I have absolutely no problem with being tagged with one ideological label or another, provided that such labeling accurately reflects my views vis-à-vis the best course for our national development.

Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Which is why I was a bit surprised to learn of Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle’s gripe with the supposedly unsavory, if also unhealthy, tendency of many Ghanaians to tag anybody who dares to express his/her opinion on national policy issues as belonging to either of the two major political parties, namely, the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the opposition main New Patriotic Party (NPP).

I was a bit taken aback to hear the Metropolitan Catholic Archbishop of the nation’s capital state that “Some of us are neither here nor there; and we must claim the political space to contribute our quota to the development of the country,” because even Jesus Christ counseled against a lukewarm attitude towards any issue of moral and sociopolitical and cultural moment. For by and large, even those of us who are not card-carrying members of either major political party have socioeconomic and political sympathies that synch, or gibe, with the policies or the manifesto of either major party.

We are told that the occasion of his plaint coincided with a forum sponsored by the Washington, DC-based PEW Research Center that sought to solicit the views of Ghanaians on the present state of the country’s development and prospects for the future. According to the Greater-Accra Catholic prelate, some Ghanaians with genius expertise on the country’s welfare may well have declined to participate in the PEW Center survey for fear of being tagged as supporters or sympathizers of either the National Democratic Congress or the New Patriotic Party. Of course, I know how rankling such political tagging could be because for quite a considerable while, after I assumed my American citizenship, I flatly refused to be associated with either the Democratic Party, the party of the overwhelming majority of African-Americans as well as other ethnic and racial minority groups here in the United States, or the Republican Party, the party with the largest following of white conservatives and tax-loathing entrepreneurs.

Policy-wise, I did not see much that differentiated the Republican Party from the Democratic Party. It is also significant to highlight the fact that until the auspicious emergence of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (affectionately dubbed FDR) in 1932, most African-American adults voted Republican, obviously because it was during the tenure of a Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, that enslaved Africans were emancipated here in the United States. In 1932, when he was voted President, it was FDR who became the very first of America’s white leaders to seriously attempt to integrate African-Americans into the socioeconomic fabric of the country, with the enactment of his “New Deal” social policies. Today, however, I am a registered Democrat.

What I am trying to put across here is that political party affiliations and even ideological suasions are fluid, they are not clear-cut or cut-and-dried, and can change at any time, depending on the shifts in policy priorities of either major party. Most people, particularly outside the United States, may not know the fact that America has at least 11 (eleven) legitimately registered political parties. Most of these small parties all of whose names, by the way, always appear on the ballot, both local and national, are ideologically modulated by interests ranging from ethnic, environmental and religious concerns. And so it really cannot simply be that there are any American and/or Ghanaian citizens who sincerely care about the destiny of their country and yet would have absolutely nothing to do with ideological tags or labels. That type of human might just as well be dead.

And, oh, I almost forgot. Prior to being registered as a Democrat, I had toyed with the status of an “Independent” registered voter, which must have confused a personnel or two on the staff of the New York State’s Board of Elections, the equivalent of Ghana’s Electoral Commission, for once or twice I found myself fielding calls from operatives of a group calling itself the “Independence Party.” “No, I am not a member of the Independence Party. I am just registered as an ‘Independent’ voter.” This theoretically sound tack of ideological neutrality was obviously not sound in practice. And so I decided not long afterwards to re-register as a bona fide member of the Democratic Party, the party of the donkey.

The very practice of tagging or labeling is ineluctably human. Otherwise, how could fashion designers come up with clothing lines specifically tailored for one gender or another? Even clothing for babies are color-coded, as I was shortly to discover to my pleasant surprise and amusement when my first son, Daasebre Nana Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, III, was born. For example, you would never see many American male babies, regardless of race, culture or ethnicity wearing pink or purple clothing. While writing this portion of this column, I asked my 8-year-old third-grader son, Papa Yaw Osofopanyin Sintim, what colors were commonly associated with boys; and he breezily ran down the following colors: blue, brown, silver, gray and black. He also quickly added white, green and red as unisex colors. And so there you are, Arch-Bish, it is all too clear that we, humans, cannot live without labeling or labels. It is an inescapable part of what makes us human.

By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
Garden City, New York
April 24, 2016
E-mail: [email protected]
*Visit my blog at: kwameokoampaahoofe.wordpress.com Ghanaffairs

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