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Opinions of Saturday, 16 January 2010

Columnist: Amenyo, Kofi

Loving your enemies or playing tribal politics with Quashigah’s death

When known and notorious haters of Ewes are suddenly trying to outdo each other in the effusiveness of their praise songs for a fallen (in the sense of fallen in battle not fallen from grace) Ewe, you must start looking sharply around you and do a squirrel: stop munching whatever is in your mouth, blink several times and twitch your ears! Biribii ba o. Nade gbona!

In all civilized countries, whenever a top politician passes away, even his most vociferous political adversaries join in mourning him. But when those who were the former opponents of Quashigah are now crying even louder than the man’s family and tribesmen, then something is amiss.

Some say they are praising him because Courage was courageous enough to cut through the tribal divide in our politics and burnish his democratic credentials by so doing. That may very well be true but that is not all there is to it. Would Quashigah have become a different kind of democrat if he had not fallen out with his earlier comrades and stayed on in the NDC? Will the same people now praising him also be equally profuse in their praises for an Asante or Akyem high profile NPP functionary who does a reverse Quashigah and leaves his party for NDC? Will they also praise that man for his sterling democratic principles? Or is the traffic good only if it flows in one direction? Will what is good for the goose also be tolerable for the gander?

If Quashigah was such a good man as a member of NPP, then there must have been something good in him as an NDC man too. Unless you are trying to say that a man of 50 became good the day he joined the NPP in which case you will be making a political, rather than a moral, argument.

Oftentimes, what remains unsaid reveals a lot more than what has actually been said. Unless you are unable to read between the lines and put things in their proper context, you won’t fail to smell the incipient attempt to praise one man in order to spite the rest of his tribesmen: “Oh, he was one of the very few among them who are good”. If you have spent so much time and effort in castigating a whole tribe, calling them names, denigrating and insulting them, then you have forfeited the moral right to sing love words to any one of them who has passed on.

Of course, at first blush, I do not see anything wrong with the tributes to Quashigah and I accept them. But I want the tribute payers to love me, too, even though I have not left an Ewe dominated party to join one that is dominated by their tribesmen. I want them to love me, too, even though I do not speak their language. In the same way, I, too, will love them and will not require of them to leave their party and join mine before they have a taste of my love. The love for the common country that we both call our own must trump any differences that we have. In fact, it must rather bring us together!

My defence of my tribe will NEVER be predicated on a supposition that my tribe is better than someone else’s tribe. That is why I will never use Kufuor’s ineptitude and inordinate greed to castigate all Asantes and think the next Asante man I meet is also like that. That will be wrong. Neither will I use the particular manner of Mills’ presidency to make a point about all Fantes. In the same manner, it will be wrong to let my hatred of Rawlings flow over to the entire tribe he comes from. No matter what the current voting patterns in our country are, the tribes are made up of individual human beings, not cattle acting under herd instinct. By all means let us have our political differences as a necessary part of our democracy. But why should it always have tribal undertones?

Now more than ever in our country’s history, we must try to renew our efforts at building parties that genuinely cut across all our various tribes. In such a situation a carpet crossing will be seen just like that – not something mediated through a tribal prism. In a genuinely detribalised party, people will not get posts because they are token representatives of their tribes. It is in this sense that some of us, WHO DO NOT BELONG TO ANY PARTY, are praying that we have a strong third force in our politics that is now worryingly showing too strong a binary nature. The two major parties have failed us and the CPP doesn’t seem to be ever going to be able to fill that third role. Perhaps a fresh start will be needed and the best place that should come from will be our youth who will otherwise not be given any genuine chance in the established parties that now seem to be practising a certain vicious form of gerontocracy.

I cannot presume to talk for a whole tribe but I am sure the Ewes are also mourning their tribesman. But they are not mourning him for the same reasons. They are not mourning him because he happened to have made a political turn around in his career. In fact, they may be mourning him despite that. They are mourning him as one of their own who has gone before us.

Sometimes, it may become important to love your “enemies” even more than your friends. But that is the more difficult act to follow. Let us resolve to use Quashigah’s death to teach ALL OF US to love even our “enemies” and not wait until they join our political ranks before we extend our love to them. It is only then that the man’s life will truly not have been in vain. It is about love – unconditional love.

Kofi Amenyo (