Over the past few days, I’ve heard and read from some misguided Ashantis who have threatened to kill me, claiming that I have insulted their chief by suggesting that his threat to kidnap the chief of Techiman was irresponsible.
Some of them warned that if I don’t apologise, I shouldn’t dream of stepping in ‘Asanteman’ – as if their towns and villages make up some other-worldly paradise I am dying to visit.
I don’t remember the last time I went to Kumasi. It’s not a place I particularly like and I don’t know when I’d go there again. But whenever the need arises for me to go there, I will. After all, the Supreme Law of the Land guarantees my freedom of movement. The Ashanti bigots who threaten to kill me to glorify their tribe can do their worst. Death comes to us all and if it comes to me through an Ashanti bigot, so be it.
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If killing me will bring speed trains to Kumasi, modernise the hospitals there, make the Golden Stool shimmer ever so brighter, pave the compounds of Manhyia with gold, give the Asantehene greater global prominence than the Queen of England and make every day of the year an ‘Adae kese’, I’d gladly put my neck in the Ashanti guillotine.
Of course, not all Ashantis want me dead.
Some of my best friends are Ashantis and some of the wisest people I know and have long admired are Ashantis. A good number of them agree that their chief acted unwisely when he threatened to have the chief of Techiman kidnapped.
What disturbs me, however, is one particular line of thinking which runs through all the statements that have been made by the bigots who are demanding my scalp.
“I am an Ashanti first,” most of them wrote to me. “Ghana is secondary.”
Whiles these remarks shocked me more than the threats on my life, they opened my eyes to a certain sad reality.
About ten years ago, I listened to a series of lectures delivered by Pastor Mensa Otabil. He called those lectures ‘The Heritage Series’. Speaking about the backwardness in most African countries, Pastor Otabil described a disease he referred to as “provincialism”.
He defined it as a certain state of mind among a very large number of Africans who only think and place the petty parochial interests of their tribes over and above the wider interests of the nations they belong to.
From the little I remember from Otabil’s ‘Heritage Lectures’, therefore, this ‘my tribe comes first’ nonsense is not a disease which afflicts just a few Ashanti bigots who may want to kill a small fly like Ato Kwamena Dadzie for telling their chief that “if he wants to return to the ways of his ancient forebears, he should take his Asante tribe somewhere and leave us alone to build our nation.”
When I hear the Asantehene threatening to kidnap another chief and daring the institutions of our Republic to come face him in his Manhyia Palace, I get a clear example of the sort of nation-wrecking bigotry Pastor Otabil referred to as “provincialism”.
When I hear the (supposed) Ga Mantse speaking as if he and his subjects are doing the rest of us a favour by allowing us to use Accra as the national capital, I feel the bigotry is truly getting out of hand.
The disease of “provincialism” is very pervasive among Ghanaians and it has taken such a strong hold that tribal chiefs – as irrelevant as they grow each day – are using it to assert their superiority over other tribes.
Day-in, day-out we hear tribal leaders describing their ethnic groups as “kingdoms” or “states”. Many others are scrambling to call themselves ‘kings’ because they see the title of ‘chief’ as too demeaning or not glorifying enough.
Please, let’s get this into our heads: There is no ‘king’ in Ghana and no tribe in Ghana is a ‘state’. There can’t be a state within a State.
Ghana is a sovereign state and there is no state within the territory of Ghana.
Those who go around describing their chiefs as ‘kings’ and their ethnic groups as ‘states’ or ‘kingdoms’ are either delusional or too blind to realise that times have changed and the world has moved on and that their so-called kingdoms died ages ago.
There is no Ga state. There is no Ashanti kingdom and there’s definitely no Fante confederacy. The new reality is that all the tribes have been subsumed by the Republic called Ghana and Ghana must always come first. The earlier this is knocked into the heads of the petty-minded bigots, the better.
Ghana trumps Ashanti, Dagbomba, Ga-Dangbe, Kusasi, Akyem, Nzema and all other tribes. No tribe is better or more important than the other and we all have no choice than to put our tribal allegiances aside and join hands to build (ahem!) a better Ghana.
Of course, in the name of upholding tradition, we can all go to our hometowns and villages to drum and dance together and make our chiefs feel more relevant than they actually are. We can decide to carry our chiefs in palanquins once every year and allow them to preside over petty disputes over goats and chicken. We can decide to keep our chiefs and pay all sorts of homage to them if we continue to take great joy in being reminded of an inglorious past.
But after we’ve allowed our chiefs to step on our backs and drink our liquor, we owe greater responsibility to the nation called Ghana.
Even our chiefs are citizens of this state and when Ghana speaks every chief – be he the Asantehene, the Ga Mantse, the Ya Na, Bawku Naba or the chief of Essikado – must shut the hell up, listen and act accordingly and responsibly.
Ghana must always come first.
Ghana must come first because as retrogressive as it has been, it is the State that gives us all passports to make it possible for us to travel around the world. The Asantehene does not travel on an Ashanti passport and the Ga Mantse doesn’t travel with a Ga passport. If either chief walked majestically to the airport and attempted to board a plane without a Ghanaian passport, they will be turned away by the lowest-ranked flight attendant.
Ghana comes first because it is the Republic we all expect to provide us with security, education, good health care, better roads to travel on and the other essential services we all desire. Now, the Republic has failed to a very large extent in providing us with these essentials but I don’t see an Ashanti Educational Service providing better education or a Ga Health Service building better hospitals. There will never be a Fante Water Company or an Ewe Police.
If, therefore, you think your tribe (whichever it is) comes first before the Republic, you are very sick – suffering from delusional “provincialism”. It’s a disease only you can cure. It’s your choice.
If, however, you are not ready to place the Republic above your tribe, do as I wrote last week: take your tribe somewhere – I’d suggest hell – and leave us to build our Ghana.
I will never apologise for saying this to anyone who thinks and behaves as if his petty parochial interests override the greater interests of the nation. It matters not whether that person is a cleaner or a chief who likes to be called a king or even the President of the Republic.
Long Live Ghana!