What do the Red Indians of North America and the Aborigines of Australasia have in common? They were original inhabitants of continents before the Whiteman came and took over almost everything and pushed them almost into extinction. We read about them and curse the Whites for their inhumane conducts, but, interestingly, we, as Ghanaians, also stand accused of this same offence.
The other day, the illustrious journalist and writer, Elizabeth Ohene, came out with another classic, Who Speaks for the Ewes. In summary, it was all about the agitations of Togbe Afede who seems to have taken the role of king of all Ewes to speak against the creation of the Oti Region.
Very characteristic of her, Elizabeth Ohene objectively brought to the table matters which were promoting confusion and delivered an honest opinion that opened the minds of those who were not too sure about the happenings and going-ons in the Volta Region with the creation of the new Oti Region.
The response to her latest bestselling article, which attacked her in so many ways, was from a certain gentleman, called Horlali Yaw Haligah. Before I partly respond to his opinion on Liz Ohene’s article, I wish to present my version of this saga in what I will call Who Speaks for the Guans?
The Guans are believed to be the first to settle in these parts of West Africa called Ghana, when they came down from the Mossi region in modern day Burkina Faso. These land-owners of Ghana can be found in five regions, the Northern, Brong Ahafo, Eastern, Volta and Central.
In the North and parts of the Brong Ahafo Region, they are the Gonjas; in the Eastern Region, they are the Larteh, Kyerepong and Anum-Boso; in the Volta Region they are the indigenes of Akpafu, Lolobi, Buem, Nkonya, Likpe, Logba, and Amedzofe among others, and in the Central Region they are the indigenes of Efutu, Awutu, Senya, and Bawjuase.
Put at 4% of the Ghanaian population, the Guans are estimated to be over 1.1 million people based on the 2017 population figure of 28.83 million, nationwide. This makes the Guans more populated than the Gas, who are about 860,000 at 3%.
Nationwide, every ethnic group has a home region that identifies it. For example, the Dagbons are home to the Northern Region, and the Dagaaba home to the Upper West Region and Burkina Faso. The Asantes have the Ashanti Region, even though some have traditional homes in parts of the Volta, Eastern, Brong Ahafo and Central regions, with Asanteman having a paramountcy in faraway La Cote d’Ivoire as well. The Gas and Dangmes are identified with the Greater Accra Region, and the Ewes have the Volta Region they call their home.
All the above-mentioned ethnic groups are significantly identified to regions which they proudly call their home regions. Incidentally, that is not the case with the Guans, our landlords. They seem to be regarded with less significance wherever they are, and are wrongly identified with the names of the most dominant ethnic groups in the region they find themselves.
The Gonjas in Northern Region, to the Ghanaian majority, are just another tribe from the North and can be identified as Dagombas. Guans from Akpafu or Lolobi, or Likpe or Nkonya are wrongly called Ewes, just as those from Efutu, Awutu and Senya are also wrongly classified as Fantis. And the Guans in Larteh are identified as Akuapems.
Since the sixties, the majority Guans in the North of the Volta Region have petitioned government after government for a region they can definitely call their own, and a region they can be fondly identified with.
Unfortunately, they seem to have no one to speak for them, and so Togbe Afede of the Asogli State has elected himself to lead all Ewe chiefs he could lobby to challenge this request by the Guans to have their own region.
So “Who Speaks for the Guans?” The National Democratic Congress (NDC) strongman, Dr. Obed Asamoah, a Guan, has come out strongly to support the creation of the new region, which, he said, was purely on the basis for development and good governance, and not for ethnic solidarity or isolation. He said the creation of the Oti Region is long overdue, and the suit to allow all in the current Volta Region to vote in the referendum is legal nonsense, meaning unconstitutional.
Horlali, who identifies himself as a development practitioner and youth advocate, came out with an article, “[Opinion] Elizabeth Ohene Should Have Lived in Apostle Paul’s Era “The People of Berea”in his response to Elizabeth Ohene’s Who Speaks for the Ewes, made one important statement. He brought out a saying of the elders that “a leader’s handbag (ideas) is never completely empty,”which implies that whatever an elder will say or do should be taken as the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, because the elder is all-wise and all-knowing. Generally, this is the hallmark of Voltarians, they give absolute respect to the elders and would hardly challenge their words or conducts.
Horlali wanted to suggest that Elizabeth Ohene, a native of the Volta Region, had adopted this saying blindly and chosen to accept wrong goods coming out of her elder’s (the President’s) bag. He rather failed to notice that he is the one standing accused of not applying his developmental experiences in this matter. He is the kind who will go for rearing of fresh water fish in salt waters because the elders say so. And talking about elders, with her age as a septuagenarian, Elizabeth Ohene passes for an elder with lots of wisdom and experience in her handbag to give away freely to ignorant people like Horlali, who went on to just repeat all his elders have been saying against the creation of the Oti Region in more ways than one. He spoke about the unconstitutional approach, which we have been hearing all along without anyone being specific as to which parts of the Constitution have been violated.
Well, the chiefs of Akpafu, who I believe only speak for the minority and out of selfish desires, had said their community had never, ever petitioned any government, present and past, to create a new region. So Horlali and his masters are holding on to this and saying it was legally wrong for that area to be included in the new region.
Before I come to the constitutional provision, we heard the Akpafu chiefs say because they have not put up any petition, they will only join a new region if, and only if, Hohoe was also part of it. As things stand, Hohoe never petitioned to be part of the new region, it only lobbied. So it means that a community can be put in a new region when it never petitioned so?
And why will some chiefs lead their subjects on the wrong path just to satisfy their personal desires? And in all this, people talk about the government acting unconstitutionally. (Stay Tuned)