When I attended an interview for the position of District Chief Executive for the Kwahu West District Assembly (KWDA) at the Castle, Osu, on May 20, 2005 one of the interviewing panellists posed to me the question: 'What has been your contribution to the NPP?'
I never hesitated in giving an answer. I began from the days of the Danquah-Busia Club preparatory work: assisting to set free those members of the Club who were framed up and arrested by the police; when I had to deliver five bags of cement to the people of Ataaso from my own resources following the failure and, or refusal of Adusa, the current MP for Nkawkaw (then not an MP) to fulfill his promise to that effect for the rehabilitation of their school building, etc. The chief panellist stopped me and asked me to shift to my vision for the district.
For the benefit of the citizens of the now Kwahu West Municipal Assembly (KWMA) and the general public, I hereby wish to share my thoughts from that background as blueprint for the development agenda of the Nkawkaw municipality. This, of course, is never intended to replace whatever development agenda the current Assembly has in place. Instead, this should serve as a complement.
RISE OF ASSEMBLY
Unlike other districts, the KWDA grew very fast into a Municipal Assembly barely three years after its inauguration. This sudden rise into a municipality calls for an equally quick steps for a complete planning of the Nkawkaw township and, in fact, the entire municipality. First, whatever planning that needs to be done should start from Nkawkaw, the municipal capital.
FIRST-CLASS MARKET AND GOVERNMENT SUPPORT
The capital, as it stands now, is ill-planned. Several kiosks have sprung up at several spots, often blocking proposed roads. Trading is conducted at every available space. This has been so because the central market is choked. It must be noted that the Kwahu people are noted for commerce. This is enviable. Many townships in Ghana have gained recognition from the activities of people engaged in commerce. Towns in this category include Mankessim, Ejura, Kpando, Nkoranza, Asesewa, Techiman, etc. Nkawkaw, the gateway to the Kwahu State, does not deserve the handkerchief type of market currently in place there.
What plans are there for a more spacious first-class new market to cater for the hundreds of other traders who flood the streets and pavements on Sundays? Sacking them now from the streets is not the answer. And where is the money to build a new market? Somebody may ask. For the answer, I wish to draw an analogy: a lady's cloth must be long enough to cover something and short enough to excite. Are you puzzled?
In 1992, President J. A. Kufuor, then a presidential candidate, told a meeting of party activists at the Bethrams Hotel, Nkawkaw, that his government would pursue and assist whatever development goals for which a community was noted. What was needed, the meeting reflected, was for that community to accept the challenge and chase a particular development programme peculiar to a community in the corridors of power.
That required such a community or communities to elect leaders who would be there for the right reasons: not leaders who would be, or who are likely to be mute in parliament; not leaders who cannot lobby for development; not leaders who would put a screen between themselves and the people who have critical minds; not leaders with only political smiles to show. All such leaders would be there for the wrong reason! 'The unexamined life,' says Plato, 'is not worth living,' it was agreed.
Following from the above, the Assembly should help to plan and prepare the groundwork for a first-class market to enhance the status of Nkawkaw as centre of commerce to reduce the pressure on the Nkawkaw central market. The plan, like the lady's cloth mentioned above, should both be 'long' and 'short' at the same time. This means the plan can stay for as long as twenty years, but when finally the first block begins to be laid, the waiting time will be seen to have been irrelevant.
If such a plan is not already in place, I believe steps need to be taken to develop one today. The Assembly, I am inclined to accept, fought for as late as 1988 by patriots like J. Abankwa-Ansong and others like Nana Aninakwa Bonsu Nyame II (Nkawkawhene) of blessed memory, is destined to make history. And 'History-making is not a tea party.'
STREET NAMES AND HOUSE NUMBERING
In Nigeria where I lived briefly in the 1980s, a lot of people did not use the post office letter boxes quite often for their mails. Several residents had their mails delivered direct to them at home on motor bikes by postal staff. There, every street had a name and a sequential numbering. A stranger or visitor first needed to know a street name and could just follow up to the right house. It was just fine!
In the same way, the Assembly could effectively use the Land Valuation Board and the Town and Country Planning Developlement to replicate the Nigerian street name and numbering systems. Besides the finesse of having street names and an orderly house numbering patterns, property rate collection will be easy for the Assembly as no property could be omitted to be captured.
The Assembly, I believe, could set several agendas for others to follow.
Quite often, when one's home is warm, one will want to go to a place of leisure – a recreational or amusement park to while away the time, for sight seeing, etc. Unfortunately for Nkawkaw and its surrounding towns, there is no leisure spots for the leisure needs of the people apart from the drinking bars. All the plots are invariably earmarked for building purposes.
It is not too late, I believe, for the Assembly and with the support and cooperation of relevant institutions, our traditional leaders and the people, to task the local Town and Country Planning Department to zone all key towns to provide for playgrounds, amusement parks, durbar grounds, building sites and for small scale industrial sites, among others.
The local people should be involved for total acceptance and development. Apradang has one such plan which needs to be developed. The Ghana Tourist Board, the Department of Geography (Geography of Tourism) of the University of Ghana, Legon, will definitely be obliged to offer suggestions and guidance in such developments.
Owing to the absence of such grounds, one constantly sees streets blocked for the purposes of funerals. In the country homes, school parks become venues for public functions like funerals and other gatherings. I do not think this is good enough.
SMALL SCALE INDUSTRIES
The private sector should be challenged to help open up the municipality to a new phase of development by setting up small scale industries. The advantages of the introduction of money economy into the lives of the youth cannot be denied. Let the private sector accept the challenge and throw the challenge back to the Assembly when they meet difficulties that require solution. The Assembly should be challenged to work.
The Assembly may have to liaise with relevant institutions to assist to exploit and to put to a more productive and economic use, our clay deposits. The Kwahu Nsaba porters project initiated in 1998, for example, still needs to be completed. The porters need trained artists and innovators for attachment to help move the clay industry into a new phase and development. In Government's attempt to assist to offer jobs to the people, this is one area it cannot afford to ignore. However, Government needs the requisite prompting from the right quarters.
The private sector, as the engine of growth, needs 'fuelling' from Government to be able to stand on its own. Government should organise the people to start up some of the enterprises and gradually wean them from government support. By that way, the necessary 'fuelling' will have been achieved.
To leave the people to start up whatever needs to be done without government's initial support will hardly move our developmental effort forward. The Koreans, for example, began to develop their motor vehicles with government support for industry as a policy.
Access roads in the municipality are not very good. Within the Nkawkaw municipality, accessibility is a real challenge. Taxi drivers are confined to using terminal routes all the time. This may not promote their work, neither does it afford free movement of vehicles, goods, services and the people. I should suggest a concerted effort to open up all suburbs by the building of bridges across streams and rivers to promote accessibility. Even if the roads are not tarred for now, a good job will have been done as a start.
SETTING THE AGENDA
Nkawkaw is in a unique position to set the agenda for the development of Kwahu. It should change the lives of many, open doors unknown and discuss with those who do not know the way. The closeness of the Assembly to the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, is a huge asset to help in its development agenda. Kumasi can help with modern waste disposal systems or technology, physical planning, rainwater harvesting for domestic use and other infrastructural know-how.
To act better is to know better. Therefore the Assembly, likening it to a corporate entity, must have a business plan to be able to attract needed capital and technical expertise.
The Assembly needs to put up a technical team composed of men and women of impeccable credentials to shape its development agenda - academics, technologists, people in finance, commerce, industry, etc. From there, others could be roped in to help bring its development plans into fruition for our collective benefit.
The time to start is now. For Kwame Nkrumah, 'Time is neutral and does not change things. With courage and initiative, leaders change things.'
The emergence of the KWMA did not happen by accident. Nkawkaw was named by Government as one of the 45 additional districts in 1987. While others in other parts of this country accepted that decision of Government with open arms, I am reliably informed some very powerful interest groups in Kwahu protested against Nkawkaw becoming independent at that time.
Government, finally, was said to have succumbed to the pressure. It took the fortitude of patriots (some named above) to engage agencies of Government in very tough negotiations to reverse Government's decision to scrap the Nkawkaw district. Tried as they did, they could not succeed.
Whether they were right or wrong in that pursuit, today, Nkawkaw is on the next phase of its evolution; it is on the road to assert itself by way of charting its own development agenda. The time lost is, however, enormous; we need to recoup it anyday, anytime, anywhere.
Humanity should stand united to focus on positive things that bind us as a people, to work to free the mind to promote the national interest, promote national progress.
And progress, to me, means succeeding generations should do better than their forebears. It is the legacy we can leave behind for posterity to boast of as prime beneficiaries: Obra pa yemmo mfa, yebo gya nkyiri mma. Kwahu West Municipal Assembly, over to you.