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Opinions of Sunday, 14 May 2006

Columnist: Kwamena, Ato

To Dagbon, With Love

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Dagombaland or the Dagbon State represents about 16% of Ghana?s population. In fact, besides the Akans the Dagombas are the largest ethnic group in the country. Population-wise, Dagombas should be wielding more influence in the affairs of the country than they have so far been. Yes, since independence Dagombas have been represented in all facets of government. In the civil service, there have been innumerable citizens of Dagbon who have served this country well in whatever capacity they found themselves. With this in mind, it?s amazing why Dagbonland, in terms of influence on policy, have not brought their impressive numbers and their potential political powers to bear.

I?ve been branded a tribalist by some people because of my perennial criticism of some Northern political leaders, and for my incessant appeals to Northerners to rise up and take their rightful place or position in Ghana. I?ve often criticized the political leaders of Dagbon for selling their people short, and for endorsing the work of those who desire to use our fellow citizens in Dagbon as ?disposable citizens? ? to be used for dirty political ends and then trashed after they have attained their aims. I?ve still not understood why the leaders of Ghana?s second largest ethnic group will not unite and join hands together, irrespective of their parochial political interests, to fight for the interests of their people. I still don?t understand why such a proud and historically powerful people would allow parochial politicians to divide them into enemies. When I call on Dagombas to unite, it?s not just for the sake of the unity per se. For I know that in unity there?s peace and development. In development, the future of our kids in the North can be brightened. In short, the ultimate outcome of unity in the North is measured in human lives. It?s measured in the lives of our toddlers and infants who will be given the opportunity to grow up and develop, and achieve their full God-given potentials.

In my mind, the problems of Dagbon and the other parts of our North which should be foremost on the mind of any patriotic citizen or Northern leader are issues of: Food, Housing, Education, Farming, Jobs, Clean Water, Guinea-Worm Eradication, etc. These are the issues that should be the primary goal of any Northern leader. Yes, they should contribute their invaluable quota in national discourse, but they shouldn?t forget Food, Housing, Education, Farming, Jobs, etc. I?m of the strong conviction that if they should decide to join hands, irrespective of political affiliation and wake this country up to the unacceptable poverty level in our North they would be making headway in bringing a paradigm shift to the economic prospects of the North. Why should the Northern parts of the Republic of Ghana be poorer than Ouagadougou, which ironically is closer to the Sahara desert than our North? Why should the Southern parts of Burkina Faso be better off economically than Ghana?s North? Why should Pwalugu be a net importer of Tomatoes from Burkina Faso when we can grow it in our own land? It?s because we haven?t made any attempt to focus on our North to develop it. Again I?ve said it before, and I?ll repeat it: no one can lobby for the North better than the very representatives of the Northern people in parliament and their other political leaders. If that?s an insult to anyone then too bad!

I stated it in some of my earlier write-ups; my main motivation is to help emancipate our brothers and sisters up North so that they will take what is theirs in Ghana, and break the entangling chain of poverty. To me, poverty is a curse. Poverty leads to ignorance. It affects generations yet unborn and it stifles the development of their innate potentials. Hence, we must fight it with all our might. The inaction of our Northern leaders affects the lives of real human beings adversely in the North. What is yours is yours, but unless you claim it, you won?t get it. For no one will freely offer it to you, although it?s yours. I believe that disunity has made it possible for the rest of the country to short-change citizens of Dagbon and the North at large. So despite the efforts of those who can think of nothing else but tribal sentiments but who ironically try to tag others with tags of tribalism, I remain unperturbed. For I know one thing. That every truth will be revealed in due time no matter how hard they try to trash it. ?I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. That is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.? ? Dr Martin Luther King Jr. So it?s with Love that I write to you, Dagbon.

I honor all Dagbon citizens for making it possible to lay the slain King to rest. I honor you all for recognizing that no matter what blood is thicker than water! I salute you for accepting that despite all the wrongs, pains, animosities, grievances, the Abudus and the Andanis are blood relatives. For goodness, they are brothers! I say ayekoo for recognizing that vengeance is the Lord?s! That retributive assassinations and counter-assassinations would hurt no one but the Dagbon-State. That such intra-tribal hatred will only play into the court of those who have nothing but evil hopes for the Dagombas.

Yes, the perpetrators of this heinous crime need to be fished out and punished! I do not by any means call for the forgetting of this regicidal crime. Not at all. Albeit, we dare not forget lest we repeat it. And until we find out those who committed the crime and punish them severely, there?s no strong deterrent against the recurrence of that primitive act. So I say, let?s continue to collaborate with the police service and assist them to find the culprits. But even as we do that, let?s try, even against all odds, to forgive each other. Let?s try and chart a new course for the sake of Dagbon.

I want to call on all Dagombas ? Abudu or Andani ? to start viewing themselves again as one people and not through the lens of whatever Gate they hail from. I plead with especially the energetic youth of Dagbon to be peacemakers and not agents of vengeance and destruction. I plead with them to give peace a chance, now that Dagbon is on the path to a lasting peace. I call on the new Reagent to be Reagent of all Dagombas and not a Gate. I dream of the day that Dagombas will see their allegiance as first to the Dagbon-State and not to any political party. Of course I know that the penultimate allegiance of every Dagomba and for that matter any ethnic group in the country is or should be to Ghana. But ours is a pluralistic society. We have multiple ethnic groups; each with a very rich culture. This pluralism is good for the country if nurtured well. So I appreciate the uniqueness of every ethnic grouping in Ghana. And even as we strive to be a united people, we shouldn?t forget our individual uniqueness. Although we agree that the penultimate allegiance of every Dagomba should be to our Republic, yet they must also appreciate the importance of upholding their unique culture. This they can do only in the face of unity, peace, and tranquility.

Wouldn?t it be wonderful to see Dagombas push politicians to claim what is rightfully their part of the ?national cake?? Don?t you think it would be wonderful to see the day that the allegiance of our Dagbon citizens to a political party would entirely be based on their (Dagombaland) socio-economic or socio-political interest? How wonderful it would be if they would give equal opportunities to all political parties to develop Dagbonland for their votes, and not pledge their unwavering allegiance to one even to the disadvantage of their development. That?s how it should be. As soon as this light is seen by all and sundry, the pangs of poverty would begin to fall off from Dagbon. For every politician would then know that to win a single vote in a Dagombaland you cannot just go and try to pitch one group against the other; that you must offer the people your development program.

It pains my heart why we allowed politicians to exploit the atrocious regicide of the Ya Na to pitch brother against brother, supply T-shirts with inscriptions which seeks to whip-up intra-ethnic hatred against each other, so that as a divided people they (the politicians) could exploit the people for their own parochial political purposes. It really saddens me! We must be ?as wise as serpents? if we are to recognize and fish-out these ?anguis in herba? politicians ? ?snake-under-grass? politicians ? who thrive on a divided people. They come in sheep?s clothes pretending to sympathize with the people and to understand their grievances, only for them (the politicians) to whip up impulses of vengeance against their (the people?s) own blood relatives. And after they (the politicians) have succeeded in turning brother against brother, they ask for your votes so that they can give you justice. But you ask yourself: how is it going to be possible to get the opposing group to the table of dialogue after they have been denigrated and branded as enemies? In other words, wouldn?t the pursuance of justice against the group these ?filthy? politicians have opposed be seen by the same group as witch-hunting for which they would resist with all their might? How then can they bring peace and unity after they have succeeded in dividing the very people? So don?t let them fool you with their communist-style Divide-and-Rule tactics. It won?t be in Dagbon?s interest. Dagbon must unite and close their ranks.

And one thing we always have to keep at the back of our minds is that, all these politicians ? Kufuor, Atta-Mills, Rawlings, Aggudey, Edward Mahama, etc ? will one day be no more, but Dagbon-State will remain. Hence we must do, today, what is in Dagbon?s interest irrespective of anything. Our actions should be for the interests of the generations yet unborn. If we choose to do good today, they (our descendants) will benefit tomorrow. But if we choose to do evil, our progenies or descendants will suffer because of our actions today. For ?the evil that men do lives after them? so says William Shakespeare. Long after we are gone, generations suffer from the mishaps we commit today, just like we as a country are still paying for the mishaps of our forefathers who refused to introduce and nurture true democracy into Ghana. Their ?evil? lived after them. Hence, we must do what is right today.

Let perpetual peace reign in Dagbon! Let ?fellow feeling?, brotherliness, and love forever be etched on the hearts and minds of all Dagbon citizens. Let common interests, progress and development be the goal of all true Dagombas. Give an Abudu, an Andani a brotherly hug and a warm handshake, for he is closer to you genetically than any other Ghanaian. Let Dagombas live in peace, freedom, and development! And let the Dagbon-State live Forever!

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