December 7 is fast approaching and as is customary, promises are being made from left, right, center and in the Zongos. Assurances to construct roads, build schools, put up hospitals and get the unemployed off the streets are handed out like freebies on the Oprah Winfrey show. It is a great time to get the potholes patched with the tax Cedis you and I pay every time we make calls or sit in Trotros.
In the midst of all the glamor and bright hues painting the pledges to make communities better and the nation prosper to greater heights is a timbre directed at Muslims. It is no different from the norm over the years. In times past, ablution kettles, prayer mats and bags of sugar carried into mosques on the backs of party loyalists accompanied the suited up messengers of these promises. It is a little satisfying that such charades has been on a gradual yet slow descent. Politicians now know it is no longer enough to simply waltz in with handouts and lying tongues to secure votes.
What has become fashionable is appealing to religion. Well aware of the predominance of Muslims in Zongo communities, politicians across the party divide play the faith card unabatedly with little shame or morality in these neighborhoods. Admittedly, one of the two has done an exceedingly better job in this regard propped on by its history of public relations with the community. Nonetheless, the two biggest parties in the country are equally guilty of pumping their propaganda in the sacrosanct spaces of worship as well as the long queues of Waakye in the Zongos.
History or rumor, depending on the color of your lenses, has it that the political tradition the NPP stems from was responsible for the deportation of thousands of Muslim families with Nigerian heritage to their ancestral home. This was what resulted in the infamous Ghana Must Go international debacle between Ghana and Nigeria.
With a wedge having been driven between the Danquah-Busia tradition and the Muslim community, the antecedent to the NDC, the AFRC-PNDC inadvertently wom the community’s favor by making it possible for these deported families to return.
The 4th republic of our nation has witnessed the immense gratitude Muslim communities give to people who extend helping hands to it. Till date, running under the shade of the red, white, green and black umbrella is enough to win you a seat in a predominantly Muslim community. The NDC consistently outperforms all parties in these communities.
In explaining this, an NDC faithful cousin of mine opines that the verses in the Quran talking about the destruction of the elephants on the way to destroy the Ka’bah are enough proof to dissuade Muslims from voting for the NPP.
Warped interpretations of the Quran by people like my cousin, evoking deportations and the granting of state holidays for Eid celebrations is not enough to quell the NPP’s drive to get the Muslim votes. Well aware of its unattractiveness among the majority of Muslims, it has consistently nominated Northern Muslim running mates in all elections held in the 4th republic with the exception of the 1996 elections.
Party communicators have pointed to this as enough reason to secure the Muslim vote in the upcoming elections. “The highest political office ever held by a Muslim was during the NPP administration. The NDC has not given Muslims this luxury. Why not vote for us” is the reasoning the NPP holds.
To counter that, the NDC points to what it perceives is NPP’s xenophobic history, two state holidays it legislated for Eid celebrations and the ease seen in Hajj activities. “Of what benefit was a Muslim Vice President when old men and women slept on pavements after paying thousands of dollars for hajj only to return to their villages without the chance to flaunt their golden teeth from Jeddah” the NDC opines.
The problem with both parties is the conglomerating of all Muslims into an obscure mass who want a perfunctory wish met. Having a Muslim as vice president should never be enough reason to vote one way or the other. Yes, it is inspiring to identify with a high achieving individual but of what use is that when there seems to be a cap on how high you can achieve within that matrix?
Beyond that, why should it be appropriate for tax cedis to be channeled into an exclusionary religious event? Should the smoothening of Hajj override the more pertinent problems faced by Muslims and the larger Ghanaian society? Should a gracious act carried out over a decade ago blind voters to their present realities?
The larger Ghanaian political arena is widely devoid of rigorous policy interrogation. People solicit for votes on the basis of identity and other trivial matters like height and skin complexion. That makes it harder for you to get any serious discussion on the most important questions that need to be asked.
For Muslims, those questions needs not to be centered far away from what the larger population needs. Improved infrastructure, access to quality and affordable education as well as healthcare, well-paying jobs, a transparent and accountable government only to mention the basics should be the talking points.
It is sad to have your votes easily courted by those who remind you of a constitutionally guaranteed provision they made accessible to you or who claim to have people like you at the highest echelon of office. Since politicians have already decided to delineate the Muslim vote, its boundaries must then be claimed by the side which articulates a vision remedying the schism.
To particularly pander to a demographic for its vote means you are aware of a break from the whole. This break can be glued back with policies which serves the Muslim community just as much as it does everyone else in the country. Shoddy endeavors like the now defunct Zongo Empowerment and Entrepreneurial Development (ZEED) program are not the way to go. You are not going anywhere as a community if the biggest socioeconomic policy targeted only towards your community trains beauticians and taxi drivers.