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Opinions of Friday, 5 July 2013

Columnist: Ziem, Joseph

Why I’ve Been Branded Anti-………

By Joseph Ziem

On June 22 2013, I minced no words in talking about certain stomach wrenching social problems in Tamale that stare on our faces as residents on a daily basis. These problems were contained in a lengthy article I wrote entitled: A Soldier As Tamale Mayor Will Help Restore Sanity” and it was published on

Since the article was published, I have not had peace and I’ve been branded anti-Dagomba. In fact, I’ve been asked whether I can write a similar article about Wa or Nandom where I come from. Foolish Dagaaba boy, drunkard, fornicator, son of a prostitute, pork eater, sheeje, enemy of Dagombas and so on, are some of the name callings or insults heaped on me via email.

How was I branded?

The first observation I personally made after comments [some too bad and life-threatening] about the article started coming through my cell phone and email contact was that, I had been too HARSH and too BLUNT. I admit I did not mention anything good about Tamale, but I thought it was worthwhile highlighting what I seriously considered “KILLER CANCERS” in our midst –. bad attitudes that have suddenly become the norm.

My objective was not to use my article to send investors and potential investors back as some might have initially thought and still think. Neither was it to whip up ethnic or tribal sentiments as the mischief makers perceived and still perceive of me.

Perhaps, it should not have taken a journalist like me and indeed an outsider or a “non-indigene” as many put it, to point out the ills that are confronting all of us RESIDENTS; I repeat, RESIDENTS. I thought I was drawing the attention of the powers-that-be or authorities to a canker that was perhaps eluding them and ought to be tackled.

Unfortunately, some people I thought should know better and who I consider very discerning, succeeded in causing bad blood between me and indigenes [Dagombas]. I think the saddest mistake that caused or sparked the name calling and threats directed at me, was to have mentioned the Dagbon chieftaincy dispute in my article. So, the mischief makers capitalized on that and started trumpeting h-a-r-d through various means, that I said Dagombas were lawless, violent, disrespectful, etc which I never said in any sentence or paragraph of that article.

Amazingly, the word RESIDENTS in my article suddenly meant indigenes and so, the mischief makers again claimed everything I said in my article was about Dagombas. In fact, I thought the word RESIDENTS goes beyond indigenes to include non-indigenes, considering the cosmopolitan nature of Tamale. I admit I SINNED for citing the Dagbon chieftaincy issue as one of the major reasons largely to be blamed for insecurity and lawlessness among RESIDENTS of the metropolis. I am not the first to make this observation as conflict resolution experts/institutions have always cited it at fora and conferences when the agenda for such events centers on conflicts in Northern Ghana. I’m SORRY and promise henceforth, that such utterances won’t come out directly from my thoughts or in my words as an example in any write-up, perhaps till I gain the status of an INDIGENE.

It's an open secret that during last year’s Ramadan fasting, there was an intra-religious violence in Tamale. I won't mention the names of those two sects whose followers visited mayhem on each other, but those with fresh memories will also remember the police cum military patrols from central town to neighbourhoods such as Neem Avenue.

Since 2008, there had been instances that footsoldiers of the NPP and NDC clashed during elections and it led to some bloodshed. Not too long ago, when ministers of state were appointed in this current government and a particular person's name was not mentioned for a certain position, there was confusion in Tamale. There are non-indigenes who belong to both parties, thus my article did not cite Dagombas in the two parties as perpetrators of such violent acts. But here again, the mischief makers said I was referring to Dagombas. It's also an open secret that most RESIDENTS ride unregistered motorbikes. Some use fake registration numbers. It's glaring that most motor riders refuse to wear crash-helmets. It's also a fact that most homes spill waste water from their bathrooms anyhow instead of directing the water into sockerways in order to avoid breeding mosquitoes. However, mischief makers, you and I know very well that there are non-indigenes who own houses in Tamale and some of them equally engage in practices such as spilling waste water anyhow from their homes or bathrooms.

It's also a fact that, the commonest insult on the streets of Tamale and in most homes is "sheeje". Mischief makers, you will be right to say it’s a mere observation I made since I did not back my arguments with statistics as you suggested. But I did not also single out Dagombas as the people who are fond of saying sheeje. The word used was RESIDENTS.

There have been complaints in the past from security agencies and civil society organizations with some citing chiefs and politicians for often calling at police stations to ask for the release of persons alleged to have committed certain offences. I did not name any particular chief in my article and neither did I say all chiefs engage in such acts. But I mentioned chiefs, thus no one should draw the conclusion that I've disrespected chiefs in Tamale. I cannot and will never do such a thing because I have reverence for such powers.

The names Fulera and Baba are names used by most tribes in Northern Ghana. Baba in the Dagaare language means Daddy and in the Indian language it means God [reference to the Supreme Being] whereas Fulera I understand originated from an Arabic name called Hurayra meaning a ‘Small cat’. I did not state in my article that Baba and Fulera were Dagombas and neither did I say that Dagombas are polygamous. Considering the cosmopolitan nature of Tamale, why would anyone just single out Dagombas and say that I’m insulting them. Is it not because that person is trying to play mischief?

I am not also anti-Islam as some mischief makers sought to suggest in their rejoinders. There are Muslims in my family and I’ve never disregarded or looked-down upon their faith or belief. I have close friends who are Imams and I seek counseling from them as and when necessary. If you think the names Baba and Fulera which I used in my article were Muslim names and therefore, it was my intention to bastardised Muslims, then you’ve not been honest in your judgment. Nonetheless, I acknowledge the fact that the population of Tamale is largely made up of Muslims and Christians.

Lastly, I am not attempting to call a bluff of those who say I am not a Dagomba and for that matter should not talk about ills in Tamale. But with all humility, I don't think there is any difference between the Dagomba and the Dagaaba. They're all northerners belonging to the Mole-Dagbani ethnic group and descendants from one ancestor- Naa Gbewa. If you mischief maker travel to where you said I come from, about 90 percent of Dagomba people are the cattle dealers and butchers in that town or district called Nandom. They have lived with my people over the years and they’re considered indigenes of Nandom. Some have lived there for more than 30 to 40 years and still counting. History will tell us that, before those artificial boundaries were created and names such as Upper East and Upper West came to mind, the Dagomba and the Dagaaba as well as all the other tribes that live in Northern Ghana used to reside in one BIG region called The Northern Protectorate or Northern Territory.

It’s not money that brings development to a nation but the attitude of her people. Half of Ghana’s annual budget can be allocated to Tamale every year for infrastructural development and job creation, but if the attitude of residents remains the same, all the investment made will amount to nothing. We can’t continue to insult each other in the presence of our children and little ones in such horrible terms and not expect them to grow up with the same attitude. We can’t continue to pretend that we live in the cleanest city in Ghana. A comparative analysis of all cities in the country may conclude that Tamale is the cleanest, but there is no denying the fact that filth is engulfing us in our vicinities –choked gutters, open defaecation and reckless spillage of waste water. We ought to CHANGE!

The writer is a freelance journalist and a social media fanatic based in Tamale. Views or comments may be sent to him via