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Opinions of Thursday, 10 June 2010

Columnist: Dogo, Ahmed Tijjani Usman

Zongo Will Rise Again



I wrote this letter over a decade a ago with the intention of sending it to late honourable chief Abubakar Ali III of Kumasi Zongo. Just before I finished the letter I received a phone call to be told that the Lion has gone to sleep. I cried and shared my tears in private. I shared tears for two reasons: one for losing someone I call my father, a mentor and a visionary and two, I shared tears because the Zongo community has lost a leader who have compassion, selfless generosity, and who laid his life for the love of his people. Since that day I vowed never to lose sight of what we have discussed during our meeting in 1998 in his palace in Kumasi. The experience becomes a cherished memory permanently ingrained in my mind and in my heart.

I’ve never shared this with any soul because it is my private thought. But today I will like to share it with all the Zongo communities in Ghana and the non Zongos. I come to the realisation that to keep this thought to myself will be a de-service to the Late chief’s memory and, I will be doing injustice to myself, and, above all I will commit an abominable misgiving against my people the Zongo communities in general. So today I am presenting to you the thought, the legacy and the vision of the Great Lion of Zongo.

I met Chief Alhaji Abubakar Ali III on my first visit to Ghana in 1998. When we met he made an everlasting impression on me that when I returned to the UK I immediately set out to write to him to express my deep felt admiration and enthusiasm that I felt and the values of human dignity and love for once community that he instilled in me. Late chief (Sarkin Zongo) was not long out of hospital when we met. During our deep conversation when I was outlining to him our approach and new ideas for developing the Zongo communities and, the efforts the Zongo people both at home and in the Diaspora are making towards helping the Zongo communities, the Late chief took a deep sigh, looked at me in the eyes and said I quote “ The more I hear such positive comments about Zongo people, and the vitality and energy with which they are forming alliances to assists the Zongo communities, the more I feel better in myself, it feels my heart with great joy, It is like you are giving me some doses of medications it makes me so happy. He went on to say, now I know if I die there are people who have passion and who care about Zongo communities and I know Zongo will rise again”. May his soul rest in perfect peace Amen.

To His Royal Highness Chief of Zongo, Alhaji Abubakar Ali. I pray to Almighty Allah to grant me wisdom and guide my pen in writing you this letter. I pray tirelessly for you, for Allah to protect you from your enemies, to grant you speedy recovery and to prolong your life. I firmly believe for a time Allah has given us a leader with wisdom, insight and a vision to lead us out of the darkness, into the new light of progress, advancement, respect for one another and total unity of the Zongo people. I write in the spirit of love, peace, and unity for my beloved Zongo. I open this letter with the Islamic greeting assalmu alaikum. (May peace be with you)

Meeting you last year during my visit to Ghana was one of the greatest joy in my life. Our meeting and the contents of our discussion has in indeed influenced my thinking and added more vigour to my approach to addressing the numerous social, economic and political problems facing our communities. My personal observation has also indicated to me the urgency with which these issues needed to be attended to.

Our communities today are ravaged with ethnic, religious and political conflicts. Families are separated for the sake of political parties. Others are fighting for ethnic superiority or religious righteousness. This has now become part and parcel of our daily life in every Zongo around Ghana. Some members of our community are even prepared to sacrifice their own life for the betterment of someone else's life without questioning their own rationality. Others on the other hand have given up on the future of the community. Some have already concluded that nothing can be done to improve our condition or reconcile our differences, and some says nothing good can come out of Zongo. These sentiments are openly expressed by many people I came across during my visit. When I asked people what do they think can be done to revive Zongo? The responses I get are usually that Zongo’s problem is too profound and nothing can be done to solve it. Others will say in Zongo today everybody take care of himself or herself. Some will comment that there is nothing we can do to remedy our condition. Unemployment, poor health and lack education are also mentioned many times. Chief, I asked myself where is that sense of community, where is that sense of self respect and respect for one another, where is that sense of bonding that bonded all the zongos around Ghana together, where is that sense of common humanity that make us human. I asked, where did we go wrong as a community. Chief, all I see in the faces of well able men is total self –dejection, total despair, low morale, no hope, and no future. Chief, the situation is very depressing. Our people have developed into cynics and ardent sceptics about everything to do with themselves and their communities. Some professional cynics go further to argue that Zongo begins with a letter Z, the last letter of the alphabets so in their wisdom it denotes that Zongo is and will be last in every endeavour. The cliché of self fulfilling prophecy has become part of everyday belief system in the mind of our Zongo brothers and sisters.

Chief, this is my answer to the sceptics, everything is possible in Zongo, and whatever the interest of the Zongo communities is call for is always possible. We have nothing to fear but our own doubts. Fear and doubts have ingrained in our minds and psychic that we think nothing good can come out of our beloved Zongo. “Allah says in the holly Qur’an “He will not change the condition of people, unless they change their own situation”.

Today communities around the world are moving forward, they are taken opportunities and chances that are presented to them and utilising every little resources at their disposal to develop themselves and joining the global community. Communities around the world are waking up to the basic realisation that their continuing survival lies with the education, employment and adequate health provision of their women and their youth. This phenomenon is not only for the third world communities but also to the advance economies. We the Zongo communities must not sit back without seizing chances and opportunities. We must embrace education, new ideas and encourage innovative thinking.

As a community we have been subjected to all manners of exploitation and abuse. The last hundred years of our history is seen in the light of passivity, subservient relationship and political porn. We have no independent history to call our own. The political culture of our country does not provide equal playing field in which our community can equally participate. We are treated within the political culture for expediency. We are continued to be seen as aliens in our own country of birth and our presence is synonymous to bribery that we have to bribe our way through the jungle of bureaucracy. Our community is being demolished gradually and slowly.

The demolishing of part of Zongo (Bomparter) in the 70’s is a living testimony of the gradual demise of our communities and eventually the total displacement of our people. This is made possible because of lack of unity and reasoning to challenge the irrational policies of local authorities to safeguard our interest. And lack of good legal representation. What happens to Bomparter in Kumasi and Koforidua Zongo will soon be happening to the rest of our Zongo communities.

Chief, the questions we should be asking ourselves now are what lesson did we learn from the Bomparter and Koforidua scenario? How do we approach similar situation in the future? The answers need a thoughtful process and are both legal and political. We cannot continue to participate in the politics of milk and honey while the ground we stands on is gradually being pulled away under our feet. I will stop here for now part two of this letter will follow shortly by God permission. SEE YOU NEXT WEEK

Yours faith fully

Ahmed Tijjani Usman Dogo Liverpool, U.K