BROOKLYN—After reading Professor Raymond Atuguba’s statement alleging tribalism for the removal of Professor Mawutor Avoke and Dr. Theopholus Senyo Akorlie from office as Vice-Chancellor and Finance Officer, respectively of the University of Education, Winneba (UEW), and the removal of Dr. Wilberforce Dzisah as Rector of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (all of whom are Ewes) – all upon the coming into office of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), which is regarded as an Akan-led political party, it did not take me long to recall a conversation I had at a conference, in Brooklyn, New York, USA, with one professor from Winneba, just a few years ago. (Please find Atuguba’s full statement at the end of this essay).
This professor was on an academic visit. At least, this is what it seemed, and the ensuing paragraphs, which I share freely, will shed some light on the nature of ethnic politics in Ghana’s academic circles. I will proceed to call him Prof. Sam. He self-identified as an Akan as he curiously inquired about my last name. My first name wasn’t enough—I could not be ethnically placed by it. Prof. Sam was elated as he satisfied himself with my last name and probed the fact that I hailed from Ntoaboma (which sounds more Akan than Ewe). I will explain.
At first, I didn’t quite understand his enthusiasm, mistaking his excitement for his first visit to the concrete jungle that is New York City, New York. I was wrong. He was thrilled to meet a fellow Ghanaian, and not just any fellow brother, an Akan kindred-spirit at that. This is to be expected: A man left wandering alone in a concrete jungle even at a conference of his peers can suddenly fall homesick. Such a man can finally use a brother whose beliefs and aspirations are equally grounded in the traditions of the natural things of Winneba: Not the artificial-stone stuff; not the stinking garbage; not the dirty paddles of dog and human urine all over the city’s streets that he’s had to contend with for a few weeks in New York City.
Forget for a moment the stolen jewelry (made from embezzled African diamonds and gold) sold at every corner of the city. And forget the backward childishness of building out of glass in a concrete jungle: glass buildings that need actual baths with soap and fresh water, once every few months. Prof. Sam hadn’t seen a plate of Fante Kenkey, stone-ground pepper and fried fish in more than eight days. Those who are amply aware of the herbal magic of Kenkey in Ghana (the Fante, the Ga or the Ewe types) can immediately appreciate the nostalgia that Prof. Sam feels in a concrete jungle, where the sight, even the possibility of coming face-to-face with nature’s best gifts, can rarely be found. It is as if New York City was built to defy nature. Or yet, it was built to destroy nature.
We proceeded in Twi almost exclusively, mixing in some Fante here and there, exchanging the niceties of traditional greetings in Ghana: From the state of health of the great-grandmother on to the toddler at each other’s homes. Except I often dotted my version of Fante with colonial interruptions of the pagan English language. Those who know Twi or Fante (any kind of Twi, and particularly Fante) appreciate the fine languages that they truly are. I felt almost devolved every time I couldn’t recall the exact Fante vocabulary for this or that. My use of English vocabulary in Fante grammar was at first perhaps annoying for Prof. Sam. More, I thought Prof. Sam was terribly disappointed in me, as a student disappoints his teacher. I have lived in the concrete jungle for far too long; my colonial extraction here cannot be over-emphasized since I had come to the USA to collect what has been stolen from me (the gold, the diamonds, the labor, the cocoa, etc.) for more than three centuries and up.
Although, in another sense, I was a bit elated that my very existence in New York City, was at least providential: I provided Prof. Sam, at that very moment, some respite away from God’s gift to man: home. Not that I deserved to live in New York. No, I don’t deserve to live in a country where New York City’s “Peace” Officers shoot people of African descent in cold blood like one would hunt a duck. Taflatse! In fact, I deserve to live in my humble village in Ntoaboma tucked away from that savagery. However, how can I afford to live in Ntoaboma when its every resource continues to be shipped to the USA without the appropriate compensation?
Prof. Sam was excited to meet me. He thanked his stars: “Me ni aje se wo’nye Anra ni,” which translates, “I am happy that you are not an Anlo man.” The Anlo are an Ewe state as the Akuapem are an Akan state. The Anlo speak Anlo-gbe (Anlo tongue), a dialect of Ewe, although all Ewes actually write the same language. In written form there’s no Anlogbe, Agavegbe, Tongugbe, Pekigbe, etc. On the other hand there is such a thing as Asante Twi, Akuapem Twi, Fante, etc. all of which could be considered their own languages, in written form and in spoken form as well; but all are Akan, which to a large extent are mutually intelligible to one another.
The Republic of Ghana (our West African post-independence version of the colonial establishment called the Gold Coast in West Africa where British pirates once run riot) comprises some forty unique language groups. Hence Prof. Sam’s statement was some-what an awkward interjection into what had been an otherwise pleasant conversation. I actually have Anlos in the family tree—it is difficult, even impossible, after centuries of so much ethnic mixing to not have a Frafra ancestor, an Asante ancestor, a Ga-Dangme ancestor, every now and then in one’s long family tree. (If West Africa had actually been a written culture in the past three hundred years alone, instead of the Oral culture it continues to double down on, perhaps the likes of Prof. Sam would have learned that they probably have an Anlo woman or two down the line in their forgotten history!)
Ghana is the melting pot that has been lost in colonial translation. I ignored Prof. Sam as he asked for directions to a Ghanaian restaurant where he could find some soul food. Literally. Upon attempting to direct him for fifteen minutes, I quickly came to the humble realization that the professor could not be trusted to remain en-route to Accra Restaurant deep into the Bronx, New York, at Burnside Avenue. This is to be expected of any novice to New York who is asked to trek through the concrete to find anything. They won’t. I had to smuggle him there myself if I wished to save his soul (so to speak) from the iron-steel-claws of the concrete jungle. Literally. Else. It takes three different train rides for a good hour to get to Burnside Avenue from the conference location. Prof. Sam would probably find himself in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, before he had located Accra Restaurant in the Bronx. I became that quickly aware of the facts of his situation.
This is why I had so much conversational time with Prof. Sam on the train to Burnside Avenue. “What’s the thing with Anra ni?” I asked Prof. Sam while we sat on one of New York’s fine subways as it shrieked and squeezed its way through the steel and concrete tunnels towards the Bronx. We will hop off the clunky thing, climb flights of stairs, ride up and down coal-powered escalators, and descend flights of stairs, all in the steel and concrete underground, before the last train (the third one) actually squeezes its way out of the ungodly grey rat-infested tunnels towards the daylight and the fresh air above; towards Burnside Avenue. But for a slice of soul—Kenkey, pepper and fried fish, with fresh onions and tomatoes sprinkled atop—what won’t a true native Ghana-man do for a piece of his own soul away from God’s true gift to man: home?
“Mr. Narmer, the stuff that has been happening in Ghana for many, many years is not easy oh. Take my University [of Education, Winneba] for instance, Anrafo [Anlo people] have taken all the positions in the university. In Ghana, if you are not Anra-ni (from Anlo), you can’t even get a job. Mr. Narmer, see, nowadays, even new students being accepted into the University of Winneba are almost always Anrafo. You just need to check the admission board every year. Mr. Narmer, all you see is: Kojovi, Amevi, Kojoga, Amega, Dadevi, Ablavi, Ajovi, Kokuvi this, Wolanyo that,” as Prof. Sam complained about what he felt was an Anlo mafia heist of all positions, including new student admission spots, at the University of Education, Winneba.
Having personally visited the university on an admission day just a couple of years prior to meeting Prof. Sam, I quickly assumed that the alleged Anlo heist of the university must be a recent phenomenon. The day I drove my lovely niece (her father is from Takoradi) to Winneba to start with her college education, I recalled no such heist on the so-called admission board. The evening after meeting with Prof. Sam, while alone in my hot attic apartment (very wary about footing the exorbitant coal-powered air-conditioning bills of New York), I decided to give my niece a call (early morning Ghana-time) in Winneba. She laughed her hearts-out when she listened to Prof. Sam’s theory of the Anlo take-over.
My niece retorted, punching our conversation with her sarcasm: “I am sure Prof. Sam meets all these surrogates of the Dzelukofe Ajovia Mafia who for nineteen years pushed for an Anlo hegemony, in his wildest dreams. I think Prof. Sam sees J.J. Rawlings and Tsatsu Tsikata everywhere he goes in Ghana, even on admission boards!” That was my niece, a student at the University of Education, Winneba, just being herself wondering why her favorite uncle will disturb her sleep at four in the morning with such nonsense from a professor at her school at that!
I had reason enough to disturb her. I think. I had to find out, as ridiculous as the claim went in order that I could check my own sanity. There’s a saying in Ntoaboma: You don’t follow a madman naked just because he stole your bath clothes. I let Prof. Sam run with his theory. Certainly, the picture Prof. Sam painted on the train that day could not be further from the facts. How a full professor of education, one trained in scientific methodology and research, could suddenly let go the central parts of his own education, and stoop so low in spreading a falsehood such as an Anlo-Heist of a whole institution located in Winneba, in Fanteland for that matter (and not in Anloga), baffled me.
There’s more. “Mr. Narmer, recently our Vice Chancellor—who was newly promoted over one of those Anrafo, just a couple of years ago—was just going down his own stairs, after an evening shower. Mr. Narmer, VC paaa going down the same flight of stairs he’s used for many years, falls. Mr. Narmer, Autopsy! The whole skull was scattered like someone had actually taken an axe and smashed the brains out for all to see as a warning. This Anrafo and their Juju, Mr. Narmer, it’s not a joke oh! Only Awurade, only Onyankupon, is delivering us daily from this Anrafo. Mr. Narmer, saa Anrafo yi, saa Anrafo yi, saa Anrafo yi, this Anrafo, have taken everything from us. It’s such a shame,” continued Prof. Sam.
As Prof. Sam went on, and on, and on, my mind begun to wander as the sound of steel wheels breathed-down sparks of fire as the New York train pressed through the solid steel tunnel. Only that Anlo men don’t actually engage in Juju. The very idea is an anatopism. What Prof. Sam was referring to is correctly called “Dzo,” which means fire. An Anlo-man from Dzelukofe would, out of habit or custom, prefix an “e” before the word making it “Edzo.” The meaning is unchanged, in the same way that the town Dzelukofe among proper Ewes is actually “Edzelukofe.” This “e” may be silent but it is key for escaping the fires that Prof. Sam alleges can be thrown on one’s path. What Prof. Sam was alluding to was the belief that some gifted Anlos can send their enemies all kinds of fatal-fires under the cover of the “spirits.” Now, whether this is true or not, it has become folklore in some parts of Fanteland. It seems.
Anyway, how is Prof. Sam so defiant in his belief that his friend the VC was actually killed by “Edzo-dudu,” or the “sending-of-fire,” or the “burning-of-fire,” by his Anlo colleagues yet, the same staff who are not Ewes manage to form a cabal to dismiss the very people they fear for their “Edzo?” Is the solution to give their Anlo colleagues enough time (out of a job) so they can adequately consult with their oracles or is the point of their sudden dismissal to anger these “fire-sending-troops” so they can send more fires down the paths of their enemies? Perhaps the paralogism can often escape a man, even a full professor of education at Winneba with a doctorate in education from either Oxford University or Cambridge. (I am not sure which terrorist institution Prof. Sam assured me he received his PhD.).
There’s an Ntoaboma proverb: You hang out with mad men long enough, especially terrorists, you will begin to think that you’ve gone crazy yourself. What happened to people like Prof. Sam? How do people, of this gutter-level IQ, manage against the seeming odds, to rise above their peers and even proceed to teach, to lecture, the next generation of the country called Ghana? What really goes on in the brains of such individuals as Prof. Sam who obviously wield more colonial degrees than all their Ancestors put together—what happens in the minds of the Metha? And why do we allow such men to infest the brains of the lovely children of our dear country like a disease?
This essay should have been written years ago when my meeting with Prof. Sam was actually fresh in my mind. But this narration was an actual “Edzo,” fire, burning within me back then. Some of my relatives are actually from Dzelukofe. Now I can tell the story without getting burned in light of Professor Raymond Atuguba’s work in Ghana, fighting for the rights of our Ghanaian citizens against conspiracies, and against conspirators as Prof. Sam (irrespective of where they hail from; what language they speak and whether they can send fire by text or speech). I will not be surprised if Prof. Sam is part of the cabal of professors and staff (as Raymond Atuguba calls it) at the University of Education, Winneba, who (as my lovely niece puts it) see J.J. Rawlings’ mother, who see Tsatsu Tsikata and who see Philip Gbeho everywhere they choose to look and proceed to dislike, hate and even despise what picture it is they have concocted in their minds for themselves.
Indeed the problem of tribalism in Ghana in its most debilitating form, I think, is more rampant in a colonial nation such as Ghana than it was before the arrival of European terrorists (some call them “traders” and I am not quite sure why?). Our crude tribal diatribes are made worse by the Metha, who at every turn believe they know better. They wield degrees from terrorism institutions as Oxford and Cambridge with which they miss no beat in beating down on our heads with them. Gone are our actual historical memories: The days when the Akuapem (an Akan state), for instance, and the Anlo (an Ewe state) forged some of the closest alliances one would ever learn on the Gold Coast against slave raiding terrorists; in some cases where the Anlo and the Akuapem have fought on the same side against the Asante (an Akan state) about how to curtail the Chattel Slave Trade that devastated the West African coasts. My own hometown is a magnificent microcosm of the lasting bonds between Asantes and Ewes—from various Ewe states. I am quite sure, growing up, that there were about an equal number of Ewes and Akans in my little village. It was well-nigh impossible to find a person who couldn’t speak both languages fluently! The idea of conflict between the “Anrafo” and the “Ebluawo” (there goes again the silent “e”) will be fantastical.
Now, it seems that historical memory is failing the country. Particularly, it has failed the likes of Prof. Sam. In this essay, I am not quite saying that I did not even enjoy my brief encounter with Prof. Sam, barring the parts of his consciousness that insult the intelligence and decency of his fellow Ghanaians of Anlo extraction. No. Notwithstanding, I enjoyed parts of my moment with Prof. Sam. Only he reminds me of a nation that still needs re-building; a country that needs fixing; a consciousness that needs re-programing—a coming together of sorts, in more ways than the blind-hate that is now apparent at the University of Education, Winneba—a pungent vestige of forgetfulness and organized irresponsibility that was forced upon us by colonial terrorists like the British.
Prof. Sam is a man, however. Like any African man, inheriting a traumatic history from colonial terrorists like the British, he is not merely only a negation in which he finds hate for parts of his own nation, but for me, he represents the possibility of recapturing his deepest essence: The chance that we are capable of change. Change as Frantz Fanon will put it, “is a process of transcendence, we have to see too that this transcendence is” not haunted by the problems of misguided, concocted hate and gross fabricated misunderstandings. I believe that we are capable of building a nation far superior to conspiracies like an Anlo-heist in Winneba, and far better than the dreams of conspirators. However, if like Prof. Sam we continue to be uprooted, pursued, and baffled by the colonial miseducation we inherit, by hook or crook, then we are doomed to watch the dissolution of the truths of our historical memories. We need to work out for ourselves one after another, the antinomy some of us have become accustomed to projecting unto parts of our dear nation, if not even unto our own selves.
At Accra Restaurant that day, at Burnside Avenue, I introduced Prof. Sam to one of the Waatsey Chefs: A fine beauty, who speaks Dagbani, Hausa, Ewe, Twi, Fante, Ga and Dangme. As Prof. Sam ogled this fine Chef, he exclaimed to me: “Mr. Narmer, shwer ne tu, eyie!” translating, “Mr. Narmer, what a pulchritudinous-beauty of a woman.” (If you can read the Twi, you would probably disagree with the word-for-word translation here. No matter, suffice it to say that my interpretation remains the correct representation of the mind of Prof. Sam).
I introduced Prof. Sam to this fine lady in the Anlo dialect of Ewe. Then I turned to Prof. Sam, “She’s from Dzelukofe oh.” He retorted in Fante: “Well, Dzelukofe is a fine Ghanaian town. Abia?” We all laughed so hard, the fine lady wondering what two clowns had just chanced upon her! As Prof. Sam gulped-down his three balls of Kenkey, ground pepper and fried fish, I could tell something may have changed, even if just a bit. I surely hoped he could take in some of what had just happened, and regain his soul. But then I could be terribly mistaken about his capacity for change as well. Prof. Sam could be leading what Raymond Atuguba calls the “cabal” of Anti-Ewes at this moment at the University of Education, Winneba, Ghana, where the violence of depriving fellow citizens of their livelihoods (due to our own insecurities and perceived Jujus) has become the stagecraft of choice among the mis-educated, the Metha. That behavior is witchcraft, and it is much worse than “Edzo.”
UEW, GIJ Sagas: Avoke, Dzisah removed on tribal grounds – Atuguba
Read Professor Atuguba’s full statement:
When a change of government occurred in January 2017, a certain cabal (for lack of a better word) that is associated with Winneba, saw this as an opportunity to change principal officers of the University of Education, Winneba. After acting as lawyer for the victims of this move, I can only conclude that the only real reason for their removal was ethnocentric. So Vice-Chancellor Avoke, Finance Officer Akorlie, and bearers of similar such names had to go. Note that this is not an isolated incident. At the moment, I am also lawyer for VC Dzisah of the Ghana Institute of Journalism, who, like Avoke and Akorlie bear names that are not quite “right”. I must say that the whole enterprise was so revolting, distasteful and crude that I constantly had mental and tummy convulsions in conducting the cases, until I decided to withdraw my representation before I was tempted to say things in court that are unprofessional and jeopardise my clients’ cases.
To achieve the above dastardly ethnocentric objective, the cabal set out to use 6 strategies.
Strategy one: Try to misuse the courts to remove the UEW officials
The cabal went to the Winneba High Court for a declaration that the appointments of Prof. Avoke and others were unlawful and that they had committed breaches of the Procurement Act and should be removed from office. Without giving Prof. Avoke and co., a hearing, the Winneba High Court, in breach of many laws in Ghana, granted the application and removed the officers from office.
I immediately filed a case to the Supreme Court on behalf of UTAG, which had taken up the case of the embattled lecturers, and in December 2017, the Supreme Court quashed, nullified, cancelled, the High Court judgment.
Strategy two: Victimise all the persons who tried to prevent the misuse of the courts to dismiss the innocent officials
Having failed to misuse the courts to remove the officials, the cabal decided to victimize anyone who had assisted in preventing them from doing so. As I write, the then President of UTAG, UEW branch, in whose name we mounted the failed application to join the Winneba suit and the successful first Supreme Court suit were brought, Dr. Bekoe, has been dismissed as a Lecturer by the UEW Council on trumped up charges. He has also been reported to the Winneba Police, again on trumped up charges, and is currently being prosecuted in the courts. He was rudely evicted from his residence late at night with this family soon after. The new President of UTAG, Winneba Branch, Dr. Duku, who replaced Bekoe, is currently facing disciplinary charges for bringing the case to court, and following the trend, will most likely be dismissed! What has Ghana descended to!
Every person who has sympathized with the embattled officers, has either been dismissed by the University or is currently facing disciplinary proceedings. The Disciplinary Committees, illegally set up, contrary to the 1992 Constitution and the University Statutes, act like typical kangaroo courts and have had a 100% success rate at dismissing from office anyone who has appeared before them so far in relation to this matter. One such person, Ms. Shine Lilian Agbevivi, was dismissed for forwarding a message that was supportive of the embattled officers to a UEW whatsApp platform! It looks like her name does not also sound “right”.
However, this strategy has also failed, as more and more persons are speaking up against the injustices, even as more and more of them are being sacked or hauled before disciplinary committees.
Strategy three: Try to misuse state investigative institutions to remove the UEW officials and the media to paint the embattled officers black
Having failed to quieten the harbingers of justice and human rights, the cabal moved to strategy number 3. Use state institutions to investigate and find something, anything, against the officials sought to be dismissed. Unfortunately, both the BNI and EOCO have been unable to find anything against them. When I acted as their lawyer, I wrote to both institutions to provide us the evidence of wrong doing that the University Council says the two institutions have found against my then clients. They were unable to produce anything.
In the meantime, the UEW Council has used public funds to sponsor full paged advertisements in the media, announcing that the embattled officers are guilty. Some of those who signed these announcements, turn around to sit on committees set up to investigate these officials. You declare them guilty today, and the next day you sit in judgment over them. Is this Ghana?
Strategy four: Go back to the courts and try to misuse them again
Having failed at the courts the first time, and having failed to cow everyone into submission, and having failed to find wrongdoing using the BNI, EOCO and the media, the cabal had nowhere else to go, but back to the courts. So back to the Winneba High Court they went, and secured a second judgment removing Prof. Avoke from Office as VC.
I again immediately filed a case in the Supreme Court for the second time, seeking to cancel out the second very wrongful judgment of the Winneba High Court. The Supreme Court has fixed 31st October 2018 (next month) as the date for judgment in this case. Do you now see why there is a rush to install a new VC before next month?
Indeed, I had also filed in the Supreme Court, applications for interim orders seeking to halt the victimizations, the dismissals, and the installation of new persons to offices that are contested in court. I also asked that these applications be heard in the vacation. These applications can, therefore, technically, be heard even tomorrow by the Supreme Court, now that most judges are back in town. Do you again see why there is a rush to install a new VC immediately?
Strategy five: Disrupt the attempts of the embattled officers to seek justice independently
In the meantime, I had instituted an action in the Cape Coast High Court, seeking to remove the usurpers from office and to declare that my clients were still the rightful office holders. I also brought actions to reinstate the Lecturers who were unlawfully dismissed. The cabal did everything to prevent the cases from being heard. On one occasion, in desperation, they sought an adjournment on the grounds that their lawyer was suddenly taken ill. It is not easy to lie, you know. The documentation they provided from the doctor showed that the letter to be excused from court was written two full days before the lawyer purportedly suddenly fell ill and was seen by the doctor! I pointed this out in open court. Because our rules of court are pro-defendant and not pro-plaintiff, it is easy for these disruptions to occur.
When we were making headway in the matter by June of this year, and the court had fixed judgment for August, “things” started to happen. As we speak, the judge sitting on the case has been transferred.
Strategy six: Use the president to provide political legitimacy to an illegality
In desperation, the cabal is now moving to their final strategy. Pull in the Father of the Nation, the First Gentleman, the Head of Government and of the Executive, and surreptitiously use him to give a cover of legitimacy over something that is clearly illegal, by fixing an induction of a new VC for UEW at the time the President is conducting a Central Regional tour, so that the President will, perhaps unwittingly, making a number of statements to the public:
- That the illegal removal of Prof. Avoke and other officials in Winneba, and indeed in other Universities, is alright and has the support of the President;
- The illegal installation of a new VC in Winneba, at a time that the Supreme Court is about to decide his fate next month, and the High Court is also set to decide the fate of the purported successor to Prof. Avoke next month, has the support of the President.