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Opinions of Saturday, 30 April 2005

Columnist: Kuyini, Ahmed Bawa

If all Ghanaians were Fantes and Northerners, ....

Ghana will be??

This article hinges on ethnic relations in Ghana and changing our thinking for national harmony. In my last article on the northern identity, the balance of my argument was for us to look at ethnic relations in Ghana the light of our history and current understanding of the human relations in the world. In the looking at our way of thinking and what is required, for harmony and development, one fact forms a strong basis for a need to reform the thinking of Ghanaians.

As an optimist I believe that at no time in our political future will Ghanaians again live in separate kingdoms as we did before the creation of our nation state. This means that whether or not we like other ethnic groups in Ghana, our destinies will forever remain connected. From this imagined and unshakable reality of all ethnic groups living together, it behoves us to develop and reorient our thinking towards the notion of one people with a common destiny. The title of this article was chosen for reasons of reference to two events, which are only part of the many issues that raise questions about our accepted ways of thinking as Ghanaians. The two events are the blame on Fantes after the recent election and the story of Professor. J.S. Nabila (Speaker of Parliament under the Limann Administration and now elected to the council of state). In Part I, the basis and need for reform in thinking is presented and in Part II, the mode of reform in our political and religious thought in relation to our common humanity, our oneness of purpose and oneness of vision as a nation will be presented.


I was filled with disappointment for Ghana following the unpleasant comments about Fantes after the last elections. My disappointment deepened following the utterances about northerners, which attracted my response in my last article on the northern identity. As I tried to put things together and make sense of the direction of our nation, I settled on a personal philosophy that has evolved over time. My personal philosophy has roots in the Ghana?s predicament since the overthrow of the Nkrumah regime and the dangerous evolving attitudes when it comes to tribal relations, citizenship and responsibility. In analysing these issues, I contend that we can deconstruct the way we think as citizens of a united nation called Ghana.

The issues and attitudes toward sections of the Ghana?s ethnic groups indicate that Ghanaians are mentally imprisoned in the ideology of their tribes. The imprisonment is dangerous and unlike us, considering the unique and internationally recognised achievements of our countrymen in all fields of education and human enterprise. The civil wars in many African nations have genesis in these tribal affiliations and yet Ghana, which is one of the well-educated nations in the world, appears not to be learning from the rest of Africa.

In my view, the attack on Fantes for the pattern of voting was a product of the tribal imprisonment mentally. I also beleive that this was a misplaced venting of anger because the insults should have been directed at regions where ethnic (block) voting is usually common practice. I believe those comments would have been avoided if Ghanaians thought of the issue from the point of view of our nation as a united entity, and the historical role of the Fantes in this achievement.

Kwame Nkrumah and CPP?s vision set Ghana on the road to a unified state of equal citizens, and the Fantes prominently contributed to this realisation. In this regard, it is my belief that if the circumstances of our independence were devoid of the leadership and the path curved out by the Nkrumah regime; a unified state of Ghana would not existent as it is today. (I stand to be corrected).

The tribal ideological imprisonment makes it hard for countries with multiple ethnic groups to realise their unity of purpose and equality in citizenship. It is my contention that for nations in Africa to achieve unity of identity and purpose, each and every one of us would need to reform our thinking in terms of how we see ourselves in relation to our nations-states (and for us, Ghana our mother/fatherland). To me the reform would need to take place in 3 domains: citizenship, religious thought and the purpose of polity. (The work I am doing in this area goes further but I will look at each briefly in relation to nationhood and development).
THE MEANING OF NATIONHOOD: Nationhood and sovereignty came with some important requirements both in ethnic relations and rights of each and every one of us. As it is not the intention here to lecture on rights, I would use only one of the crude understandings of rights and duties as seen by Jeremy Betham and Karl Marx.
A duty, Bentham believed, is an action required by a sovereign on pain of some sanction, and ?right-holders? are merely beneficiaries of duties (Waldron, 1987 p.35 ). Here, rights are perfectly alienable. If a sovereign does not perform a duty, rights are denied. Under strict utilitarianism and Marxist Communism, if an individual has a right to its own happiness, society has an even greater right to its collective happiness. Therefore, the rights of society outweigh the rights of the individual in cases where the individual?s exercise of a right might damage society. These principles apply in traditional societies of Ghana. Thus, our Ghanaian politicians have no more rights than we the citizens; in fact our collective happiness outweighs their happiness acquired through their greed and corruption.
Nation states are new to Africa and what is indisputable is that every ethnic group before the colonialism was independent, exercising political control over a people who belonged to the group. The coming of nationhood meant that we were expected to surrender some of our freedoms and powers as independent groups to some form of central authority.
It also implied more crucially, the recognition that those who did not speak our language were equal to us whether or not they lived in our kingdoms. Indeed, nationhood meant that we acquired an additional identity to our primary ones. The new identity was somehow going to supercede our primary identity especially in our dealings with each other as fellow citizens, and with the outside world.
In the Ghanaian context, what nationhood did not require of us was to see ourselves as super-power and/or subordinate ?power kingdoms, or superior and inferior citizens within a nation called Ghana. Unfortunately this is the path we either deciding to go down or are being forced to go down by some of our leaders /politicians and our ethnocentric attitudes.
Prior to and shortly after independence these tendencies were seen in the regional movement such as the NLM in Ashanti, the Northern Peoples Party, etc. It took some skill and persuasion, and rather sadly some level of inhumanity for the Nkrumah regime to keep us united in our vision and purpose as the first independent nation in Africa south of the Sahara. The federalism advocated by some of these factions was not realised because it was driven by an undercurrent of dangerous ethnocentrism capable of destabilising the peace of the young nation.
The role of the Fantes in anaesthetising the power of these forces scrambling for control of portions of Ghana was positively remarkable. They demonstrated that they preferred to have unified country; after all they championed the freedom movement even from 1800s. It was the first instance of the Fantes acting as a bridge to ensure unity of purpose by looking at the whole picture instead of just their own. The results of their stance was a unified Ghana with peace, which allowed the Nkrumah regime to demonstrate its capacity to set an agenda for Ghana?s economic, educational and industrial development. Every corner of the country saw something new, but that momentum was to be short-lived.
Factions and individuals in the population, blinded at the time by individual greed and perhaps ethnic pursuits derailed the wheels of our development in 1966. Ghana needed only 4 more years (to 1970) to implement one of the best-integrated development policies ever written anywhere in Africa. The coup did not allow the plan to completely unfold in order for our vehicle of growth to go into the required higher-level gear. It was therefore easy to bring it to a halt in just 5 years, and Ghana acquired her new beggar-nation identity?.Acheampong?s ?Yen tua? policy and now HIPC.
What followed the coup of 1966 was 25 years of misrule/ retrogression until 1992, when Rawlings after his initial mistakes sought to justify his many killings by turning complete attention to development and not witch-hunting. It must be admitted that the NDC government achieved a lot in the last 10 years by opening up the entire country to development and enlightenment. This is not to say that the government did not have unforgivable mistakes-all government past and present have big mistakes.
The coming into office of the Kuffour administration was a triumph for democracy, a chance for us to solidify our nationhood and to further propel the momentum of growth. It is clear that the changes in the economy in the last 4 years have been good and ushering in some hope.
The issue of concern that confronts us now is how the momentum of economic growth and unity will be maintained if tribal promotion and ethnocentrism are not kept out of politics. To my mind, we can maintain the momentum through changing our thinking about Citizenship, Religious thought and Polity. The proposed reform in thinking in regard to citizenship would require us to observe a single and perhaps unique principle, which is this: EVERY GHANAIAN IS FIRST, A CITIZEN AND SECOND, A MEMBER OF A TRIBE. This will constitute a radical reversal of our identity principles inculcated in us by our ethnocentric philosophies, which make us see ourselves as ?first, tribe and second, Ghanaian.
In PART II, I will present details of this, including the triumph of Professor J.S. Nabila, and how to deconstruct our political and religious thought.

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.