Tribalism: The Unknown Enemy We Live With
More often than not, people perceive corruption or graft as the main problem bedevilling the developing world in recent times. This perception is not far from right as the looting of public purse is a common phenomenon. However, there is another unknown enemy living in our own backyards.
Tribalism has resided with us as a country since time immemorial. Reminiscing about the colonial era in ancient times, it feels pathetic, but the verity still remains that ‘the whites were not so wrong’ after all. This is not to denigrate blacks or extol the white supremacists for subjecting our forefathers to excruciating experiences and unwarranted disrepute.
If nothing at all, colonialism was supposed to teach us to be united for a common purpose, especially in the face of the sacrifices our ancestors made to secure independence.
Nevertheless, what is noticeable currently is directly antithetical to what was to become of us. Tribalism has grown deeply into us to the extent that an African even ranks him/herself higher as compared to his/her fellow African in a way or the other. In our part of the world, the attitude of ‘my tribe is better than yours’ has sat with us for long. Sowing seeds of discord among ourselves has become the order of the day. It is very sad to note that years after the end of white supremacy and colonialism, we are still revisiting the same historical epoch that we wish to be erased from history.
Unarguably, it’s very surprising how people still think that the fact that they are identified with a particular tribe proves they’re better than other people with different tribal backgrounds in the same country. It’s the 21st century, yet such primitive way of thinking seems to be prevalent in the country.
The issue of tribalism is egregious to the extent that we have shamelessly allowed negative stereotypes concerning different ethnic groups to prevail in our dear country. This is totally unfair as an over-generalized belief about a particular category of people is normally misleading and gives a wrong impression about a particular group of people. For the average Ghanaian, it is no news to hear people unfairly criticizing Ewes. Ewes are normally being tagged as being evil and mischievous for no fault of theirs. Their only fault perhaps was to be born Ewes; an innate situation over which they have no control.
This extremely repugnant situation is not solely limited to Ewes, as Fantes are being tagged with sloth whereas the Northerners are stereotyped with issues of personal hygiene. In the same vein, Ashantis are also being touted as proud, arrogant and selfish. This unfair share of criticisms goes on and on as each tribal group is identified with some sort of negative characteristic. The funny thing is that, in this fight for tribal supremacy, each person’s tribe is more superior than the other, only in the presence of one’s own people. In the end, we have a pointless zero sum game where one group’s loss ultimately becomes the gain of another group.
Tribalism has perfused into all disciplines in our lives to the level that it renders our nation retrogressive. Marriages have been ended, people have lost their jobs and others have been denied life changing opportunities, all in the name of tribalism and ethnocentrism.
The case is no distinct in the political milieu as the canker of tribalism has plagued the body of politics in the nation since our day of autonomy. One can make mention of the likes of the separatist National Liberation Movement, Northern People’s Party, Anlo Youth Organization etc. that were all formed along tribal lines. Senseless ethnocentrism in Ghanaian politics has been a common phenomenon.
From the foregoing, it can be convincingly said that tribalism is not different from racism and can therefore be viewed as racism at a local level. It is very regrettable to observe that in our quest for saliency, we have forgotten our past and rendered the struggles of our ancestors useless, as their sacrifices have failed to quench the fire of division amongst us. We now live in a society where people would try as much as possible to avoid discussing their ethnic identity just to gain favours or avoid being uncomfortable. Unbelievable as it may seem, people even go to the extreme extent of lying about their tribal connections, just to steer clear of ignominy.
The disturbing nature of tribalism in our dear country is alienating us at a rate much faster than what we think. We must therefore make attempts to confront the dark elements of tribalism before it sparks up an unending war that would haunt us for generations. The solution to this problem is not farfetched as we are the only ones that can free ourselves from the chains of tribalism and ethnocentrism.
By: Samuel Odoom
Edited by: Kwabena Asare Baffour