There is a strong belief, shared by all the cultures of Ghana, in the existence and influence of supernatural beings, lesser gods along with the belief in the one Supreme being. Beliefs in witchcraft and a variety of spirits, fetishes and powers, both good and bad, are also an element that is common to the cultures. The influences and totem ism and taboos in the thought and action of the people derives from mystical beliefs, which are a feature of super naturalism.
Beliefs in human destiny
The belief that each human being is born into this world with a destiny given by God in advance of his or her birth is an outstanding element that is common to the Ghanaian culture. The beliefs leads a number of people to consult fetish priests at their shrines to seek knowledge about their fortunes or misfortunes here on earth and to go through a variety of rituals to change one’s destiny, if that destiny is supposed to be a bad destiny.
The stress on beauty of speech
The emphasis on the beauty and correctness of speech is also a common element in the Ghanaian culture. The ability to deliver a good speech in a public gathering, a speech that is not only eloquently presented and convincing but also interspersed with proverbs (or with words with wisdom) and the idioms of the language is often regarded as a condition for a high office of state; not only that: it is also a condition or basis of general social respectability. It is most unlikely that a person would be appointed a spokesperson or linguist of the chief if he lacks the capacity to deliver good speech at public gatherings.
Consensus and reconciliation
One important element common to the Ghanaian culture is the emphasis placed on consensus and reconciliation in both social and political matters. In their strong desire for solidarity and social harmony in the family as well as in the community, the practitioners of the Ghanaian culture attach great value to consensus and reconciliation as important means of making decisions that affect all the members and of settling disputes and bitter conflicts. Consensus is an outstanding feature in the traditional Ghanaian social and political practice.
Before we proceed any further, let us pay some attention to some cultural concepts. These would include ethnicity, common traits allegiance, national integration and sankofa.
Ethnicity involves a belief in common descent or common ancestry or common origin. Some scholars in fact define ethnicity by reference to the notion of a common descent or common ancestry. This is the assumption that a group of people can trace their origin to one ancestor. This understanding of ethnicity means that ethnicity has a basis in kinship. People who believe, or are made to believe, that they share kinship or blood ties form themselves into what is called ethnic group. They consider themselves bound by common goals, values and practices, they speak a common language, they have a sense of history and of solidarity.; they demonstrate a deep concern for the well being of the members of the group, and demonstrate abiding loyalty and commitment to the members of the group, and demonstrate abiding loyalty and commitment to the members of the group, which are expressed through the desire and willingness to advance the common good and interests of the group.
Ethnicity has been perceived by some people as a positive political and also social value. It is held by some people that ethnicity can be a means for mobilizing the masses of a people for political struggle or action of some kind or another, and that it can be a resource base for pursuing actions in support of the goals and welfare of the members of the group. It can in fact be said that in many ways ethnicity has been a source of strength, security, support and help for some individual members of the ethnic group, who receive all kinds of assistance from other members of the groups. For these reasons, some people do not see anything wrong with being ethnically conscious and would always defend the notion of ethnicity or ethnic consciousness.
However, ethnic consciousness, that is always looking inwardly to members of your ethnic group and showing concern only for their well being and advancement, has some serious shortcomings and disadvantages in a state like Ghana, that is ethnically plural. In a state whose citizens are ethnically conscious,ethnicity may become a basis for appointment to public or official positions, and promotions may be influenced by ethnicity. Public officials who are corrupt and ought to be sacked may be supported and defended by bosses who belong to the same ethnic group. A number of official favors of various kinds are done to one another by members of the same ethnic group, even when such favors are not appropriate and should not be done; imagine a custom officer doing a favor to a person just because this person is from the ethnic group of the officer, a policeman, a judge and other public officials doing favors to some people simply because of their membership in the same ethnic group.
Most people would condemn all such acts on the grounds that they are wrong and unacceptable. If we allow ethnic consciousness to influence our actions, official corruption will be difficult to deal with. There will be miscarriage of justice; unfairness will prevail and so on. All this means that ethnicity does more harm than good to the state as a whole as well as to the individual citizens of the state.
Ethnicity or consciousnesses of belonging to an ethnic group is a great impediment to nation building and natural integration. In building a nation, ethnic loyalties will need to be transferred from the ethnic group to the new central political authority of the state, namely, the central government. Where ethnic consciousness is so strong, transferring ethnic or local loyalties to the state will be very difficult, if not impossible. Some members of the group would play on the fears and suspicions of other members about the future of their identity as a distinct group, their particular cultural values, their territory or lands and so on.
There would be politicians who would like to mobilize the members of their ethnic group for national politics, that is, for winning political power in the multi ethnic state. But they will not succeed if they ignored the other, perhaps, larger ethnic groups. And if a large or dominant ethnic groups succeeds in winning political power and allows ethnic consciousness to influence its actions, it might eventually collapse the nation it would want to build. Politically, then,ethnically benefits neither the small ethnic groups nor the large ethnic groups in the state. The conclusion then, is that it will not help us, as Ghanaians to allow ethnic consciousness to Influence our thoughts and actions. Our country will not become united if we become so ethnically conscious. Instead, we must know that members of other ethnic groups are also are brothers and sisters.\ and we should regard and treat them as such. This is the only way to build and develop our nation.
National integration is a very important political idea or goal. It is the goal of the whole process of nation building. It is a matter of common knowledge that a very large number of the states in the world today are multi ethnic, that is they are composed of many ethnic groups with their different cultures. Thus a multi ethnic state is also multi cultural. Such a state thus, has many parts that need to be put together into one large political whole, if it is to stay united. National integration is bringing together the various ethnic groups into one large political whole.
Ghana, as a multi cultural state needs to integrate, that is, unite the various ethnic groups that form the state of Ghana. It is when we succeed in doing this that Ghana will become a nation, with one people and a common destiny. Even though the cultures of the various groups will continue to exist eventually they will influence one another and the result will be the emergence of a national culture which all the citizens – all Ghanaians will appreciate and enjoy. Consequently, the most beautiful elements of the local cultures, that is, the cultures of the various ethnic groups, will take on a national status or importance, as people from the other groups come to feel attracted to them and enjoy and even practice them.
National integration will give rise to national identity. Ghanaians will identify with Ghana and regard themselves more as Ghanaians than Akans, Gas, Ewes or Dagombas.
The idea of identity is a very important idea, culturally, socially and politically. Identity literally and generally means “sameness” We can see that in expressions like “national identity”, we are not referring to “sameness” for it would be difficult to understand what “national sameness” means, if anything. So, it is the meaning of identity as associating with something that applies when we talk of “national identity”
What National Identity means
National identity, then, means that feeling that one is a part of the state, being committed and loyal to it, doing what one ought to do to advance its goals and interests and recognizing that much of one’s life and much of one’s future depends on the unity, survival and progress of the state.
Developing a national identity
Several factors combine to create a sense of national identity in the individual citizens of the state. Let us mention some of such factors.
Dealing with ethnicity
Ethnic consciousness, as was discussed is a great impediment to creating a sense of national security. For this reason, ethnic consciousness will need to become less and less important in the thought and action of the citizens. Allegiances and loyalties to the ethnic groups will need to seriously curtailed and eventually removed. This will result in the transfer of those loyalties and allegiances to the central political authority of the state. All loyalties, then will be to the state.
Dealing with discrimination
To have an abiding sense of national identity, all the citizens – consisting of all members of the various ethnic groups that make up the state should be made to feel that, irrespective of the original ethnic group from which they came, they belong to the state, that they are citizens of the state and that they have a stake in the unity, success and future of the state. But for them to have this feeling they should have clear evidence that they are treated equally – without any discrimination.
Equitable distribution of resources
To make all the citizens of the state feel that they have a stake in the state and that they are treated equally, the resources of the state must be distributed equitably, fairly. Each district, which is in Ghana generally consists of the majority of the members of the ethnic group that inhabits that area, must have equal access to the goods and services of the state. Equitable distribution of the resources of the state will make all the citizens feel closely bound to the state. All the citizens will then identify with the state, its hopes, aspirations, goals, successes and failures.
Education is also a factor in the development of national identity and consciousness. Teaching young people about the common cultural elements that unite us as citizens of Ghana, about the history of the nation, about our shared values, about our common destiny, will create a strong sense of national identity among the citizens.
Symbols of national integration and identity
There are symbols that identify a nation, that make a nation what it is and distinguishes it from other nations. These symbols are of course most familiar to the citizens of the state, who have attachments to them, cherish them, and identify with them. National symbols include the national anthem, the national pledge, the flag of Ghana and the Ghanaian coat of arms.