Identity, citizenship and the Fulani in Ghana

CC™ Opinion Editorial

By Osman Alhassan

Observations from Gushiegu, Donkorkrom and Dawadawa

"In spite of the efforts by the Fulani to integrate, they are often reminded that they are strangers who do not belong to the community...."

Conflicts between farmers and Fulani herders are a prominent – and growing – conflict in Northern Ghana. Although the Fulanis have been living in Ghana for generations they are still not accepted among local community groups and are thus excluded from certain areas of political life and health services. In this blog post Osman Alhassan from the University of Ghana argues why resolution of this conflict is in everyone’s interest.

Conflicts among competing land and water resource users are not new in West Africa. While some scholars attribute these rising resource use conflicts to growing scarcity of resources, others contend that it is the consequence of failed governance structures and local conflict resolution mechanisms. Our field investigations in northern Ghana in early 2019 as part of the Domestic Security Implications of Peacekeeping in Ghana (D-SIP) programme point to the fact that both resource scarcity, such as decreasing grazing land and increasingly stressed water resources, and social relations explain conflicts between local farmers and settler Fulani. A closer look at the conflicts between local community famers and settled pastoralists in the Gushiegu Municipality in the Northern Region of Ghana suggests an escalation. Although the Fulani pastoralists have lived in the Gushiegu area since the 1940s, they are increasingly experiencing tension with indigenous community groups, such as the Dagombas, Mamprusis, Konkombas, and the Bimobas.

The Fulani in Gushiegu recount that their ancestors settled in Gushiegu, and surrounding communities, as far back as in the 1930s and 1940s. They took care of cattle as well as farmed the land that was allocated to them for their food needs. Most of the Fulani are Muslims and as such joined the local population for congregational prayers on Fridays and during Eid festivities. As a guest community, the Fulani in Gushiegu and other communities made efforts to attend other local festivals and ceremonies in a bid to get closer to the local community and sustain mutual coexistence. While most Fulani children are not undertaking formal education, they attend the local Makaranta (Islamic school) with Dagomba kids where the Koran and Islam are taught. According to the Fulani in Gushiegu, there are a few inter-marriages between the Fulani and the Dagombas. However, there have been some challenges, especially during periods when cattle in the care of the Fulani destroy food crops belonging to community members or pollute community water sources.

Issues around identity and citizenship provoke strong sentiments among Ghanaians when the Fulani are discussed. It would appear that no matter how long they have been in Ghana, the Fulani cannot become Ghanaians in the eyes of certain communities and officials. A Planning officer with the District Assembly at Donkorkrom argued that everyone in Donkorkrom was a migrant, including the Fulani. So he was baffled about why they had been singled out as not belonging to Ghana, when the Hausa, Gau and other ethnic groups that were not originally Ghanaian did not face the same challenge.In spite of the efforts by the Fulani to integrate, they are often reminded that they are strangers who do not belong to the community. The Fulani are not allowed to participate in gatherings such as political campaigns, cannot easily access health services, including National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) cards, and are not allowed to vote even in district level elections. The Fulani therefore are not identified as community members though they have stayed in the area for a long time. The local community is indifferent to the younger Fulanis who have been born in the area and have no other place of origin. The Fulani in Gushiegu cited an incident in Kpatinga two years ago that claimed the lives of two Fulani men and the destruction of their properties. No Fulani had anticipated this as they had lived with the people, practiced the same religion, taken part in local festivals and ceremonies, and had a few of their kinsmen married to Dagomba.

The situation at Dawadawa was not much different. A Fulani man, Ibrahim Musah, in Dawadawa explained the discrimination he felt in Ghana. Although he demonstrated fluency in three Ghanaian languages – Dagbani, Akan, and Ewe –during the interview, Ibrahim Musah was considered by many in Dawadawa as an alien because of his Fulani origins. His credentials, though, show him to be Ghanaian. He was born in 1987 in Bawku and raised there. He lived in Bimbilla for 14 years, and in Dawadawa for the past 10 years. Before this, he had lived in other places in Ghana, including Kumasi, for many years. People were not concerned about his birth, residence, mastery of several Ghanaian languages, and his vast knowledge about many parts of Ghana. ‘I consider Bawku as my hometown. If you send me to Bawku which is in Ghana, many people can testify that I was born there because my father lived there. My father hails from Bawku though my grandfather, I am told, hails from Burkina Faso,’ he accounted. He was of the view that there are many misleading perceptions about Fulani, including those who are citizens of Ghana, and this has had an adverse impact on their livelihoods and participation in decision making. A first step towards peaceful coexistence and effective conflict resolution would be to recognize the rights of the Fulani and facilitate their participation in local mechanisms for resolving conflicts.

The conflict situations in settlements such as Gushiegu could also improve if local and national governance mechanisms emphasized education of the population about the rights of citizenship. Local and national politics have often been complicated by religion, ethnicity, and economic considerations. While Ghana’s constitution specifies who a citizen is, this is differently interpreted at local levels to suit those in power to make decisions on behalf of the community. In addition, community members must also be aware that our collective economic and security organization goes beyond individual countries. For instance, the sustained development of livestock production is an integral part of any food security or poverty reduction policy. So, it has been argued that traditional pastoral farming systems such as transhumance – moving livestock from one grazing ground to another in a seasonal cycle – contribute to socio-economic development and the growth of livestock production.

A treaty on cooperation between Member States of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) exist as a means for regulating transhumance and achieving agricultural development and food security in the sub region. The provisions of ECOWAS decisions cover issues of the free movement of persons, good and services, and mechanisms for conflict prevention, management and resolution, peacekeeping and security. Unfortunately, not many community members, or local government agencies are fully aware of these regulations which gives rights of passage across and within countries, and to grass and water resources for their cattle, to pastoralists such as the Fulani herdsmen. After all, ECOWAS was formed to commit to enhancing economic development through the free movement of people in the West African sub-region. It is about time governments realise that our diversity as a people is a major asset for development.

In some other discussions, both the Fulani and indigenous communities see the need for changing the policy and practice of pastoralism for the improvement of communities. Respondents in Gushiegu and Bimbilla agreed that logically, the more land and water employed for farming, the less land available for other livelihoods, including pastoral livelihoods, and the more competition and conflicts over land resources. Particularly if technology and population remain the way things are now. Both Fulani herdsmen and crop farmers in Gushiegu agreed that modern cattle ranching should be encouraged and capacities built to be able to exploit these opportunities. It is likely that cattle herding as is currently practiced, will survive only forty to fifty years from now because there will be no corridors for cattle passage. It is therefore critical to encourage good cattle rearing and farming practices such as development of pastures and the establishment of ranches on public-private joint management. Food security remains an integral part of human development and poverty reduction, and better livestock industrial practice will reduce the country’s meat deficits. It can also reduce the numerous conflicts over grazing land and water.



The 21st Century Marriage

From a recent study done in the United States of America, about 49% of all marriages end in divorce and you might think the odds of failure of marriages will be much less for couples heavily involved in the church but I am sorry to shock you, it is not quite so. Ministries today reports the divorce rate up 279% in the last 27 years! This, if anything, is frightening!

Taking a survey of all ministers in all denominations, 50% of their marriages will end in divorce. A recent ABC News broadcast also reported that the divorce rate in the "Bible Belt" is 50% higher than in other areas of the US. The Christian-Based Research Group reported in January 2000, that 21% of atheists and agnostics will or have experienced divorce while 29% denominational Christians and 34% of non-denominational Christians will or have experienced divorce. This is a rebuke to the church! Where are we getting it wrong?

Most marriages are predicated on faulty foundations and marriages with such foundation cannot last. People get into marriage for the wrong reasons for some it is the wealth that will be available at their disposal, others for reasons other than genuine love entrenched in God's approval.

I read a story about Tony Toto, of Allentown, PA. He operated a pizza parlor there. Tony Toto survived at least 5 attempts on his life, all arranged for or carried out by his dear wife, Frances & her lover. Twice she arranged for assailants to beat him over the head with baseball bats. On one occasion she put a tripwire across the basement stairs in their house, hoping that he would trip over it & plummet to his death.

She also arranged for him to be shot, at least on two occasions. The first time she drugged his chicken soup so he would sleep soundly; he was shot in the head, but miraculously survived. The 2nd time he was shot in the chest, but only sustained minor injuries.

Even more miraculous than Tony's survival was his attitude toward his wife once he found out she was responsible for all of this. Tony said that he held his wife blameless.

When she was found guilty and sent to prison for arranging for his murder, he took their 4 children and visited her every week - every single week. Then when she was released from prison, she went back to their red brick home to resume her married life with Tony.

With his arm around her, Tony said, "We're more in love now than ever before.Wow! What a man! This is one very rare case, but how many people can live up to this? I am sure a lot of people would have thrown out the woman at the first attempt or probably kill her in the process. What is happening to our homes and marriages today?

Is your marriage going through a strain? Are you so stressed and worked up and thinking of calling it quits? Divorce should not be an option, you can work this through. During my counseling sessions, I have asked couples 'what attracted them to each other in the first place and if that object of attraction is still present.'

Most marriages get into murky waters when there is a downward shift in the relational disposition of either or both partners. When the gifts stops coming, the communication becomes brief and formal and the romantic sparks becomes extinguished…you had better watch out, you are standing on a divorce time-bomb waiting to explode!

Let me share with you some secrets that I have shared with my audience. It is embedded in the four letter word L.O.V.E. I am not saying love by mouth but this is love from the very depth of your soul, it's a connection you must have with your spouse, if anything comes in between this connection then you are on a dangerous path. Let's look at this together:

L - Living for One Another: Living for one another is one of the strong keys to living together till 'death do you path.' It means your spouse becomes the reason for your living. When you live for another it means you are dead to self, it means you are broken. At this stage, it is not about your qualification nor is it about how much money you earn more than your spouse…the moment you begin to see yourself as the more important part of the relationship then you are digging the grave for your marriage. When you live for one another, then you will grow in each other.

O - Open Up to One Another: Secrecy is a silent and gradual terminator of the peace and joy within the home. Many homes have been destroyed as a result of secrets that were believed to have been kept but later came to the fore. Your spouse has the right to know everything; that is why you are married. You owe each other that obligation. Open to one another and you will enjoy the peace that passes all understanding. Many individuals have held back secrets from their spouses which later inflamed them and their marriage never was the same again.

Openness rides on the wings of a healthy communication within the marriage. Couples, if when together are at lose of what to discuss or say to each other are already exhibiting symptoms of 'communication wilt.' Communication must be fun, informal and sincere. Openness is the first defense against external infiltration into your marriage. Be open about everything. Genesis 2:25 says "And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and they were not ashamed." There is no shame in being open. These should include our finances, sex, relationships and every other area.

V- Value for One Another: Value means worth. When you value your spouse then he/she is worth more than all the valuables of the world put together. A man that values his wife will not treat her as a slave. Learn to appreciate your wife. Treat her as the queen that she is and let her feel that sense of worth. How do you treat your husband? Do you discuss her with your friends and by extension make him a laughing stock before them. Do you disrespect each other before extended family members? Value means you are sensitive to the needs of your spouse and that you hold each other in high esteem. Do you value your spouse?

E - Encourage One Another: Your spouse should be your first pastor. It is not every problem or misunderstanding you take to the church or your parents. Be the shoulder upon which your spouse can lean on. There is power when you agree on something together. Rather than place curses on each other, make positive declarations of a better life together.

There are women who bathe their husbands with curses and true to their word, the man will never make progress and you cannot expect to have peace in return in such situation, the devil will succeed in turning that home to a battle field. Encourage and pray for another.

The success of one should be the joy and success of another. Don't take your spouse to the threshing floor of the public, since when he/she is ridiculed you will also be humiliated in your home. Make Jesus your focus. 

Face that challenge together and see God come out strong on your behalf. Your family will be beauty to behold and a reference point in the comity of families.

God bless you mightily! 

Gbenga Owotoki, is the founder and Presiding Coordinator Hephzibah Network International Ministries; a Ministry committed to stirring up the 'sleeping giant' in people for end-time exploits. A US trained Business and Change Management Strategist. He is widely known as the 'Change Driver' for his simple but yet unique ways through which he initiates changes that are rejuvenating lives and organizations and helping to restore hope in individuals who had completely given up. A widely travelled international conference speaker and Convener of the annual Giant Conference and Life Summit that have been a blessing to many.


Nigeria was once an indisputable leader in Africa: What happened?

CC™ Opinion Editorial - By Sheriff Folarin

The traditional leadership and redeemer posture of Nigeria in Africa has, in recent years, been put into question.
Issues like corruption and infrastructural decay have held the country down from playing a leadership role in Africa. As have transitions from one poor leadership to another. A visionary leadership is lacking while public institutions are weak, inept and compromised. Decades of political patronage and nepotism have seen a corrosion of quality and performance in the public service.
In addition, the intractable problem of Boko Haram and Islamic State, coupled with kidnappings, have created a security crisis. All continue to shatter the myth of military invincibility and the might of the Nigerian state.
In the beginning, it was not so. From independence in 1960, Nigeria took upon itself the role of uniting Africa against western recolonisation. The continent, from then on in, became the centre-piece of its foreign policy. The fact that nations were living under foreign rule made it possible to galvanise them around a common cause. This led to the creation of the Organisation of African Unity  – now the African Union – in 1963 and Economic Community of West African States in 1975.
Nigeria assumed a leading role in these events as it forged a foreign policy with a strong Afrocentric posture. In fact, so frenetic was its involvement in this role that it sometimes paid little attention to the home front.
Nigeria’s leadership role on the continent was a product of the vision, dreams and, sometimes, whims of the founding fathers. They were nevertheless premised on real national capacity. Jaja Wachukwu, Nigeria’s first external affairs minister noted  in 1960 that:
Our country is the largest single unit in Africa… we are not going to abdicate the position in which God Almighty has placed us. The whole black continent is looking up to this country to liberate it from thraldom.
This defined the country’s behaviour and continental outlook and has continued to influence successive administrations – weak or effective.

Assuming a leadership role

The sheer size of Nigeria’s population – the largest on the continent which rose from 48.3 million in 1963 to over 200 million in 2020 — gave the country the idea that Africa was its natural preoccupation.
In addition, its colonial experience and the abundance of its oil resources and wealth have empowered Nigeria economically. This made it possible for the country to pursue an ambitious foreign policy. It also permitted Nigeria to finance its Civil War, strengthening its international independence. And oil made possible an unparalleled post-war recovery.
Nigeria has used its influence to good effect and to good ends. For example, it worked with other countries in the West African sub-region to establish the Economic Community of West African States in 1975. It went on to push for the prevention and resolution of devastating conflicts that engulfed Liberia in 1992. The conflict spilled over into Sierra Leone and other countries in the region. Nigeria spearheaded the cessation of hostilities and created the cease-fire monitoring group to bring a total end to the civil strife and restore democracy in both countries.
Many observers agree that the sterling performance of the monitoring group is unparalleled in the history of regional organisations the world over. It has now become a model to emulate for its operational efficiency and for giving regional actors pride of place in the resolution of regional conflicts.
Nigeria exerted similar efforts to ensure that democratic governments were restored to Guinea-BissauCote d’Ivoire and Sao Tome et Principe, after military take-overs in those countries.
It spent over US$10 billion in these peace campaigns and also lost soldiers in the process.
Nigeria has not limited its peacekeeping role to West Africa. It has also been engaged in Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe and Ethiopia-Eritrea.
The country also played the most important role  in fighting apartheid in Southern Africa and supporting liberation movements on the continent.


But Nigeria has not been immune to challenges facing countries on the continent. Corruption, misappropriation of public funds, electoral malpractices, insurgency and terrorism have devastated its capacity and weakened its moral fortitude to lead the continent.
Amidst enormous wealth, poverty in Nigeria is endemic . It could even become the poverty capital of the world, according to The World Poverty Clock. Nigerians have been reduced to the behest of the politicians that tie them to gridlock of “stomach infrastructure”. This is a new trend which reflects institutionalised and structural poverty. Deprivation puts people in a vulnerable and compromised position where the desperation for survival makes them sell their votes and conscience.
The slow movement of the current administration is also killing the Nigerian spirit and leadership posture. South AfricaGhana and even Madagascar have acted faster in continental and global politics, including during times of emergency such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. But Nigeria seems content with a spectator position.

What next?

Nigeria has been relegated to the background of international affairs. To turn this around requires a revisit to the roots – and mowing the lawns afterwards. Nigeria must take stock of its own performance and capacities and re-position itself – first from within.
If Nigerian leaders are increasingly determined to proffer African solutions to their problems, then political structures and institutions must be reformed to reflect conditions suitable for sustainable development. Without a formidable political base, the economy will remain weak and fragile. The political base is crucial, because, the state is the repository of all ramifications and dimensions of power – political, economic, technological and military. And the purpose of the state is to authoritatively allocate these resources.
There is also a need to empower people to mobilise their local resources and to use them for development. And, of course, public funds should not be concentrated in the hands of few individuals, who may be tempted to steal them. An accountable system is one in which money management has several checks.
Oil wealth has been the country’s nemesis, a curse that has promoted corruption and blatant bleeding of the economy. But it is declining in value and as source of national revenue. Now is the time for Nigeria to make good its repeated and well-advertised intentions to diversify the economy.
A de-emphasis on oil would open the door to smarter ideas about how to create wealth. It would also herald in getting rid of a great deal of the phlegm of corruption which has played such a central role in Nigeria’s infrastructural decay, eroded its influence and given it such a negative image.
Added to this is the succession of weak rulers since 2007.
African leaders do not look towards Nigeria anymore for counsel, inspiration and help. They think Nigeria has a lot on its plate already and needs help. The potential is still there for Nigeria to return to power; but it takes leadership to (re)build the auspicious atmosphere and to activate the country’s potential – the two steps required to regain that enviable frontliner spot on the continent.
This article was originally published on The Conversation.

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