RECENT developments in the country’s political circles point to a dangerous shift towards ethnocentrism with key political figures in the thick of affairs.
There have been countless threatening statements laced with ethnocentric motives from leading figures and ordinary members of the NPP and the NDC.
This has led many well-meaning people to question whether some of our current politicians are in to scuttle the relative peace the nation is enjoying.
There is no doubt that politics clothed with ethnocentric sentiments can always be dangerous, taking lessons from other countries in Africa.
People tend to confuse ethnicity with ethnocentrism. Ethnicity itself is not dangerous but ethnocentrism is.
The term ethnicity refers to a group of people with a common socio/cultural identity such as: language, common worldview, religion and common cultural traits
On the other hand, ethnocentrism as defined by a sociologist, means the feeling that one's group has a mode of living, values, and patterns of adaptation that are superior to those of other groups.
It is coupled with a generalised contempt for members of other groups.
Ethnocentrism, which is frightening, may manifest itself in attitudes of superiority or sometimes hostility. Violence, discrimination, proselytising, and verbal aggressiveness are other means whereby ethnocentrism may be expressed.
This should strike a warning to people who swim in it to take a second look at the behaviour.
And when ethnocentrism is clothed with politics, the whole issue becomes even more dangerous.
I am stressing this point because of recent developments in the country where vituperative statements and comments in political circles, some coming from high-ranking politicians and people in high positions appear to have risen the political tempo.
The Daily Graphic of October 16, 2009, reported that two prominent Ghanaians had sounded the alarm bell about the increasing threat of ethnocentrism and intolerance of opposing views in the nation’s body politic.
The two, Prof. Kwesi Yankah, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, and Most Rev. Robert Aboagye Mensah, Vice-President of All Africa Council of Churches, warned that the development could spell doom for the country if concrete moves were not made to ameliorate their effects.
They sounded the caution that Ghanaians should not be complacent with commendations for organising successful elections and handovers, but must find lasting solutions to such problems that always tended to mar the peace and stability of the country.
It has been argued in certain circles that ethnocentrism in Africa will be difficult to eliminate.
One of the adherents of this belief cites a developed country like Canada, which has been trying for hundreds of years with mixed success to accommodate only two linguistic groups, namely the English and French, to arrive at the conclusion that African states which have greater cultural and linguistic divisions will continue to live with ethnocentrism.
But living with ethnocentrism is always dangerous as it could trigger conflicts, sometimes with devastating consequences.
Historically, a greater number of the devastating conflicts in Africa, especially the Horn of Africa have been linked to ethnocentrism.
Mention can be made of the first and second Sudan civil wars, widely seen as conflicts between peoples of the Arab north and African south.
Ethiopia has also not been spared ethnic wars. The wars in that country have been fought mainly between the Amharas and the Tigreans, Oromos, Eritreans, etc
Talk about Somalia also and all that you can think about that country is ethnic conflicts. The conflicts in that country have been described mainly as conflicts between the Maraheens and the Isaaqs, or between the Darods and the Ogadenis, etc.
Ghana has not been spared any of these ethnic wars. The Konkomba-Nanumba conflict, which led to the deaths of thousands of people was said to have been triggered by arguments over a guinea fowl, but there were deep-rooted ethnocentric agitations.
Military governments in Africa have also cut dangerous paths relating to ethnocentrism. In Nigeria for instance, General Yakubu Gowon came to power on the wings of an ethnic motivated military coup. This act, according to historians, deepened ethnic-animosity and tension in the Nigerian military.
This is not to say that military governments have not played crucial roles in addressing ethnic conflicts in Africa. In Burundi for instance, the military government, in 1970, caused an improvement in the conflict between Tutsis and Hutus even though it later deteriorated leading to the killings of hundreds of thousands of people.
I have taken this winding journey just to sound a word of caution to our politicians to learn a lesson and desist from their threatening statements.
Regrettably, all this is happening with the media in full attendance. Sometimes some of us in the media tend to give so much attention to useless statements from politicians.
What we must realise is that this group of people have their visas and those of their families and are ready to board the next available plane to secure lands when the unexpected happens.
Why can’t the media play their gate-keeping role with professionalism and keep the rot in abeyance?
Our politicians in particular and people in general should strive at building a concept of national identity with a clear vision to fostering national unity and intergration.
This has the capacity to create a society with less or no threat to faciliate a process where every individual could get on board in striking a more equitable and peaceful social contract that could lead to mutually enriching relationships.
It is a fact that national identity itself will not lead to a peaceful nation. But, it could serve as a step to arriving at a more inclusive identity.
National Identity could challenge various ethnic groups to recognise aspects of them that could be shared beyond ethnic group and even the state.
The churches, schools, the media and other civil society groups must enlighten the people on the dangers of ethnocentrism.
We may have our political differences but as a people, we need to build the spirit of love and oneness and not play to the selfish interests of some politicians.