Vice President, Second Lady, Greater Accra Regional Minister, National Chief Imam, Ulama, Members of the National Council of Zongo Chiefs, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Jama, Fellow Ghanaians, Salam Alaikum!
For the second year in a row, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have to celebrate the Eid virtually from the premises of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation (GBC). We have to thank GBC for making this possible. Nevertheless, we thank the Almighty God for giving us life, and giving us the opportunity, once again, to come together for the celebration of Eid ul-Fitr, 2021. On my part, I thank the Almighty for granting me and my party, the New Patriotic Party, victory in the 2020 election, so that we can continue with our agenda of transforming our country for the benefit of all. I also thank the Muslim community in Ghana for the continued support for our programme of transformation. Insha Allah, I shall continue to work with you and for you for the peace, progress and prosperity of our country.
Jama, I wish to express my sincere appreciation to the National Chief Imam, Shaykh Osman Nuhu Sharubutu, for his exemplary leadership not only of the Muslim flock, but also of our country generally.
“He or she who does not show gratitude to humans cannot show gratitude to God” so says the Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahu Allayhi Wa’Salam). The National Chief Imam is the very epitome of tolerance and peaceful co-existence. He continues to make our country the envy of the world for its religious tolerance. His inter and intra religious co-operation is amazing, and sets a good tone for the peaceful existence among the Christian and Moslem communities in our country, for which we owe him a great debt of gratitude.
National Chief Imam, Ulama, Jama, Fellow Ghanaians, on this Eid ul-Fitr day, it is worth reminding ourselves that our National Constitution guarantees freedom of worship for all its citizens. Article 21 (c) states that all persons shall have the right and freedom “to practice any religion and to manifest such practice.” It is also probably worth pointing out that religious tolerance in our country did not emerge from formal law enforcement or from the Constitution for that matter. It is one of the admirable features of the Ghanaian that we have always had respect for each other’s belief systems. We should be proud that our national Constitution simply reinforces these characteristics, and it should, therefore, be easy for us to uphold these basic and fundamental tenets that hold us together.
The boarding schools in our country have traditionally served as the training grounds in learning about each other, about tolerance and losing the fear of the unknown. That is where young Ghanaians learn to eat each other’s food, that is where they learn the songs and dances of the different parts of the country, that is where they learn about each other’s religions and that is where lifelong friendships are forged.
These schools must necessarily have rules and regulations that enable them to function. It would be a strange child that did not find some school rules irksome and then look back on them with fond nostalgia in later life.
Throughout the years, the schools have, by and large, managed to find a reasonable, balanced atmosphere to enable our young people to flourish, and this has served us well. The schools have evolved and adapted their practices to suit the times, and I would urge that we do not turn them into the places to fight ideological and religious battles. Our young people deserve a peaceful atmosphere to be able to deal with the many challenges of studying and acquiring knowledge. Parents, certainly, must have a keen interest in the schools into whose care they entrust their children. But, may I plead with all of us that we keep to the tolerance that has served us so well in matters of religion. I am happy to state that, in the specific case of the incident at one of our greatest schools, Wesley Girls High School, which has given rise to the recent discourse on religion, the authorities, i.e., the Ministry of Education, under its new Minister, Hon. Dr Yaw Adutwum, Member of Parliament for Bosomtwe, the leaders of the Christian and Muslim Communities, and the leadership of the School, are engaged in solemn discussions about the way forward, and I am very hopeful that a satisfactory solution will be found for one and all.
I am a proud adherent of the Danquah-Dombo-Busia political tradition, which inspired the creation of the United Party that was woven together by a multiplicity of ethnicities and belief systems, including the Moslem Association Party (MAP). During this Fourth Republic, whenever the NPP has had the privilege to govern this country, we have tried to demonstrate the beauty of the Christian and Muslim leadership mix at the helm of affairs. From John Agyekum Kufuor to Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, this blend has proven to be a blessing for the fortunes and forward movement of our country.
National Chief Imam, Ulama, Jama, to ensure that we build an inclusive society that creates opportunity for all, I promised to establish the Zongo Development Fund. We lived up to our promise. Today, the Zongo Development Fund continues to pursue an aggressive policy of development in Zongo communities across the country, and we shall not relent until we even out the development equation between Zongo communities and other communities of our country.
Under the operations of the Fund and the erstwhile Ministry of Inner-City and Zongo Development, we have delivered impressive development projects in the Zongo communities and tackled, in particular, the problem of formal education. Along with other Ghanaian children, Moslem children are now assured of basic education up to secondary school level to prepare them better for life. Please ignore the sad falsehood being propagated that we have given up on the Zongo development agenda. The reality on the ground shows, clearly, we are on track. The Zongo Development Fund, which has been the instrument for the transformation of Zongo communities, led by the hard-working Sulemana Arafat, is as vibrant as ever and focused on the Zongo Transformation Agenda. Indeed, the Ministry has now been brought directly under the supervision of the Presidency, which is going to have the former Member of Parliament for Offinso South, Hon. Ben Abdallah, as its Co-ordinator. Together with my Vice President, your own Alhaji Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, we will guide its work, and ensure the highest standards of commitment from its operatives.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has brought to us, like to the rest of the world, many challenges in the running of the economy, which has entailed some temporary difficulties. Nonetheless, due to the good management of the Ghanaian economy, we are recovering faster and better than many economies around the world, developed and developing, and we will resume the strong growth that characterized the development of our economy in the period 2017 to 2020, i.e., the immediate pre-COVID era. Even in the face of the pandemic, we have remained faithful to our flagship programmes, and to all our commitments to the Ghanaian people. I am, thus, appealing especially to our young people to keep the faith. We shall weather the storm together, and create the conditions that will allow you to realise your God-given potentials.
National Chief Imam, Ulama, Jama, I wish you peaceful celebrations. After one month of self-sacrifice, you deserve to eat and drink and make merry, and thank God for the month of Ramadan. I urge you, however, to celebrate with caution. Be mindful also that the COVID pandemic is still with us, and respect strictly all the COVID protocols. Act responsibly, and let us not trigger another spike in the COVID infections.
It is the hope of all Ghanaians that, with strict adherence to the COVID protocols, and a successful nationwide vaccination exercise, we shall celebrate next year’s Eid and all other religious festivals as we have done traditionally over the years together in person.
May Allah be with you, and may He continue to protect our lives, so that we meet again in three months to celebrate Eid ul-Adha together.
May God bless us all, and our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.
I thank you for your attention.
Barika da Sala! Salam Alaikum!