It was quite welcoming and refreshing to hear Professor Ameyaw Ekumfi, the New Patriotic Party Member of Parliament for Techiman-North, enlighten students at the University of Education at Winneba on the imperative need for an Akufo-Addo-led New Patriotic Party government to implement a fee-free Senior High School program across the board, if Ghana is to rapidly inch up the ladder of socioeconomic development into an enviable middle-income status within twenty years or less.
Professor Ekumfi also urged the students to ignore the cynical naysayers of the ruling National Democratic Congress for a good reason. And that good reason is the fact that the movers and shakers of the NPP had meticulously consulted with leading experts in education before adopting its fee-free SHS education electioneering plank as a major policy agenda.
What is not, surprisingly, being highlighted as much as it ought to be these days is President Mahama’s apparently curiously plaint and/or grievance against Ghanaians of southern descent, largely the Akan, on grounds that our relatively more prosperous socioeconomic status makes us abjectly guilty and criminally responsible for relative northern-Ghanaian underdevelopment. Indeed, it may not be far from accurate to characterize the “Mahama Syndrome” as one that is inescapably derived out of sheer envy.
In other words, it clearly appears that Mr. Mahama is implacably against a fee-free elementary and secondary education for southern Ghanaians because it stands to further widen the perceived socioeconomic chasm/divide between the two major halves of the country.
For, needless to say, Mr. Mahama’s home-region of the North has enjoyed fee-free education since Ghana’s independence some 55 years ago. Predictably, the president does not see this as constitutionally untenable because, somehow, the fee-free education afforded Ghanaians of northern birth and/or origin largely occurs under trees. The barely understated implication here, of course, is that it is relatively of an inferior quality.
I, personally, had a high school teacher by the name of Mr. Akaliga A. Ayem, of blessed memory, a very intelligent man from the Bolgatanga vicinity of the present-day Upper-East Region, who used to make the same cynical argument.
At any rate, people like Messrs. Mahama and Ayem who make the preceding argument often fail to realize that, for the most part, the school buildings housing schoolchildren born in southern Ghana were largely erected through the voluntary efforts of the native residents themselves and the progressive initiatives of their local leaders.
And, needless to say, it is quite reasonable to expect that 55 years after the unfettered enjoyment of fee-free education, northern Ghanaians ought to have produced a critical mass of well-educated and well-heeled entrepreneurs and highly successful professionals poised to supplementing government efforts, by giving back a remarkable percentage of their wealth and resources for the rapid and massive education and cultural development of their own people.
Needless to say, there are far greater numbers of equally intelligent Ghanaian youths whose parents and guardians cannot afford to pay their way from Kindergarten through Senior High School. And the callous and insensitive implication that, somehow, these children ought to be totally ignored or left to their own devices while their supposedly “poor and destitute” northern Ghanaian siblings and/or counterparts enjoyed fee-free and open access to public school education could not be more intentionally criminal and invidiously unconstitutional.
In other words, our well-considered and unreserved contention here is that the academic development of northern Ghanaian youths ought not to be flagrantly predicated on the deliberate and systematic arresting of the equally significant and critical development of southern Ghanaian youths. Indeed, when he rather offensively talks about the country not being prepared to sanction a fee-free public elementary, middle and secondary education until 2016, that is until all “Schools-Under-Trees” in the northern-half of the country, presumably, have been afforded adequate housing facilities, President Mahama does not only insult the intelligence of southern Ghanaians, he also violates the constitutional and human rights of our “little brothers and sisters,” to borrow his own ethno-regionally tinged phraseology.
We hardworking southern Ghanaians must not allow cynical regionally and tribally resentful northerners like the Janus-Faced President John Dramani Mahama to victimize us for being relatively more academically, culturally and professionally upwardly mobile than our northern Ghanaian kinsmen and women. We need to also learn to vote for progressive and fair-minded leaders, not tribal and regional rabble-rousers.
Being merely married to one us, albeit adulterously, is no forensic proof or subterfuge against pathological tribalism; even German Chancellor Adolf Hitler is widely known to have cohabited and/or romantically liaised with several women of Judaic descent. But, of course, this fact of existential reality did not prevent this political monstrosity from snuffing out the lives of at least some six-million Jews.
Nowhere in Ghana’s Fourth-Republican Constitution are Southerners classified as “second-class citizens.” And the sooner “angry northerners” like Mr. Mahama get this truth under their evidently numbed skull, the better it would be for the peaceful and even-handed development of our beloved country.
*Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., is Associate Professor of English, Journalism and Creative Writing at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is Director of The Sintim-Aboagye Center for Politics and Culture and author of “Selected Political Writings” (Lulu.com, 2008). E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.