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Opinions of Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Columnist: Afoun, John

We Deserve A Hate – Free Fourm

I would like to take the opportunity to thank all those who commented on my very first article. I felt honored and humbled. Your comments were encouraging and supportive. Comments from heavyweight writers like Nana Amma and my dear honorable friend Sarpong have inspired me to have a go at another one. However, what was most encouraging was the feedback I received across the board without any tribal insults directed towards me. So you see my dear fellow Ghanaians we are capable of being civil to one another and in stopping this tribal, NPP, NDC, Rawlings, and Kufuor bashing. I therefore wish to congratulate the forum for showing maturity. I am confidence that together we can make the forum tribalism free. Like I said in the first article, I am not a writer by any stretch of the imagination, I am just a regular Ghanaian who deeply loves Ghana and would hate to see it destroyed by tribalism. This love for country is what has compelled me to action in an attempt to address the evil of hatred and tribalism being displayed here at the forum; I strongly believe that it is possible to have a hate free forum whereby we can engage in a meaningful intellectual debate on the real issues affecting the development and progress of Ghana our beloved country. One of the comments from the first article pointed out the difference between tribal unity and National unity. My mission is to promote national unity. However, since many tribes constitute Ghana, and since the insults and the exchanges here in the forum appear to be along tribal lines, I figured by calling for tribal unity, I am calling for nationally unity as well. My primary objective is to see the forum free of demeaning one another because of tribal affiliation. May be I should be calling for tribal and political tolerance. It is my hope that we will agree to disagree without resulting to tribalistic remarks about each other. Here it is that we have a great opportunity to further show the world what Ghanaians are made of, our intellectual ability and the ability to co – exist along side each other in harmony, and yet there are some who are hell bent on allowing the evil of tribalism to tarnish our image and reputation. I currently reside in America and have witnessed hatred and discrimination in its worst form. I know fellow Africans and Ghanaians for that matter that are well educated, however are driving tax, I am not suggesting for a moment that there is anything wrong with driving a tax; however, it is not the choice of this brothers to drive a tax. Who would want to spend many years studying to obtain a Master degree only to drive a tax? The reason many do is due to racial discrimination and prejudices such as tribalism. We have also witness how racial discrimination has divided America and its associated problems. Those of us who have been here for a while and are privileged to be in a position of influence are doing all we can to eliminate discrimination or at the very least reduce its effects. Why then, should we allow tribalism to divide us as a nation? At the end of the day what does it really matter which tribe one is from? Who really cares anyway? The irony is while other nations are seeking innovative ways to improve their technology and economy, and here we are engaging in tribal sentiments. While other nations have been to space and are exploring all kinds of places, here we are trading tribal insults, many nations have solid infrastructure and here we are trading tribal insults, and yet we expect to develop and have a higher standard of living. What good has all the tribal pride done for us? And where has it led us? And where is it leading us? It will never make Ghana the greatest country on earth. It will also never make us the leading financial hub of the world; I therefore urge Ghanaians to wake up and smell the coffee. There is a lot at stake here more than all these tribal sentiments. If we are ever going to impact the world positively in any form or shape, it is not going to be through tribalism. Tribalism and hatred is so old school, and there is no place in modern society for such backward thinking.

Ghana is and has always been greatly respected around the world. We are the shinning example of Africa, especially Sub-Sahara Africa. Our behavior therefore must reflect that position. We had a great leader whose goal and objective was a unified Africa. Now that he is long gone, it is now our collective responsibility to forge ahead with that goal and objective. How are we going to affect the rest of Africa when there is so much tribal hatred amongst us? We are all aware of the saying that charity begins at home. Unity is a strong component of any progressive society. It has taken the Europeans forever to figure out what the late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah figured out almost one hundred years ago” UNITY”. Europe has moved towards one Europe in the name of unity, why can’t we also move first towards tribal and national unity and then African unity? To the nay Sayers, I would like to remind you of Mr. Obama the president of the United States of America’s campaign slogan “YES WE CAN” Who would have believed that we would see a Black president of America ever, let a lone in our life time. So fellow Ghanaians, all things are possible if we put our minds and efforts to it. Our collective responsibility is to acknowledge our differences, embrace our collective hopes, and support each other in our aspirations and also to support the government of the day, I am not suggesting for a moment that, we should agree with the government of the day on everything, what am suggesting is that, we should refrain from negativity and hostility towards the government of the day, be it NPP or NDC. Our duty as citizens is to vote, and as soon as the elections are over, to put our differences aside and support the ruling government, challenge corruption, demand accountability and promote national and tribal unity.

I would like to take a trip down memory lane and I invite all forumers to join me. When I was growing up in Ghana, Ghana was a beautiful place free of the tribalism we are seeing here at the forum. I was born in Kumasi of Ewe parentage. My father was a top ranking civil servant, and therefore we lived in most of the 10 regions of Ghana. When we were in Kumasi, we lived in a government bungalow near City hotel, and there were many other senior civil servants in the area from most of the major tribes in Ghana. Our fathers were colleagues, friendships were developed, the children went to school together, played together, our homes were opened to each other, and we eat together and some times slept in each others homes. Our fathers got together and discussed politics and current affairs, played tennis, and chest together, and I never heard any of them hurled insults at each other because they had differences of opinion and were from a different tribe. And not once did I hear any parent telling their children not to play with so and so because they were from a different tribe, we were just one happy Ghanaians living together in harmony without regard to tribe. I never heard my father nor any of his civil service colleagues made any derogatory remarks about any tribe at least not in public. When I was 11 years old, my father was transferred to the north and we were stationed in Tamale the regional capital, and we lived in Russia Bungalows, a residential area south east part of town. And just like Kumasi, there were senior civil servants from most of the major tribes in Ghana. My father was in charged of the northern region and what was then the upper region. Therefore we had a bigger bungalow with swimming pool and tennis court. So our house was the hung out for all the kids in the immediate area, extending all the way to Kalponhen Housing Estate, and Sakasaka Quarters, and I never heard any of my parents made any tribal remarks about any of those children, we were never told not to hung out with any of them because of their tribe. We shared and celebrated birthdays together, we looked out for one another. At Christmas we exchanged gifts, went from one house to the other to eat without regard to tribe. I have two beautiful sisters who dated anyone who was brave, daring and cared enough to ask them out without regard to tribe. I dated anyone who cared to go out with me without regard to tribe. Back then when we the children got together, the discussions were about which secondary school one was aspiring to go to, and which of the universities to go, and which profession and career to peruse there after. During secondary school vacations, we traded stories about our experiences of the various schools we attended without regard to tribe. We saw each other as Ghana’s future leaders and tribe didn’t come into the equation at all. I was exposed to people from different tribes from an early childhood; I therefore don’t look at things from the tribalistic point of view. Given the fact that I never encountered tribalism in Ghana; I am therefore at a lost and for the life of me cannot understand why there is such a strong tribal hatred here at the forum amongst Ghanaians, may be I am just a product of my environment. I am assuming that most of us in this forum are relatively young, educated to at least “O” level standard and brought up by educated and balanced parents without tribal sentiments. So where did things go wrong to have allowed such strong tribal hatred to infect us as people? Do you remember when we first arrived at school as individuals and departed as friends without regard to tribe? Do you remember those happy primary school days when we played together without regard to tribe? Do you remember those happy secondary school days when were just happy being part of each other without regard to tribe? Do you remember those college days when were just one big happy students on campus without regard to tribe, shared provisions including gari without regard to tribe, shared shoes together, shared tooth paste together, consulted each other over girl/boy problems without regard to tribe? Do you remember when you took me home without regard to tribe? Do you remember when your parents came to visit you in school and you took me along and proudly introduced me as your best friend without regard to tribe? Do you remember when you went home for vacation and your parents enquired about me without regard to tribe? Do you remember when we were both ill and had to go to the government hospital together, and when you finished, you waited for me and we went back to school together without regard to tribe? Do you remember when I was ill and could not make it to the dinning hall and you brought my food without regard to tribe? What happened to those days when we walked to class together without regard to tribe, what happened to those days when we played football/netball/basketball together without regard to tribe, what happened to those days when we played for the same house and school and when a goal was scoured we embraced each other in celebrations without regard to tribe, what happened to those days when we assisted each other with home work without regard to tribe?, what happened to those days when we walked together to the assemble hall for entertainment on Saturday nights and danced the night away without regard to tribe?. What happened to those days when we were part of the school team without regard to tribe? What happened to those days when were part of the relay team and Owusu started the race passed the baton to Mahama, who then passed it onto Amuzu, then to Quartey who carried the team and the school for that matter to victory without regard to tribe? What happened to those days when we were in the same debate team without regard to tribe? What happened to our collective aspirations to become the leaders of a strong united Ghana without regard to tribe? I believe that most of us if not all of us, can identify with some or all of the above, and would agree that we have been in situations in the past where tribal sentiments were irrelevant, why then have we allowed it to become issues now. I believe the framework for tribal and nation unity was established at Ghana’s independence and within our educational system, and some of us have worked well within that framework. It is rather unfortunate that some have not and have taken the wrong turn and are working within the framework of hatred and tribalism. To those who have taken the wrong turn, I strongly urge you to re-visit memory lane and recapture those good old days and get back to working within the framework of national unity then join the effort in building one strong united Ghana free of tribalism. The cry of my heart is that the day will come again when all Ghanaians will dwell together in harmony and be blind to tribal prejudices, and to make Ghana a beautiful place once again subsequently the forum. We must believe, hope and resolve to achieve a better forum free of tribal sentiments.

Every day is providing us with a clearer indication of the tactics and mentality behind the new base of hatred. – As well as a renewed need for a media that isn’t going to enable toxic politics based on misinformation, fear and hatred.

We are seeing the new reality on display here in the forum where the Mills Administration is constantly being unfairly criticized. We have seen the comments where the Mills administration is accursed of allowing Ewes to run the country to the ground. We have also seen how the Kufuor’s administration has been accursed of running Ghana to the ground.

‘’Just say no’’ it will be a cold day in hell before the Ewes take over our country are some of the sentiments we read at the forum. I want my country back some are saying as if the Mills administration is being led my aliens. The Kufuor Administration was corrupted and the Asantes are tribalistic are some of the things we have seen here in the forum as if Kufuor didn’t do anything good for Ghana. This isn’t political discourse of any kind – not when the goal is to literally shout down those you disagree with. Nor is it the stirring of a legitimate political movement. Legitimate movements are based in fact and serious reflection. Those who accuse Mills of allowing Ewes to take over, and those who accuse Kufuor for not doing anything good for Ghana have no facts on their side. All they have is rage and hatred.

Remarkably, they also have political support. You would think prominent NPP and NDC members at the helm of an increasingly regional isolated and distrusted party would seek to distance themselves from phenomena such as the ‘’Ewes taking over’ “Kufuor was corrupt” conspiracy to begin rebuilding their credibility; But although some, have, many others, such as Ms. Hammond and Mr. Rawlings haven’t, implicitly encouraging such activity to continue. The people here at the forum hauling insults at Kufuor and the Mills administration represent a segment of the population motivated by fear and hatred of progressive politics and of the new administration.

The media’s job is clear. First, the nation is owed accurate coverage of crucial issues such as the economy. We won’t get any of that from neither the NDC or NPP media figures. But at this pivotal time, the mainstream media must provide serious reporting and analysis, as well as expose lies that are perpetuated by others.

Speaking of lies; Journalists also have a responsibility not to entertain or legitimize baseless claims and attacks against the President, his administration or any elected official, just because somebody says it doesn’t make it a “side of the argument” that deserves acknowledgement. This is especially true concerning the tribally motivated conspiracies making rounds today.

We can either have a politics defined by open honest and respectful discussion or one dominated by fear and hate. The forum owes it to our people, and our democracy itself to promote the former and expose the later. The love of nation should be our first and foremost priority, everything else should be secondary. I am not suggesting that we should cease being who we are; I simply suggesting that we should use our differences as a bridge to building one nation and not a bridge to building a nation of division. United we stand, and divided we fall. Please let’s be civil to one another and I call upon everyone to make the effort to be nice, and to promote hate free forum. Since we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding President of Ghana, the late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, I would like to conclude by quoting from his independence declaration speech, “The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it relates to the total liberation of Africa” I would like to state that the independence of Ghana is meaningless unless we achieve total national and tribal unity.

Long Live Ghana and God bless Ghana.