ears very wide to greater troubles that may lie ahead. If an Asante or Akyem happens to walk down the street, who will be able to tell the difference? At the mention of their names the task of differentiating becomes even more difficult. The strength of a group of people is usually measured by the resources at their disposal and or their numerical strength. According to the 2000 Census, there were only three ethnic groups that had populations in excess of one million – Asante (2,578,829), Ewe (2,212,113) and Fante (1,723,573) – out of the forty-nine listed. It is the size of a people that becomes the source of threat to others. That is why the Asante war cry of old was, “wo kum apem a, apem be ba- to wit, you kill a thousand and another thousand will replace the dead. Akyems numbered a mere 600,282, far less than say the Bono, (794,526), the Dangme (748,014), and the Dagomba (746,924). In terms of numbers and the potential for political hegemony, the Akyems cannot in any way be a threat to Asante, This is a census year. I do not expect to see any drastic changes in the Asante/Akyem numerical relationship. Where there could be likely changes will be in the Asante/Ewe numerical relationship.
Family wars that are most difficult to cease are those involving fighters who were not coeval to the events that sparked the fight, however monumental. In other words when the fighters in a conflict were not witness to the events that sparked the battle, their involvement becomes an illogical expression of emotion, managed by others to the detriment of the combatants. Such fighters invariably become mere tools used to further the ambitions and agenda of others. Our young ones of today must avoid being put in this horrible position.
The author is a former presidential candidate in the NPP's 2007 presidential primary and a leading member of the party.