When the University of Ghana went to the polls last year, a number of extraneous factors muddied an election which was supposed to herald in a regime of “voting on meritocracy”. But as you can guess, the supposed last bastion of progressiveness failed to blaze the trail. Ethnocentrism led the way while bigotry placed a close second.
The favorite candidate in the run-up to the elections was a northern Muslim while his opponent was a southern Christian. Pre-election, no one thought those two trivial defining characteristics was going to have any bearing on how people voted. I mean Legon is supposed to be the citadel of learning in the gate way to Africa, right? But unfortunately that was not to be the case.
I had closely followed the elections and written a number of articles on the superiority of the credentials as well as the proven track record of one of the candidates in student politics over the other. This was the era which gave birth to the “Sobolo Sippers”, a nickname my roommate and I earned in student circles due to our repeated mention of that red magical drink. We exalted our preferred candidates name, trumped his accomplishments and rebutted the potshots thrown by the other side. We even censured our guy, albeit less harshly, when he got carried away during the Presidential debate. All this was done without any recourse to bastardizing the other candidate’s ethnicity or religion. Heck, I was blunt in refuting a pseudo “Fatwa” issued by some John Doe Muslim (or should I say Isshaque Doe) who called out my preferred candidate for choosing a Christian as his running mate.
And so I was lost of words when on the eve of the elections, I read an apology of an article calling for “…believers to not vote for the Muslim candidate because he is the devil in the wolf’s skin here to deceive”. Yes, you read right! That was the characterization of one of the candidates by a bigot. Not enough, some guys loitered around the election booths, asking would be voters if they knew the religion of the candidates in the race and advising them to vote along religious lines.
It is for these reasons that “I stand with Ahmad”. Now do not get me wrong, it is not my intent to paint the whole campus with a brush of bigotry. The front line supporters of my candidate did not share his faith. They shared his conviction to serve but the fact that such bigotry was swept under the carpet is a tad worrying.
And that is why #iStandWithAhmed even though I am 6000 miles away in a line about to buy “gob3”. Because I have seen a candidate lose an election solely on the grounds of his religion. Because people look at me twice once I tell them I am from a Zongo. Because people still say northerners in Ghana have no right to lead because “most of the nation’s resources are in the southern zone and thus only southerners have a right to presidency”.
I know some might read this and say it is simply an attempt to clutch at straws and appropriate a distant event to my experience but in a subtle way, my realities and that of a million others in this country is not different from that of brown skinned Ahmed Muhammed.
Yes an English teacher in Adisco will not call the police should a Gariba bring a homemade clock to school but will he not chase him to the last floor of a building resulting in him jumping to his death simply because Gariba does not want to attend the congregation of a faith he does not believe in?