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Opinions of Friday, 13 January 2012

Columnist: Mensema, Akadu N.

Ewes and the ‘Herd Mentality’

“Ewes and the ‘Herd Mentality’”: A Reply to Daniel Pryce (1)

*By Akadu Ntiriwa Mensema, Ph. D.

This is a reply to Mr. Daniel Pryce’s article entitled “Ewes and the ‘Herd
Mentality’ Accusation: The Zenith (sic) of Inanity,” (Ghanaweb, January 9, 2012).
Obviously, this is one of Daniel’s perennial pet-projects of Ewe victimhood and
superior achievements. Unfortunately, Daniel has linked my poems on Ghanaweb with
the demonization of Ewes in Ghana. In my view, Daniel’s allegations and his cobbled
Ewe triumphalist narratives deserve comprehensive unpacking. This, the first part of
my response, will address allegations of anti-Ewerism that Daniel has leveled
against me. The final installment will be posted later and will deconstruct his
revisionist essay on Ewe victimhood and privileging of Ewe superior achievements in
education, civil service, etc.

PART 1: “EWES AND THE ‘HERD MENTALITY’”

I would have ignored the high decibel and grandiose nature of Daniel Pryce’s
self-serving rhetorical essay of self-fulfilling prophecies of “tribal” debt, were
it not for the fact that he accused me of “purvey[ing] ethnocentrism on
Ghanaweb.com.” Mummified in despair, he also lamented over “lugubrious (sic)
animosity towards Ewes in Ghana, spearheaded by Akadu Mensema and her ilk.” These
are at best conclusive and at worst unsubstantiated and would not blunt my
enthusiasm to write what I write that captures the traumatic weight of the political
moment and cultural decay in our dear Ghana.

Contrary to Daniel’s sadistic conclusions about me, there are alternative truths
that are evident in my poems, that is, if one carefully reads them without bias: I
envision myself as an activist voice of the disempowered and the marginalized in
society. Thus, I seek to restore their silenced voices, differed dreams, and aborted
aspirations to vertical moments of healing and restorative excellence. I write what
I write because history and memory, carved into poetry, is a special meeting place
of intellection, dialogue, healing, and renewal. In sum, I have not championed any
anti-Ewerism on Ghanaweb, neither have I promoted ethnocentrism in Ghana. If truth
be told and Daniel in reality wants to eradicate “tribalism,” he must troop to
Mills’ Castle! That is where “tribalism” is cruelly cherished and protected, not on
Ghanaweb. And that is where he can intervene and nurture harmonic convergences among
the “tribes” of Ghana. If Daniel would
not do this, he should stop serenading us on Ghanaweb with his scripted gospel of
Ewe victimhood and superior achievements.

As is obvious, the above allegations are very serious and need solid and vigorous
substantiation. But in a rather careless, sophomoric fashion Daniel stole the moment
for the self-glorification of his national service, his uncle, etc. Worse still,
and brimming with hubris, Daniel capitalized on a narrative of victimhood and
marginality, using me as the victimizer, to liberally project his views by
mobilizing flawed histories and jaundiced memories to flaunt a celebratory thesis on
Ewe superiority and excellence.

In Daniel’s quest to illustrate what he calls my “ilk” he situates Prof. Kwame
Okoampa-Ahoofe and I, both Akans, in the same quirky province of ethnic-baiting and
demonization of Ewes. I don’t share all of Kwame’s views and on some occasions have
called his ideas into question. But I respect Kwame for his penmanship, resiliency,
boldness, and freshness in asking new questions about Danquah, Nkrumah, Rawlings,
etc., however, unpalatable to many. I think Kwame can defend himself so I would
leave it at that.

The surprising thing about Daniel is his selective empathy: he is well at home
whenever his “ilk,” to borrow his word, and Ewe compatriots, refer to Akans as
baboons, monkeys, ugly chimps, dwarfs, ashawo, drug peddlers, shoe-shine boys, etc.
I don’t have an uncontrollable urge to school Daniel in the principles of
universalizing ethics and moral urgency in matters of equality, inclusion, respect,
and human decency. But let me say that these are collective values that define all
ethnic groups. The teachable moment is that next time Daniel must tell us about how
not to write about Akan baboons and Asante chimps, as well as how to write about
Akan contributions to education, civil service, etc.

I wish that Daniel had addressed my one response to his essay; he skirted around it
like an adult chasing butterflies at a playground for children and rather responded
to those who congratulated him for his divine interventionist bid. And here I
mention Andy-K who has made a career in cyberspace by putting down Asantes in his
unbridled efforts to protect Ewe nationalism, however defined. In sum, Daniel’s
pet-project attracted fond back-patting and sweet cheek-tweaking from the very
constituency that calls Akans baboons, chimps, shoeshine boys, etc. These are the
very people whose opinions on Ghanaweb have always blended the subjectivities of
what Daniel projected as an essay of intervention in Ewe victimhood and simultaneous
superior achievements.

What is also amiss is that Daniel did not even explain “herd mentality,” how I have
applied it, and the ways that its pejoration affronts all Ewes. His line of attack,
based on my use of “herd mentality” in describing the Ewe youth group that went gaga
over Woyome, gestated into self-promotion and evocation of Ewe tribulations and
achievements. I leave that labor of intervention to Daniel and his apostles.

For my part, I must say that “herd mentality” was something that I needlessly
plucked as a title for my one-liner or so posting, in fact, a facetious rendering
and perhaps on a serious note, a quibble on how and why the said Ewe youth group
could support Woyome’s economic banditry when the whole country is against it. In
this regard, I may even go as far as to defend my deployment of the concept of herd
mentality: it was a didactic reference to the Ewe youth group in question, not all
Ewes. Anthropological application of the concept shows that one may use it for two
meanings: good or bad rendering of the effects of group mentality that brings
together people of similar backgrounds. Of course, I recognize the animal
metaphorical stretch of “herd” and its negative implications, but that was not the
intent. Daniel and company take my word: I applied that concept to what I read about
the Ewe youth group on Ghanaweb, not the whole ethnic group of
Ewes.

Again, Daniel did not provide any evidence on his magisterial view that my poems are
ripe with ethnocentrism on Ghanaweb. Daniel would have done his readers a great deal
of service if he had carved out some of my poems as examples of purveying
anti-Ewerism on Ghanaweb. Let me clarify that I have written more than 200 poems and
have woven different themes around some ethnicities, including Asante, Akuapem,
Ga-Adangbe, Akyem, Denkyira, Brong, Fante, and “Northerners.” I should admit that
some of my poems have uncomfortable cloying of meanings to them, but are by no means
tribalistic-driven. I don’t think that what I write about other ethnic groups is
any better or worse that what I say about Ewes. Perhaps, Daniel can help us with
this puzzle of demonizing Ewes in my poems.

Now let me ask this: what is so unusual about tribalism against and stereotyping of
Ewes that other ethnic groups do not experience in Ghana? Daniel should stop his
perennial narratives of Ewe victimhood that he puts out there anytime someone calls
into question what some Ewes have done. As I said in my brief response to his
article, that he never engaged, first he must signal to us that he is a diligent,
objective scholar rather than a pedestrian town-crier who is doing the bidding of
his group. Yes, “tribalism” and stereotyping exist and affect all of us, not only
Ewes so what are the essences, may I ask, of his daily hermeneutic and
epistemological hysteria, even ontological wounds that he cries about all too often?
And yes, we must all fight against “tribalism” and stereotyping and should not be
selective in that regard. Thus, I would not be afraid to ask on Ghanaweb why the
Mills regime is made up of more Ewes than any other group. Now if
you call this purveying anti-Ewerism on Ghanaweb then so be it. I am a realist, a
pragmatic nationalist, and a bold Denkyiran who was taught to speak truth to power.
I can live with that falsified tag of anti-Ewerism, however, manufactured.

Let me make clear that with regard to Ewes, I have written about how Awonoor’s
so-called revolution failed to seize the historical moment to develop the Volta
Region. For this effort, I was attacked by some Ewes, and Andy-K promised that he
would surface here with a vigorous reply, but thanks to the natural forces of
evaporation, it never saw the light day. In the case of Rawlings, of course, his
holier-than-thou antics and political theatrics provide a rich fodder for my poetry.
The problem of mapping out Rawlings in any critique is that he has a coterie of
cheerleaders that identify themselves as Ewes on Ghanaweb. For example, Daniel, Kola
London, Terribly Specific, GERSIS, Nana Amma Obenewa, etc., see Rawlings as the Holy
Father of Eweland who could do no wrong. The point I am trying so hard to belabor in
a nuance is it seems to me that critiques of Rawlings affect some Ewe
sensibilities. This is where I have found myself in the fighting
trenches with some Ewes, not that I have purveyed anti-Ewe poems on Ghanaweb.

In sum, I have covered several themes ranging from politics, economics, society,
religion, gender, roads, maid-servanthood, rape, education, environment, religion
sports, journalism, teachers, etc., and I admit that the NDC, Mills, and Rawlings
have been the focal point of most of my critical musings. Some see this stance as
synonymous with pro-NPPism. The fact of the matter is that my writings coincided
with NDC under Mills and the luring Rawlings’ sideshow. Trust me, the NPP or whoever
is in power will be put under the same critical lens. In reality I am a die-hard
Nkrumahist, but above and beyond it all, I am nationalist.

I, Akadu Denkyira, am every person. And I am every Ghanaian. And like all Ghanaians,
I wish our country the best. I believe that our political cultures and genealogies
of truth must be shaped by what is good for Ghana, not what is good for the NDC,
NPP, or a particular “tribe.” Let us all put principles before party and love for
nation before love for “tribe.”

Long Live Ghana! Long Live Eternal Denkyira! Long Live Nkrumah & CPP!

*Akadu Ntiriwa Mensema, Ph. D., is a nationalist Denkyira beauty. She is a trained
oral historian cum sociologist and Professor in the USA. She lives in Pennsylvania
with her great mentor and teaches Africa-area studies at a college in Maryland. In
her pastime, she writes what critics have called “populist hyperbolic, satirical”
poetry. She can be reached at akadumensema@yahoo.com