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Tamale Is Dynamic and Vibrant, Mr. Ziem


“Of all the conflicts of security hotspots in Ghana, Tamale’s are perhaps the worse, because this city can boasts of a greater percentage of the country’s most intolerable a violent youth. In fact, all manner of negativities such as chieftancy, religious and electoral violence, series of lawlessness, vandalism of private and state property among others, have occurred in Tamale.” Joseph Ziem, Ghanaweb 6/22/13

The above quote is a snippet of a scathing diatribe perpetrated against Tamale by Joseph Ziem, a self-described freelance journalist and social media activist. Repulsive, misleading and patently absurd are the terms I readily assigned to Ziem’s article when I grudgingly read it last week.

His outburst was bitter and ill-timed, but most crucially, it was chock full of half-baked truths, innuendoes and outright fabrications. It also dripped with scorn, contempt and utter disdain; it was purely an exercise in intellectual dishonesty.  

I find it difficult to rationale Ziem’s position. Where does the animus expressed in the article come from? Why on earth would he take a literal cudgel and savagely assault a city that has nurtured and accepted him as one of its own? After all, it is a widely accepted norm in northern folklore that you don’t point at your home, dilapidated or adorned with the comforts of modern life, with your left hand; it is not only sacrilegious, it is demonstrably rude and disrespectful.

In a desperate effort to portray Tamale and its inhabitants as decadent and prone to sporadic bouts of violence and unacceptable levels of intolerance, Ziem revealed a startling ignorance of recent Ghanaian history. Ziem is still tethered to ideas that have long been discredited. His suggestion that a military administrator would restore a semblance to normalcy to Tamale city is utterly preposterous.

Well, for your information, Mr. Ziem, the khaki-clad and gun-toting bullies who ran roughshod over the country have had their 15-minutes of fame, indeed, their time as national decision makers came to an inglorious end two decades ago when Ghanaians opted for civilian rule.

If only Ziem had paid a little attention to history, ancient and contemporary, he would have been circumspect in his observations. From time immemorial, cities around the world have gained notoriety for all the wrong reasons.  

Ancient Rome, though the center of a civilization that spanned across Europe, Asia Minor and North Africa was notorious for its blood-soaked and ghastly gladiator shows and New York known as the financial capital of the world, is also viewed negatively as a violence laden megacity. Tamale is no exception.

Yes, Tamale has its woes; yes, it has its share of violence, misdirected youthful exuberance, unsightly, run-down neighborhoods dotted with the inevitable clogged gutters,  but these, sadly, are the characteristics, indeed the ugly qualities of rapidly expanding modern and urban cities in our global world — Accra, New York City, Lagos, Cairo, Nairobi, Sydney, Beijing, Managua and Sao Paulo.

In the last two decades, Tamale has expanded dramatically with its population swollen by migration from surrounding rural areas and other regions of the country invariably it is bound to encounter problems that would temporarily defy solutions.

Ziem’s contention that Tamale is morally bankrupt is false and his attack on the youth of Tamale shows a gross misunderstanding of the economic turbulence that has gripped the world. The use of foul language is a form of expression and it is very prevalent in villages, towns and cities in Ghana. To pick on Tamale as the bastion of dirty language is just plain silly.  

When I was growing up, jobs were plentiful and the youth did not have a reason to vent their anger with reckless attacks on government institutions and laying waste to private properties. The youth of Tamale today, are not so lucky.  

Like young people around the world, they are restless and angry for one main reason; lack of jobs to absorb their talent and skills. Susceptible and vulnerable to all forms of temptations, Tamale’s youth will only steer away from trouble if their energies are channeled in the right direction by the creation of jobs, the responsibility of which lies entirely with local municipalities, regional administrations and the central government in partnership with the private sector.

Poor Ziem, he may have meant well, but in excoriating a city that is the envy of other cities in the West African region, he only succeeded in doing the following;

a) reinforcing a bone-headed perception keenly held by many, primarily in the southern half of the country, who see the north as a backwater of ignorance and violence and therefore undeserving of anything that could possibly alter its fortunes;

B) Glossing over the historical indignities and prolonged marginalization of the north began by colonial administrations and continued by post-independence Ghanaian governments and;

c) Confining the north to the scrap heap of history and hoping that it remains stagnant and economically deprived.  

Tamale surely has its problems, but these are problems synonymous with rapid expansion and urbanization. With time, Tamale will find solutions to these nagging headaches and evolve and grow into a dynamic and vibrant metropolis that is attractive to all Ghanaians irrespective of their religious beliefs, ethnicity and political fealties.   




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