BY KONKOMBA YOUTH ASSOCIATION (KOYA) – USA
THE NORTHERN Region is the largest in Ghana with a total landmass of about 70,384 Km2 but unfortunately one of the least developed. Among the key reasons responsible for the underdevelopment of the region is the difficulty the regional capital (Tamale) has faced in effectively reaching out to and cooperating with the various districts and municipal assemblies. Coupled with insufficient resources and remote locations of some of the districts and municipalities from Tamale, poverty and the high rate of illiteracy and ethnic conflicts have made the administration of the region more cumbersome.
Recently, various government agencies, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and student unions contributed immensely in educating rural folks to send their children to school. These campaigns have yielded wonderful results which have come with attendance challenges like the insufficient number of school infrastructure in many communities, as well as the insufficiency of teaching and learning materials to match the increase enrollments.
Here again various government and religious organisations and civil service groups have done a great deal though insufficient to address these challenges.
It is important to state at this point that contrary to the popular opinion among most Ghanaians that inhabitants of the Northern Region are from one tribe, there is huge ethnic diversity in the region. This perception to a large extent is due to the manner in which these ethnic groups have been able to coexist for decades despite few escalations of tensions in recent years.
This coexistence in the region has much to thank our founding fathers (e.g. Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah) for the manner in which they handled ethnicity and made everyone see themselves first as Ghanaians before any other identities. The boarding school system entrenched this nationalistic identity as students from various ethnic groups learned to coexist peacefully in schools.
A lot of government agencies, NGO’s, chiefs and various ethnic youth associations have worked tremendously hard to educate their tribesmen on the importance and advantages of living peacefully. There have also been peace talks between these ethnic groups, especially those that have seen recent ethnic and tribal escalations and the region is finally beginning to see promising signs of peaceful coexistence.
We wish to use this opportunity to congratulate government on following up on their campaign promise to create new regions out of the Northern Region. We are convinced this exercise will effectively resize the landmass of the region in proportion to available resources for effective development. It will also facilitate the administration of the districts and municipalities that are far from the current regional capital, Tamale.
This project will give the new regions a better scope to concentrate on the much needed infrastructural development the current Northern Region is in dire need of. In addition, this initiative will create more businesses and jobs for the inhabitants especially the youth who hitherto were idle and prone to quarrels and conflicts. It will also bring economic emancipation to all residents thereby curbing the rate of poverty significantly.
It is on the background of these prospective administrative successes, peaceful coexistence and education however small, that we KOYA-USA find it extremely worrying that some of the ethnic groups and stakeholders in the Northern Region seem to use this noble and development driven idea (creation of new regions) by the government to stoke further ethnic differences in the region. The focus of this piece is to make suggestions to government to consider in their current development oriented agenda to create new regions out of the Northern Region.
We believe this initiative should be approached and implemented tactfully and diplomatically in order not to refuel and heighten ethnic and tribal tensions. Creating three new regions out of the Northern Region is an excellent proposal but a demarcation of new regions along tribal and ethnic lines will thwart and jeopardise the current roadmap to achieving everlasting peace, stability and development, which will end up being more destructive than constructive.
The primary motive for creating new regions should be solely economic, business and development driven in order to derive maximum benefit rather than ethnic and tribal aggregations and conglomerations.
Our proposal (which will soon reach government) takes into consideration the geographic location and ease of access to potential regional capitals, as well as economic integration for accelerated development. We advocate an integrated approach where districts should be included entirely into one region and the criteria for grouping districts should be based on similarities in economic activities and ventures. Our proposal puts Ghana first and Northern Region second and has little or no room for ethnic and tribal sentiments.
We are very much aware that at this time many lobbyists will spend sleepless nights rallying support for some districts to be considered as regional capitals and also for new regions to be demarcated along tribal and ethnic lines. While lobbying for regional capitals is a worthwhile agenda to pursue, we wish to advice government to ensure that all towns vying for this position promise and pledge to all Ghanaians an everlasting peace accord in order to help implement and fulfill the development agenda in the creation of new regions.
To the lobbyist with tribal sentiments we say sorry, and with due respect, please consider toning down your tribal sentiments and vote for development for the sake of the very people we all are fighting for. The economic importance of asking individuals to travel pass a proximal district capital to a distal one for the same purpose is “a serious financial loss” to families with poverty as a consequence. Remember, there is no region and there can be no region comprising 100% of one tribe. Again, there is no single tribe that constitutes the much needed 80% of votes to create new regions and we can only achieve this agenda when we stay united and focused on development.
Finally, we know critics will argue that some of the existing Regions bear tribal connotations but we wish to state categorically that the fact that these blunders were made by policy makers at the time gives no license to continue to thread on ethnic and tribal sentiments. The past generation may forgive us for those blunders but posterity will hold us accountable for using the hard earned taxpayers’ money to fulfill tribal aspirations at the expense of development in the year of our Lord 2017.
We believe Ghana as a country aspiring to become the gateway to Africa should follow the precedent set for us by our selfless and indefatigable founding fathers. We should be striving to bridge our ethnic differences, and not entrenching them, as this will serve as a stepping stone to unite Africa. United We Stand, Divided We Fall. God bless our Homeland Ghana, Long live Ghana.