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12.08.2005 Feature Article

Bi-Partisan Support for A New Region in the North is Inspirational

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During the recent parliamentary vetting of Ministerial Nominees, some of the best questions were asked of the nominees by the Hon. John Mahama, NDC Member of Parliament for Bole-Bamboi; and I might add, that the answers to such questions were no less intelligent.

As a person of Northern Region descent, I was keenly interested in the Hon. Member's questions to former Northern Regional Minister, now Minister of Food and Agriculture, Mr. Ernest Akubuo Debrah and Hon. Boniface Abubakar Sadique, M.P. for Salaga and now Minister for the Northern. The M.P. asked for the nominees' considered opinion about the proposal to split the northern region into more administrative regions. Both Nominees were unequivocal on the enormity of the daunting administrative challenge that the sheer size of the region poses to effective administration. One way or another, both nominees gave indications of a positive inclination towards such a proposal.

For me it was quite significant that the Hon. John Mahama was the one asking the questions. As a key member of the Minority NDC [he was key enough to have been considered for the position of running mate to H.E. Prof. Mills], his interest in the subject may have been motivated by his party's position on the matter, or, at the very least, by his own convictions on the subject. At any rate, it gives an indication of the fact that there would be support for any proposal on the floor of Parliament to partition the Northern Region into two or more administrative regions.

That the northern region is unwieldy is not in doubt. What is in doubt is whether we want to do something about it, and if so what? And by whom?

It would seem that a number of people in the region have a difficulty in having to let go of what they think is the “unity” of a people bound together by decades of a common allegiance to one central authority. Never mind that those decades have been marked by conflicts, poverty, under-development, mass illiteracy, especially among women and unemployment. While creating a new administrative region would not immediately remove these ills of our society, it would, nonetheless, create an opportunity for an effective management of the problems, through effective decentralization.

Perhaps it would be useful for those who argue against the creation of a new region to pause awhile to reflect on the reason why the then Upper Region clamoured for the partitioning of the region into what is now known as the Upper East and West Regions, even though the region was much smaller than the Northern Region. We have nothing to lose by having another region, but a lot to gain.

I am in no doubt that the northern region needs a second region at least. Therefore the necessary steps have to be taken to ensure, first of all, that there is popular support for the concept at the base and, secondly, that there is an effective lobbying machine put in place to champion the idea through the appropriate institutions.

The various District Assemblies in the region should be tasked with sensitizing the people and eliciting their support for the proposal; while the Northern Region House of Chiefs teams up with what I will call the “Committee of Ministers” to lobby government and parliament.

In my view the Committee of Ministers should consist of Past and Present Ministers and Deputy Ministers, Members of Parliament and Members of the Council of State from the region as well as co-opted DCEs. These people have practical experiences of the difficult terrain of the northern region and will be of immense use to the lobbying effort. Some of the past Ministers/Deputies that easily come to mind include: Alhaji Hudu Yahaya, Col. Abdulai Ibrahim, Alhaji B.A. Fusheini, Alhaji Seidu Iddi, Ben Bukari Salifu, Joshua Alarbi, Sam Nasam Asibigi, Adam Kaleem, Prince Imoro Andani, Issah Ketekewu, Ernest Akubuo Debrah, and Charles Bintim. We can tap on the experiences and influence of these people to make a strong case on our behalf.

In the meantime development advocacy groups/institutions such the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), the Third World Network (TWN) and other Civil Society Groups might wish to consider the partitioning of the Northern Region as a priority development advocacy issue.

The various interest groups in the region; youth groups, student leaders, religious groups and other stakeholders must bring the subject to the front burner, generate discussions and debate so public opinion can begin to crystallize on the issue.

We cannot achieve it through sporadic speechifying and private lamentation. We can even not achieve it through back-door diplomacy – some amount of that is necessary though. We can only achieve it if we can let the whole nation understand our difficulty and see the need for a solution.

I have a strong belief that this is a good time to push for a new region in the north, taking advantage of the apparent bi-partisan support for the idea. It is also a good time for His Excellency the President to take advantage of the apparent support of the opposition for proposal to leave an indelible footprint in his name in northern Ghana; and what better legacy than a region to his credit. Mohammed Gausu C/o Buipewura's Palace Buipe, N/R Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Mohammed Gausu
Mohammed Gausu, © 2005

The author has 8 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: MohammedGausu

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