Never have I ever thought that hurting words from people could lead one to commit a suicide. I have always assumed such a thing as a textbook hypothesis. It felt like a dagger through heart when I recently read a comment on Ghanaweb concerning the recent developments about the North especially Dagbon. The comment reads: “No matter the high level of education of northerners especially Dagombas, they will still have some traces of violence and stupidity in them. Why do they like killing one another all the time like animals? We should carve them out of Ghana and loan them to Burkina Faso.” Savagery! I trembled with goosebumps. My heart beating very fast and nearly almost dropped off my phone. I couldn’t even proceed to read the tons of reactions under the comment let alone proceed to read other heart-wrenching and incendiary comments. Since I created my first Yahoo email address in 2002, never have I ever read anything on the internet that has hurt me as much as this comment has. Hurt. I truly was.
I have a way of pacifying myself so, I took solace in the old English saying that if you price yourself for a shilling, you will be bought a penny. Aren’t we tired that we have become the proverbial snake that no matter how it sheds its skin, it is still a snake?
In our traditional northern homes, when a child is born, he or she is given a good name in anticipation that the child grows to become worthy of the name. In extrapolation, what people think and say we are is as important as the very names given to our progeny. The good book summarises it as “a good name is better than riches”. Trust me; we never would appreciate the number of opportunities our “bad names” are denying us – preconceived first impressions and perceptions and fallacy of hasty conclusions.
Have we ever considered the great harm violence and its inevitable year long curfews has contributed to the crumbling of businesses and developmental initiatives? Between 2002 to 2005, violence and curfew led businesses to relocate from the North. No sane person (including companies) will invest his or her money in an environment that could be set ablaze at anytime.
The high poverty level many a times is rationalised by the late arrival of formal education in the North. Well, this opinion has outstayed its relevance. The North today is a force to reckon with in the realm of literati and intelligentsia. However, some educated northerners are proving to be more dangerous to the development and peace of their own cradle. Do I blame education? No. One of Ghandi’s seven deadly sins is knowledge without character. One cannot recount how Dagbon elites have used power, money and influence to feed the monster of chieftaincy factionalism that is eating us all today. Whichever faction you belong with, you will agree with me that there are elite Dagombas who are ever ready to part with all their wealth in furtherance of a chieftaincy gate. Wealth that can turn lives around, wasted in an unrewarding enterprise. I know for a fact about monthly meetings of Dagombas that were convened to discuss nothing but chieftaincy – contributing money and devising devious stratagem to outwit the other.
Let’s begin the sermon from Genesis.
Northern Ghana and Dagbon have since independence lagged behind in all aspects of national forward match: education, health, mentality and infrastructure out of the lot. This, largely, can be attributed to the damning levels of poverty that have plagued majority of the people. But why the North is poor is a question that demands a prose of explanation.
Until 2001, Northern Region grew considerably in terms of infrastructural development and entrepreneurial businesses. It was heart-warming to have noticed then that there were positive signals of recovery from 1994 Eastern Corridor war as well as the bridging of the gap between the North and the South. The “no-understanding” mentality of northerners observably saw an improvement under constant exorcism by peace.
Regrettably, the road to attaining independence for the North was barricaded – peace fled us. Up to date, northerners are finding it hard to reconcile their senses on the topic of “Who drove away our development partner, PEACE?.” What happened to us? Politics. Like Ambrose Bierce said, “Politics is a strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles; the conduct of public affairs for private advantage. We misread the interests of the politicians. Little did we know that their divide and rule tactics portended a greater collective harm. The sleeping dog was awoken.
Political power seekers are neck deep complicit in the insidious destruction of peace in the North. After the water was muddied; everyone else took advantage of the situation. Today, we have people at very high places in the political realm at the behest of propagating separatist views on the Dagbon chieftaincy matter. Even at this budding moment of a new beginning, many political persons are still wielding their gate proudly; for it remains, to them, the surest open sesame to their pursuit of more political treasures. So, it is thinking time for us. For Heaven’s sake, why must we allow ourselves to be used by power seekers as means to achieve their goals? Goals that perhaps do not even remotely benefit us! If we allow self-seeking individuals to exploit us all the time, their children certainly will exploit our children. The vicious cycle must be bisected now! And only THE YOUTH can lead the change campaign – change of minds on our way of politicking devoid of war songs, name calling, provocations and violence.
Many out of most cases of unrest in the North have a political tag. Even if a fight germinates between two strangers at a Waakye Joint, it will eventually turn into party A and party B matter. We carry politics like a World Cup yet we are the least served by its purpose. Politicians have found the northern youth as the cheapest tools to effect their course. This is evidenced by the fact that grown up married men take to social media on daily basis to sing praises to politicians, for nothing commendable but just to secure a pittance. The chunk of the northern youth who are out of the classroom are often more convenient for manipulation for high order political interests. As a matter of fact, all political parties in one way or the other exploit the northern youth even though some do it with a modicum of conscience.
Fully conscious of the exception proves the rule; education is a great asset. It changes the entire mentality of one’s view on nearly all aspects of life. No matter my loyalty to a political party or a chieftaincy faction, no politician or homo sapien of any standing can convince me with a gun, a cudgel or a machete to cause a snafu for his or her personal aggrandizement.
I just can’t help pestering myself with the thoughts of the North and Dagbon. When do we get there? Are we showing commitment of forwardness? Do we live by experience at all?
I shed tears when Metro TV carried detailed profile coverage of all presidential candidates who ran for the 2012 elections. Nearly almost all the candidates had their children overseas (I won’t mention names I particularly noted). For some of the candidates their children have never even voted. Do they even have a voter’s ID card? Yet, we were in the North killing one another to make one of them a president. I was dumbfounded by the possessions of the flagbearers – big hospitality facilities, big communication set ups and so much of “comfortabilities” that can last several generations of their progenies. One day, their children overseas will return and sponsor the very factors that divide us. And the cycle of desperation goes on and on. So why must we chase one another around to fulfil the interests of the ruling classes always?
Let’s think of the number of deaths relating to politics and chieftaincy in Ghana and try to imagine how a big loser the North (and Dagbon) is, in terms of the numbers. We have loaned our prosperity and posterity to politics and it its permeating variables yet it brings us more pain and zilch. I can only hope to see the day northern and Dagbon youth will wake up with one mind and charge at leaders to provide them with tools of construction but not destruction.
The church and the mosque should never relent in preaching for peace, with the least opportunity. Peace message is a powerful anaesthesia that has the proclivity to calm wild political actors and chieftaincy profiteers into sobriety. People seeking for power or kingship are capable of doing the inconceivable. The youth should therefore exercise restraint in engaging in provocative acts or writing inflammatory stuff on social media when the stakes are high. The recent peace accord that led to the subsequent installation of the new Dagbon paramount chief nearly became a mirage largely by blitz of words traded by the youth of both gates.
I have always dreaded civil unrest for one reason: no one is a majority everywhere. In unrest, party A and gate X will suffer in certain areas because they are the minority and party B and gate Y will also suffer in certain areas because they are a minority. People, especially children who therefore don’t deserve to be hurt are inevitably harmed by its vagaries willy-nilly. If you happen to live in an enclave where you are the majority, bear in mind that some of your sisters, brothers and friends are in the minority zones and vice versa. ”
A time-tested study reveals that when there is a conflict, the effects of it span for a whole generation of 60 years. So, when we create conflicts today, they affect the unborn. We need to leave a good legacy, for posterity.
So, let’s PEACE be our watchword at all times:
God bless Dagbon and the North at large.
© Hanan-Confidence Abdul