Fighting Ethnocentrism with an Ethnic Bullet

the case of the vice Presidential candidate in contemporary Ghanaian Politics

Next year Ghana will go to the polls to elect a president for another four year term. The country has been very stable amidst all the “all die be die “ statements and the Fourth Republic has travelled for close to twenty years. God is good and we thank him for his mercies.

My concern in this article has not been so much with the manner in which the presidential candidates are selected by the parties because those candidates are voted for in competitive elections in all the parties from the NPP to the NDC and CPP.

As a country we have not seen the price we are paying for playing ethnic cards in almost everything we do and say. We talk of a united country and yet inter-tribal marriages are not so receptive to some ethnic groups .Politics have come to divide us as a country and ethnocentrism has reared its head in many times during this Fourth Republic. Many learned Ghanaian opinion leaders have condemned the ethnic display and unfortunately that is where it has ended- only talk.

For some time now the media has captured the current permutations that are going on behind the scenes as the NPP chooses its vice-presidential candidate for next year’s general election. So far the discussion has been based on ethnicity and nothing else so what happened to our abhorrence of the ethnic subject. By some unwritten convention, political parties in Ghana have chosen their presidential candidates from one region of the country and looked for a vice from another region (a north south ticket) .There is a lot of evidence of this balancing choice from 1996 onwards from all the major political parties. In 1996, the then presidential candidate of the NDC, former President Rawlings was from the Volta Region and chose the current president as his vice from the Central Region. Both of them were Christians. The NPP’s candidate was former president Kufour from the Asante Region. He chose the late Kow Arkaah from the Central Region as his vice. During that election there was no person of northern decent in the vice presidential slots of both parties and the religion factor did not show up because none of the vice presidential candidates was a Muslim. In the 2000 elections both NDC and NPP felt they must choose people of northern decent and also Muslims for their vice presidential slots. The parties have been convinced by some data arising out of voting patterns that some Ghanaians do vote along tribal lines.

It will take another day to assess the contributions of the vice presidential candidates to the winning or losing fortunes of all the candidates since the 2000 elections. In 2008, the same north-south ticket was exhibited by the CPP, NPP and NDC and the religion factor (Christian –Muslim) match was also not left out. The candidates who were selected as vice presidential positions in the three parties (Dr Bawumia-NPP, Mr. John Mahama –NDC and Dr Abu Sakara-CPP) are all men of substance irrespective of where they come from and their religion.

Much as the political parties have tried to convince Ghanaians and we seem to have accepted, I do not subscribe to the belief that this way of selecting our leaders is the best way to go. How do we answer these essential questions?

1. Do we need competent people to lead this country or ethnic representatives?

2. How did we decide that persons from some section of the country should be presidents and some section should be vice presidents?

3. Which regions are classified as northern and which are southern. Where do the middle portion and extreme Eastern regions(Brong Ahafo, Volta Region) fall under this category

Throughout the whole debate people have been looking at candidates’ origin and religion and what the choice would mean for voting patterns. Why can’t we assess the candidates in terms of what they bring to the ticket other than this tribal and religious classification? Can we as a people establish a link between a person’s tribe and his intelligence or potential as leader? Is there any link between a person’s religion and his capabilities as a leader? I guess the answers to all these are in the negative.

I am asking more questions than providing answers because I seek to ignite a debate on the subject. If a basis of decision making doesn’t provide solutions to pertinent problems then it is not worth using. The religious and ethnic biases that have influenced the choice of vice presidential candidates have not provided us with the best of candidates so far.

We have shown as a people that we want to be one country but we don’t need to do that during football tournaments only. We must see Ghanaians as Ghanaians irrespective of where they come from and how they worship God. We must select our leaders based on competence and proven track record of leadership and stop this tribal cacophony .It makes some tribes feel inferior and others unnecessarily superior. It doesn’t lead to inclusiveness and doesn’t lead to the selection of the best candidates. We should be more concerned about what candidates bring to the fore as leaders and people who have the potential to prosecute solutions to our problems as a country and not where they come from or whether they are Christians or Muslims.

I am by this article igniting thinking on this unfortunate convention so that we can begin to do away with tribalism, ethnocentrism and religious biases in our thinking and working. I dare any one of the main political parties to take the bold step and overcome the temptation of choosing a candidate based on the tribal and religious card but on marketable candidates who stand tall with their credentials instead of trumpeting their tribal and religious origins.