Feature Article of Friday, 19 April 2013
Columnist: Kunluki, Nasir Ahmed
I have observed with serious alarm the discrimination against our northern cultures being perpetrated by some people I will call “hawks” in the GBC hierarchy of late. In almost all organisation and societies, these type of people, who think they are there to promote a certain agenda for a section of the group are the cause of tensions and intergroup or inter-tribal conflicts in Africa.
With the democratic dispensation of the forth republic, it is quite clear that some people believe that majority rule should also go along with denying the rights of the minority. This is often a recipe for conflict and disaster. Majority rule will itself work well and the majority enjoy their rule if the concerns of the minority are not ignored. In successful societies, systems are put in place to get the views of the minority in order to address their needs before they become anything that will be a source of serious grievance.
I have put this article together because it has come to my notice that in recent times some hawks at GTV have in place a policy that all male news readers wear only clothes to read the news. Considering that people of northern origin make up at least a third of the population of this country, it is unfortunate that these people in the national television station which is financed by taxes from all the citizens of Ghana can take a decision that excludes the culture of the northern sector completely. This comes along with what I suspect to be little or no recruitment of northern male news readers for GBC TV. This is making us feel really second class citizens in the only country we can call our home. I am in no way saying people should not wear cloth to read the news, far from it; what I am looking for is equity. I am looking for recognition and a reflection of all our cultures on the nation’s TV station-GTV. I am also not saying we need a quota system, but no one can tell me that GTV news reader standards are so high that no northerner can make the grade. It is important that the station reflects the diversity within the country as much as possible. The people on TV are important role models and the north probably needs role models from all such diverse institutions more than most parts of Ghana.
Our first president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, was one of the most patriotic Ghanaians of modern Ghana. In all his years, he sought to project the cultures of all sections of the Ghanaian community through the way he dressed. He didn’t lose his Ghanaian identity in anyway by doing that.
The smock for example is in no way inferior to the cloth in any form. The material of which smocks are made is probably as varied as any cloth variety. In actual fact the smock material is a cloth first and foremost which have been cleverly made into a smock. The smock is a design at par with the European suit and other designs that stand out to represent a people’s culture all over the world. It is versatile and in its various forms can be worn, as open and airy in the tropics or warm with arms in cold climates, and looks beautiful in all its forms.
For those who do not know it, smocks come in different forms with their individual names, with each type being used for different occasions and purposes in the northern communities.
While the average Ghanaian has taken to the smock and other northern attire for their beauty and versatility, some people at GBC TV are doing their best to denigrate them and by doing that denigrating the identity and culture of the entire northern people.
I am quite sure that the usual unsavoury comments will follow this article on the web, but it is not such people who should be deciding the policy of an organisation as important as the GBC TV. It is possible that discrimination against the north goes on behind the scenes in other sections of GBC in general. However, the TV news being a frontline service stands out. It is also evident that the few northerners who were reading the news have now been hounded out as part of this cultural cleansing.
Ghana at independence sought to fight for the rights of several peoples and nations beyond her borders. At that time, a lot of our leaders were advocating that we even change our names to reflect our African culture and identity. While our leaders had the foresight, so many years ago, to see the importance of the cultures of everybody as important, fifty six years after that independence we have some misguided personnel of GBC who are trying hard to obliterate the culture of an important segment of our community.
It is often said that diversity is the spice of life. If God wanted us all to be the same, He would have made us all one race, speaking the same language and with a unitary culture. God in His wisdom didn’t do that for a reason. He created different races with diverse cultures. Are the people at GBC TV saying they are better agents of creation and culture than God? This is a measure of sheer arrogance and intolerance on a grand scale. It takes courage to be tolerant. In other words, intolerance is the easy way to cheap popularity and is more a sign of cowardice. The new Director General at GBC must be held accountable for this state of affairs.
When we, as black people, suffer and complain about discrimination all over the world, one would expect that we should be trying to find ways to respect our own and live together in harmony. Unfortunately, we take every opportunity to discriminate against each other. This is the cause of most of our conflicts but we are not learning. After we mess up through these stupid discriminatory practices, our first port of call is often the countries where they have found reason to foster good neighbourliness and tolerance. It is a fact of life that no individual or group of people are perfect. However, the societies where tolerance for diverse views and cultures has largely worked have not achieved that by chance. They have had to make serious efforts and sacrifices to accept each other.
I wish to call on all Ghanaians of goodwill to see this article as coming from someone who wants to see respect for each other forming a cornerstone of our society. It is a call to ensure equity within the GBC in general and on the TV in particular where the discrimination is very evident.
I look forward, once more to the day when I will see people read the news in a cloth or smock or an agbada etc as was the case before. The news will in no way be demeaned because a man wearing a smock or an agbada has read it. And like our first president showed at independence when the whole world‘s eyes were upon us when he and his colleagues were seen in smocks, the news reader doesn’t have to be a northerner to wear a smock. The independent television stations are showing more flexibility in the way they dress to present the news. If GBC carries on the way they are doing they will go the way of other government organisations which have become irrelevant because these types of attitudes don’t bring them any credibility. We are all customers of GTV and should be taken seriously and treated fairly. It is surprising too that this is happening at a time when the generality of Ghanaians have no problems being seen in the attires of other cultures. It is quite common these days to see a large section of a church’s congregation wearing agbadas, zalabeas and smocks in church. Many pastors can be seen in beautiful agbadas, smocks or zalabeas and nobody has a problem with it. It is quite possible the same people who are pushing this agenda are hypocritical enough to go to church and other important events in what would have traditionally been referred to as northern attire.
Democracy is not just about creating a constitution and voting in MPs and a President. To embed democracy the nationals of the country have to stand up and defend each and every clause of the constitution to ensure that what was intended by the framers is what is being implemented. This might in some cases require that sections of the constitution are challenged and interpretation decided by the courts of the country. So we as a people must not sit idly by when rights provided for in the constitution are being flouted. What is happening to the northerners today can happen to other groups in a different way tomorrow.
Let me refer the directors and CEO to their mission statement on their website, which in paragraph one says: “To lead the broadcasting & communication industry through quality programming that promotes the development & cultural aspirations of Ghana”. Italics are mine, replacing this as seen on the website with that. To achieve the mission, you go on to add the following at paragraphs 2 & 3: “ Paragraph 2: “Promote national consciousness, loyalty, integrity, self-reliance and provide strong sense of national identity”.
Paragraph 3: “Be guided by a high standard of professionalism, objectivity, awareness, balance and excellence”.
Having done that let me ask the CEO some questions. How are the cultural aspirations of northerners being addressed by your recent male dress code? Are you fulfilling your mission when you are clearly showing a lack of objectivity, awareness and balance?
How are northerners’ senses of national identity being strengthened by your new male dress code?
To conclude, I am calling on the sector minister, the Minister of Information, leaders of civil society groups who stand for justice and the leaders of all our political parties to see this as an important issue worth standing up for and one which will help embed our democracy.
If this continues, the GBC TV slogan “the Pulse of the Nation”, sounds really hollow, as it is representing the pulse of only a section of the Nation Ghana. CHIRAJ take note!
God bless our homeland Ghana.
Nasir Ahmed Kunluki
To contact me and support this case, send email to: [email protected]