In one of his most memorable writings, Thomas Paine, the British-born eighteenth-century American revolutionary and political philosopher, describes the various categories of soldiers that existed in the United States during the course of the landmark War of Independence. And while I cannot readily recollect most of them, the one that appears to have permanently etched itself on my mnemonic plate is that which Mr. Paine called the “Summer Soldier.”
The latter kind of soldier, according to the great thinker-pamphleteer, exhibited the highest and soundest form of patriotism when the tide of war appeared to be blowing in favour of the freedom fighter. However, once the Washingtonian side began to show signs of stress, frustration and fatigue, the summer soldier was quick to switch allegiance.
In Ghana, as I learned quite awhile back, during the recorded ninety-nine battles fought between Asante and Akyem, this brand of soldier, no scorn or mischief intended, of course, came to be known as an “Asante-Akyem” soldier/warrior. You couldn’t really blame this kind of political chameleon, if, indeed, you believe in the time-tested Machiavellian principles of self-preservation.
In brief, based on whether the Asante or Akyem had the upper hand in a particular battle, this local Ghanaian breed of “summer soldier” assumed the identity and citizenship of either an Asante or an Akyem. And to this day, albeit subliminally sandwiched between Okyeman and Asanteman, the Asante-Akyem, while generally considered to be of Asante descent and heritage, does not appear to fully command the trust of either pre-colonial political rival.
It was, for instance, quite routine during the late 1970s and early 1980s, when I lived in Kumasi, to visit the Konongo-Agogo Bus Station, near the Asafo Market, and hear unhinged or drunken bus-station attendants poke fun at travelers of Asante-Akyem heritage. This happened mostly on occasions of transportation shortage, when legions of stranded and stressed-out passengers would, literally, sprint to get onto one or two mini-buses that pulled into the station to upload passengers and merchandise.
On one such occasion, a ragamuffin station attendant was heard describing passengers scurrying for shelter at the pelting of rainfall as “a breed of ruminants.” Goats, to be exact.
In recent years, as competing loyalties created sub-ethnic cleavages among the membership of the New Patriotic Party, and many a claimant to Asante-Akyem heritage or citizenship proudly brandished his/her unalloyed “Asanteness,” I have not hesitated to point out the fact that my privileged opportunity to have actually trekked through “Nananom Mpow Mu” in much of Great Asante, has apprised me of the stark reality of every forest canopy not exactly belonging to the prime species of the Mahogany.
At the end of the day, however, what matters to me most is the cultural organicity or the organic unification of the Akan states. Recently, in one of my articles, when I highlighted the fact that being of Akan descent is an expression of nationality, and that historically the Akan are divided into only about seven or eight “tribes” (I personally resent the routine and casual use of this patently unscientific term for African ethnic nationalities), rather than the one-hundred or so being bandied about, a quite well-meaning reader remarked in the commentary forum on one of the major websites on which my article appeared that being of Akan decent is, in fact, a “tribal” designation. And also that such blood groupings as Oyoko, Aduana, Asona, Asene, Assakyiri, Biretuo and Ekuona denoted “clan” affiliations.
Maybe somebody ought to have apprised the rather misguided reader that when one speaks of the “Twelve Tribes of Israel,” as systematically documented in the Christian Bible, the allusion is unmistakably to clan groups! And to be certain, so discredited is the racially tinged designation of “tribe” that the United Nations actually had to pass a resolution proscribing the use of the term. Unfortunately, as with any group of psychologically alienated former colonials, many otherwise well-meaning Africans continue to stubbornly and regressively cling to the term.
Anyway, when Alhaji (Iddrisu?) Bature vehemently protests that he is not a bona fide member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), and that he merely worked for the NDC to capture the reins of governance, the editor of the Free Press cannot be taken seriously, especially since he also claims to have renounced his membership of the NDC merely “because of the indiscipline creeping into the party” (See “I Am Not A Member of NDC – Alhaji Bature” MyJoyOnline.com 11/23/10).
The pertinent question to ask here is precisely when did Alhaji Bature come to a rude realization of the fact of the NDC being largely composed of a posse of thoroughgoing rascals and pathological thugs? Alhaji Bature also seems to speak from two sides of his mouth, thus his clarion call for the NDC National Executive Committee to promptly rein in card-carrying party members who “publicly make unguarded [remarks] about President Mills and Vice-President Mahama,” even as the talk-radio fixture vehemently insists on reserving the right to make similar unflattering public comments about the President and his minions, simply because he, Alhaji Bature, “has never appeared on any programme as a representative of the NDC but has the right to analyze [happenings in the] NDC and NPP as an individual.”
In sum, for Alhaji Bature, membership of the NDC automatically consigns some Ghanaian citizens to a judicial sentence of silence, whereas special citizens like the Free Press’s editor are permitted to reserve their fundamental individual right to free speech. Insha’Allah!
By Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.
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 a Governing Board Member of the Accra-based Danquah Institute (DI) and the author of “The Obama Serenades” (Lulu.com, 2011).
The article was written by Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D. The opinions expressed and arguments employed herein are those of the author`s and do not necessarily reflect the official views or have the endorsement of the Editorial Board of www.africanewsanalysis.com and www.africa-forum.net