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Opinions of Saturday, 11 March 2006

Columnist: Kwamena, Ato

Down The Sycamore Tree

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This is not a sermon! But I will beg your indulgence to allow me to draw on a biblical story to usher in the crux of my article. Thank you.

One afternoon, as Christ was heading towards Jerusalem He passed through the town of Jericho. Multitudes had gathered around Him, as always. All sorts of people wanted to take a peak at the Man who was rumored to be the long-awaited-for Messiah. ?Shortie? wanted to see Him too! But his height was an obvious disadvantage. Old Zacchaeus, the tax-collector, decided to compensate for this disadvantage by climbing up a tall tree so that he will be in a position to steal a good glance at the humble Galilean Carpenter. Now tax-collectors were abhorred in that society. They were seen as traitors as they were working for their oppressive Roman bosses. They worked to increase Caesar?s treasury. And the methods they used to exact taxes from the people made them even more detestable. They would often pay off the tax quota (for a particular vicinity) from their own personal coffers to the Roman lords, and then they would harass and cajole the people to profiteer from this initial investment ? making several folds of profit from that initial investment. So up a sycamore tree he climbed. He had predicted that the Galilean Prophet would pass under the tree.

Soon, the crowd appeared. Walking to the rhythm of the majestic gait of Christ, the whole crowd moved. All attention was on the humble Galilean Carpenter. And so, no one noticed ?Shortie?. As the crowd made its way under the Sycamore tree, One in the middle halted. So the crowd halted too. Every one stood perplexed! ?Why have we stopped?? they wondered. Then He who had halted looked up. And so all heads tilted upwards too. ?Shortie? shook when the soul-searching eyes of Christ were fixated on his own. He almost fell off the tree when he heard the Messiah call his name out! He couldn?t believe his ears when he heard: ?Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house?! Not only did the Prophet know his name, but He also wanted to spend the night at his house. After this encounter with the Lord, Zacchaeus was a changed man. He confessed: ?Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold?. Christ responded: ?This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.? (Luke 19:1-10, KJV). But before this renewal-of-the-heart could occur, Zacchaeus had to come DOWN THE SYCAMORE TREE.

When on Thursday March 2nd, 2006, Dr. Wayo Seini (NDC MP for Tamale Central) renounced violence and cited it as one of the reasons for his resignation from the NDC party, the story of Zacchaeus came readily to mind. I have been a constant critic of Dr. Wayo Seini and the Northern intelligentsia, I confess. I criticize them for not leading our people in the North and for not using their considerable depth of intellectual power to help solve basic problems that confront the North. Dr. Wayo Seini in particular had used the primitive regicide, that the Dagbon people committed against their own brothers and sisters, as a pad to launch himself into Parliament. He was one of the three Accra-based Northern intellectuals who spewed press conference upon press conferences at the height of the tension, fanning the misunderstanding between the two brother Gates of Dagbon ? the Abudu and Andani Gates. Instead of helping their own people heal faster from this crime they had committed against themselves, these intellectuals were rather helping to consolidate the entrenched and irreconcilable positions that the two Gates had taken. No wonder almost five years after this regicide the late Ya Na remains unburied!

But today, Dr Wayo Seini has seen the light and has come Down the Sycamore Tree. My delight is not in his resignation from the NDC. No I don?t give a hoot whether he had stayed in the NDC or not. That?s his prerogative. And I strongly believe that there are many decent and patriotic people in the NDC also. I, however, concede that they are in the minority as their voices are constantly mellowed and drowned in the cacophony of the majority of the NDC fanatics. So my delight is in Dr. Wayo Seini?s denouncing of violence. To me, it speaks volume of who Dr. Wayo Seini is. He?s a man who owns up to his mistakes and seeks to rectify them. My own personal profile of Dr. Wayo Seini is as a man with deep intellect who sometimes lets his emotions get the better part of him, and so often commits blunders as a result. (It?s very obvious that it?s emotions that drove him out of the NPP as he felt unappreciated. And the same emotions made him to unknowingly fan the Dagbon conflict) He however has good insight to notice when he has erred and now seeks to correct his mistakes. The fact that Dr. Seini is willing to give up his parliamentary seat, and the comforts of that office, so as to make amends for a huge mistake he committed ? in not being a messenger of peace and hope to his people in times of distress ? tells me that he has had ?an encounter with? his Lord. And so he?s truly a changed man. For no one comes in contact with the Lord and comes out the same! It tells me ?this day is salvation come? to this man?s heart, ?forsomuch as [Wayo Seini] is also a son of? a nonviolent God. It tells me that Dr Wayo Seini desires to leave a better legacy to his own children and to posterity. That to me is very important!

And so Dr. Wayo Seini, you have a work to do! Undoing all the damage you helped caused is not going to be easy. No one denies that. Now let me be clear! I?m not imputing that Dr. Wayo Seini caused the primitive regicide. No he did not! It was caused by the Dagbon people themselves. Dr Wayo however did not help matters when he allowed himself to be used to exacerbate the problem. Therefore, it is not enough for Dr. Wayo to come Down the Sycamore Tree. He must go a step further to own up to his mistakes and seek to rectify those mistakes ? just as our friend Zacchaeus did! From now onwards, he needs to be at the forefront in the work to unite the two brother Gates. After all, the Andani and Abudu gates are blood relatives. They are brothers, for goodness! Dr Wayo Seini could help bring peace between these brothers by talking to his own people in the Andani Gate. By his previous actions, it will now be almost impossible for him to seek to bring the two Gates together starting with the Abudu Gate. So charity must begin at home! He must talk to those who matter in the Andani Gate and seek to soften their stance. If this is successful the level of suspicion between the two Gates would start waning and that will facilitate discourse and dialogue. He may fail alright, but he must do his part to reverse the course. His fellow Northern leaders who may have not yet seen the light of reason may work against his efforts, but he must not lose hope and continue to do all in his might to bring peace to Dagbon. Dagbon needs it sorely. Otherwise they can forget about development. No group of people ever developed in the midst of fear or threats of wars and murders.

We can only pray that other Northern leaders will also see the light. No one is saying that they should also resign from their parties. But they can renounce violence and refuse to be used to intimidate people. I still stand by my criticism that the average Northern politician or leader, as soon as he settles in the comforts of Accra totally forgets about his people. So long as the Ayarigas, the Alban Bagbins, the Haruna Iddrisus, the Kumbuors, and the Benard Monarhs keep forgetting the real issues that their own direct blood relatives face DAILY in the North ? issues of poverty, ignorance, unacceptable housing conditions, inadequately resourced schools, Guinea Worm, etc, etc ? and rather turn their whole efforts to doing their master?s bidding, we should keep them on their toes. As I stated recently in my last article, Dogs of War, I am convinced that they (Northern leaders) have a defect in seeing ?the big picture?. That?s why they are constantly been used by faceless dirty politicians from the Southern parts of Ghana to accomplish their parochial ends. And it still doesn?t make sense to me why Ayariga enjoys hopping from one Radio or TV Station 24/7 to talk about trivial national issues and to threaten ?MAYHEM? to the rest of the country MORE than he enjoys talking about fighting poverty, eradicating guinea worm, etc in the North. It just doesn?t make sense!

But let me remind you, my friend, that I have no interest in being politically correct, and will always call ?a spade?, ?a spade! And I?m not a man to deny my brethren the future benefits of knowledge of a profound truth, however sour and bitter it may taste today. Truth hurts. I know. ?The truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear? ? Herbert Agar. And the truths I?ve said and will always say, will offend people and may be rejected by them today, but I also know that ?all truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident? ? Arthur Schopenhauer (German Philosopher 1788-1860). And so I?m not the least perturbed at all and will go on with my ?blasphemy?. After all, ?all great truths begin as blasphemies? ? George Bernard Shaw (Irish Dramatist and Socialist 1856-1950). So to those who read my criticisms of the North as tribalistic comments, I?ll beg of them to please take off their own tribalistic goggles they wear and then they?ll see more clearly that my comments and criticisms are mostly geo-political in nature. I do not see the North as a tribe but a geo-political area in Ghana. It?s in this context that I divide the country into North and South.

In any case, I?ll still appeal to my brothers, Ayariga and company to please come Down the Sycamore Tree. I?ll plead with the Bagbins, ?let us get back to the basics?food, shelter, education, rule of law, jobs, guinea worm eradication, etc, etc.? These are what our people need and not threats of ?mayhem?. In the meanwhile, will you please come Down the Sycamore Tree, ?Honorables??

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