Zongo communities are parts of deprived and marginalized communities in Ghana. As December 2020 general elections draw closer, political parties will be advancing their campaigns to several communities including that of Zongos.
The involvement of Zongo people in elections gives credence to how important their votes count in determining winners. Muslims are the predominant people in Zongos and have contributed significantly to Ghana’s democratic dispensation.
The multi-ethnicity nature of Zongo residents makes it complex to distinguish between who is a Ghanaian and not. Some ethnic groups might have their origin from other neighbouring West African States but their presence before Ghana’s independence muddy the effort to segregate them. From the pre-colonial era to date, people in Zongos across the country with diverse cultures and are also largely united on Islamic principles.
It is important to point out that, there are some non-Muslims also living in Zongos. Again, the majority of Zongo communities are located in the southern part of Ghana.
How important is Zongo votes?
The votes of the people living in the various Zongo communities across the country are so significant that both the National Democratic Congress (NDC) and New Patriotic Party (NPP) have carved a portfolio in their various polling stations or branches to the national level.
While the NPP has Nasara Clubs, the NDC also has Zongo Caucus. It is remarkable to say that both offshoot groups are really canvassing for the votes for their respective parties without any acrimonies.
The rationale Zongo
It is significant to acknowledge that majority of the Zongos settlers’ votes have been considered as a safe haven for the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Reasons explaining the phenomenon include the passage and enforcement of Aliens Compliance Order led by Prime Minister, Dr. Kofi Abrefa Busia of the United Party, pro-United Gold Coast Convention. This Aliens Compliance Order is mostly known in Zongos as ‘koran Busia’. This unpalatable history still rings bells in the minds of some dwellers of Zongos.
Further, the era of former President Rawlings ushered in some key tangibles’ developmental projects like the electrification, water, and road projects in the northern parts of Ghana.
However, the records of atrocities and grossly abuse of human rights perpetrated by the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council and later Provisional National Defense Council coupled with other factors such as education have made some Zongolis align themselves with the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
In this context, Zongolis are the people who live in the Zongo communities. Further, consideration of Muslims as running to the NPP flagbearers have resonated with some sense of belongingness to the Zongo communities.
Notwithstanding the positive impact of political participation of Zongolis in the two major parties, it is disappointing to say that the level of development in the Zongo communities do not have a positive correlation with the level of enthusiasm they attached to political parties’ activities. The executives of the Nasara Clubs and that of Zongo Caucus have reduced their development to embarking on a pilgrimage to Mecca as their share of contributing to their respective parties for winning political power. They have all failed in placing their needs before the corridors of power.
Zongos and violence
Political violence recorded in the past were engineered by certain people either in power or probably seeking power. The power brokers do not necessarily cause the mayhem themselves but rather hire tugs from Zongo communities to perpetrate the heinous crime on humanity.
To a large extent, this phenomenon has put Zongo communities on the bad spectacle. The unemployed youth who have become a tool for searching political power are equally useful as agents of change for the Zongo communities’ development.
The forgotten timid youth growing up without any foresight need re-orientation for the future. The youth of Zongo communities constitute a bloc of vibrate and an assiduous class of human resources capable of contributing meaningfully towards community development.
Zongos needs and party manifestos
The needs of Zongo communities are enormous. Notwithstanding the mammoth nature of the needs, there are those that could be catalogue as pressing ones including education, health, job creation avenues, and skills development with financial assistance, housing, and spiritual development.
Therefore, it could be said that a party that has not captured the needs above in their manifesto is/are not ready for the well-being of the Zongolis. It is significant to acknowledge that for the first time in Ghana’s political history, the two major parties have carved direct programme for Zongolis when voted into power.
The Leadership of Service manifesto by the incumbent New Patriotic Party succinctly captured education for the Zongo communities “to build 16 model Senior High Schools in Zongo communities across the 16 regions of the country” (page 155).
They also dealt with the issues housing “provision of basic infrastructure at the local level and for special disadvantaged communities like the Zongos and Inner Cities” (page 158). Further, on the part-human resource capacity building, a novelty programme dubbed “introduce the Zongo Youth Football Talent Hunt (ZYFTAH) programme” (page 166) was dealt with.
The Peoples’ Manifesto on the other hand has a whole page dedicated to Zongo and deprived urban settlements (pages 82-83). Specifically, on education, the opposition National Democratic Congress intends to strengthen and resource the Islamic Education Unit under Ghana Education Service (b), to establish two Senior High Schools in the southern and northern sectors (c), “support Islamic Colleges of Education with more infrastructure and logistics” (d), “to awards scholarship to brilliant but needy students” (e) and “support Arabic teachers in the Makaranta with monthly allowances” (g) page 82.
With regards to health, the NDC wants to tackle the poor nature of drainage system and thereby construct public places of convenience “commence a programme to address the drainage challenges and to construct and refurbish public places of convenience” (u) and facilitate construction households’ places of convenience “facilitate the construction of own places of convenience for households” (v) page 83.
Similarly, the NDC further wants to address the issue of job creation and skills development with financial assistance through enrolment into free technical and vocational education and training (h), to establish recycling factories (I), and finally, provide startup capital for business owners (j). In relationship to housing, they want to liaise with banks for affordable housing schemes (r).
Finally, on spiritual development, the NDC again intends to ensure the elimination of inconvenience and affordability of the Hajj (k & l), strengthen coordination between National Chief Imam Office and other Sects (p). Also, to facilitate the burial policy in relation to Islamic customs and practices “facilitate the establishment of morgues in accordance with Islamic customs and practices and collaborate with the Ministry of Health…with Islamic customs and practices at all state morgues” (q).
Besides, the points considered in the manifestos of the two major political parties, it possible that other programme and projects captured in the respective manifestos also stands to inure to the benefits of the Zongo communities although not mentioned directly in that regards.
In view of the content of the manifestos and prevailing dynamics, Zongolis must start to act in distributing their time, energy, and resources in a manner that the future will speak for them despite the abject poverty of today.
The rationality of shared responsibility and participation should be the driving forces. The days of being used as second in command to do the dirty job must be substituted with the utilization of balancing of power for common good.
The act of storage of golden eggs in one basket to the usual market deserves a second consideration.
The manifestos of the two major parties need to be subjected to proper scrutiny. These manifestos and their contents for the Zongo community become accountable documents for measuring the performance of the winner for the December 2020 general elections.
Stakeholders must be seen in the various communities preaching about free and fair elections.
Further, the Imams and chiefs must ensure that the unemployed youth do not become political search-power tools. Zongo communities deserve development and not political violence.
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Columnist: Mohamed Rabiu Adam