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Opinions of Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Columnist: Antwi, William

Anti-Asante Bombast Or Asante Bombast!


In a most riveting manner, the nation is captivated by the astounding rise of tribal ideology in the wake of the firefight over our ex-president’s famous or infamous taking of a state property as his office. Indeed, just when it seems that our nation had found its comfort zone in terms of trying its hands on "democracy" - albeit real problems with official corruption, armed robbery, vicious murders, income chasms, dehumanizing illicit drug events, skyrocketing food prices, electricity outages, water shortages, diseases, waste, incompetence, our electoral laws, etc. - here come the tribal gladiators! This dangerous and destabilizing development should rankle all well-meaning Ghanaians. And as passions run dangerously high, we can start thinking rationally as "one nation, one people with one common destiny" or plunge our nation into total and permanent darkness. Do we really want to throw away all the fat and fantastic gains we have made since 1992 just because we are blindly attached to our tribal lineages?

Let me draw a line here: I am a Ghanaian. However, the irrefutable fact that I am a Ghanaian does not by any stretch of imagination mean that I should denigrate my tribal lineage. For all I know, I had absolutely no control over my random birth. Therefore, if I want somebody to blame for being an Asante, then, I should look for whoever put me in my mother’s womb. In plain, forceful language, as an Asante living in a larger community called Ghana and endowed with strong and sound mental capacity, I have absolute control over my actions and inactions. In fact, actions and inactions that can positively or negatively impact the lives of other Ghanaians and non-Ghanaians to live comfortably as human beings! Therefore my actions and inactions become central issues when it comes to passing judgment on my deeds and not where I come from! In essence, I should be judged by the content of my character and not the tribe I come from.


Be that as it may, what is so unnerving about this dangerous trend is that those who are leading this explosive charge are simply refusing to see the graphic and horrendous devastation in those violence-driven African countries that have had the indignity and misfortune of traveling the broken and destructive path of tribal politics. It is for this reason that some of us have variously described (and for good reason) these tribal mongers as the worst breed of human beings. So to our friends who are mindlessly playing one tribe against the other for purely parochial socio-politico-economic reasons, we say let’s have some conversation:

What has come to ail any meaningful conversation is our blind attachment to our tribes - which, of course, militates against any such healthy discourse. We are prepared to state without any apologies that any rational, honest and frank discussion of this divisive and delicate problem of tribalism must readily recognize that, virulent tribal advocacy flows from all directions and that it is not the preoccupation of only one tribe. Disturbingly, it is now a weapon of choice for rabid tribalists in our dear country to stoke the embers of tribalism to pursue dark socio-politico- economic agenda. In so doing, they tragically undermine the real issues of the day. For example, look at the ugly way tribal advocacy has gone to derail such an important issue as to whether an ex-president has the right to allocate to himself the use of a state property as his office without due recourse to proper authority!

It is shockingly common for some individuals and group of individuals to mindlessly accuse a whole tribe for the social, political and economic sins of some of our leaders. For instance, I find it most ridiculous and absurd when all Asantes are purposefully stigmatized as arrogant, corrupt, incompetent and irresponsible simply because we did have a sitting president who is an Asante and who happened to have supervised a most corrupt, insensitive, arrogant, incompetent and irresponsible regime. On the flip side, why should all Ewes be mischaracterized as violent and callous simply because ex-President Rawlings - an Ewe - was once the leader of a group of army officers who took over the reigns of our government by way a bloody coup d’etat? Wow! Do we now live in a country where the real and/or perceived sins of our leaders are dramatically seen in terms of where they come from? Are the tribal "lineages" of our leaders now more important than the personal beliefs and convictions they bring to the table?


The point here is that, are we so seduced by our tribal passions that we cannot even see that our senselessly corrupt, and grotesquely greedy and incompetent leaders come from different tribes and not just one tribe? It should be obvious to all of us that punishing poverty is not the prerogative of any one particular tribe. It runs across board. For examples, millions of Asantes have to endure avoidable deprivations practically the same way as Ewes, Gas, Sisalas, Moshes, Fantes, Brongs, etc. Does anybody want me to believe that because ex-President Kuffour is an Asante, great majority of Asantes fared better under his bankrupt regime? This is really depressing when one comes to think of the painful fact that millions and millions of our folks continue to suffer not because of the tribe they belong to but simply because of the social, political and economic sins of our leaders. It is, therefore, a thing of pity that the incendiary and offensive tribal advocacy is targeted against other tribal folks who are suffering under the yoke of years of indignity, deprivation and humiliation. If only we can tamp down this dangerous run of tribal passion, we can see clearly the real architects of our "permanent" plight. I am here talking about a fiercely greedy and corrupt class that continues to hide behind their tribes and to a large extent our political parties to mask their nefarious and criminal activities. For example, weren’t we treated to a binge of criminal practices in our various public institutions during the reign of President Kuffour? What really stopped our ex-President from aggressively investigating and prosecuting those alleged pen robbers? Don’t look far: It is the "class thing". They are protecting each other!

In fact, the present writer believes that it is always in the political and economic interest of our leaders to keep tribal passions burning. Let’s not deceive each other: Our leaders by various subtle tactics are able to arouse so much tribal passion in our folks that the latter come to hero worship them without questioning their integrity in executing the trappings of their various offices. I dare say that our leaders are not prepared to touch this sensitive and destabilizing matter because they continue to get away with so many egregious offences while in power because of the tribe ( and, yes, to a larger extent, the political parties ) they belong to. It is therefore in their class interest to keep tribalism on the front burner instead of aggressively and competently tackling our permanent enemies, namely, official corruption, abject poverty, disease, hunger, deprivation and total humiliation. As they whip up tribal sentiments, their folks are compelled to rally behind them. To them "betrayal" at that point means abandoning their superficial sense of security. Essentially, invoking tribal passion is the ruling class’s uncanny escape route of masking its corrupt, criminal, irresponsible, incompetent and wasteful ways while in office.


As we struggle to move forward as a nation, let’s seriously reflect on the following deeper and inspiring questions:

1. Have we become so seduced by our tribal passions that we cannot even see that official corruption, incompetence, waste and nepotism run across the political spectrum and that individual officer holders must be held accountable and not their tribes?

2. Do we seriously want to be segregated along tribal lines as a nation and tragically fall apart like some countries on our wretched continent?

3. Why are we now fiercely focusing on that which will eventually destroy us a people?

4. What happened to our shared values and similarities that had anchored our society since independence and in our most trying times?


5. Isn’t it a thing of beauty that in Kumasi and, essentially, other parts of the country, various tribes are living happily together as one people with one common destiny? Yes, I am talking about Asante New Town, Fante New Town, Ala Bar, Zongo, Asawasi, Moshie Zongo, Awonaga, etc!

There is no doubt in my mind that there should be a paradigm shift in the way we see tribalism in terms of national development. Some of us strongly believe that our President has the integrity and fortitude to start this great national conversation. Pronto. He should not allow this canka to undermine not only the integrity of his great office but that of our constitution. He owes us that duty! After all, he is our father in whom we trust!

We should let the sun come out of our lives!

Ghana deserves better!

Down with the broken politics of tribalism!

We shall be back.