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Feature Article of Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Columnist: Nyalemegbe, Yaw Mensah

Ghana’s day of shame.

It was about three years ago in a lecture hall popularly known as NNB2 at the University of Ghana, Legon. Up on the stage was a man I’d begun to respect from the very first day I’d stepped into one of his lectures. This respect was not for the mere sake of him being my lecturer, but for the insightful way in which he went about his teaching.

The day’s lecture was a course in Political Science coded POLI 318; Identities and Conflicts in Africa....We the students simply called the subject Conflict. Mr Frimpong or Kaakyire as we affectionately called him was an expert in his field...

He taught the course with no reference to any book or notes; everything seemed to be engraved right on his brain, and we soon found out the reason for this...Mr. Frempong was a fugitive of war; he’d experienced first hand destruction and atrocities committed in countries like Liberia and Sierra Leone, and had had to flee the latter with none of his personal effects when the violence broke out. He taught this course with a passion that only a first hand experience of the devastating effects of war can give you...We studied many different types of conflicts, and came upon the realisation that all around us in Africa, there have been many different causes of conflicts, but the most frequent, and most disastrous kind was ethnic conflict... Yesterday, Ghana witnessed something which stinks of bigotry, ignorance, hatred, and is hugely distasteful.

Ethnicity is a nation wreaker, and anybody, caught to be dabbling in such distastefulness should be denounced and dealt with in no uncertain terms. It was with huge grief and a heavy heart that I sat and listened to a recording of something I could barely believed had been spewed out live on air, and most distressingly had been allowed to air (what is happening to our media ethics) yesterday.

We must not be deceived; it is exactly such bigoted statements which led Rwanda down a path of untellable distraction, and we must not believe our country to be beyond this.

Unfortunately Ghana has a history of high profile people making irresponsible and reckless statements which have the tendency to send Ghana down dark tunnels; in 1979, Victor Owusu made his famous “Ewes are an inward looking people” diatribe, which was as offensive as bigoted speech can get. One would have thought that moving on from our turbulent beginnings as a democracy, Ghanaians as a people would have progressed and moved away from ethno-centric ideology and thoughts. But alas, in 21st century Ghana, we have again had to subject our ears to very similar and uncalled for statements; Kennedy Agyapong’s proclamation alluding to the fact that Ewes and Ga’s are not fit to live within this country. That such a statement could come from such an influential personality within our political infrastructure is worrying on its own. But what is most shocking and alarming to me is the speed with which young and able-bodied Ghanaians rushed to the defence of something which is most indefensible. Not only did they defend and justify his actions, they camped around the police headquarters chanting war songs and threatening fire and brimstone, if he was not released. I ask, if these youth do not see anything wrong with Agyapong’s statements and would rally to his cause regardless, where is Ghana headed to?

Equally alarming and disturbing is the sheer unethical journalism displayed by panellists and hosts of Oman FM yester night.. . Some may say Agyapong was obviously acting in response to another incident, but regardless of the provocation, to respond with ethnically laced remarks cannot and should not be tolerated in any form, given the potential explosive effect such bigotry can and has produced elsewhere before. I sometimes wonder, why we cannot live and tolerate one another and see ourselves as one people; after all, the term is Ghanaian, isn’t it? What is written in your passport? Is it Ewe, Ga, AKan? Or is it just plain Ghanaian? It’s time we grew up, and learned from the many examples of disaster ethnicity has caused around us. It would be a crying shame, if after all this, we still allowed blind sentiments to blur our reasoning, and lead our country down the abyss. Edmund Burke said, “Evil flourishes when good men say nothing”, I challenge you, good men and women of Ghana, arise and say something, not nothing.

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