Tribalism, a Barrier to Progressive Democratic Dialogue in Ghana

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I do not wish to comment on this issue again. People have covered it extensively in their write-ups. Tribalism is a barrier to any type of meaningful and progressive democratic dialogue in Ghana. When Ghanaians begin to make political discussions based on who is suitable to tackle the problems that faced them and on ideological lines, only then will the chance of getting a well balanced political environment be realistic. Obviously, the current system of quotas, permutations, zoning and desire for tribal dominance does not allow the discussion of real problems.

No other form of government offers citizens the privilege to choose from the best amongst them besides democracy based on sound principles. That is was why Winston Churchill said “democracy is the worst form of government, except for those other forms that have been tried from time to time”. I have my personal reservations with that assertion based purely on ideological principles but for the sake of our discussion let’s go with this premise. To promote this very important democratic idea, the system must allow honest, open and unbiased dialogue about the future of this country. For any nation to survive the sophistication of democracy it must allow these values to reign supreme.

I decided to revisit this issue because of what Bishop Awotwe Pratt said in his sermon. The man captured happenings in the political environment accurately and his admonishment landed at the right time. We need more of such courageous leaders in Ghana. That is how democracy survives and that is how the collective dreams and aspirations of any society is achieved. When the values that promote true democracy as Casper outlined, are absent, the ultimate losers are the masses. When we allow tribalism and unnecessary biases suffocate those guiding principles, the ultimate losers are the common citizens , the winners are the current crop of political leaders who have zero interest in improving the lives of common Ghanaians. Identity/tribal politics have indeed divided more than it has brought us together. Viewing people as labels has made it easier than ever before to dismiss arguments without making any point. You can’t criticise policies for policies sake, you can’t argue against an idea because you think it’s wrong. You are either tagged NDC or Npp based on this ulterior motives permutations. I read a piece authored by Justice Sai about how his generation at the University handled ideological discussions on campus and how students displayed command over the various ideologies. That is the way to go. We shouldn’t judge people based on their identity, or their political persuasion, unless we think their identity/ideology is wrong. When this is combined with this phenomenon of supporting political parties or candidates based on tribal lines, it only leads to mass anti intellectualism.

I find it ironic, that those who have proven themselves the enemies of democracy and propagate tribalism and actually propagated the divisive concept which contributed to our being at this point again are once again coming out and positioning themselves as saviours, as messiahs, as sole possible rescue mission that Ghana can even dream of, a nation of over 30 million people.

I pray we go back to the days Justice Sai referred to in his article. The problems hampering our sociopolitical as well as economic development are

a) The system of government and the constitution we operating

b) The tribal politics and its rate of growth

c) hypocrisy on the part of our intellectuals

d) failure to implement to the letter, laws sitting in our books

One of the many divisive aspects in politics has been the two party system. In modern politics, everyone is all too eager to tag their political/ideological opponent. This labels have become increasingly hostile over the years and taking another shape with well deepened tribal colours.

The eldest son of my mother’s siblings W.A Wiafe was a Cpp activist who rose to become a minister of trade under Nkrumah but later joined the UP tradition because of his issues with Nkrumah. He was my everything and I remained dear to his heart till he joined his maker. My mum had other brothers who were also active in politics. All the siblings had special respect for their brother and saw him as their mini god. Yea, they did so because in Ghana then, W.A Wiafe was rated among the first three richest people in the country. He was the one who financed Victor Owusu’s campaign in 1979 and also, was the leading financier of the PFP. I listened to him and his friends especially Kofi Gbedemah and Victor Owusu whenever they engaged themselves in hot political discussions. Yea,he educated (funded) some of his siblings in the UK etc but some of them became die hard Nkrumahists. So the family became divided on ideological lines. Lawyer Kwame Peprah now Chief of Mpraeso, Judge Beatrice Agyemang Bempah, Benneth and others remained pro-UP faithfuls. Some of my junior uncles joined the CPP. I weighed the two camps and decided to join the pro CPP group. Yea, I admire my Uncle Wiafe but I also took into consideration, the truism of the philosophies my uncles were preaching and the kind of lifestyle they led. Yea, I saw all the big men in the country then in Wiafe’s house, Okutwere Bekoe, Botsio, Gbedemah, Victor Owusu among others but listening to them, I noticed one common phenomenon- they were people in their own class whose plans and principles were unique to their class. The Cpp elements were very academic when it came to political discussions. Whenever Prof Mawuse Dake visited uncle Asiedu, it was all about ideological discussions and how they could apply their socialist theories here in Ghana to save the proletariat. That was when I became politically conscious. Started reading their articles published in some newspapers and books authored by socialist inclined writers.

My love for the left ideological persuasions grew deeper when my father was detained in Nsawan Prison after the overthrow of the Busia administration. He was a serious political activist. Was appointed member of the PNDC as member of the Vetting Committee together with Rtd Poice Commissioner Adu Poku, Aggrey, Larry Adjetey among others. I followed their discussions and trust me, my love for the left got sealed permanently. Yea, I love and cherish Rawlings but my love for the NDC stems from the facts enumerated. I see the NDC as the most formidable pro left political organisation with the capacity to push the ideological philosophy I cherish so deeply. It not about tribe. Tribe permutations could have landed me in the UP tradition because of my Uncle who cherished me so much. I read more about all the pro left political philosophers including Marx, Engels etc but also read about the pro right writers.

We are gradually losing this aspect of our politics and unfortunately for this generation, the Intellectuals who should lead the ideological discussion crusade are the ones promoting this tribal based politics with their hypocritical stance on national issues. They don’t promote intellectual discussions. Rather have become conduits for the self seeking politicians and tribal bigots. I am happy Rev Awotwe touched on socialism and infrastructure in his sermon. We are made to believe and hold sacred that social intervention is: implementation of populists policies with their consumptive elements, we are made to believe that when a government implements free education with no classrooms and dormitories to accommodate students, it is social intervention, when a government introduces NHIS with no hospitals to access the facility, it is social intervention. That is the point our politicians in connivance with their tribal bigots posing as neutrals, have brought us.

We gloss over sensitive national issues because of this wicked indoctrination. Look at the projects the last administration implemented in Kwahu, the Abetifi Hospital, the water projects, the roads, the new schools, markets etc but because of this phenomenon, the people will vote for the Npp because of this Akan philosophy. Ashanti Region got it fair share of government projects under the last administration but same trend. Unfortunately, most of these powerful projects have been abandoned by the party they love so much. Same could be said about the Volta Region and the NDC. The problem didn’t start with this dispensation in 79, it was there but wasn’t so alarming as we witnessing today.

Liberal tribalism and guild mentality are gradually pulling down the democratic pillars. Some of these intellectuals think that intellectuals must join the so called elites groups, and therefore intellectualism equals elitism. This was not the case in the 70s, the young and old intellectuals argued, challenged the political establishment, wrote articles etc based purely on their ideological inclinations. The universities produced young politicians who were well abreast with the various ideological persuasions and were ready to defend the inherent principles damn the consequences.

The NCCE and other agencies should join the crusade. The NCCE should start educating the young ones. It is time we expose the hypocrisy of these maverick intellectuals posing as neutrals. It takes a lot of intellectual firepower and self confidence to declare that the Intellectual emperor have no clothes, so it’s no surprise that people have become excessively humble creating enough space for them to perpetuate their politically colored agenda.

Source: Ohenenana Obonti Krow

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