Thursday, July 26, 2007
The creation of a new Region out of the Northern Region
*A CASE FOR ACCELERATED DEVELOPMENT AND ADMINISTRATIVE EFFICIENCY
By: MAHAMA HURUNA
THE Northern Region of Ghana is the region that covers the largest piece of land in the country, covering an area of 70,384 sq.km out of Ghana’s approximately 237,626 sq.km. It is one of the regions with the highest number of different ethnic groups for example Dagombas, Gonjas, Mamprusis, Kokombas and Nanumbas.
Tamale, the capital of the region was in a 1994 survey by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BB) found to be the fastest growing town in West Africa. Notwithstanding, this fact the attention that Tamale gets is not enough to help the region to develop.
Roads in many parts of the region are very bad and telecommunication, electricity, water, schools, and other essential needs are inadequate. In fact, many of the districts under the administration of Tamale suffer neglect. This is borne out when one notices that by any available index of progress and development (education, health, roads etc) Gonjaland, for instance comes out extremely poor.
The Director of the Legon Centre for International Affairs (LECIA), Professor Kofi Kumado, who proposed the creation of the ten additional regions to facilitate efficient administration and reduce conflicts between majority and ethnic groups in some of the existing regions in the country at one of the Golden Jubilee lectures also argued that most of the regions were too big to be administered by one regional minister and that the chunk of the resources allocated to the regions went to the regional capitals and surrounding towns to the neglect of remote towns and villages.
The first justification in the call for the creation of a new region out of the present Northern Region is the limited attention given to the development needs of other parts of the region. Infrastructure development projects by central government such as, water, and telecommunication network, primary healthcare and educational facilities in other parts of the region appear not to have been given the kind of importance they need.
For fear that we may end up like African French speaking countries, where only their capital towns are developed with the rest of the people living under deplorable conditions, I suggest that Northern Region be divided into at least two regions to speed up development at the grassroots level and further enhance the decentralsation process so that each part will handle its own problems.
The Northern part of Ghana is unique in many ways and would need a different approach, an accelerated development plan that would make it like other parts of the country. By doing this, we can make this part of the country attractive to people to settle in as well as do business.
If all the boundaries of Gonjaland alone for instance were retained for consideration as a region, it would have been bigger than most administrative regions in Ghana. Even with the reduction as some parts are in Brong-Ahafo Region, Gonjaland and its five districts with a total of 36,783 sq. kms are still bigger than as many as 8 regions in the country. These regions are Ashanti, (24,390.59 sq.kms), Western (22,096sq.kms), Volta (20,570.59 sq.kms), Eastern (19,323.59 aq.kms), Upper West (18, 4766.59 sq.kms), Upper East (8,818.59 sq.kms) and Greater Accra, (4,540.59 sq.kms).
Undoubtedly, the argument that could follow the case of Gonjaland would be that of population. With a population of 440,976 in five Districts of Gonjaland out of 1,820,806 for the Northern Region. (As quoted by the 2000 Population and Housing Census), some people argue that Gonjaland has fewer people and that it may not be altogether feasible to make it a region based on its boundaries.
The counter argument I wish to put across is that Gangland’s population (440, 976) is just a little below 576,583 quoted for the Upper West Region. Even if Nanumbaland’s two districts; Bimbilla and Wulensi with a population of 144,278 are added to Gonjaland, the population of the proposed Region will be 685,154 which far exceed the population of the Upper East Region with a population of 920,089.
Moreover, I find it difficult to understand why both the Upper East and West Regions with square kilometers of only 27,345 and a population of 1,496,672 is not a single region but Northern Region alone with an area in square klometres of 70,384 and a population of 1,820,806 (324,134 more than the two upper regions) remain undivided.
I am also of the conviction that population alone cannot and should not be the justification for not giving serious consideration to the creation of a second region out of the present Northern Region. It is a well known fact that in parts of the world such as Siberia in the then Soviet Union, the Western provinces of “ China, Amazon in the Brazil, Alaska in the United States of America, self administration was granted to help accelerate development in these areas.
The new region may also boast of lands with mineral deposits. The Bauxite of Dogma, (West Gonja), Diamond at Fimbu (West Goja), Limestone at Buipe (Central Gonja), Gold at Dakurpe (Bole), and Bombir (West Gonja), Barite at Daboya (West Gonja), and Brine (West Gonja), deposits near the Riverbed of the White Volta can be tapped for the socio-economic development of the area and the country as a whole.
Since the proposed region has a long boundary line with the Black Volta, fishing could be boosted by applying the requisite methods.
Many of most important tourists’ sites in the country are found here. Mention can be made of the Mole Game Reserve (West Gonja), Larabanga Mosque and Mystic Stone (West Gonja), Ndewura Jakpa’s Grave, (Central Gonja). The Salaga Slave Market and the Hippopotamus Sanctuary at Ntereso (Bole).
This proposal should not be made by only people living in the Northern Region or people of northern descent like me, but a national proposal for national development and integration. I believe that breaking the region into two would allow for more creativity, innovation, effective administration and growth for the people of this very big region.
Going by the dictates of the Local Government Act, that is Act 462, the conditions for the creation of another region out of the current one have fully been met. For instance and once again if we look at the demographics of the region, it can conveniently be classed as the fourth highest in Ghana. With a population of about 1,820.806 people (2000 population and housing Census), the Northern Region is home to about 10.1 per cent of the Ghanaian population next only to the Ashanti, Greater Accra and the Eastern Region. In fact holding all parameters constant, the northern region is more than qualified to be divided into two. Take the Upper Regions as an example. The population figures for both regions do not sum up to the population of the northern region and yet they are separate regions.
In terms of size the Northern Region is by far the largest in Ghana. It is about five times the size of Upper East; two times the size of Ashanti and God knows how many regions of the size of the Greater Accra Region can be carved out of the Northern Region
Article 5, Section (2) of the Constitution of Ghana states inter alia “If the President upon a petition being presented to him and on the advice of the Council of State is satisfied that there is a substantial need for:
(a) The creation of a new region.
(b) The alteration of the boundaries of a region, whether or not the alteration involves the creation of a new region; or
(c) The merger of any two or more regions, he shall, acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of States, appoint a commission of enquiry to inquire into the demand and to make recommendations on all the factors involved in the creation, alteration or merger”.
The fact that the Gonjaland Youth Association has on several occasions presented petitions to His Excellency, President John Agyekum Kufuor for the creation of a new region out of the Northern Region should not be interpreted as an ethnic interest. It is a truism that without the tacit support of other ethnic groups in the Northern Region, such a request would be a mirage.
Constitutionally, a referendum is to be held in a region before it is divided. An issue on the creation of a new region out of another shall not be taken unless at least fifty per cent of the persons entitled to vote, cast their vote’s at the referendum and of the votes cast at least eighty per cent were cast in favour of that issue. The Gonjaland Youth Association has therefore taken into consideration the legal and constitutional provisions that guide the creation of new region.
The Gonjaland Youth Association is an association for all tribes in Gonjaland. There is no Gonja Youth Association. The Gonjaland Youth Association takes care of the Vagles, Brifors, Safalbas, Hanga’s, Tampulmas, Lobi’s Kumaras as well as Gonjas. The list does not include people from other parts of the region or country coming to work or settled farmers in Gonjaland. These are people who have been part of this land for centuries.
It would obviously be in the interest of Northerners that the re-demarcation being proposed is done with the least resort to civil strife and any form of conflict. The best way to guarantee this in my view is to ensure that pre-existing ethnic and traditional allegiances are maintained. If for instance Nanumbaland is combined with Gonjaland to form a new region the Yagbonwura and Bimbila Na should become two paramount chiefs each maintaining their distinct traditions, culture and chieftaincy issues.
The creation of the new region along some specific lines would ensure peace among the traditional authorities and also make for the creation of additional Regional Houses of Chiefs to increase participatory traditional administration in the area.
Administratively, Tamale represents the north and reactions from Tamale unfortunately are interpreted as reactions form the people from the north. Sometimes more than half of the region is accused of an unfortunate situation they are unaware of. An instance is when a lecturer of the Ghana Institute of Journalism, where I am undergoing a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mass Communication Studies asked me to brief him on the unfortunate conflict. I became confused because coming from the western part of the Northern Region, precisely Bole District, where the conflict has an almost zero effect, I did not have many facts on the causes of the conflict, which faction is right or wrong and how it can be resolved.
I have studied the geographical map of the Northern Region and have realised whether the region is divided vertically or horizontally, there is land owned by different ethnic groups coming together to form the proposed region. Dagombas, Mamprusis, will be on one side while Gonjas, Nanumbas will be on the other should the Northern Region be divided horizontally. This means apart from the ethnic groups mentioned as being part of Gonjaland we shall also have Nanumbas as another majority ethnic group in the proposed region.
Moreover, since there are four kings in the Northern Region; Yana for Dagombas, Nayiri for Mamprusis, Yagbonwura for Gonjas and Bimbilla Na for Nanumbas, I propose that there should be two kings in each of the proposed regions. Dagomba and Mamprusi on one side and the Gonja and Nanumbas on the other. I am of the view the horizontal division would be better because the capital of the proposed region would not be a town of the ethnic group that already has a capital town.
Daily Graphic - Thursday, July 26, 2007 Page: 32