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Opinions of Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Columnist: Sidibe, Abdul Musah

Media Ignorance; The story of Ghanaian Fulani: part 2

When I penned the first part of this article last week, I never anticipated the response it elicited. Before I proceed, let first thank those who responded to my article both positively and negatively, as well as those who disagreed with my preposition that there is no such thing as Ghanaian Fulani. I am a strong advocate of free speech, even if those not palatable to me. Freedom to speak your mind is the way to your thoughts and only by expressing your thoughts can we correct wrong thoughts, emphasis right once, and make everyone better as whole. I also understand the concerns of those who think there can’t possibly be Fulani in Ghana since they are not capture by any text book, and those who think the population census forms did capture them as an ethnic in Ghana therefore they are not an ethnic group in Ghana. But I simply disagree with the basic assumptions their lines of thought.

In article an title the Ghanaian Fulani I never know, Alfred Manu Bernard wrote “In fact, in all my educational adventure I have yet to stumble across any text that lends credence to my brother’s assumption that the Fulani is an ethnic group in Ghana.” This statement is simply illogical and relied heavily on the fallacy of appeal to knowledge. One is tempted to ask Mr. Alfred Manu whether his educational adventures privy him to every sphere of knowledge there is about Ghana. He also presupposes that knowledge static. If that were the case, there will be no space landing because until Copernicus, the world was thought to be flat and sun orbits the earth and not the other round. Simply put, there are a lot of things about Ghanaian ethnic composition that Mr. Alfred Manu simply does not know.

Ghana as a state was established in 1950s. In the realm of history, Ghana is a very young state. Some of it history has not been documented; even those that were documented, much were done by foreign scholars. We are yet to discover who we are as a people and who is among us and who is not. Birth certificates in Ghana are not issued at birth, and West African can claim Ghanaian citizenship with very little method of verification. I think as a country, this is one of our failures. Absent any verification method, the only thing most use in identifying Ghanaian from a non-Ghanaian is ethnicity, which is also very complicated as there are ethnic groups in Ghana who are transnational. Mr. Alfred Manu’s ignorance is therefore understood if not condoned. At independence in 1957, Nkrumah and others understood this complications in Ghanaian history hence their insistence that Ghanaian citizenship be defined as anyone in Ghana before 6th of March 1957. This is because they understood that for Ghana to survive as functioning country ethnicity should not be the defining point of Ghanaian citizenship.

Nkrumah in particular, given his ethnic origin understood that ethnic groups in West Africa cut across national boundaries. For he understood his own Nzema ethnic group have some who are Ivoirians by nationality. It is very usual to find Fulani, Gurma, Mooshi, Chamba, Bassara, Kotokoli, Banda, Komkomba and several other ethnic groups within several West African countries. Some of these ethnics groups, like the Fulani, can be located in dozens of countries. Gurma for instance can be found on the edges of Northern Ghana, Northern West Togo and Southern Burkina Faso.

The reason is that when the colonial powers were petitioning Africa in the 1600s, they never took in to consideration ethnic composition. Hence, Akan speaking ethnic goups in Ghana for instance have more cultural, linguistic and historical similarities to the Akans in Ivory Coast. More so than they do with their Dagomba neighbors to the north even though both are Ghanaians. Some historians have argued that before colonization the jurisdiction of the Asantehene extends to present day Bassam in the Ivory Coast. And that the Ayni, Betes (Gbagbo’s ethnic group) and the Baoles in Ivory Coast were all his subjects.

It therefore stands to reason that after colonization in the late 1950s and 1960s, we can say Ghana Akans and Ivorian Akans, likewise Ghanaian Gurmah and Burkinabe Gurma, Ghanaian Ewe and Togolese Ewe. In the same vein as a fifth generation Fulani in Ghana, I can equally consider myself as a Ghanaian Fulani. Like Ga migration from the shores of Nigeria, even my dad couldn’t remember when my great grand-fathers migrated in to Ghana. All he knew was that he is a Ghanaian and speaks the Fulani language.

On the subject of whether Fulani exist in Ghana’s ethnic history, I will argue that this is not even a subject of debate. As there is thousands of documented history to the fact that Fulani are nomads and they could be found in every country in West Africa from Cameroon to Mauritania and every country in between for over 1000 years. In some countries they constitute part of the major ethnic groups, and in others as in Ghana they are only a visible minority.

The Fulani is not a fringe ethnic group in Africa as some in the Ghanaian media are trying to suggest. In fact their contribution to African history and religion is well noted and documented. We can’t talk about Islamic history in West Africa without mentioning Usman dan Fodio, the man who pioneered the spread of Islam in West Africa who is also a Fulani. Several former African leaders are Fulani. They include the Late Nigerian Presidents Umar Yar’adua and Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Former Cameroonian President Mr. Ahmadou Ahijo, Former Segalese Prime Minister Mustapha Niasse, the first AU Chairman Alpha Umar Konari of Mali among several others. In Ghana Baba Yara (meaning the Father of Kids), the man we named the Kumasi Sport Stadium after is Fulani. Therefore when writing about the ethnic group we should be careful not to insult the sensitivity of many because Fulani is one of the major ethnics groups in Africa.

On looks, Mr. Alfred Manu noted in his article that Fulani are fair in complexion, have pointed nose and curly hair. He seemed to suggest that these look distinguish them from Ghanaians. This is called in logic a straw-man’s argument. The fascist used this tactic to discriminate against the Jews in their country. In Mr. Alfred Manu opinion, If you are fair in complexion, have point nose, and curly hair then you can’t possibly be a Ghanaian. This argument suggests that the way one looks is a necessary condition for your Ghanaian citizenship. But so are Mr. J. J. Rawlings, Mr. Jake Obetsebi Lampty and Dr. Mohammed Ibin Chambas. These individuals are fair in complexion, have point noses and curly hairs. If that did not preclude them from Ghanaian citizenship, Fulani looks should not. There is no citizenship by looks in the Ghanaian constitution. This argument is another fascist argument.

On calling the media fascist in my previous article, I make no apology for calling them fascist and racist. The media insistence that some Fulani people who supposedly commit crimes should be identified by their ethnic group and treated differently from other Ghanaians is reminiscent to the coordinated attempt by Hitler’s National Socialist to use negative publication against a group to influence public opinion against them. So yes, I called the Ghanaian media fascist because they are adopting fascist methods.

The individual criminals are supposed to be ID by name or at best their nationalities and not their ethnicity. It is very common in Ghana to read headline like “DCE warn alien Fulani Headsmen.” Who said the Fulani are aliens? The last time I checked, the Fulani did not descend from another planet, neither are they specie unknown to human kind. I therefore find it insulting and offensive that the Ghanaian media, some owned by the state, would condone such backward and offensive headlines in their publications.

I conclude by again calling on all people who are Fulani Ghanaians to resist any effort by the state to discriminate against them. They should report to the Commission on Human Rights and Administration any such attempted abuse.

Abdul Musah Sidibe

Abdul Musah Sidibe is a human activist and an observer of African and Ghanaian politics. He currently resides in Calgary, Alberta