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Feature Article of Friday, 9 November 2012

Columnist: Haruna, Mahama

Is AFAG anti-Northern and Muslim?

Training of Ghanaian Doctors in Cuba. Is AFAG anti-Northern and Muslim?

AFAG's  attack on President John Mahama as having lied that only $5,000 a year is being used to train a single medical student in Cuba needs serious debate and interrogation. The pro-NPP pressure groups demand for an explanation from President John Mahama on the cost of training 250 Ghanaians as medical doctors in Cuba is not out of order.

However to wallow into the issue of which group of people benefited most from the scholarships smacks of hatred and disdain for Northerners and Muslims. AFAG is simply venturing into a potentially divisive and dangerous issue.

I have heard a spokesperson of AFAG say "..the selection criteria was not Nationally representative". According to him they have a list of the names of beneficiaries and that 80% of the names comes from the then Vice-President's (President John Mahama) Office. That is definitely a subtle way of saying the beneficiaries are Northerners and Muslims.Â

But is that how our politics should be that some particular group of people feel they are more superior and more Ghanaian and so should have benefited most? What is wrong if majority of the beneficiaries are Northerners and Muslims taking into consideration the criteria used in the selection. Are they not Ghanaians and entitled to the share of scholarship of any kind in the country? I believe those Northerners and Muslims in Cuba or elsewhere are enjoying their scholarships on merit. I believe the aim of AFAG is to incite Southerners against Northerners and Muslims. I sincerely think the politics of Ghana must grow above this malice and superiority complex. It retards progress. Political parties and pressure groups must engage in politics of issues and avoid this cheap politicking of ethnicity and Religion which is retrogressive.

In any case the President has addressed this issue on countless occasions on many platforms. He indicated at the IEA encounter and prior to the IEA debate in Tamale that, most of the beneficiaries are coming from the rural areas and are mostly Muslims who will be posted on their return from their studies back to where they are picked from. Most Muslim women would prefer to be examined by by their Muslim women medical officers to correspond with the tenets of their religion according to the President.

Statements like this from AFAG are some of the reasons majority of Northerners and Muslims do not feel comfortable in NPP and therefore votes against the party. Already the NDC is far ahead in terms of its message to Northerners. They will simply cite this particular situation as another reason why Northerners should vote against the NPP. President Mahama's selection as the NDC's Presidential candidate for the December election is seen by many Northerners as a demonstration of the party's commitment to national representation and equality for all irrespective of place of origin. They believe NDC is the singular party among the key political parties in Ghana to have a wider regional representation especially having had flagbearers from Volta Region, Central Region and Northern Region in the past 20 years.Â

Many Northerners are of the opinion that the NPP should reform itself to reflect the character of a national political party and to ensure its membership of equal opportunities before they think of voting for it. In the parties twenty years history, the three people that were made flagbearers comes from only one major ethnic group-Akan. That to many Northerners is not good for a party that claims to be National in character.Â

Ex-Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama’s failed bid to be the flagbearer of the NPP for the 2008 elections has become the reference point for some Northerners resident within and outside the three Northern Regions to feel the NPP is not their party though some will argue he contested and lost

In fact there is a general view that people of Northern extraction are accorded little or no respect in the NPP.  Statements like those of AFAG a pro-NPP pressure group will only feed into the feeling of many Northerners that they do not belong to the NPP.

By Mahama Haruna

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