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Opinions of Monday, 30 January 2012

Columnist: Mensema, Akadu N.

“Ewes & the ‘Herd Mentality’”: A Reply

“Ewes & the ‘Herd Mentality’”: A Reply to Daniel Pryce (2)

*By Akadu Ntiriwa Mensema, Ph. D.


This is my long-awaited final reply to Mr. Daniel Pryce’s article entitled “Ewes and the ‘Herd Mentality’ Accusation: The Zenith (sic) of Inanity” (Ghanaweb, January 9, 2012). It deconstructs his revisionist essay on Ewe victimhood that also privileges the oft-stated Ewe superior achievements in education, civil service, etc. His revisionist essay, held hostage to lazy intellectualism, spiced with dizzying empiricisms, and inchoate theorizing, should be dismissed with all the opprobrium it deserves.

I show in this final installment that the genealogies of our formative and eventual fruitful histories of education, civil service, etc. have more to recommend Gas, Akuapems, Fantes, Winnebas (Guans), Akyems, Krobos, and Kwahus for their longer sustained meritorious contributions than those of Ewes that are located in our recent traumatic post-colonial history. The contributions of Ewes, originating from 1916 and 1922 colonial re/affiliations with Britain, may be fully traced to the aftermath of the 1956 referendum that made British Togoland (Ewes) a part of the Gold Coast. Here, I am not equating chronology with causality and time with results. Rather, I am affirming the ways that eclectic periodization of cause and effect illuminates essential historical processes. There are anti-intellectuals here who don’t see the need for such discursive interventions. To them, I say splendid ideas and osmotic ideologies are the cogs in nation-building: they steer, empower, and conscientize us

In fact, Daniel’s article in question has not been in vain. Although his arguments are jaundiced by anemic evidence, his call has some ethical dimensions. For my part, as I continue to write and apply my Denkyira muses of Kasapa and Kasa Kyere, I will summon sensitivity rings around my words, fetch compassion to my conceptualizations, and ferry empathy to my ideas.


Massaging Ewe victimhood for epistemological ecstasy, Daniel summoned pathetic evidence to construct a superstructure of counterfactual history of unsurpassed Ewe progress and achievements in Ghana. In sum, there are too many factual errors in Daniel’s essay excavated from the dustbin of history to privilege Ewes. They include Ewe initiatives in and superior contributions to education, Ewes’ predominance in the civil service due to Nkrumah’s policy, and Rawlings' brutalization of Ewes akin to what he did to other ethnic groups, especially Akans.

Deodorizing Rawlings’ Human Rights Abuses

Stock-taking of any government entails an inventory of its history nuanced and problematized along intersections of substance and symbolisms. In Daniel’s efforts to manicure the Rawlings’ ecology of terror, a subtle genre on Ghanaweb whose provenance is too well-known to belabor here, he left out the abduction and murder of hundreds of Ghanaians; the feminization of violence at Makola in Accra, Kejetia in Kumasi, and Kotokoraba in Cape Coast; and the reign of terror that took several forms, including curfews and what the late Prof. Adu Boahen popularized as the “culture of silence.” We should not forget the “Rawlings’ chain,” a ghastly humorous template of acidic hunger and corrosive deprivations in the early 1980s, that killed many and contributed to stunted growth in children. Others may recall the ways that “wato nkyene” and articulated trucks became the suicidal means of transportation amidst the PNDC’s patented petrol shortages.

If truth be told it was not only in 1979 and 1981 that the Rawlings-led governments brutalized Ghanaians. Even Vice President Arkaah was turned into a boxing bag and thrashed like a pile of grass by Rawlings. Just remember the broken-bottle-scissor haircut given to Jentuah. There is also the 1994 Nanumba-Konkomba war that killed about 8,000 people and produced 250,000 refugees. Scholars have pinned the causes to Rawlings, arguing that he recklessly solicited votes from the Konkomba by promising them a paramount chieftaincy status. In the aftermath of the elections, the NDC relented forcing the Konkombas to take matters into their own hands. Also the simmering rift among Akans and Guans in Akuapem was orchestrated by Rawlings and company for political gains, and it was BB Bismarck’s (Chief of Aburi) resistance which contributed to his abduction and his apparent death. Daniel, let us be honest when it comes to human rights abuses of Ghanaians during the Rawlings era and for that matter any other regime.

Daniel writes “Today, however, every enlightened person of Ghanaian ancestry knows that members of every ethnic group, including the systematically maligned Ewes, were victims of the excesses of those so-called revolutions that improved the lives of none but the progenitors and members of the two putsches.” This is about brandishing falsity to truth regarding the ways that Rawlings and his henchmen sabotaged numerous industries owned by Akans. How many Ewes were terrorized by Rawlings - Yeye Boy and his “fetish!”? Yes, Akans suffered in the hands of Rawlings-Awonoor’s “revolution.” They include Dr. Safo Adu, Kowus Motors, Bonsu Brothers’ store, Siaw (Tata Brewery), B. B. Bismarck, Yaw Barima (Mechanical Lloyd), Henry Ani Kwabena (I Shall Return transport), Kwabena Darko (poultry farm), and Kufour Transport. While most Akan enterprises faltered because of undue P/NDC interventions the factory of Esther Ocloo prospered. I want Daniel to name Ewes whose businesses were sabotaged in the era of Rawlings.

Privileging Ewes: Cocoa & Civil Service Lies

Additionally, Daniel writes that “Knowing that Ghana, as a nation, could not handle its domestic affairs without a functional civil service, Kwame Nkrumah encouraged an open-door policy for joining the civil service, which Ewes and, to an extent, Gas, knowing that their forebears did not have very many cocoa farms to bequeath to them in later years, embraced wholeheartedly.” This is bad evidence at best and at worst imprudent historicizing.

Daniel’s reason for privileging Ewes and Gas is that they were not great cocoa farmers. Let me reeducate Daniel here for free: Gas were great and established cocoa farmers as much as the Krobos, Akuapems, Akyems, Kwahus, and “New” Dwabens were in the Densu-Birim basin, the nexus of the first explosion of the cocoa industry before it expanded into Asante, Brong Ahafo, Central Region, and the Western Region. I should add that Gas and Krobos also participated in the oil-palm industry that preceded the cocoa industry and which provided the capital impetus for the cocoa industry.

Indeed, Daniel must know that there were substantive Ewe cocoa farmers in areas such as Teacher Mante, Asuboi, Suhum, Kraboa-Coaltar, Odumasi, Nsawam, Adawso, Panto, Kofi Pare, Oda, Asamankese, Nankese, etc. mostly in the vicinity of the Densu-Birim basin. Apart from such farming communities, to this day, there are large numbers of Ewes who are the descendants of the cocoa farmers in Tafo, Kukurantumi, Koforidua, etc., and the Akuapem satellite towns of Mamfe, Akropong, Amonokrom, Mampong, etc. These are just examples; certainly, there were Ewe cocoa farmers in other parts of Ghana.

Daniel eagerly wants to nail and add the civil service to the oft-mentioned superior achievements of Ewes, but his training in the historian’s craft is woefully inadequate. The historical record, both written and oral history, shows that during the late colonial and early postcolonial periods the civil service was predominantly officered by two regional groups: Gas, Akuapems, Krobos and Akyem Abuakwa (Kyebi/Kibi royal stock) in the east; and Fantes and Winnebas (Guans) in the west.

The first group, the very people that Daniel paradoxically delegitimizes, those whose forebears pioneered the oil-palm and cocoa industries, were the Krobos, Akuapems, Gas, Akyem Abuakwas, “New” Dwabens, and Kwahus. The efflorescence of these agricultural enterprises which historians of precolonial Gold Coast euphemistically call “Legitimate” trade” generated wealth that enabled farmers in these areas to send their wards to schools, including overseas training.

The second group, largely made up of Winneba (Guan) and Fantes, contributed immensely to the civil service due to two factors. First, the wealth that sustained education was generated from the oil palm and rubber trade from the area between the coast and Dunkwa coterminous with the Salaga trading axis via the Praso corridor. The other one arose from the cumulative effects of the Euro-African contact that was shaped in the crucible of Christianity, education, and acculturation. Indeed, this melting pot produced a large class of educated elites who filled civil service positions as they became available, starting from the late colonial period.

The above is not to say that other ethnic groups did not contribute to the foundation of the civil service, but to underscore the fact that Ewes in totality made up a small minority of the early postcolonial civil service. Daniel moves from the sublime to the ridiculous in one fell swoop: granted that Nkrumah used open-door policies, it does not mean that all non-cocoa farmers’ wards were recruited into the civil service. In sum, the ticket to the civil service was higher education, not which ethnic group was producing cocoa or cassava. Overall, it was from the late 1970s, to be blunt, during the PNDC years of terror, that a large number of Ewes found a niche in the Civil Service.

Fabricating Ewes’ Superior Contributions to Education

Rummaging through the dustbin of history, Daniel pivots the spread of and contributions to education which are closely tied to the political economy of cocoa and social change as one reason why Ewes came to dominate the civil service. Here he essays this: “Notwithstanding the unprovoked and alarming assaults – uttered and written – on Ghanaians of Ewe heritage, it is very likely that more than 50% of those reading this piece had been tutored by men and women of Ewe descent at some point in their lives.”

Allow me to puncture the above cozy consensus among some constituencies on Ghanaweb and elsewhere regarding Ewes’ superior educational attainment that is hysterically championed by Daniel and more vigorously by Andy-K, the “Akan-phobe” in cyberspace, who in a recent outburst on Ghanaweb insisted that some ethnic groups envy Ewes, and for what he couldn’t explain.

Indeed, tracing the history of education in the Gold Coast would serve as a pedagogic lens. Education first began in the Castle schools along the coast under the auspices of Christian missionaries, indeed a consequence of the European Explorations that began in the late 15th century. However, by the 1650s, the slave trade had completely eclipsed the efforts at Christianization and education. For the Gold Coast and West Africa as a whole, it was not until abolition of the slave trade in the early 19th century that a host of European missionaries returned and revived Christianization and education. As a result, the Ga and Fante coasts became the sites of the new experiments in education. The one in the Fante area succeeded with minimal ease, while the one in the Ga region went through difficulties due to environmental factors and high death rate among the European Christian missionaries. Thus the Basel Mission (later Presbyterian Church), relocated to Akropong Akuapem in the early 1840s where the congenial climate provided a seedbed for nursing Christianity and education.

In short, Gas, Akuapems, Krobos, Akyem Abuakwas, Kwahus, and “New” Dwabens, who were instrumental in the cocoa industry, became the agents of spreading education by providing teachers for much of what it is today Ghana, excluding the Western and Central Regions which benefitted from the Fante and Winneba agencies. Thus, in Asante, Brong Ahafo, Volta, and the “North,” it was Akuapem, Krobo, and Ga teachers who ferried education, first to Akyem and Kwahu, and later joined by the trained Akyem and Kwahu teachers, carried the seeds of education to the further reaches of what is today Ghana. Here again, we are not dismissing Ewes as agents of education, but the sum total of the historical credit should go to Gas, Akuapems, Akyems, Kwahus, Krobos, Winnebas (Guans), and Fantes who were in the Gold Coast before the incorporation of Ewes along the timelines of 1916, 1922, and 1956 stressed below.

Of course in what it is today Eweland in Ghana, for example, the Bremen Mission began to work there in the late 1840s, while the Catholic Mission arrived in the 1860s, but their educational influences did not wholly impact the Gold Coast until 1916 when German Togoland was carved into French and British influences, and more so in 1922 when British Togoland was placed under formal British rule. Finally the referendum of 1956 allowed for the incorporation of British Togoland (Ewes) into the Gold Coast, and by that date the Gas, Krobos, Akuapems, Akyems, Winnebas, Fantes had already crested on and cusped education as they do today. Thus, much of what Daniel and others see as Ewes’ superior educational attainment in Ghana pale in significance to what the “inhabitants” of the Gold Coast had already achieved before the Ewe-incorporation of 1956.

Acheampong & Asante and Akuffo & Akuapem: Lessons for All

Daniel threw up this one and it never came down: “Ewes do not vote en masse for the NDC, and Asantes do not vote en masse for the NPP. All Ewes did not support the Jerry Rawlings-led revolutions, and all Asantes did not support the Ignatius Acheampong-led coup d’état of 1972.” This statement is true, but has some falsities as well. Daniel’s use of “en masse” is only a caveat that tells us that NOT ALL Ewes and Asantes vote respectively for the NDC and the NPP. What Daniel does not tell us is that the majority do!

In terms of categorizing the national support for Rawlings, Daniel needs to periodize or put a frame of chronology around the Rawlings regime to bring out the lines and ruptures of support! I believe that in 1979 and 1981, most Ghanaians in different regions supported Rawlings. However, as his tyrannical rule manifested and popular protest simmered, his base of support in the Volta Region and in some parts of the “Northern” regions was sustained, while it declined in all other regions. This may be debatable, but we can work with it to capture the ambiguity of the historical moment; at least, we can summon to our rescue Awonoor’s revolutionary “tribalism” of anti-Akanism that increased the ethnic divide between Akans and Ewes/“Northerners.”

Certainly there are lessons in Daniel’s statement that “all Asantes did not support the Ignatius Acheampong-led coup d’état of 1972.” Of course not! The gems of history which Daniel left out of the Acheampong and Asante sermonizing is that though Acheampong was an Asante, yet Asantes were instrumental in championing the anti-UNIGOV movement to the extent that Acheampong was popularly declared wanted in Kumasi and other Asante towns were purportedly no-go areas for him. Given the overriding importance of the subject, let me add that when FWK Akuffo, an Akuapem royal from Akropong, took over from Acheampong, he was booed as he travelled through the Akuapem towns from Aburi to Akropong.

Whether Asantes and Akuapems were organized and acted spontaneously during both historical rupturing moments are not the problematizing prisms here. Rather the captivation of sweet harmony of ideas is that Asantes and Akuapems put aside their visceral ethnic attachments and natal kinship, they put Ghana first, and they protested against their kinsmen’s regimes of colossal incompetence. It is well to note that there are signs among Fantes, who with other Ghanaians, are pivoting solid critiques of Mills’ “gargantuan” failures. These are lessons of history for nation-building that others in Ghana have to learn: put nation before ethnicity, put doctrines before party, and put principles before personalities.

Let me put aside my Denkyira muses of Kasapa and Kasa Kyere! In sum, I don’t really want to tear apart every aspect of Daniel’s hysterical and chaotic memoir of superiority that is in search of credible facts and in need of realistic positionality of arguments, so let me end here and allow Daniel to rescue himself from his own hysterical mythologies mainstreamed as history. I remain Denkyira Akadu, she who is fearless and bold.

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