|The Haiti Question
Ghana: No Different from Haiti
This article unfolded as a result of a comment I made to an article by one Kofi Amenyo (see Ghanaweb Jan. 16, 2010 titled: Loving your enemies or playing tribal politics with Quashigah's death). In the said article Kofi Amenyo wondered aloud why people who hate Ewes would express pain and “praise songs for a fallen Ewe.” If you expected me to take a swipe at Kofi Amenyo in this article, I am sorry to say I would disappoint you. The ridiculousness of his post stands on its own head, needing no further criticism from me.
|Panoramic view of crowded Accra|
My beef is the incredibly stupefying world we waste our energies on in spite of the incontrovertible truths and facts that stare us in the face. In fact if we do not succeed as a country, we shouldn't blame anybody but ourselves, our stupidity, and disunity. And I would like to hold our so-called educated folks to account since this tribalism canker are mainly driven by people who our common folks had helped to educate through sweat and blood. Most ardent hate mongers and tribalists are college educated, which makes you agree with the rebuke from common folks that there is a difference between “efie nyansa and school nyansa.” They bemoan the money wasted on this particular class of people who seem to grapple with efie nyansa. They are the most corrupt stratum in the body politic employing all kinds of trickeries to skim and steal from the public, and when their backs are to the wall, would pull the ethnic card to divert inquiring minds to think they are being witch-hunted because of their tribe.
If anybody here thinks there are any manifested ideological differences between our so-called educated elements who lead the various political parties, they are deceiving themselves. When it comes to policy initiatives and programs, there are no significant differences between the NDC and NPP. They both tow the policies laid down for them by the Breton-Woods Institutions. The fact that one can say it is social democrat, for instance, does not make it uniquely so. Both NDC and NPP are big on pro-poor initiatives designed to cut down poverty. They are both male dominant, and have strong ethnic backings. What they say in their campaigns and what they do with power are completely convergent in their similarities – there is a huge disconnect between what they say and what they do, largely dictated by external factors. Rather certain tribal groupings and lineages have come to “adopt” one or the other of the two major parties as their own, and too often it is the leadership of the parties that use whisper campaigns to malign and demonize their opponents, often exploiting hidden ancient antagonisms and grievances to their advantage. So it has come to stay in our political consciousness that NDC is to the Volta Region and Ewes as the NPP is to the Ashanti Region and Asantes.
Incredibly, the fact that is lost on most observers is, besides the Volta Region, the second highest number of votes for the NDC comes from the Ashanti Region – Atta Mills polled 630, 899 and 479, 749 respectively from the Volta and Ashanti regions – the first and second highest number of votes going to him in 2008. I am instinctively aware that Nana Akufo Addo did not poll the same in respect of his strengths in the Ashanti and Volta regions, his second highest votes did not come from the Volta Region but that is not the essence of this article, so I would not dwell on it. All that I would say is all voting patterns are provisional and transitory. It is a reflection of weak political consciousness, education, institutions and maturity that leads some people to vote against their own best interests, by not voting on the issues, but on pedigree and factions. Given time and no intervention by some Don Quixote in khakis, this aspect of our politics would fade away in one or two generations as the people grow wiser on the tricks of the politicians. What the data points to is that the perceived animosity between Ewes and Asantes is largely perpetuated by the intelligentsia; the guys who are all school nyansa but have no efie nyansa. They are all hat but no cows.
God has given us everything to propel to greater heights; we have gold, cocoa, diamond, bauxite, big rivers, fertile soils, timbers, forests and grasslands, and now oil. Things that should make us proud and others jealous. Instead of putting our brains and talents together we are wasting our energies on tribalism and chieftaincy disputes, and incessant ostentatious funerals, cheered on the sidelines by questionable characters who parade as pastors and prophets. Given what is going on in Haiti, we have the luxury to engage in stupidity.
I have been paying close attention to what is going on in Haiti, and one thing comes through, loud and clear; even before the earthquake, Haiti was teetering on catastrophe - man made catastrophe bothering on bad governance and disunity that has led some idiots to wonder aloud whether they were not cursed. It appears we are as stupid as any, as we waste our time pulling each other down instead of coming together to build our country up brick by brick. All bricks must be used to build the country together - Ewe brick, Asante brick, Ga brick, Frafra brick, Gonja brick, Fante brick etc.
What do we have in common with Haiti? Plenty, so much so it should shock us to our senses and not waste time on tribalism. Haiti was the first black state to win independence in the Caribbean. Ghana was the first black state to win independence in Africa. Christopher Columbus last port of call in Africa was Cape Three Points. Haiti is the first port of call for Columbus – no wonder where they got the idea to go and get slaves for the New World. Haitians originate from Ghana, Togo, and Benin. Haiti was punished and undermined by the world powers for overthrowing the yoke of colonialism. Kwame Nkrumah's Ghana was undermined and overthrown by the CIA and world powers for leading the African independence drive.
Port-au-Prince sits on earthquake zone. Guess where Accra sits, on top of earthquake zone. Haiti from the days of its independence was overburdened with a debt that took 120 years to pay off, starting from 1804, that produced nothing but dependency, instability and underdevelopment. Their sin was the loss of slave income. France, Spain, and England, one after the other sent waves of marines to attack this newly independent first black republic which opened the flood gates to independence for the whole of Latin America and the Caribbean, to no avail, and when they couldn't defeat the Haitians, decided to charge them with war and economic damages, on the threat of combined allied attack. The Haitians had no choice but to agree to compensate France for breaking from bondage and servitude. See, because of the wars, France became over extended in debt, to the extent it has to sell off its territories – the Louisiana territories to the USA, which doubled the land size of the USA. This is the reason why Haiti has never been able to accumulate any wealth for its development.
The short end of the story is Haiti was put on debt trap and treadmill that they have never been able to extricate themselves from up to date. In the 1990s the Breton-Woods institutions, to add salt into injury, compelled them to adopt SAP (Structural Adjustment Program) -we Ghanaians are no strangers to this program - which brought them nothing but more pain as we also saw under Rawlings, and I hope Atta Mills would wake up and smell the coffee. What SAP does is to compel the host country to remove all subsidies and tariffs on trades in order to receive their assistance, and you end up being over flooded by cheap and often subsidized foreign goods and services that overwhelm local industries and farms to collapse. In Ghana we saw the collapse of the cotton, tomato, poultry, and rice industries and farms and the southward migration of the youth to Accra and other urban centers for non-existent jobs. All that we can reap from SAP is collapse industries and farms, huge unemployment, adverse balance of trades terms, inflation, currency devaluation or depreciation, deficits, crimes, and social vices. Atta Mills seems not to have learnt this lesson; Baba Go Slow is back at it again putting our necks into the noose that Kufour worked so hard to wean us from.
Weak governance and corruption led Haitians to ignore proper urban planning and put up buildings just about anywhere, overwhelming its infrastructure. Copy Ghana, weak governance and corruption has led to the abuse of the building code, much to the extent that the seasonal heavy rains always unleash flashfloods and deaths. A case in point, it took the Ghana Fire Service several hours to get to the fire that gutted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs building, and when they finally got there, did not have the proper equipment to fight the fire; how can we contain a major disaster? Your guess is as good as mine.
Haiti has powerful friends and neighbors to get to them in matters of minutes, not so with Ghana. We would be much inundated and doomed than Haiti. May be Nigeria, Togo and Cote d'Ivoire are all we can count on, and we know how things are done in our corner of the world. Haiti over concentrated almost everything in their capital, to the extent that when the earthquake hit, the whole government machinery grinded to a halt. None whatsoever survived the earthquake; everything has collapsed and grounded to a halt. Just look at where Accra is, same as Port-Au-Prince. Everything is concentrated in Accra. We have only one international airport. Even common passport you have to go to Accra to get it. The road arteries are clogged, no sewerage, no state parks that would serve as collection points in case of any catastrophe. Ghana and Haiti, we are very identical, sitting stupid. I hope we do not go on TV to give thanks and praises to God in the midst of catastrophe and rubble as the Haitians are doing. God has given us brains and resources just like the whites, only that we have chosen to sit on ours whilst we expect the whites to take care of us. Corruption, like termites to a building, is gradually eating our foundation away; it is only a matter of time that our folly would be revealed to us.
What am I driving at? Stop the self-inflicted stupidity of tribalism. Let's use our brains to find solutions to our underdevelopment before we too get hit by a mammoth earthquake. The Ewe or Asante is not your enemy, but poverty, ignorance and illiteracy are. Wake up people, and grow up. When catastrophe comes, it would not discriminate between the Ewe and Asante. Are we stupid or something in engaging in tribalism? Who amongst us had a choice in which family or tribe we were/are born into? Think big people, don't be stupid. Stupidity would cost all of us very dearly one day.
By Eric Kwasi Bottah (alias Oyokoba).
Eric is a columnist with Modern Ghana and runs http://www.ghanascope.net/ and http://www.ghanatubes.com/ sites for news, entertainment, business and education.
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