Has Dzifa Attivor awoken a sleeping giant? (Part I)

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Folks, we must by now have known that the fracas generated by utterances attributed to Ms. Dzifa Attivor (former Minister of Transportation who resigned because of the murky circumstances surrounding the rebranding of the Mass Metro Transport buses) has taken the centre-stage in public discourse about Ghanaian politics. To me, the fracas is insignificant because it is not a warranted or supported by practice or principle. Ghanaian politics has all these years been known for being heavily invested with tribal sentiments. What is new, then, to warrant all the energy being expended flogging a dead horse? The only snag is that hypocrisy is feeding all that vigorous reaction to her utterance. No more no less.

I want to say upfront here that in pinpointing the Kufuor administration for persecuting Ewes, Ms. Dzifa Attivor (the former Transport Minister) said nothing new to warrant all the barrage of condemnations and what-not. The ongoing muscle-flexing, spitting of fire and brimstone, name-calling, and threats or whatever else strike me as needless if we truly know the bent of Ghanaian politics, especially since the immediate pre-independence era and far beyond it to date. Which informed Ghanaian doesn’t know that apart from the Great Osagyefo’s approach to national and local politics all others have been clouded with tribal considerations?

Would it be the gang of cowardly security officers who masterminded Nkrumah’s overthrow or the role of Gen. Akwasi Amankwah Afrifa in the abortive April 1967 coup by Yeboah and Co. that led to the murder of Gen. Kotoka and Ewe military officers (Capt. Avevor and Capt. Borkloe, among others)? Ask Rawlings why he supported the extermination of Afrifa, after all. Those of us who read the letter from Afrifa to Acheampong that prophesied his own doom and that of Acheampong at the hands of Rawlings will not easily be cajoled by latter-day saints of the sort condemning Ms. Attivor.

Or the manipulation of the situation to remove Gen. Ankrah from office for Gen. Afrifa to pave the way for the Busia-led Progress Party to perpetrate its Apollo 568 agenda, which was primarily against Ewes in the Civil Service (the Sallah case in view)?

Or the machinations by Gen. Acheampong against Captain Selormey, Major Agbo, Major Habadah and other Ewe military officers with whom he had executed the January 13, 1972 military coup against Busia but whom he later feared to co-exist with?

Of course, elements belonging to other ethnic groups can be identified as victims of ethnic-influenced persecution. As to why the focus is on the Ewes alone, I cannot explain now, but I will be guided by what I know to make my point clear. Take it or leave it as such. I care less. But the record of happenings exists.

History being recalled here for a good reason, folks. Many happenings over the years have reinforced negative opinions that Ghanaian politics is heavily invested with or poisoned by tribal sentiments. Believe it or not, ethnicity counts a lot in our kind of politics, which explains why the NDC with Rawlings at the helm would be quickly labelled as an Ewe party and the NPP as an Akan party (with emphasis on the Ashanti and Eastern Regions that have traditionally stood for it all these years while the NDC has a wider national spread).

] will stick my neck out to say that Ms. Attivor didn’t say anything that we haven’t known before. Thus, I consider the wailing and sharpening of claws to tear her into pieces—and to indirectly get at the NDC itself— as needless and misplaced. Take it from me that whatever she said is already in the public sphere and doesn’t strike me as worrisome or frightening as it does those pouncing on it to further their own skewed political agenda.

Context: Ms. Attivor is reported to have said that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) is a tribal party bent on prosecuting only Ewes if it wins the general elections in November. Referring to the record of the NPP government between 2001 and 2008, she argued that the NPP targeted only members of her ethnic group for prosecution. (See http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/If-you-don-t-vote-for-NDC-I-will-go-to-jail-Dzifa-Attivor-433966).

Anything strange in her claims here? None!! In truth, most of those who were either prosecuted and jailed or dragged to court were Ewes. You know them already and I don’t have to mention names here. Others such as Ibrahim Adam, Kwame Peprah, and Nana Konadu Agyemang-Rawlings also faced the NPP government’s music in court.

The dicey aspect, though, is that we can’t simply conclude that those Ewes were targeted because of their ethnic extraction. That’s where the line is difficult to be drawn. They were public officials caught in acts for which they had to account. Thus, to jump to the conclusion that the Kufuor government persecuted them as Ewes is difficult to accept. However, that has been the perception among Ewes all these years. Ms. Attivor might just be reiterating that perception, even if wrapped around her own narrow interests.

What about her utterance may come across as offensive is her urge that the NDC be voted for by Ewes (at least judging from the angle from which she allegedly made the pronouncements). Here too, there is nothing strange, especially if we acknowledge the fact that the Volta Region is regarded as the bastion (“Word Bank”) of the NDC just as the Ashanti Region is known as the incubator and stronghold of the NPP. So, why the apprehensions?

Another aspect is her claim that if the NDC loses power, she would be jailed by the NPP. In this sense, only she knows why she will be jailed or why the NDC administration hasn’t sought to jail her for whatever she might have done for which she is afraid. This is the nub. By this claim, she has opened a can of worms for us to question what the Mahama-led administration isn’t doing about her.

Folks, the speed and zeal with which the Ghana peace Council, the NPP, and others (including Jerry Rawlings and the NDC’s Volta Regional Chairman) have jumped on Ms. Attivor over this utterance is understandable, especially if her claims reflect “tribal politics”, which the critics regard as dangerous. But is it not true that our politics is heavily invested with tribal or ethnic politics, not to talk about the religious vein too?

I am tempted to wonder whether we haven’t heard worse utterances from other politicians (e.g., the NPP’s Akufo-Addo, Kennedy Agyepong, Maxwell Jumah, Anthony Karbo, Fraudie Blay, Yaw Osafo-Marfo, and many others) or whether those now jumping on Ms. Attivor could do same to such characters as they are doing to her now.

This stance is not to suggest that I support Ms. Attivor’s outbursts. It is to lay everything bare for us to know that conditions that precipitate such outbursts exist everywhere in the country and people are openly talking about ethnicity in Ghanaian politics. But for her mounting a political platform to say so, there wouldn’t have been anything to attract that much criticism.

How many times haven’t opponents of the NPP labelled it as an Akan (Asante-Akyim) party or the NDC as an Ewe party? Ghanaians have known all this while that our politics is not clean; that it is not devoid of tribal/ethnic sentiments. So, what does it mean if a politician of Ms. Attivor’s type touches on it?

How many times haven’t we heard politicians mightier than Ms. Attivor tell their kith and kin to vote for them because they belong together? Have such people been heavily criticized as is being done to Ms. Attivor?

There is too much hypocrisy in our national and local politics. Those asking her to retract her utterance and apologize are wasting their breath. She must, however, learn not to stoke the fire, even if she wants to appeal to the “tribal sentiments” of voters. That’s the best we can tell her.

The truth about the hounding of NDC politicians of Ewe stock by the Kufuor administration still stands tall for those who have eyes to see. No amount of denial can wash it away.

Perhaps, what we have to deal with now is to urge the government to look into why Ms. Attivor is scared of the future. The government has to investigate her to determine what she is hiding behind. After all, the re-branding issue exposed her lack of a good sense of judgement and she must be grilled and drilled for us to know what we need to know. Then and only then will we know why she is afraid of being jailed by an NPP government.

For now, the critics may be burning energy to condemn her and do their own kind of politics with her utterances. It is part of the political discourse to be tolerated. In the end, I wonder what problem it will solve.

Our politicians need some self-restraint to deal with issues tactfully so they don’t provoke needless tension. That’s what matters; but who will listen at a time when some have already geared up and are flexing muscles to do things as they deem fit to either retain them in office or win political power for them?

Ms. Dzifa Attivor’s problem is our collective responsibility as well. Let’s not pretend that we haven’t heard anything of the sort before. She has indeed, awoken a sleeping giant that is bearing down heavily on us to acknowledge the truth of our skewed national politics so we can do better henceforth, especially as Election 2016 approaches. Those seeking to manipulate her utterance for political capital had better think twice because it won’t easily yield the dividends that they have set their eyes on.

I shall return…

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