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30.10.2008 Feature Article


In his column “Point of Order” under the piece “Where Is our God In Whom We Have So Much Faith? (2) published in The Spectator of September 27, 2008 Mr. Kwame Gyasi was at his pugnacious best when he roundly castigated and condemned the entire Northern leadership elite for failing to provide, in his view, a “dedicated and selfless leadership which can astutely advocate the concerns of the people (of the North), preach unity and bring the people together and create the necessary chemistry to ignite the path leading to development and enlightenment of the regions (of the North) and their people”.

Clearly Kwame Gyasi is either unaware of or he has deliberately closed his eyes to the considerable intellectual inputs made by the likes of Professors R. B. Bening, Jacob Songsore, Yakubu Saaka, John Nabila, Dr. Charles Jebuni and Dr. Sulley Gariba, Dr. Ramatu Alhassan, Mrs. Nabila Williams and countless others in their expositions on the dynamics of the Northern development situation especially its historical backdrop and modern dimensions and including blueprints for the transformation of the regions of the North. In his self-righteous and patronizing overzealousness to nail down scape-goats he also ignored or grossly undervalued the contribution of national politicians and sons and daughters of the North who have continuously advocated, campaigned and worked for an integrated, balanced and inclusive development of the country Ghana of which the North is part.

Indeed at the dawn of independence a powerful delegation of Northern politicians spearheaded by the late J. A. Braimah, Jatoe Kaloe, S. D. Dombo, Alhaji Yakubu Tali and sponsored by the chiefs of the then Northern Territories went to London and met the Queen and the Colonial Secretary to give vent to their petition to the British Colonial government about the deliberately skewed and discriminatory policies of the colonial administration throughout the colonial period and the contrived relative backwardness of the North and what the implications would be in an independent Ghana. They made a solid case for accelerated development for the north so as to bridge the developmental gap which was glaring.The concessions and overtures by the British Crown were later to be the basis of a limited policy of affirmative action for the north in the early days of independence.

From the benches in the National Assembly during the 1st Republic the late B. K. Adama made famous the quotation that northerners had been reduced by British official colonial policies and practices to “hewers of wood and drawers of water” and advocated a paradigm shift in the development trajectory of the north. This assertion echoed by the northern leaders in and outside the National Assembly drew some attention to the “Cinderella” situation of the north.

Indeed the 1st Republic out-doored a progressive policy of accelerated development in the north especially the institution of a Northern special educational scholarship under the auspices of which a number of Northerners achieved high levels of education to which they would otherwise have been denied. It was the Progress Party government of the 2nd Republic that dismantled the essential elements of this system to the great detriment of the North. In the Parliament of the Second Republic Alhaji Ibrahima Mahama then member for Tamale moved a substantive motion for the institution of an accelerated program for the development of the north but the motion was defeated.

It must nevertheless be said to the credit of Kwame Gyasi that he has exhibited some qualities of a patriotic Ghanaian who is apparently passionate about the equal development of the country and in particular the alleviation of the developmental plight of the three regions of the North. That is a commendable spirit but certainly he would have been a better and more effective advocate of this issue and an ally in northern development if he had but just taken a little time to educate himself from the abundant literature that exists on the subject. As has happened he has exhibited such charming innocence of the regional development process of the north from the pre-colonial, colonial and the post-independence periods. Regional development should properly be seen as a process by which the productive capacities of all regions are mobilized by linking them in both a structural and an organizational sense to the mainstream of the national economy. This process requires that the spatial, economic and institutional barriers that limit a society's capacity for growth and development as has been the situation in the North should be addressed dispassionately. The National Development Planning Commission has already recognized this as a national agenda and stipulated that the task of bridging the development gap between north and south is a national priority, while issues of spatial equity in development is a national task.

But if one might pardon Kwame Gyasi for being naively uncharitable or overly harsh on the Northern leadership elite his vitriolic venom directed at the architect of Ghana's independence Dr. Kwame Nkrumah are most unfortunate and un-pardonable. I thought Kwame Gyasi's concluding paragraph to his piece is an absolute shocker for it is unbelievable that in the 50 years of our existence as a sovereign independent republic there is still a Ghanaian adult, least of all an intellectual whose vocation is to nurture and tutor our young ones in our foremost university who still accepts without question the long exploded myth of colonialism's “civilizing mission” and will go to great lengths to extol the virtues of the colonial enterprise with so much nostalgia. Hear him:

“The five days I stayed at Johannesburg, South Africa, about a month ago, courtesy Transparency International, makes me believe that despite all the attributes of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, he did this nation of ours and the African continent a great disservice and unpardonable damage by engineering the kicking out of this country the white colonial masters at a time when black Africa was not equipped and prepared to take its destiny into its hands. The state of Johannesburg I saw and the state of the two northern regions I saw depict a clear manifestation as to the wide gap between the application of the white intellect brain and that of the black intellect brain in the developmental process”.

In short colonialism to Kwame Gyasi was good and would have transformed our country in such a way as to make it look like Johannesburg in South Africa whose development status he is so enamoured. That Kwame Nkrumah must be blamed for aborting the life of colonialism and bringing independence at the time he did, in March 1957. That the “white intellect brain” is superior to the “black intellect brain” and it shows in the way they differentially impact on the development process.

This, in short, is a hyper “colonial mentality” abundantly displayed by a classical house nigger, who, even in the midst of a mass of countervailing evidence is seduced by the illogic of racial profiling and negative stereotyping underlying white supremacist ideology.

I would wish that while in South Africa Kwame Gyasi took time off to visit Soweto or to any of the former Bantustans, the alleys and backwoods of the shantytowns to witness the misery, squalor and undescribable levels of deprivation. I believe he would have come back understanding that after all colonialism is no blessing to the black population of South Africa and for that matter colonial clientelle in Africa or anywhere in the world. He would also have understood why, despite the glitter of Johannesburg, Black South Africans are still among the poorest in the human race.

Coming back to our country Ghana and specifically the issue of Northern underdevelopment it is patently clear that the legacies of colonial official policies are responsible for the early entrenchment of differential growth and development that laid the foundations for the yawning developmental gap that has existed between the north and the south of Ghana today.

It was Lord Lugard who expounded the theory of the “Dual-Mandate” as the mission of colonialism. By this theory meant the exploitation of African resources by the colonial administration for African development but this clearly was flawed because the bulk of the resources that were exploited were all carted away to the metropolitan countries. The second segment of the theory was never realized as Prof Ali Mazrui has always poignantly pointed out.

Indeed under colonialism the role officially assigned to the Northern Territories (the present three regions of the North and some parts of the present Brong Ahafo and Volta Regions) was the provision of cheap, unskilled labour to service the mines, cocoa farms, railways and ports in the south and the police and the military.

For further edification I should like to quote Professor Songsore (Regional Development in Ghana – The Theory and The Reality) at page 67 thus: -

“The application of the policy of induced labour out-migration in Northern Ghana, dating from its colonial incorporation by the British in 1902 had far reaching implications for the development of underdevelopment in the region. Out-migration from the Northern Protectorate to the mining and cocoa region of Ashanti and the Colony started as result of deliberate policies of the colonial administration.

Soon after Britain occupied Northern Ghana, the area was designated by the colonial administration as a “labour reserve” for the supply of cheap labour to the mines, cocoa farms, army and police. In that regard the area was vital for the development of the more favourably endowed Southern Ghana as they were perceived from the point of view of metropolitan interests and needs. So important was this source of cheap labour supply that certain officers administering the region did not favour its economic development for fear of haltig the migration of labour to the south (Bening, 1971b, p.222; Bening, 1975, pp.65-79). Hence in Arrighi's words, it was political rather than market mechanisms which were to be the equilibrating factor in the labour market (Arrighi, 1970,p.207). The methods adopted involved some forms of coercion together with the systemtic neglect of the developmental potential of the region (Thomas, 1973,pp.79-103; Berg, 1964-65,pp.394-411)”.

It is noteworthy that Kwame Gyasi attended Mfantsipim School in Cape Coast. Incidentally I attended the then Government Secondary School (now Tamale Secondary School) Mfantsipim was founded 132 years ago as the first secondary school in Ghana while Tamale Secondary School was opened 75 years later as the first secondary school in the entire north. That, roughly represents the present gap between the development of education in the North and the South.

People who are so seduced by bogus theories of white supremacy cannot readily appreciate the evils of colonialism nor the holocaust of 400 years of the slave trade in Africans which systematically drained from the continent valuable human resource.Large areas of the north were laid bare and even today the scars of the plunder, devastation and mayhem by slave – raiders are still evident. Let Kwame Gyasi convince anyone that the slave-trade like colonialism is not the product of the “white intellect brain” of which he is so enamoured.

While admitting that the people of the three northern regions especially their leadership bear a significant burden for transforming and developing the north it cannot be gainsaid that in a united Ghana the country as a whole owes it to itself as a duty to ensure the equal, equitable, balanced, integrated and inclusive development of all parts of the country. After all it is said that it is the weakest link in the chain that determines the strength of the chain. For as long as the North remains the weak link in the chain of development and democracy in our country for so long shall our development and democracy remain deficient. The efforts by a myriad of Ghanaian citizens to address this challenge of lopsided development head-long is one that needs commendation and solidarity. The northern Ghanaian leadership elite stand in solidarity with millions of Ghanaians to invoke the spirit of unity in order to harness the benefits of a developed society, where seeds of discontent cannot be allowed to germinate.

It is categorically imperative that all patriotic and well-meaning Ghanaians must stand together and work together in the supreme interest of national integration and our burgeoning democracy to push the all-important agenda of bridging the yawning developmental gap between the north and south in Ghana.


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