Democracy and Tribalism in Ghana,the need to apart from our deeds

Denis Andaban

Ghana is made up of people from different ethnic backgrounds. However, the state of nationhood unites the people amidst the diversity. The founder and first president of Ghana had always opined that, our diversity is our strength. Time had indeed proven that indeed, with a sense of unity, with the spirit of nationalism, our diversity can be precious than gold. We have been able to do so many things together. We work together, school together, intermarry, and demonstrate some level of respect for one another, among others.

Prior to the adoption of multiparty democracy in Ghana, people argued against it. Indeed the late Kobina Sakyi occasionally admonished against the wholesale importation of western multiparty democracy. At the end of it all, the people of Gold Coast found the need for democracy, even though the form of government equally became a tag of war among politicians and political scientists. Dr Kwame Nkrumah led a strong call for a unitary state. That call was heeded and that ensured some level of oneness among the people of Ghana.

Now to my substantive issue. Palous (2002) argues that democracy is a form of government that involves the rule of the many. His definition makes a contrast to Oligarchy, which is the rule of a few.
Where only a few rule, enjoys power, act in their interest and relegating the interest and views of the many, it is not democracy but Oligarchy.

The dichotomy must be noticed carefully because the actions and inactions of the ruling class in democracy can at any point in time, change the governance model, not on paper but in deeds, without many noticing. The evaluative tool may only be measuring the perception of the larger society. Even that because of excessive polarization, public perception is often downplayed by those in power.

The efficacy of democracy is proven all over the world. Literature is replete with how most of the world economic powers made it through good democratic governance.

According to Guo (1998), at higher levels of economic advancement, democracy would do a better job than non-democratic countries so far as encouraging economic development is concerned. Barro (1986:14), also made it emphatic that the middle level of democracy is most favorable for growth, the lowest level comes second and the highest level comes third.

Even though, I can give many indisputable facts to justify the efficacy of democracy, let me be succinct here by relying on Taye et al (2001). According to them, one of the most important benefits of the democratic process is to curtail tribalism, ethnic alliances and cronyism in the distribution of national resources among various tribes/clans/groups that make up the nation or state.

I wish to passionately crave the indulgence of readers to reflect deeply on the rendition of Taye et al. Having been described by many political pundits as the beacon of hope for Africa democracy, can we as a country, be true and bold to the world, to proudly say that our democracy curtails tribalism and ethnic alliances? What about cronyism? Do we equitably share the national cake without tribal and ethnic consideration? I am sure you know the reality! The reality is that tribalism and ethnic alliances is far becoming our new religion, discrimination is our bane and cronyism has become the new norm! That is the sad reality that any objective country man or woman, will agree with.

I think we are gradually getting out of the lane of the theoretical justification for democracy. We are relegating the interest of larger majority to the interest the ruling class, who have been given power to act in the interest and will of the people. Views are increasingly, becoming subjective, mostly to the whims and caprices of the ruling class. Those who have the opportunity to govern, do not only concentrate in amassing wealth to the detriment of the people, they gain prominence to the extent that they are the first class citizens while any other person is marginalized, starved and in some cases, defined in different forms.

The tribal orientation in particular, cannot be blamed on any single politician or political party. Every history has its fall out. What we need to do, is to take deliberate steps, so as to strengthen our democracy. If we are reinforcing the status quo, then the future of our democracy is gloomy.

Research has proven that, the major political parties in Ghana have some tribal and ethic alliances. For instance, the work of Sen (2000) reveals that the NPP is perceived as a party for the Asantis and the NDC as aligned to Ewes. In my view, it is no longer an argument because the electoral records of each of the party vindicates this assertion.

I don’t have any qualms of political parties enjoying ethnic or tribal support. Even in the United States of America, “a citadel of democracy”, political parties have their strongholds in forms that are not very different from ethnic and tribal alliance. My problem however is that once a government wins political power and tend to show obvious hatred, vindictiveness and contrived dislike for some groups, which might not have given it enough votes then ethnicity and tribalism take a center stage. This manifests in public discourse and political actors no longer shy away from demonstrating their dislike for others because of where they come from. That tendency, polarizes and kills the potency and sanctify of our democracy. The rippling effect could be dire!
The reason why we must appreciate our current political architecture carefully and take pragmatic steps to instill a “national bond-hood” and a sense of oneness. One may benefit from any divide and rule today, but many may suffer the repercussions thereof. Let’s think and think again.

Perhaps because of capacity, time and resources, I may not be able to do a comprehensive research to establish all the linkages between our democratic architect and tribalism and juxtapose same on current happenings in the country but I think researchers especially political scientists must consider researching comprehensively into this area and make the outcomes available for policy makers. If we don’t invest into that area and begin to rejuvenate the spirit of nationhood, then we will be digging our own graves. As for me, I can see and hear but I don’t have the powers to change the situation. My role is to do public advocacy and hope that people learn from it. May we the youth of this country begin to think alike for the love of God and country.

We have one country, Ghana!

May God Save Us!
And may the spirits of our ancestors come to our rescue.
Amen!

Denis Andaban
The village boy from DBI

 

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