Then me and my clan against the nation,
Then me and my fam’ against the clan,
Then me and my brother, with no hesitation,
Go against the fam’ until they cave in!
Now who’s left in this deadly equation?
That’s right it’s me against my brother.
Then we point a Kalashnikov (rifle) and kill one another.”
The opening gambit is contained in the Somalia-born 2010 world cup theme song composer, K’Naan’s verse when he was featured on Tribes At War, Nas’ and Damien Marley’s collaborative piece. A friend gave me the whole album to soak when I mentioned my theme for my next article after Holes on the inside was posted, and I couldn’t be more appreciative for that kind gesture. Let me go straight to my theme without my usual dilly-dallying.
Don’t you find it queer when some parents swear heaven and earth not to allow their children marry from other tribes? Well, I do. Stubborn offspring are often threatened with renouncement if they tried to defy this ‘rule’. A very good friend’s mum has a strong dislike for Ewes and has issued a fatwa of sorts to her daughter not to bring any guy from that tribe home. Her reason, as I will later find out, is borne out of the age-old belief that people from that region have strong affinity for deities. But truth is some people from the other regions also meddle in such acts. Did the video of the failed NPP parliamentary aspirant in the Ashanti Region who invoked the wrath of Antoa on delegates who took money but failed to vote for him not go viral? Is he Ewe? There still are people who cite the wickedness of Akyems, the parsimony of Fantes, the promiscuity of Krobo ladies, the uncouthness of people of the 3 Northern regions, and a litany of reasons why they do not want to have anything to do with people of certain tribes let alone allow their sons or daughters marry their kinsmen. They will rather die than live to witness such an ‘aberration’ – literally.
However, upon investigation, one usually finds that it is as a result of an issue with just one person from that tribe that leads to the stereotyping of everyone from there. An example is the jilting of another friend’s mum by a short dark Ashanti man, which has made the whole family anti-Ashanti. For Christ sake, if you have issues with a member of any tribe, deal with that person alone and try not to extend it to the whole tribe. Why should another unrelated Fante man’s inability to take care of his family affect my chances of marrying that beautiful Akyem lady I drool over? Why should one Krobo lady’s promiscuity be the reason why a colleague can’t make friends with ladies of that tribe for fear of falling for one of them? Why should my Ga friend’s parents’ reluctance to travel the 12 hour journey up north when an occasion there requires their presence prevent her from settling down with the love of her life who happens to come from Walewale? And why should a section of Nigerians’ shrewdness prevent you from having one as a business partner?
Interestingly, if a Caucasian refused to treat a coloured person fairly or with respect, you will find a great hue and cry all in the name of racism. We fail to realize that what they do to us because of colour, we replicate to another because of tribe, perhaps on a much bigger scale. If you think I’m exaggerating, you can ask about the reason for the feud between the Kokombas and Nanumbas, or the cause of frequent heavy police presence in Agbogbloshie. It is that serious, really! K’Naan’s question in his verse above couldn’t have been asked more aptly – “who’s left in this deadly equation?” Sometimes, I close my eyes and click my heel three times with the expectation that when it will disappear when I open them. But like a friend says, I’m no magician with a wand in hand.
Recently on my way back from my vacation at Sogakope, I noticed from the signposts how our towns in the Volta Region are named; almost all had ‘kope’ suffixing them. A friend confirmed my suspicion that it meant ‘town’. I reckon that’s how towns in all our regions are named. So just as we have Sogakope, Dzelukope and Matsekope in the Volta Region, the Akan communities also have the Donkorkrom, Oforikrom and Oseikrom, with Amasaman, Sapeiman and Dansoman for the Ga community. Does this tell you something?
Is it not ironic that when our Black Stars are playing, we all come together as one people but immediately the tourney ends we go back to our practice of tribal bigotry? I have realized that it’s only football that really unites us, and not our common destiny. But we must all come to the realization that we are one people even after a 90-minute game. It is only in that, that we find the strength to make Ghana and the world a much better place to live than we found it.
My name is Paa Kwesi Bentum Williams and I’m Fante, but that doesn’t make me any different from the young man from Talensi or Keta.