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24.03.2009 Feature Article

NORTHERN GHANA AND MEDIA PROPAGANDA

Northern Ghana is often refers to UPPER WEST, UPPER EAST and NORTHERN region with Wa, Bolgatanga and Tamale being the regional capitals respectively. Geographically, northern Ghana includes the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions of the country as well. But of late hardly do you hear people refer to Ashanti and Brong Ahafo as part of northern Ghana due to marginalisation and the media misinterpretation of northern Ghana to the wider populace. Again when you talk about north to our southern brothers most of them always refer to Tamale as north forgotten that upper west and upper east form part of north, it is dishearten when the élites make this unpardonable mistake too. But the truth of the matter is Ghana will be incomplete if northern Ghana is left out.

The problems of northern Ghana are complex and need urgent solutions. In the area of health, education, agriculture, poverty reduction, superstitution, conflicts, etc. Ninety percent of the people in northern Ghana are mostly subsistent farmers. They depend largely on farming for their livelihood. Religiously northern Ghana is dominated my muslins with big Christian communities and traditional believers co-existing peacefully. The variety of tribes and ethnic groups there for makes northern Ghana a very balance society with people from all cultural backgrounds living and working together. though more than half of the people have not had the chance of formal education but they have produce successfully men and women both in the formal and informal sector who are of great assets to the nation. Generally, northerners are naturally talented and capable of giving positive results if given a level playing field. One will therefore misinterpret northern Ghana if you have never visited any of the three northern regions because of media stereotyping and propaganda.

“The role of journalism entails a significant obligation and responsibility, the discharge of which requires journalist to have high ethical standards and to practice sound professional journalism with intelligence, accuracy, objectivity and fairness all aimed at developing people and subsequently nations. The media as whole is expected to be well-focused on development issues, educating the public and entertaining instead of turning itself into an instrument of blackmail, intimidation, tyranny and an agent of confusion, conflicts, anarchy and chaos. Ghanaian Journalists face the stiff challenge to change the sometimes-negative perception of Ghana. They must report enough and accurately about Ghana. Ghanaian Journalists have the challenge to report very extensively the good happenings and successes in the country. They must develop in themselves a sense of patriotism and pride in Ghanaians, success stories and the many endeavors in national development”. By: Mahama Haruna.(feature article Sunday 22 march 2009)

ILL MEDIA REPORTAGE; It is true that northern Ghana for several years have been bombarded by the media, the three regions have been isolated and often treated unfairly when it comes to media coverage of events which brings about development such as in the area of tourism, agriculture, manufacturing and industry. The electronic and print media have done little to market the northern regions to investors. They only report on the negative side of north, which is war, they make people out side northern Ghana feel that the whole of north is a war zone area and this trend of coverage does not help bring development to the area, though it is true that some parts of northern Ghana has some problems with conflicts and wars but it doesn't mean that the whole of north is torn a part. There are only few areas in the north that are experiencing insecurity but the whole of northern Ghana is peaceful. The people of northern Ghana are generally welcoming and peace loving, they like strangers and have great hospitality normally for their guest. Sadly, the media for lack of interest in covering events of northern Ghana always interchange the regional capitals for upper west and that of upper east, it is shocking and damning when you read or listen to news and hear our journalists referring to upper east regional capital as Wa and that of upper west regional capital as Bolgatanga, you always wonder whether those journalists have actually been to school of journalism, I think in every respect our journalist suppose to have broader knowledge about our county and its regional capitals except the northern journalists most of their southern counterparts really don't know the difference between the upper west and upper east, why is it so?

ECONOMIC PROSPECTS; Northern Ghana, naturally is not that poor as the media always speculate, we have abundant of fertile land and live stock which includes cattle,goats,sheep. The people of northern Ghana also grow cereal crops such as maize, millet, guinea corn etc legumes such as beans, groundnuts, soya beans and many more. The tourism potential of northern Ghana can not be over emphasised, across the northern regions we have a great tourist centres when developed properly can boast the economy of the country, notable among them, we the mole national park in the northern region which stretches across the upper west region, wiccheu hippo sanctuary at upper west and the crocodile pond at paga in the east region among others. Commercial crops such as cotton, shea nuts, cashew, dawadawa are also found in the northern part of the country which have great value on the world market and could increase the country foreign exchange significantly. All the above could boost the development of northern Ghana if the media were fair in reporting about the economic prospects of northern Ghana, they only give a wider coverage about northern Ghana when it comes to wars and conflicts that scare local and international investors The marginalisation by the media has there for compounded the development problems of northern Ghana.

LACK OF POLITICAL WILL AND INTEREST; Again politicians are not interested in the development of northern Ghana, successive governments have failed the people of northern Ghana woefully, after our independence no single government has drawn any development plan to break the gap between south and the north. Politicians have often promise northern Ghana” heaven” and when they come to power they offer ”hell,” our northern politicians have also contributed significantly in our underdevelopment of northern Ghana. During the last 8 years of N.D.C that is between 1992 to 2001 in power we had about forty percent of the cabinet from northern Ghana and yet they couldn't do any thing mean fully to bring the needed development to northern Ghana, the situation is worrying and disturbing if our own northern brothers couldn't help solve the problems who else do we think can do it?, to add salt to injuries, our own northern brother became the vice president in the N.P.P regime for eight good years his government only succeeded in tearing northern Ghana apart by the mysterious death of Yaa- Naa and his forty subjects, as we speak today no single person has been prosecuted for this crime, this was a government that claimed security was second to none as far as civilians life and property were concern, one is therefore tempted to belief that the then N.PP government has a hand in this brutal killing that was carried out against this innocent civilians. Honourable Hawa Yakubu, a renowned politician and a very outspoken lady also died with a lot of question marks about her death under the same government, probable I will say this was a politician who had northern Ghana at heart but died untimely, many northern sons and daughters are still moaning the deaths of these people. Any way am not been prejudice but very objective, I know some people will read this piece with political connotations. This does not suggest that the last eight years of N.D.C in power have change or brought the needed development to northern Ghana. The Komkomba/ Nanumba war is still fresh in our minds. Many people were killed and up to date have left very bleak future on families who were affected the most. It is questionable if politicians don't always have hand in northern conflicts. We also understand clearly that no body can solve our problems unless ourselves but we need co operation to achieve this, from politicians, N.G.O'S. media and other cooperate bodies. This war was fuelled by the media and politicians.

More so the then (N.P.P) government has initiated some programmes to reduce poverty in Ghana, one may mention the president special initiatives (PSI's) on cassava, cotton etc these initiatives were only implemented in southern Ghana and northern Ghana was left out. There were also government programmes such as mass cocoa spraying exercise which was free for cocoa farmers again northern Ghana did not benefit from this package though we don't grow cocoa, at that same time northern Ghana farmers were appealing to government to give them subsidies on their farm inputs and implements nothing was done to help them. Ghana also joins the highly indebted poor countries (HIPC). Using statistics on poverty from northern Ghana, surprisingly the HIPC funds that were meant to reduce poverty in northern part much of the funds were rather used in southern part than the targeted poor northern part of the country there by defeating the purpose for which the funds were given to Ghana, millennium development goals (MDG'S) were equally used unfairly to the detriment of the development of northern Ghana until there was huge public out cry that the then N.P.P government included some few districts of northern Ghana. There were more other developmental projects that northern Ghana never benefited from. The shea butter factory that was build in the south, many people know that we don't have shea nuts in the south it comes from the north why was it then build in the south?

NO FREE EDCATION IN NORTHERN GHANA; There is nothing like free education in northern Ghana, if it exists I want some one to tell me which part of northern Ghana is benefiting from it. The term free education in northern Ghana has no basis because parents are still paying for school fees ever since, buying of school uniform, books, pens furniture etc, at the Senior High School Level, is only feeding grant that parents don't pay, where is the free education here? One may say capitation grant at the primary level of course southern kids are equally enjoying it, the saying that education in the north is free is either here or there. The only thing northern Senior High Schools enjoy is free feeding and nothing else, if is the feeding people are referring to as free education then am sorry, free education goes beyond that, even with the free feeding, grant release is always a war between the feeding grant secretariat and school authorities , some times students have to wait for months at the house for this so call grants to be release whiles their counterparts in the south are in school learning seriously, mean while they both take the same exams at the time and this late release of the grant normally affect northern students performance at the national exams level. Isn't it a shame for someone sitting somewhere to say but” education is free in the north?” It is sad and worrying when our southern counterparts say northerners are enjoying free education. Again the media has fail in educating people on this issue.

SOUTH NORTH DIVIDES; The south north divide is another area where Ghanaian journalists have failed to exhibit high level of professionalism, issues or events about northern Ghana always receives poor coverage and some times inaccuracies here and there making people feel that northern is not part of the country. The situation where the state owned-media usually refer to upper east regional capital as Wa is disturbing those we have confidence in they are the very people who are letting us down. If the state own media don't know the difference between upper west and upper east what do you think about the private media? The media is only interested in the north when it comes to covering of conflicts and wars. This trend of coverage is unfair and must change. Often government workers posted to northern part of the country always refuse because of the so call negative image about northern Ghana. But those who try and go normal don't want to leave because of the comfort in the area when it comes to cheap food stuff and meat. There are plenty of cheap guinea fowls and cow feet which the southerners like so much so why not give it a go and forget about the negative media image about north.

However, if this trend of events about northern Ghana doesn't change it will come to a time that there will be serious issues cropping up, such as north south war, you all know what happen in co'd'ivoire between the northern part and that of the south because of marginalisation. Togo, Nigeria etc. the media should critically re-examine its role in promoting development and national unity among Ghanaians rather the ill role they are playing now. My appeal goes the government, N.G.O'S, the media, and all well meaning Ghanaians to support build and develop northern Ghana. The development of northern Ghana is the total development of the whole country so please every one should join now. Tribalism, ethnic superiority, divide and rule will not help us Lets try and put Ghana first and be proud to be Ghanaians. This could only be possible if the media is fair, transparent, balance and focused in covering real issues that aims towards development of northern Ghana. Long live Ghana!!

BY; ABDULAI SUFYAN
[email protected]

Abdulai Sufyan
Abdulai Sufyan , © 2009

This author has authored 3 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: AbdulaiSufyan

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