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Opinions of Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Columnist: Asigri, D. Z.

J meets J in the Accra ...

- no politico/historical punch-ups?

Almost all Ghanaians in many part of the globe I believe are glad that the British Deputy Prime Minister Mr John Prescott currently paying an official visit to Ghana - his host obviously being His Excellency President John A Kufuor of Ghana. We wish the Deputy Minister a very happy visit.

As the title of this feature article spells out: ‘J’ meets ‘J’ in Accra - no politico/historical ‘punch-ups‘? The J’s simply stands for the two leaders first names as we all know-John on one side, and John, the other!

The issue of ‘political punch-ups’ depends on the individual leader’s perception of the situation in this context. For example, during our last general electioneering campaign, the Garu-Tempane constituency in the Upper East Region NPP supporters in their attempt to exercise our ‘infantile’ democratic rights to reject to the imposition of a parliamentary candidate foisted on them by the party’s central office were mercilessly beaten up by the government’s ideological apparatus. Some of these frustrated constituents became disorientated of time, place and person for some days following their traumatic experiences I believe. The seat was however captured by the opposition NDC parliamentary candidate!

To the visiting Deputy British Prime Minister, similarly, during a general election campaign in Britain some time ago, to the distaste of on lookers and glaringly viewed by television camera’s the British people, and indeed the world as a whole saw a ‘punch-up’ episode delivered by the said political guru of U.K. to an electorate. The incident drew a lot of media coverage and finally laid to rest in the name of a ‘fracas’. The two ‘Js’ democratically, have delivered political/physical punch-ups in one way or the other to a citizen/s of theirs in my view.

A ‘historical punch up’ which I think needs to be passionately delivered to Mr John Prescott as to the extent in which his ancestors, our colonial masters inflicted on the people of Northern Ghana in particular, the pain of which still felt to date. Of course, His Excellency John Kufuor is well placed to deliver this historical message to the British Government through the Deputy British Prime Minister.

Ghanaweb of 1st February 2007 reported a statement issued by the Northern Patriots in Research and Advocacy (NORPRA) and signed by Mr Ayorogo Adongo Bismark. The group identified some very chilling directives by a colonial Commissioner of Northern Territories stipulating that : “Northerners were regarded as an amiable but backward people, useful as soldiers, policemen and labourers in the mines and cocoa farms. In short fit only to be hewers of wood and drawers of water for their brothers in the colony and Ashanti”. Unleashing more ‘poisonous venom into the circulation’ of the indigenes of the Northern Territories, Governor F M Hodgson went further and stated: “For the present, I therefore cannot but strongly urge the employment of all available resources of the government upon the development of the country to the south of Kintampo, leaving the Northern Territories to be dealt with in future years… I would not at present spend upon the Northern Territories a single penny more than is absolutely necessary for their suitable administration and encouragement of transit trade”. I applaud these findings! As a Northerner myself and above all a researcher one cannot deny the fact that these colonial ideas are still embedded within certain government policies and act as social barriers to the indigenes of Northern Ghana in general. Furthermore, these social barriers could be blamed on the environment, for example, the idea that the North is too dry for certain government innovations, that the dry dusty wind blown from the Sahahara desert is a hazard for aviation hence the closure and removal of the Tamale airport (i.e. structural barrier). The most offending barrier one can identify is, ‘attitudinal barrier’- the belief that Northerners are ‘only fit to be hewers.

Let us take for example, an optimistic view of the construction of the Tamale Airport which was initiated by our first President Dr Kwame Nkrumah in the 1960’s and was applauded by some Ghanaians especially Northerners. Nurturing of the Tamale Airport has maintained successive governments until lately. My current view is consistent with Sir Hugh Clifford’s a colonial boss when he wrote that, “Till the colony and Ashanti have been thoroughly opened up and developed, the Northern Territories must be content and wait their turn”. To date, the airport’s construction is at a standstill-post Rawlings’ era! Rumours abound that all the vital parts that makes what it takes to call ‘an airport, an airport’ have been systematically removed and re-directed to the south. In short, Northerners ‘must wait their turn‘-In-Sha-Allah!
With the very busy schedule for Mr. John Prescott, our President could spare a few moments and whisper into the ears of the visiting Deputy British Prime Minister as to the painful directives left behind by the British colonial masters and the implications for Northern Ghana in general. In the words of MP David Apasera, “Failure to do so would be an indictment on the good conscience of this nation”.

Asigri, Daniel Z
Senior Lecturer
Practitioner Researcher in Education
Middlesex University


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