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Opinions of Thursday, 1 December 2016

Columnist: Asubonteng, Bernard

President Mahama’s “Northerner” Card Fallacy

By—Bernard Asubonteng

President John Mahama is reported to have told large crowd during campaign stops in the northern parts in Ghana that as a “northerner” (whatever that means) himself, all the voters over there would be making a big mistake if they fail to vote for him. In other words, Mr. Mahama is cynically trying to use his Gonja lineage to exploit as many voters as he can in the northern regions of Ghana. From all indications, the president and the NDC are not only categorizing all the inhabitants in the north as if they are fossilized bunch of thinkers, but also his “Northerner” campaign appeal is an implicit insult to the intelligence of the brothers and sisters in that region of Ghana.

For sure, the people in the northern Ghana are not single block entity; every Ghanaian knows this except perhaps the president and his tribal campaigners. There are many well-educated and critical thinking people from the north who do not see the world from the same prism as the so-called “Northerner” homeboy President John Mahama. Although the term “Northerner” per se is geographic-centered as opposed to having precise ethnic or tribal nuance, yet the subtext of “I’m Northerner like you” as used by President-candidate Mahama is not hard to unpack.

Certainly, hailing from the north, south, east, or west of a given landmass speaks more to geographical location than about tribal make-up of the area. Mr. Mahama knows this difference fully well (I guess) that is probably why he using the amorphous term “Northerner” just to play on the minds of the voters in the north. Similar to describing oneself as “Southerner,” classifying an individual or group as “Northerners” has less to do with the rich cultural pedigrees and experiences of the natives of those lands.

That is to say the various ancestry groups of people in the north have vast competing interests and cultural expectations the same way as their counterparts in the southern Ghanaian cultures comprising Fantis, Gas, Ewes, Asantes, and many others. It is fallacious and an act of desperation from a failed and divisive head of state such as Mr. Mahama to campaign for reelection using one-size-fits-all ethnic-coded appeals. The Dagombas, Gonjas, Konkombas, Nanumbas, Frafras, Mamprusis, and many others in the north are unique collection of people. It is doubtful President Mahama is unaware of the historical realities and the tribal chasms existing among the people in the north to condescendingly group all them together as “Northerners.” It is doesn’t matter if anyone tries to find moral equivalence or normalize President Mahama’s tribal-tainted “northerner” campaign utterances. There is a huge difference between what a leader (president) of the whole country has to say in public and the one allegedly uttered by his opponent(s) in private conversation. Among others, the president is highly expected to be a uniter-in-chief not only as the commander-in-chief of the military

Since Mr. Mahama has a group of people called “northerners” that he seems to think he is entitled to have their votes without scrutiny, he must also have another group in other geographic areas of Ghana called “Southerners, Easterners, and Westerners.” One wonders what President John Mahama’s message to the preceding groups will be as he campaigns through their areas. Based on Mr. Mahama’s “Northerner” logic, the southerners, easterners, or the westerners are not part of the “northern kinfolks” of the president, so how is he entitled to their votes?

This is not the first time President Mahama is going the “nuclear bomb” route, programmed with the following codes: WE’RE NORTHERNERS SO THERE IS NO POINT IN VOTING FOR THE AKAN-CENTERED PARTIES FROM THE SOUTH. AFTER ALL, THE AKANS THINK THEY’RE BETTER THAN EVERYONE IN GHANA. Honestly, if anyone wants to know the political party that mostly wins elections by playing on tribal sensibilities of Ghanaians, we can’t look pass the NDC led by Mr. John Mahama. They use nondescript words like “We’re Northerners; Volta Region is our [NDC] World Bank; NPP-Akan party” and other dog whistle signals all grounded in veiled tribalism. They even falsely try to accuse people who hail from some parts of the north or Volta regions and happened to be independent-thinkers with dissenting viewpoints, by caricaturing them as sell-outs or doing the work for the “Akan-based opposition parties.” For example if you don’t believe the forgoing, check out what President Mahama had recently said about his supposedly “brother-Northerner” vice presidential candidate Dr.Mahamudu Bawumia’s future at the so-called NPP-AKAN party. The comment is full of tribal decoy…and why not use that dirty campaign strategy if you have been presiding over an economy that is recording over 20% rate of unemployment and high incidence of corruption, including unreliable power supply. In this dire situation, you need good lies and distractions from realities on the grounds. In fact, many studies in psychology have shown that whenever a leader stirs up a large crowd of people and appeal to them passionately with even lies, more often the crowd tends to lose their sense of rationality en masse and believe the lies as truth.

It is nauseating to hear the baseless, worn-out ethnocentric comments about Akans or that the NPP is Ashanti or Akan party. What political party in this contemporary world doesn’t have strongholds in at least one or two areas? Plus, within any true democratic party, the line of succession is based on merit and rigorously fair competition; it is not given on a silver platter. Genuine democrats don’t coronate anyone, whether the one is the former vice president or not. President Mahama’s dull administration has not much to show for in all these wasted years in office, so his default strategy is to play the “Northerners” or tribal card against his main challenger(s). Specifically, what is the rate of employment in the northern regions? Better yet, what has President Mahama’s government done to help alleviate the massive unemployment in the north, Volta, and other parts of the country? Too bad some people are still caught up in the web of tribalism at the expense of their future.

The writer is based in the United States and be reached at: b.asubonteng@gmail.com