NPP and NDC flags

I have had the occasion to complain that one of the most difficult things for columnists is the selection of a topic to write on, particularly in a world where critical issues of public interest keep on changing by the second. In Ghana today, before one topic of immense public interest would be discussed and solutions found to it, another one of equal public interest would have reared its head. It becomes very difficult to decide which of them to choose and share an opinion on for public consumption since you have just one slot in the whole week. But how I for do, as the Ghanaian would say. 

Over the past two weeks, the nation’s attention has been focused on one issue, what Kennedy Ohene Agyapong, the Member of Parliament for Assin North said on Oman FM, which led to his arrest, detention and prosecution. There are those from the NPP who were obviously angry, not so much about the invitation by the police to Ken Agyapong, but by what they perceive as the long arm of the government to show the MP where power resides in the scheme of things in this country. The supporters and members of the NDC also believe that it is time Ken Agyapong is cut to size and shown that this country is not for him. 

The tension which engulfed this nation within a period of 72 hours after the arrest and the illegal incarceration of Ken Agyapong beyond the constitutionally acceptable period, suddenly jolted those who had lost their voices in this country as far as the acts of impunity and lawlessness by a section of our society is concerned. This country has always been on edge each time elections are around the corner. However, cool heads have always prevailed and the nation has remained united. This nation has had a rear opportunity which is not available to many African nations which have had to go to war and other civil strife which have destroyed their societies. 

Most Ghanaians, unlike many nationals of other African countries, wherever we meet can talk to ourselves in one language; that is Twi or Fanti. Akans are the dominant group of people in this country, but it is not all Akans who are Fantis or Twi-speaking people. I am an Ahanta maternally and a Fanti paternally, but I am an Akan and also speak very fluent Twi. However, should I speak Ahanta, only Nzemas, Sefwis and Aowins can understand portions of what I will say. However I communicate with non-Ahantas in Twi or Fanti and we move on. 

Amazingly, the use of Twi on our FM stations throughout a greater part of this nation is getting many non-Akans to communicate their ideas on programmes in Twi. When I visited Tamale and Bolgatanga for the first time and communicated with indigenes of the two cities in Twi, I told myself this country will stay united for good. Giving an example from our neighbouring Nigeria, it is impossible for the Hausa in Kaduna to communicate with a Yoruba man in the Yoruba language in Kaduna. Vice versa, it is unthinkable for a Yoruba to communicate in Ibo with an Ibo man in Abeokuta even when the Yorubaman speaks and understands the Ibo language. That accounts for the use of pidgin English as the lingua franca in Nigeria.

 The nationwide use of Twi does not also make the original Twi-speaking people more superior than other ethnic groupings which have adopted Twi as a second language. It only helps us to be together as a people.  Indeed, that is the more reason why an Ashanti can marry a Ga and be able to communicate at home without any one being too stringent on using his or her own native language as a medium of communication. This unity does not also mean that there are no ethnic suspicions in this country. It does exist except that those things which tend to unite us are stronger than those that divide us. In 1980, when I was a young hustler in Abuja, engaging in menial construction jobs to help build Abuja, I was confronted rudely by my fellow Ghanaians in an unbelievable manner.

I had gone to a particular construction site to look for a job for the day. I saw these fellow Ghanaians who were negotiating a contract with an ‘Oga’, as it used to be the case, and I thought I could join them if there was an opportunity. So I greeted my fellow Ghanaians in Twi and asked them whether I could join them in the day’s work. To my astonishment, the guys, all of whom happened to be Gas, shouted at me saying: “we don’t want any Ashanti man here, ebe you people spoil Ghana, thief people”. I tried to tell them I was not an Ashanti except that I spoke Twi by virtue of where I was born and where I grew up. They did not accept my explanation, so I left. I eventually found a job amongst some Ibo boys and we worked together for weeks. Ashantis for example have been perceived as thieves by many non-Ashantis in this country, even by some Fantis in the past. 

During the PNDC revolution, many Ashanti businessmen and women became targets of the government of Jerry John Rawlings, culminating in the abduction and gruesome murder of Ashanti or Twi-speaking High Court Judges. Coincidentally(?) all the four military men who abducted and murdered the judges happened to be Ewes – Samuel Amedeka, Tony Terkpor, Johnny Dzandu and Micheal Senya. Why? This nation was outraged but did not link it to ethnic hatred. So many of such things have happened in this country but we have managed them for the sake of the unity of this nation. 

I was appalled by the deafening silence of government and the whole society when Nii Lantey Vanderpuye virtually barred Twi-speaking people or people bearing Twi names from registering at what he considers as a Ga territory preserved for only Gas. In fact, he had gone on air to state that he would use his blood to prevent Twi-speaking people he believed were not from Odododiodoo, from registering. The stupid and shortsighted argument being that those people who sold at Okaishe and Kantamanto did not reside at Odododiodoo. Do you know why the reason is the most stupid reason to prevent people from registering there? 

I am sure that the single largest source of internally generated revenue from traders within AMA comes from that area because of the concentration of small and medium-sized businesses in the constituency. How can anybody prevent people who pay taxes in a particular area from deciding who becomes their leader in the management of those taxes and assessment of their needs to enhance and improve their lives? Nii Lantey Vanderpuje went to the extent, in pledging to use his blood to stop the registration of non-Gas, of releasing thugs onto the streets, some of whom beat up a woman, Ursula Owusu and Samuel Jinapor.  Many of such acts have happened in other parts of the country and Ghana has been quite until the unfortunate statements made by Ken Agyapong. 

Though portion’s of Ken Agyapong’s statements were unfortunate and unacceptable, totally condemning it without looking at the circumstances that led to the outburst will not help this nation. To be fair to civil society, they have now come to condemn Nii Lantey Vandepuje for his comments and actions too. Subsequently, the whole nation is going to look and listen to what others are going to do or say from ‘today to go’ and what the government or the security agencies will do. But for Ken Agyapong’s utterances, unfortunate as part of them are, Ursula Owusu and Samuel Jinapor would have not known justice. The police as usual would have brushed it aside.  

The Vice President, who commands more respect from the populace than the President, seems to have been infected by the foul-mouthing bit of the NDC propagandists and ministers.  That the NDC will handle Ken Agyapong with a bulldozer and not a sledge hammer?  Go ahead with that, Mr. Vice President, but I can assure you that as the day follows the night, a time will come when another government will handle you and some of your members with locomotive engines. One would have expected that the bulldozers available to you would be used to build the roads which are tearing apart and creating more problems for the motoring public instead of killing people who have not even been found guilty my any court of competent jurisdiction. You have fallen into the political tongue-speaking cults.

 Today everybody is talking about the evils that ethnic divisions can create in our country, ethnicity in its negative form has been with us for such a long time, particularly in the areas of employment opportunities. If Ken Agyapong’s statement will draw our attention to it now, offer us the opportunity to discuss it dispassionately, and deal with the canker, then Ken Agyapong would be a hero who would have saved this nation from a postponed self destruction. Let me ‘cut’ some mahogany bitters as a toast for our national unity, fairness, firmness and principled positions on what is wrong irrespective of who does it.

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