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Opinions of Monday, 25 January 2010

Columnist: Awuni, Manasseh Azure

Are Haitians More Important Than Northerners?

Each country is known for one quality or the other. It can be good or bad, but whenever mention is made of that country, something comes to mind. What comes to mind when names such Zimbabwe, America and Liberia are mentioned? A lot! Judge!

Ghana is well-known for our proverbial hospitality. But if you were familiar with our kind of “hospitality”, you wouldn’t call it hospitality. We behave like those Christians who leave home for church when their next door neighbours are dying of hunger while they stuff their purses with hundreds of Ghana Cedis to donate at harvests, where their names will be mentioned. This, to me, is anything but hospitality or Christianity.

I’m not in any way suggesting that the $3 million Ghana is sending to help victims of the Haiti earthquake is too much or that we should not help them. I lived two decades of my almost two and a half decades on this turbulent planet in the rural area. Ever since I moved into this anonymous jungle called Accra, where survival is a preserve of the fittest, I can’t but appreciate the enormous benefits of communal living. If we had nothing in common at all, the Haitians are human beings just like us and the Good Book teaches me that there is more blessing in giving to people who are not likely to reciprocate such gestures than those we expect rewards in return. We ought to have given more if we had enough.

My concern, however, has to do with how the government, the corporate world and individuals responded when the flood disaster hit the northern part of Ghana in the latter part of 2007. I was by then having my practical attachment with GTV and when the northern correspondents of GTV sent the stories and videos for editing, I wondered if northerners had the right to equal and fair share of the national cake.

The pace at which inadequate relief items got the place was slower than the speed of a badly wounded snail, as George Sydney Abugri would put it. Here were government officials, right from the president down to the assembly member, calling on NGO’s and philanthropists to come to the aid of the people who badly needed aid as withering crops need rain.

The government insisted that the nation was financially handicapped and could not have moved an inch beyond its means. Private individuals and the corporate world had to “supplement” government’s effort.

When I watched and read stories about the kind of relief items that were sent to my kinsmen, I began to implode with rage when I thought about what had happened two years earlier.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the US, Ghana did something very significant. The same government donated 100,000 dollars’ worth of cocoa drinks and chocolates to the Katrina victims. The amount might not have been significant but cartloads of the rich Ghanaian cocoa products were enough to restore lost nutrients that are needed on such occasions.

When it came to northern Ghana not even a single bar of chocolate was donated by government to be distributed to the naturally malnourished victims. For some of the people up north, the taste of chocolate is beyond the boundaries of their wildest imaginations. Perhaps the chocolates and other cocoa products were too precious to be wasted on “them”, I thought.

The Deputy Minister of Information, Mr. Samuel Okudjeto Ablakwa, was quoted by myjoyonline as saying, “And there is a second component of relief items, which NADMO is putting together which will largely contain items like; Milk, Milo, Blankets, Mattresses and other things.” It is a good idea and God will bless us. It will emphasize how caring we are as a nation. Kennedy Agyapong and others are falling over one another to get international recognition through their generous donations. Our musicians are busy organisding concerts in support of the Haitians. I don’t condemn that either

But the question is, where were they when disaster struck their fellow Ghanaians up north? How much did they donate and how long did it take “begging” for them to respond?

I’m not saying we shouldn’t give them these items but I’m outraged by the fact that these niceties were not sent to the victims of the northern floods. Don’t they deserve the milo and the chocolate?

I’m an indigene of northern Ghana and personally feel aggrieved by how we behaved as a nation. My aim of writing this piece, however, is draw everybody’s attention to our hypocritical nature as a people. Perhaps, I may be wrong to say that we were that ambivalent because the disaster struck northerners. Tomorrow it could be any of the regions and the victims may suffer the same fate.

The boy from Bongo is just thinking allowed!

Credit: Manasseh Azure Awuni [maxighana.com] email:azureachebe2@yahoo.com The writer is the SRC President of the Ghana Institute of Journalism. Visit www.maxighana.com to read more of his writings.