Kennedy Agyapong’s “declaration of WAR against Ewes and Gas” teaches very deep lessons about national consciousness that we must not gloss over in our efforts to come to grips with his chilling threat.
Indeed, I see in his effusions nothing but a misplaced political enslavement, being so much attached to his political interests that he is willing to dare the devil in defending them to the hilt. I don’t blame him at all because unless he knows the benefits that he derives from such a dogged defence of such interests, he won’t expose himself to so much danger as he has done, even to the point of wishing to die—a foolish death!
Spending three nights in the BNI cells, suffering the pangs of high blood pressure, and be granted bail on compassionate grounds should be enough to tell him the dangerous grounds on which he has chosen to tread. But the bail granted him is just a respite. It doesn’t absolve him from blame or danger.
The case hasn’t yet been resolved to warrant any celebration of him as a hero. His effusions entail more than the personal misery that he has suffered—and will continue to suffer until the case is disposed of in his favour. Even then, he will go down as a despicable representative of the people (an MP who is given the responsibility to work for national unity and progress but chooses to do otherwise).
His effusions also betray some dangerous ignorance and foolhardiness that a true historical account of the origin of the various ethnicities constituting present-day Ghana can help him and others thinking like him. They need that illumination to know more than they do now. And that’s what I want to help them come to grips with.
I do so with reference to some enlightening statements made in October 1920 by Joseph Ephraim Casely Hayford, one of the foremost defenders of our cause, a native of Cape Coast, a selfless, intelligent, and dedicated statesmen who fought for what some of us may mistakenly ascribe to other people. His renown is unmatchable.
In a speech that he delivered at a meeting between the League of Nations Union and the delegates of the National Congress of British West Africa in London in October 1920, Casely Hayford drew attention to several important developments in the West African sub-region under British colonial rule and was brazen enough to tell the British where they were going wrong and to seek redress. One concern was the disruption of national unity following the disintegration of the ethnicities constituting the Gold Coast.
This particular issue directly relates to Agyapong’s mistaken position on Ewes and Gas and his declaration of WAR against them. I want quote Casely Hayford’s complaint for purposes of enlightening those ignorant people like Agyapong who think that Ewes and Gas are “undesirables in Ghana” who might have descended from the moon or dashed out from the Atlantic Ocean to be where they are in Ghana today.
Here is Casely Hayford for you: “I must say to you, as men of responsibility, that no question at the present moment disturbs the minds of the people of British West Africa as does this question of self-determinism with respect of Togoland and the Cameroons…
(Then, a quotation from page 8 of the Resolution on land and European trusteeship that said in part: “That this Conference condemns specifically the partitioning of Togoland between the English and the French Governments…”)
“… I may say that the belief of Togolanders generally was that we should govern Togoland. They are really Gold Coast people. My friend the Honourable Sri II, who represents that border of the Gold Coast in the Legislative Council, has his ancient capital actually on the French side of the land’s boundary now, and the people there are some of them Fantis and some Accras, who settled there…
“… It is not fair, it is not right, it is not just, that these people should be handed over to Powers under whose flag they would rather not live. It is a crime, and it has shaken the confidence of the people very very greatly…” (Magnus J. Sampson, West African Leadership Public Speeches Delivered by J.E. Casely Hayford, Frank Cass and Co. Ltd., London, 1969, pp. 54–59.)
The Fantis, Accras (Gas), and Ewes were the people in that part of the land ceded to the French. Can Agyapong determine for us where those FANTIS are today in Ghana? In Togoland, no Fanti, Ewe, or Ga regarded the other as an undesirable. Together, they did things in common, paying no heed to any ethnic differences to separate them or instigate any ethnic cleansing as we are hearing from Agyapong today.
Let’s not even talk about Nkrumah’s plebiscite in 1956, which was a logical conclusion to what Casely Hayford had set in motion to achieve nationhood for a people unjustifiably set apart by unscrupulous marauding European forces. Is it anybody’s business many years after that wound had been sealed to re-open it as Agyapong and his NPP have begun doing?
The main point is not to defend anything about the Ewes or Gas but to suggest that long before the Gold Coast became Ghana, a grievous injustice had been committed by the British and French against the people in this part of the world that a reasonable citizen would be expected to know better not to support, contrary to what Agyapong and all others playing the ethnic card in our national politics against the Ewes and Gas are doing.
Better still, it is only reasonable that the deep wounds inflicted on our collective humanity by those rampaging European marauders be not re-opened just for the sake of the NPP’s politics of exclusion and tribalism.
Agyapong and all those supporting him (as is evident from the delirious support given him by the NPP activists) need not go further into history to know that the various ethnic groups constituting Ghana may be separated by peculiar cultural traits but the line separating one from the other is too thin for use in any political game of the sort that he is leading the NPP to embark on.
Ethnic groups are nothing but mere units in a system called “state” or country (as defined by political considerations otherwise called “territorial integrity”). Each unit may be distinct because of what it is; but in our Ghanaian situation, the various ethnic groups have more similarities than the differences that unscrupulous politicians of Agyapong’s type may want to exploit.
That is why the Ghanaian consciousness of “one nation, one people, one common destiny” prevails and must be upheld to keep us together as we make efforts to develop our country. Nationhood may not be attractive in the current political exigencies in the 21st century but it still has its merits.
We may turn to the basics to recognize ourselves in our unique ethnic configurations as Ewes, Gas, Asantes, Assins, Fantis, Akwapims, Frafras, Kusasis, Nanumbas, and all the over 100 ethnic groups that constitute Ghana; but in reality, we are just one big mass of Ghanaians, which we must uphold for our own collective good. What will one person gain, distinguishing himself as an Assin or Asante? Alone, such a person (no matter how self-fulfilled he may be as Agyapong thinks he is materially) only exposes himself to danger from within or outside.
Together, we can withstand the storm when it breaks out. We are Ghanaians first before anything else. That is the ideal to cherish and sustain as we continue to search for the solution to our hydra-headed problems. We can’t develop our country if we work in fits and starts as separate ethnic groups.
By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor