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08.11.2008 Feature Article

Catapulting the development of the North

All the political parties have raised voices of hope in their campaigns promising to give Northern Ghana a substantial bite of the national cake. The current government has even moved closer to brightening the northern corridors of the country by passing a bill in Parliament that seeks to catapult the developmental strides of the North. With a seed money of 25 million Ghana cedis and more expected financial injections, the North seems at long last to be enjoying a rather long over due attention.

Many streaks of events in the North however give cause for grave concern. Periodically, I read rather agonisingly that the curfew imposed in Bawku and Gushiegu have been renewed by Government for reasons associated with maintaining the fragile peace in those areas. Arms accumulation in the North has hit alarming proportions and not too long ago, the Northern Regional Minister, Alhaj Mustapha Ali Idris despairingly painted a gloomy and frightening picture over the impudence with which the youth brandish guns in an obstinate display of intolerance and jingoism.

Following the passage of the Northern Development Fund Bill, my excitement speedily evaporated when I reflected deeply over the chieftaincy and ethnic disputes that have engulfed the North with devastating consequences. In the latest Gusheigu violent upheaval, a man who spent his life working hard and amassing justifiable wealth in the form of a fleet of vehicles saw his transport business terminated with venom when his vehicles went up in flames. So a question which throbs my heart is whether in a fit of anger, we wouldn't wake up one morning and in a fit of temper and utter jingoism exterminate whatever physical development that government will bring to our part of the country.

Governments can build roads, equip our hospitals, accelerate, and smoothen access to credit but if we jump at each others throat at the least provocation, then government can't fix that. The perennial occurrence of violent conflicts in the North has robbed us of the shine of humility, hospitality, hard work and affection that we as Northeners exude in our daily lives. I don't hold the conviction that we Northerners' are inherently blood thirsty and naturally intolerant as held in some quarters but we must be ready to do some soul searching and undertake a critical self-appraisal with the view of jettisoning the negative traits that has seen Northern Ghana fast becoming synonymous with fatal conflicts. That is essential if we are to grind out a solution to our development ailments.

I agree that governments have conspired somehow to starve the North of development but in a pronounced way, previous and the present government have shown impressive intentions to right the wrongs, the culmination of which is the birth and passage of the Northern Development Fund, which for certain will hurriedly receive presidential accent. So as dedicated sons and daughters of the North, what are we up to? I believe many of us feel a pang of pain and melancholy over the bloody clashes in the North but it appears our silence is deafening allowing voices of alarm, anger, intolerance and hatred to hold sway leaving we those with golden voices of moderation, tolerance and cool-headedness to command peripheral influence. Is time for us to stand and let our voices be heard so that we can win hearts and mind in a project of renewal.

Whilst concluding this piece, I called my brother in Salaga and he painted a picture of spiralling tensions in the political campaigns. Every part of the North is affected by rising intolerance with no visible signs of abating, I moaned desperately.

Shani Bashiru
Reading
UK

Bashiru Shani
Bashiru Shani, © 2008

This author has authored 1 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: BashiruShani

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