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Press Release | Jan 24, 2005

Editorial: Let ministerial nominees recite Anthem

Pulic Agenda

As part of our contribution to the vetting of the president's nominees for ministerial appointments, Public Agenda wishes to appeal to the Appointments Committee to make the recitation of the National Anthem a prerequisite for approval.

All nominees should be given a time limit of say one minute to recite the anthem correctly or be belled out and disqualified if they fail to do so. When the committee makes this conditional, Ghanaians will be shocked to find the number of nominees who would sweat to recite the anthem.

Quite recently, the Nigerian Parliament disqualified two senators for failing to recite the national pledge of Nigeria. We all remember how one American presidential aspirant lost out of the race when he failed to spell a simple word.

When the Appointment Committee has succeeded in getting all nominees to recite the anthem, parliament should consider amending the anthem to include a line or phrase, which will remind Ghanaians of the dangers of tribalism.

The first stanza of the anthem will then sound like this; God Bless Our Homeland Ghana and “let us know that tribalism is dangerous” (sic)…etc.

Once more Public Agenda is at pains having to revisit the divisive topic of tribalism. One thing that makes the United States of America great is their proud sense of oneness and unity. Once an election ends and a winner is declared the Americans bury their political divisions and rally behind the winner. In fact hardly do Americans talk about their origins in times of crisis.

It was this sense of pride that made ex-president Bill Clinton and his wife to honour a national call to attend the inauguration of George Walker Bush as the 16th president to be sworn into office for the second term. Ghanaians will remember that during the American election campaigns, Clinton openly campaigned for John Kerry, but once the elections ended the differences also ended perhaps, until the next four years.

What do we see in Ghana? Nearly two months after what went down as the most peaceful elections in recent times, troublemakers are still scraping up ethnic sentiments all over the place as if Ghana is the only country with ethnic diversity. If ethnic diversity carried the negative connotation Ghanaians are giving it, Nigeria with more than a 100 tribes and dialects would have long gone to hell. But considering Nigeria's uncountable tribes, they could be said to be far ahead of Ghana in terms of social harmony. Why?

Reverend Aboagye Mensah, Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church hit the nail right on the head when he identified tribalism as a 'foreign god' in an address at the national thanks giving service last week. Rev. Mensah pointed out that Ghanaians must eliminate this 'foreign god' if we are to move ahead with our development goals.

He complained bitterly about how some academics and faceless political commentators were exploiting ethnicity to achieve their political goals, thus fueling ethnic hatred among an otherwise peaceful populace.

Similarly, Maulvi Wahab Adam, head of the Ahmadiya Mission also added his voice to the insensitive tribal sentiments being whipped up across the divide. He was particularly worried about the turns and twists being read into the presidential nominations, adding that the noisemakers should give Ghana a break.

And indeed they must give Ghana a break. What is all this noise about cabinet nominations? Does the president not have the prerogative to make his own choices? What exactly do the people from Salaga (Gonjas) hope to achieve by kicking against Boniface Abubakar Saddique's nomination as the Northern Regional Minister? Simply because he is not a Gonja? Just imagine this, both the Gonjas and the Nkonyas come from the larger Guan ethnic group, which also includes, the Akwapin Guan, the Awutu's and Effutus, the Nawuris, the Chumurus (Krachis), the Lartey's, the Buems, the Chirepongs etc.

Granted that Boniface were a Guan as the Salaga people are saying, what is wrong with that? If the Gonjas are kicking against Boniface, what would the Dagombas also say? We can't just believe all this fuss about the naming of the stadiums after deserving sons and daughters of our land. Why the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) devoted valuable time protesting against the proposed naming of the Accra Sports Stadium after Ohene Gyan, a national hero still beats our imagination. Instead, the Gas, as the AMA would like Ghanaians to be believe want the stadium named after Henry Plange Nemetei who was a Ga-Adangbe. We don't believe that this is the view all of Gas, but a few tribal-phobia people bent on stretching tribalism to its limit.

This issue of tribalism has been reduced to so much triviality that, instead of Ghanaians celebrating our diversity, we have reduced ourselves to vampires, with each group baying for the blood of the other because of selfishness. Shouldn't all those people beating the tribal war drums channel their energies to help the country fight poverty, malaria and HIV/AIDS, child and maternal mortality and ensuring that all children of school age are enrolled? These are the real challenges facing us in this millennium, not tribalism as some people would want us to believe.

Some studies have shown that high quality economic or political institutions tend to lessen the influence of ethnic diversity. Our advice is that the government should focus on creating these political institutions to move the country ahead.

In fact one strategy to prevent ethnic strife in Ghana and Africa at large should be based on promoting political freedom and molding a governance framework that can accommodate our social diversity. On that score, if it would take all the ministers from one region to bring social cohesion, let it be so. We do not encourage giving ministerial appointments to people who cannot perform, just because the president has to satisfy all interest and ethnic group.

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