The other day I took a cab from East Legon and headed towards Adabraka, as I tried to negotiate what would be my fare, the driver noticed the slightness in my accent as I spoke “Twi”. He asked “are you from the north?” with a grin on his face as if to say I already know what you are going to say. I only smiled and continued talking as if I had not heard a word he said. About 10 minutes in to the journey we passed by a picture of President Mahama on an outdated campaign flyer and that was enough to get the driver inspiration to say many sensitive things.
Technically, apart from Limann Mahama is the first president of Ghana from the Northern Region for post 1992 babies like me…and in the midst of this all consuming economic hardship we are facing as a country, I don’t regret my profound anger at the way some people confuse ethnicity and tribe for competency.
Just like Chimamanda Ngozi wrote in her book Americanah, “the tragedy was not that Emmett Till was lynched for whistling at a white woman, but it was that some black people thought: But why did he whistle?”. The real tragedy is not that some extreme Southerners in Ghana think the country is being mismanaged because the president is a Northerner, but it is that some Northerners think a Southerner could have done a better job. That is typical of the Ghanaian who jumps at foreign products just because they are foreign.
“Just after Mahama won the elections, I visited the market and heard some of the women call out to the Kayaye girls, Mahama bra ha!(Mahama come here). As if to say that since most of the girls were from the north, they had to be just as useful as the president. They would then break into endless chatter about how the NDC cheated the NPP to win the elections” My sister recounted this experience when I complained to her later that day that the driver who took me to Adabraka had said that because of Mahama some contracts have been awarded to many Northerners who can now afford to build block houses in Tamale.
Before I get too comfortable with lashing at the Southerners for regarding Northerners as inferior, it is quite interesting to note that most Dagomba’s in Tamale are no different. You will often hear them say “a yin bo3no” (is this your home) to people who are not Dagomba’s as if to issue a label of inferiority to them. And so the other day my Northern friend told me that her mother supported Alan Kyeremanteng and that she could sense that he would end the woes of Ghana. I quickly retorted “is it because he is Alan Cash” and smiled to cover my simple disgust of her belief in that theory. I don’t doubt the credibility of Mr. Kyeremanteng but I wondered why Mahama was second gear to him in terms of that. Most people in Ghana casually agree that most of their Northern classmates are smart, but find it hard to see their ability to function in high public offices without the urge to say, “o fre sirim”(he/she is from the north).
It’s just like how some white folks in America cannot get over the nausea they feel when they remember Obama is their president. At that point, some of them will settle for the paleness they can find in the skin of Hilary Clinton if they are Democrats, but not because they hold high her political ideologies. I get it if you are a Republican who does not agree with Obama on policy decisions, but that has nothing to do with his origin and the color of his skin.
At some point I begin to wonder whether some people ever understood what Martin Luther King meant when he referred to judging people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin or should I say origin.
Honestly, I felt very offended when the driver said that Mahama could not stir the affairs of the nation well because he was northern. He went on to joke that nothing good ever comes from the north. That even in Nigeria, the north is plagued with Boko Haram, and the northern folks in Ghana mostly make news of their inability to keep away from arms. I proudly reminded him that even though he thought little of our president, it did not change the fact that he was commander in chief of our armed forces. I know I sounded a little too educated for his liking, but it was not about education, it was about nationalism, respect and mutual co-existence.
I will be very enraged, (vaguely more than my Hispanic friend in America, who felt she was treated with less respect because she was not white) if I was viewed as any less than I was because in Bunkprugu Yunyoo there was usually some conflict. To say Mahama is not doing well as a leader is fine by me, just don’t go around making it sound as if, being a Northerner makes one less of a leader. I will like to know if any of the officials the Liberian president recently sacked for leaving the country in the wake of the ebola epidemic had any Northern blood in them.
Brains are brains everywhere,people are no less human in the North. Because SADA didn’t quite work out, because Kayaye girls are in the South, because some “pepeni’s” work in a cocoa farm in the South does not mean the North is a desert of endless struggles and half baked smart people who cannot be successful. Because the cedi has depreciated and Ghanaians are tired of unforfilled promises does not mean any president from the North is a reciepe for unchecked catastrophic disasters. I fear for Mahama’s political career because he is Northern. SMH
I left the Taxi,angry,but a bit sorry for the driver, who, in his ignorance had resorted to “within the border kind of racism” to fuel his need to understand why he was suddenly being underpaid because of hikes in petroleum prices.I am quite certain that he did not understand why a Northern erudite girl who spoke slight Twi could be better than he was, but he didn’t care just because he was Southern, a type of Ghanaian superior social class.