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Feature Article of Monday, 19 November 2012

Columnist: Nuhu, Kashaa

Who Is A Northerner To Ghanaians?

The Term “Northerner” I believe by convention is referring to the indigenes of the three regions at the upper part of the country. This term invariably is referred to so many ethnic origins occupying the Savanna belt of Ghana unknown to the users. It is perpetually confusing to a non indigene of this province to concur with the real facts about the north than it is to apprehend various ethnic groups down the Savanna belt. The professors, the high elites and aristocrats in society are no exemption to these basic facts, lest advertently impish with a common obnoxious name as “the three northern regions”. How?

The cardinal classifications of Ghana consist of the Coastal belt, the middle belt and the Savanna belt popularly referred to as the north. But considering Ghana as one, with ten regions to be divided into two main parts, will mean the Southern Zone/Sector and the Northern Zone/ Sector. The Southern Zone comprise of Greater, Central, Western, Eastern, and volta regions respectively whereas the Northern Zone will make up of Ashanti, Brong-Ahafo, Northern, Upper West and Upper East regions. These are the segregations with natives predominantly residing on each of the regions.

Unfortunately, occupants of the Savanna belt, mostly muslims by religion with different ethnic backgrounds with diverse traditions are known and accepted by convention in the country as “Northerners”. Inexplicably, if there is a Northerner, for the same reason, there must be a Southerner. But for some strange reason(s) unknown to Ghanaians, nothing like Southerners exist to the best of my knowledge. Ghanaians seem to be languishing in a pool of ignorance that remained uncurbed since time immemorial.

Let no one misconstrue this article to mean sectarianism of promoting tribal sentiment, instead, this write up should be considered nationalistic idea of fostering unity in diversity. We have lived with so many misconceptions unattended to by our own actions and inaction to fortify the unitary system of governance by the first President of the republic “Osagyefo” Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. Ghana, unlike other sister countries and neighbours is undoubtedly a place where the young do spew invective in the name of democracy, serial callers phone in to radio stations to cast insinuations, castigate and chastise leaders and stop at nothing without qualms. Indeed, this nation is inundated with peace with all credence to our tolerance and decency.

People from the northern belt have ethnicities and tribes just as their counterparts in the middle and Coastal areas. Northern region has numerous tribes with the major ones being Gonja, Dagomba, Mamprusi, Nanumba and Konkomba (There are more others). The Upper East has its major tribes as Frafra, Grushi, Kusaasi (Some others) and the Upper West with Dagaati/Wala, Sisala and Lobi (Other minority ones exist). This is what is conspicuously unknown to many Ghanaians hence the term “Northerners” to indigenes of these localities. The common thing binding these tribes together is neither language nor tradition but religion. This is the brain child of the commonality in names.

Strangely to the inhabitants of the middle and coastal belts, this revelation is a nuisance to their ears since they have grown from the very infant age through their long study to elitism to know people from the Savanna belt as northerners, it will therefore be effortless describing those (People from the north) as such than the hustle of according each his or her trait. People in the Southern sector without much effort recognized someone from Otublohum as an Akwamu than a person coming from Nankpanduri as a Bimoba. It is simpler for the “Southerner” to make an Akuapem tribe from the Denkyira ethnic group than to identify a Frafra tribe from Sisala tribe. So it is to identify easily a Kumawu born Asante by the “southerner” from the Ga in inglisey than the pain of knowing a Grushi from a Lobi. Consequently, the resultant effect is the term “northerners” to all from up there as sometimes referred. (broad day ignorance at bare).

It will interest readers to know that, this confusion in the minds of Ghanaians can be attributed to the religion Islam which call for all believers to bear names that are Arabic in nature. By this understanding, it draws the attention of the “southerner” to everybody posturing Muslim with the name as a “northerner”. This explains why there is “Asante Kramo”, “Fante Kramo” and the likes. It is woefully pathetic for the highly educated in society who ought to know better fall for this erroneous assertion with the notion that, religion does change people’s tribe. The question I posed to Ghanaians is that, what will a Fante man/woman who is a Buddhist be called? What will be the name of an Asante who is a Hindu be called? Or an Akyem who is a Jehovah Witness be known? What can be said about the person from Gomoa who is a Christian? It saddens my heart to be acquainted with how deep Ghanaians are embedded neck down in this fantasy. This flawed intuition led to the accusation of the President as playing ethnic politics.

These exposures are meant to ridicule the mental renaissance of Ghanaians who hold this assertion to phantom the misconceptions, misinformation and misconstruing of ethnicities in our minds.”Northerners”, not like the Akans, as the umbrella body with various ethnic groups under it. Every tribe in northern Ghana has its own language, traditions and cultural practices. The Gonjas are the only Guans left in the North with their language much more mutually intelligible to most of the languages in southern Ghana than any other language in the entire north. Most people of northern origin practice one common religion by the same doctrines and common names. This might explain the reason why there are some resemblance in behavior, tonalities and dresses.

Ghanaians generally accepted the term “northerners” with recourse to the long standing history between the people from the savanna belt and the middle belt. This can again be traced back to the colonial masters whose effort made some indigenes look more superior to others in other to skew their agenda, which they finally succeeded living Ghanaians with an everlasting scar in the minds. It becomes sturdier to recognize a person from the savanna belt who assumes a Christian/English name like their counterparts in the South as a”northerner”. Therefore, it can be concluded with all conviction that, the term “northerners” is more directed to people with Islamic tradition than the people coming from the savanna regions. That is why a person in Zongo cannot be distinguished from an indigenous person from the savanna belt.

I request to demystify these believes and concepts that, everybody including the Whiteman is born first into a Country, then region/locality and finally tribe but later make a choice that will redeem him/her to salvation by aligning to one particular religion. There is no such names as “northerners” or “the three northern regions” instead a Dagomba, Gonja, Frafra, Grushi Sisala, Wala just as Kwahu, Bono, Ga, Ewe, Asante, Krobo, Akyem, Fante, Akuapem etc and the three regions at the north. Verily, I know quite well that, time is required for Ghanaians to come to terms with these facts, but hoping that, “little drop of water make a mighty ocean”.

I write with all respect, decorum, etiquette and civility to all ethnic groups in the country. Whether from the North, South, West or East, we are all but Ghanaians with one destiny and a common goal. I pray for an undaunted PEACE for Mother-Ghana in election 2012.

Kashaa Nuhu babnuh11@yahoo.com

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