Nothing is more important in a person’s life than identity – where you are from, who you are and who you shall yet be. The same applies for any aggregate of people. For a community, the interrogation of identity is as important as the sovereignty and legitimacy of the people’s right to exist. But even in Ghana, a nation with a first-class educational system, a thorough interrogation of identity escapes the imagination.

Some muse a Ghanaian identity does not put food on the table. Nor does it pay the school fees or foot the electricity bill. Still, it’s an identity we carry around all right, albeit primarily in sociopolitical discussions.

Whenever presidential elections come around, village and city people, alike, hold Ghana responsible for every “Ghanaian ill.” Slow economic growth is Ghana’s fault, poor healthcare is Ghana’s fault, low levels of water at the Akosombo Hydro-Electric Power Dam is Ghana’s fault. For many of us, Ghana becomes the institution charged with the task of solving these issues, a government supposed to run affairs properly. But where does that leave us as Ghanaians? What is the identity of the people residing within that institution—Nation of Ghana? Who are we?

Too often the answer to this question lands on a false premise—that our identities remain enamored by the dictates of a colonial occupation, that we remain stooped unwittingly in ethnic divisions.

What transpired was a balkanization that never involved the consent of our peoples.

This tearing down of borders and the erection of new ones (virtually out of thin air) has proven intractable in the fashioning of a collective Ghanaian identity. Today, the Akan peoples are scattered over some three different nations; the Ewes, over some five different nations; the Gas, over a couple of nations; the Mumprusi, over a couple more. And so on and so forth.

While the reality of fashioning our Ghanaian identity is a challenging undertaking, it nonetheless requires our collective efforts. Just because the solution is not immediately apparent does not mean it does not exist. Yet this is precisely the explanation brought forth when various factions set out to dabble in unbridled ethnocentrism. In the most uncouth of manners, Ghanaian politicians have used the lack of cohesion inherent in fragmented identities to their advantage in the political process.

No doubt, Ghana has been ridden with her fair share of problems. Rather than see our boundaries, our balkanization, our assorted ethnicities and religions as accidents or tragedies of history, we can view them in more constructive, optimistic and realistic ways. The excuse that we are separate ethnic groups is as unfounded as the myth of ethnic affiliations. The Ewes are not a monolithic group of people; in fact, many Ewe languages are unintelligible to other Ewes. The same is for the Akan; no way can a Twi speaking Akan understand Fante, and vice versa.

Once the myth of our language groupings are thrown to the canines who fashioned such theories to divide and conquer us, it becomes apparent that everywhere we look, we see more similarities than differences. Kpanlogo is not any different from Borborbor. And the talking drums are ubiquitous in our cultures. We realize that Kwesi is not just an Akan name. And the Asantes are more seriously mixed with the Frafra and the Sissala than anyone is ready to accept. From the Akans, the Ewes have borrowed the Fontomfrom, and from the Ewes, the Akans have been influenced by Voodoo (like it or not). What’s more, Okamfo Anokye, the renowned chief priest of the Asante Kingdom, was from Nokyie (Anokye). More than our differences, we should be more gung ho about accepting the facts of our commonalities.

Rather than perceive our diversity as a problem, we must begin to see this as our strength. We must begin to harness the power in our diversity to forge a nation never before seen on this planet. Rather than see our balkanized boundaries as a curse in themselves, we can consider them from the perspective of our historical past that flourished way before the first European landed on the Gold Coast.

As a people, we have always lived as neighbors. Ewes lived alongside the Asantes, the Ayems and the Akuapems; the Gas lived side-by-side the Ewes, the Fantes, the Akuapems, the Akyems, and so on; the Dagomba bordered the Mumprusi, the Asante, the Ewe, the Gonja, the Brong and so on. Everywhere we look in our history, we are a people who have always lived side-by-side one another in better peace than we are now willing to admit.

Everywhere we look, rather than see signs of balkanization, we must see signs of our collective unity as a people. We must see that we actually haven’t been torn apart—that we are still together as we were. We must cherish the inherent diversity that empowered us once upon a time on the West African Coast.

Everywhere we look, we should not see signs of separation but signs of cooperation. When we look across the vast terrain of Ghana into the vast expanse of West Africa, we should recognize an identity that shuns exceptionalism and embraces community. We should see a culture that is more rooted in the commune than it is rooted in the individualistic attainment of any one man. Always, we must be who we have been ever since the beginning of time in Punt.

When our first unifier, Kwame Nkrumah, chose the name Ghana, he did so with the deep understanding that we are descended from a great West African peoples who still stride the surface of the planet shoulder-high. Indeed the name Ghana derives from Gana, which means King. And Queens! And hence Ghana is the land of Royals.

But as kings and queens, our responsibilities abound to look after the whole instead of our parochial interests. For our collective advancement, we must make peace. And for our collective good, we must cooperate, communicate and strive, in our own small ways, for greatness. With this aim, the collective Empire that is Ghana might still have the chance to show the world that Africa is different—peerless. Without any remuneration whatsoever, we gave the world rhythm, we gave the world music, and we gave the world civilization. Surely it takes a community to build, out of nothing, something so stupendous.

Any ideas that are not in the collective interest of our commune—above all, exceptionalism and individualism—we must shun them and lay them to rest. For these philosophies clash with what it means to be Ghanaian in the twenty-first century. To be Ghanaian means to care, to cooperate and to commune for the collective advancement of our peoples. In this twenty-first century, I cannot imagine a better future, a more complete identity for Ghanaians, than a future that unites us together.

Previous articleThe Wigs Must Go!
Next articleIsrael, U.S. and Europe: Liabilities to Global Security
Amenuti Narmer
Narmer Amenuti (Dances With Lions) was born by The River, deep within the heartlands of Ghana, in Ntoaboma. He is a Public Intellectual from the Sankoré School, a Temple of the African Prophetic Tradition. He remains the only surviving speaker of Vebantu, the Ancestral Tongue to most West African languages. As a Culture Critic from the Sankoré School (of Critical Theory) and a Guan Rhythmmaker, he is a dilettante, a dissident and a gadfly, and he eschews promotional intellectualism. He maintains strict anonymity and invites intellectuals and lay people alike to honest debate. He reads every comment. ~ Success is a horrible teacher. It seduces the ignorant into thinking that they can’t lose. It seduces smart people into thinking that they have to win. Success corrupts; Usefulness exalts. ~ Narmer.


  1. We must insist on a thorough immersion of our children in our culture and our history. We must teach them to see our similarities and concentrate on those while still celebrating what makes as diverse and strong. Ghana must lead the way in this prophetic tradition, to show the world that Africa can actually lead the way into a better, more egalitarian future for all peoples and all nations.

  2. Let’s build an identity that is uniquely Ghanaian and uniquely African. Let’s get rid of these colonial traces and any neo-colonialism brewing once and for all!

    • As they say leadership by example,and if this saying is anything to go by then as africans we’ve lost the way and our generation has gone africans we’ve lost our identity and we’ve been made to believe we are inferior therefore we are coping blindly forgeting our rich culture and values.until we change our mind set and remember who we are and were we are coming from we will still be slaves even in our own country

  3. To be Ghanaian in the past 300 years is to be Notorious, fake, a fraud. I cannot get over the fact that 32 of the 44 slave routes through West Africa was actually located in the Gold Coast Ghana. How? What notoreity. Have we even apologized for what we did to fellow Africans? What? I am appalled really. I do not want to hear a thing more about Colonialism and that and that. We have to deal with this crazy human-selling history now! All families who inherited that dirty wealth need to surrender their wealth to the state so we can take it to Brazil and America and feed the poor there. This is not correct kraaaaa! I am not Happy! Narmer Amenuti, why did you have to affect me like this? Why? I like your essay but let us do something about the role we have played in the enslavement of our own peoples. Or, God will never forgive us. Ah, that is why Ghana is never moving forward. This is a spiritual curse! We have to do something. Please!!!

  4. Dade Afre Akufu: “All families who inherited that dirty wealth need to surrender their wealth to the state so we can take it to Brazil and America and feed the poor there.” Why not feed the poor in those areas where slaves were procured from? Why not have a national truth and reconciliation exercise on the slave trade (both European and Arab)? And also the same for the trauma suffered during all the military regimes of independent Ghana. An Afrobarometer survey on social attitudes revealed that 88% of Ghanaians are wary of fellow Ghanaians. How can we work together for the benefit of all if we do not trust one another? How can Ghana be one country we know of the Akan wars and we know of the ones with Gas and the Ewes, Kokombas and Nanumbas etc? How do we heal from the trauma of hundreds of years? Is there really a Ghanaian identity? Perhaps an ethnic one not a national one unless the Black Stars are winning! We sure need to decolonise our minds but we also need to detribalise them too. Our leaders, academia and media have failed us so far.

    • My brother! You speak truth to power. You are a sage. You see the truth. I love you my brother. I am all for reconciliation. I am all for anything that makes us all better people and makes our countries better! I just don’t know how we have waited for so long to get our asses together on this issue. It really bothers me a lot. It bothers me to the core that we live in a country with this must mistrust and corruption. Our history does not sound good. Our legacy is a shameful one. We cannot live like this. I am sending an email to Narmer to tackle the issue of our slay-selling past in full article. Someone somewhere needs to start talking about our slave past. Someone somewhere needs to start making up ground on our reconciliation with ourselves and then the world. Yes, if anything at all, it is our academia that has failed us so much. That group of unthinking goats!

  5. I tried to figure out every day, why with all the trumpeting message around; educating us the need to unite to forge head, yet nothing seem to make a change to an average Ghanaian as of.. thinking of activities that present a united bond.

    Even government establishment with quality paper documentations that define inter-ministerial operations decided to operate contrarily to the white-paper for their operations. Just independent in operations and producing multiplication of works to waste tax payers money.

    Finally Small scale enterprise owners always prefer individual all share own than partnership or group own for maximising of benefit. Individualism and selfish is killing us. Getting no where, we know but cannot stop why ?Hmmmm rightly put Narmer Amenuti

  6. Nation building is a habit: we must cultivate it; The attitude of ethnocentrism and tribalism is not only painful, it is mean and it is ugly. It but fastens and perpetuates the trouble which occasioned it, and increases the total evil of the situation of our dear country.

  7. Interesting, but what are we learning from if we keep trying to form one identity. We know that one’s story encompasses all one has experience, so we must embrace the current state as it is. Just like any genetic trait can only be over come by acceptance. Our country was formed by the coming together of different tribes through interference of others with our forefathers help. If we do not accept the issues which were there when we were formed along with what destabilised our direction again with our help, then we are doomed. Many facets created each culture and therefore moving forward we stop distancing ourselves and accept responsibility. We elect our leaders and in so doing their failure becomes our because basic things such as our homes are our responsibility and not theirs. There is no one definition of being Ghanaian just like I can not just be defined as Ewe and female- i am more than just these labels yet to use one to describe me is not wrong- its just incomplete. These definitions just go to make us question things which we cant change. Once we accept these we can effect a change, and then the definitions will become unnecessary. Sorry American issues of constant definition being taken on when really it really shouldnt be.

  8. On this note, we have to first define who we are, or want to be. That is the most important ideal. Are we ordained by God? Are we descended form the Kings of Ghana? Are we descended from the royals of Kemet, from the ancestral well of Nubia and from the sacred Temples of Punt? Are we special and unique? Are we exceptional people? And in what way? Are we immortal? And in what way? The abstraction of this is the most important step towards defining who we are.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.