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Tribal politics is ugly and divisive but it has been part of the landscape for decades


Tribal or ethnic politics is ugly, divisive and overly counterproductive. It has the potential to negatively impact any country that foolishly elects to engage in it.

It leaves in its trail devastating consequences: poor governance, inter tribal violence that could easily result in the deaths of innocent civilians, the uprooting and dislocation of citizens — commonly called — IDPS —internally displaced persons, the destruction of public and private properties and ultimately, the upending of the national economy. It is not a pretty picture.

Unfortunately, tribal or ethnic politics is very much part of our political landscape.I will, admit, shamefacedly that it is an integral component of our political system, no matter  how strenuous some may deny the obvious.

The practice has been around for decades, and has its genesis in the political battles waged between the CPP and the NLM in the days before independence. Since then, Ghanaian politicians have weaponized tribal politics to galvanize supporters not even subliminally, and to gain undue advantage over their opponents.

That tribal politics gained currency in this year’s election campaigns can be ascribed to our dimwitted politicians gleefully and consciously engaging in it to appeal to the tribal instincts of their tribesmen and women, all in an effort to gain votes.

President John Mahama, recently inexplicably strayed into the ugly territory of tribal politics, telling a crowd of supporters largely composed of northerners in Lawra that, he deserves their votes for the simple reason that he is one of them.

Predictably,  Mr. Mahama was instantly condemned; reactions, to say the least were  pointed, unusually harsh, visceral, and unrelenting. His political opponents took advantage of the misstep to pile on.

Others weren’t too charitable, either. They accused the president of being a tribal bigot and trying to plunge the nation into a crisis. And yet some said, he was desperately fishing for votes from his kinsmen despite presiding over an economy that has not been particularly beneficial to the inhabitants of the three northern regions.

I am at a lost as to what pushed the president to dabble in ethnic politics; it is not like him. However, I understand the president’s exasperation.

Over the course of the 2016 campaign he has taken a prolonged verbal dressing down from his opponents and he thought one sure way of combating that was to appeal to the tribal instincts of his kinsmen.

In hindsight, I don’t think the president would dare touch tribal politics with a ten foot pole ever again, given the massive negative response it has generated.

For those who have vehemently criticized the President for engaging in tribal politics I have this to say: please get off your high horses and stop being self-righteous. Your indignation is grossly misplaced.

You are behaving as if this is the first time a Ghanaian politician has ventured into this space. Yes, the president was way off base with his appeal to northerners to vote for him. No one is excusing Mr. Mahama’s behavior, it was wrong on all fronts.

Tribal politics is a distressing reality we have to live with. It is uncomfortable and an embarrassment to all of us. But we cannot goose step around the issue. So, instead of excoriating the president, we should have healthy conversations about this negative aspect of our politics and discuss useful ways to move forward as a nation.



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