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Opinions of Sunday, 17 February 2013

Columnist: Agyemang, Katakyie Kwame Opoku

Asantes are Fed up With This Tribal Hatred!

Empirical evidence suggests that no nation or country has ever progressed in an atmosphere of inter-ethnic hatred or ethnic tension. In many African countries such as Rwanda, Burundi, and Kenya, ethnic hatred has often been exploited and even fuelled by political leaders to serve their agenda of seeking to gain electoral advantage and consolidate political power. Sensing the imminent threat ethnic hatred or tribalism poses to peace and for that matter, socio-economic development of a country, incitement of tribal-based politics is a crime under the laws of a number of countries and Ghana is no exception. To deepen our unity and quicken the pace of our development, Ghana chose a unitary form of government against federalism after the country attained political independence in 1957. The inter-tribal marriages, coupled with the boarding school system have all deepened our social bonds as one people with a common destiny.

However, in spite of the efforts being made by Ghanaians toward the direction of peaceful co-existence, the actions of members of the NDC continue to undermine our sense of oneness. This situation, if not checked, could lead Ghana into civil war which could ruin the gains so far made by our predecessors. Early this week, Hon. Haruna Iddrisu, MP for Tamale South and Minister of Trade and Industry decided to play on the sensibilities of Asantes. During a vetting of the Minister-designate for Ashanti Region, Samuel Sarpong, the Tamale South MP sought to find out if other ethnic groups, especially those of Northern and Volta extraction were safe and would be safe in Ashanti Region under his tenure of office. Haruna's question raises a lot of concerns among the Ghanaian populace, especially Asantes because Rawlings, Atta Mills, Mahama, and Kobby Acheampong have expressed similarly derogatory remarks against the people of Ashanti Region.

Looking at the prevailing high cost of living, energy crises, water problem, falling standards of education, abject poverty, and unemployment, one expected Haruna Iddrisu, a guy I have personally admired for sometime, to rise above pettiness. However, he chose to lay his prejudice to bare to confirm the adage that; "a fool is always a fool no matter the number of years he spends in school". In fact, since this unfortunate comments were made, I had expected any sensible person within the NDC to come out publicly to condemn Haruna Iddrisu, but their silence gives credence to the fact that birds of the same feathers flock together. As a true and proud son of the Golden Stool, I feel obliged to set the records straight in that regard. "Mpanin se, odehye3 anko a, akoa dwane", which literary translates that, if the royal fails to fight, the slave runs away. Haruna Iddrisu, a Dagomba (Northerner) was one time NUGS president, NDC National Youth Organiser. His appointment as a minister of Communications in 2009, and Trade and Industry in 2013 were marred with threats and violence by a Youth Group he sponsors. Haruna was stripped off his Masters degree certificate in 2009, when he was found to have plagiarised (serious academic crime) somebody's work, a bad precedent for a person nursing a Presidential ambition on the ticket of the NDC.

To many Ghanaians, Haruna's outburst might be a shocking one, but all those who have followed the NDC and its antecedent, the PNDC over the years would admit that it is an agenda that is carefully being prosecuted. It is not a secret that the NDC harbours ill-feelings towards Asantes in particular, and Akans in general. They see that by disintegrating the Akan ethnic group and pitching the minority ethnic groups against the Asantes, the NDC's agenda of winning and consolidating political power would not be far-fetched. If not, how could a fully-bred Northerner gloss over the prevailing insecurity in Bawku Township and Tamale Metropolis and raise security issues in Ashanti Region? Is it a case of leaving the log on one's eyes and removing the peck on another? Why couldn't Haruna Iddrisu raise issues of insecurity in the Northern Region when a whole paramount chief was slaughtered like a fowl? How safe are chiefs in that region?

It will do Haruna Iddrisu good if he comes out to tell Ghanaians whether the residents of Ashanti have engaged in ethnic conflict because of guinea fowl. Let me remind Haruna that for the past few decades, not a month passes without hearing and seeing ethnic, chieftaincy, religious, or political conflict in at least one of the three Northern Regions. For example, Andanis are fighting Abudus; Gonjas, Dagombas, and Nanumbas are 'killing' Kokombas, and Mamprusis and Kusasis cannot see eye to eye with each other. If you happen to be a Frafra, then your case is worse because Haruna Iddrisu's Dagombas see every tribe in the North as inferior to them. The ageing Bawku conflict alone has killed over 4,000 people and displaced nearly 3,000 inhabitants due to the setting ablaze of thatched houses. The cost of maintaining peace in Bawku at the expense of the Ghanaian taxpayer cannot be overemphasised but Haruna Iddrisu sees nothing wrong with that. Out of stupidity, he has even forgotten that the Ashanti Region has remained a safe-haven for victims of all Northern conflicts and instead of him commending Asantes for this kind gesture, he has chosen to subject us to tribal hatred. "Asetenapa ma awer3fie ampa". But if Haruna feels pitching minority tribes against Asantes is the most appropriate way to show his gratitude to the very people whose sweat keeps the Northern Scholarship Scheme alive, we can only say "Ayekoo" to him. Haruna, "ka hy3n koduru, 3mma 3sum nto wo kwan mu da".

Fellow citizens, it is not gainsaying that Ashanti is the most ethnically-diversed region in Ghana. The hospitality of Asantes comes second to no other ethnic group; from Asawase through to Alabar, Fante New Town, Accra Town, Aboabo, Zongo, Atia Junction, Moshie Zongo to Anloga, one could see Northerners, Fantes, Gas, and Ewes occupying these sensitive areas and going about their daily businesses. Therefore, if there had not been any reported cases of deaths or ethnic conflicts among cocoa farm labourers, head potters (Kayayes), watchmen, Wanzams, porridge, Yoko gari, waakye, and tuozaafi sellers, truck pushers, "chop bar" assistants, and carpenters, where lies the wisdom in Haruna's question to the new Regional Minister? Could Haruna find out how the NDC managed to secure 28% (over 600,000) of the total votes cast in the 2012 presidential elections and tell Ghanaians how safe his Northerners and Voltarians are? Could he also sincerely tell Ghanaians whether the Northern and Volta Regions could provide a safety net for Brongs or Asantes should any conflict occur in the South? I think Haruna should pay a visit to the Manhyia Palace and make enquiries as to why His Royal Highness, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II allows traditional heads/chiefs of non-Asantes to sit in the Kumasi Traditional Council and deliberate on issues of traditional importance. He should also find out how Asante women are being scrambled by the Ewes and other minority tribes. Why do they want to associate themselves with Asantes? Why are they struggling to learn Asante Twi and make contributions to radio programmes in Twi but not in Dagaare, Ewe, Dagomba, and Hausa? "Y3kyiri kooko a y3di ne mma"?

For me, Haruna and his ethnocentric friends are behaving like the selfish worm. It finds way to penetrate into human body but it doesn't tolerate any form of penetration. Could Haruna Iddrisu do Ghanaians a favour by counting the number of Northerners and Voltarians appointed as M/DCEs, Heads of Institutions, and Members of Parliament in Ashanti Region and find out if Asantes have gotten the same opportunity in the Northern and Volta Regions? How many Asante MPs are in his area or in Volta? But come to Asawase, Edubiase, Sekyere Afram Plains etc, and you would see non-Asantes occupying seats as MPs. Out of the 45 appointments made so far by John Mahama, more than half are from the North. Apart from Katakyie P.V. Obeng (Presidential Advisor), Samuel Sarpong (Ashanti Regional Minister, and Dr. Oteng Adjei (Environment) , the 2nd World Bank of the NDC, in terms of votes has been sidelined in Mahama government. Where on earth could the most populous tribe in a country be given this raw deal? But I think the Asante caucus in the NDC, especially Tony Aidoo, deserves this. Today, a pure Asante wouldn't mind killing or betraying his follow Asante because the NDC has influenced him with money, cars, and contracts. What is the essence of gaining the whole world and losing your soul, my fellow Asante? Yaa Asantewaa of blessed memory could have betrayed Asantes in the same way but she sacrificed her life because of you and I. Similarly, Barima Tweneboa Kodua of Kumawu could have done the same but he behaved like Jesus Christ, left his kingdom, and died painfully to keep the Asante spirit alive. What has gone wrong, "Ote kokoosoo nana?

In fact, it appears to me that Haruna Iddrisu is ignorant about the nature of all the ethnic groups in Ghana, especially his own tribe. For as far as I know, both Northerners and Voltarians are their own enemies and not Asantes. Apart from some of them using "juju" to kill their own tribesmen out of envy, the ordinary Northerner or Ewe has not benefitted from their counterparts who are educated, wealthy and rich. This is because the educated elites amongst them have made Accra, Kumasi, and other capital cities their permanent places of abode. These places are like Europe and America, if not "Heaven" to them. Hardly do you see any Northerner or Ewe set up business or build mansion in his home region for fear of the unknown. They prefer buying them bottles of "akpeteshie" (local gin) and using them for electoral violence to giving them entrepreneurship skills for a living. This has left many of them poor and illiterate and if Haruna could mention the names of at least three people who have benefitted from his position as a Minister, the better for him. With the recent release of the video of disabled children being killed for ritual purposes by Anas Aremeyaw, was it not morally right for Haruna Iddirisu to direct his question to the Interior Minister, Northern Regional Minister, and the Acting IGP who are all his kinsmen? Not long ago an Imam was killed and buried like a dead fowl in the Eweland. Where was Haruna when Ewes and Fantes were killing themselves because of coconut? On the eve of John Mahama's inauguration as the illegal president, a group of Northerners who were on their way to Accra, stopped and beat a lot of people at Suame in Kumasi. Regrettably, no arrest has been made since that incident. The AFRC and PNDC led by Jeremiah Rawlings, an Ewe, slaughtered Gen. I.K. Acheampong and Okatakyie Akwasi Amankwah Afrifa, two of Ghana's finest Heads of State all because they were Asantes. On July 1, 1982 three (3) High Court Judges of Akan decent - Justices Fred Poku Sarkodie, Mrs. Koranteng Addow, then a nursing mother, and Kwadwo Agyei Agyapong were murdered in cold blood. Again, most successful Asante businessmen were tagged as corrupt and thieves and therefore the most vibrant Soap Factory in the 1980's, Apino Soap Factory was brought to a halt. Jerry Rawlings on a political platform asked Ghanaians not to patronise the commodity. Interestingly, there has not been any form of retaliation by Asantes not because we are cowards, but it is our belief that; "Obifom kum a, y3nfom nnwa", to wit, two wrongs do not make a right.

Having used our timber, cocoa, and gold revenue to feed these Northerners and Voltarians, and sustain Ghana's economy, is that the price for our benevolence? Does it really pay for Asantes to continue to treat Haruna's Northerners and Voltarians the way we've been doing? Surprisingly, the leaders of the so-called minority groups have remained silent on this issue. Are they being threatened by Asantes or not? If yes, what prevents them from packing their bag and baggage and resettle in their home regions? If no, why can't they issue a statement to condemn Haruna? Besides, why couldn't Haruna Iddrisu ask for the protection of all tribes but singled out Northerners and Voltarians? Is he trying to say that the blood of a Northerner is better than that of an Asante, Brong, Sehwi, or Ga settler in Ashanti? Was it only Asantes that benefitted from the Otumfuo Education Fund? Was it an Asante name that was given to the refurbished Kumasi Sports Stadium? I'm sure Haruna and his NDC hate the Asantes out of envy. "Mpanin se, s3 wosene wo yonko a otan wo". Haruna and his collaborators can continue to rain insults on Asantes as arrogant, bush people, illiterates and what have you. I assure him that Asantes are the least bothered about their diabolic action. So far as our traditional wisdom is intact, and the Golden Stool remains in our possession, we shall always be smarter than our enemies. The Mighty Asantes shall remain resolute in our quest to bring the best out of every human being on earth as enshrined in the Akan Philosophy of "A Charge to Keep I have, and Human Race to Glorify". For, if the Asante ethnic group were a country on its own, I'm sure many other tribes, who are vexed with inferiority complexes, would have applied for citizenship with all their family members because they would simply love to be called sons and daughters of the "Sikadwa Kofi" (Golden Stool). The Holy Bible says; "okwadwofo, ko t3ta nk3n, hw3 n'akwan na hunu nyansa". If you can't beat Mighty Asantes, you only have to join them so as to know why and how they are industrious, intelligent, neat, brave, proud, and accommodating. I expect Haruna Iddrisu to read more about R.S. Rattray and find out why even over 300 years ago, the British of all people touted Asantes as one of the more civilised African peoples. This would also help Haruna to understand why P.V. Obeng has remained the Presidential Advisor of both Rawlings and Mahama; and why Rawlings and Iddrisu Mahama married Konadu Agyemang and Betty Mould-Iddrisu respectively.

In conclusion, I'll entreat all Mighty Asantes to be proactive in dealing ruthlessly with the evil doers. Our forebears fought and conquered our enemies in the past, hence the name; "Osa nti" (warlike), which became "Asante". We have the resources, numbers (kum apem a, apem b3ba), our own language, literature, culture, and system of local government (powerful Kingdom and King). Under no circumstance should we be cowed into submission. Otumfuo Osei Tutu I, Opoku Ware I, and Nana Yaa Asantewaa would turn in their graves if the present Asante generation allowed our enemies to dictate the pace. We Asantes have no intention to fight against any tribe in Ghana because there is no basis for that. Are we going to fight against Haruna's tribe to gain access to their hoes or cutlasses, or Voltarians to have access to their carpentry work or Keta School Boys? If there will be any fight of that nature from the Asante perspective, it will be against any developed or more civilised and powerful "ethnic group" than us. At present, we see such "enemy ethnic group" as poverty, ignorance, and disease; hence our determination to use quality education as a weapon to conquer them. Let's guard against our peace for it is a precious commodity that cannot be bought with our cedis, dollars, euros, and pounds. "S3 moannyi Asantefuo ay3 a, ma mons3e y3din"!

God bless Ghana! God bless the Asante Kingdom!! God bless Kufuor!!!

Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang, Enfield, London. (Free SHS Ambassador) Official blog: (www.katakyie.com) katakyienpp@yahoo.co.uk 07577626433 A native of Asante Bekwai-Asakyiri