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17.04.2011 Opinion

Support for separation of Brong and Ahafo Region

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I have read a number of articles by a section of Ahafo citizens who seem agree that the time has come to part ways with their brothers and sisters in Brong. In a March 05 2011 article captioned “provocations and misunderstanding” Mr. Stephen Atta Owusu wrote that The Ahafos have not been happy with the union since they see development as tilting towards the Brong area. The Ahafos believe that they would have developed much better if they had stood alone since the Ahafo area is richer in terms of resources - timber, gold, cocoa, foodstuffs, etc. I agree with the writer in his observation that Ahafo has seen better days before but is now in decline.

When I was growing up in 1960s at Techiman, the football team that caused anxiety among supporters of Techiman Eleven Wonders was a visit by Yamfo Rangers football club. Similarly the Acherensua Secondary then had incredible athletes who dominated our inter schools and colleges games in the region. I did not know much about Ahafo back then but judging from the high performing teams and athletes that came from Ahafo, I would presume that Yamfo, Mim or Acherensua could have been the same in size and vibrancy as my native Techiman.

But today it is a fact that you cannot compare any of these Ahafo towns to Dormaa Ahenkro, Techiman, Berekum, Nkoranza or Wenchi. Something seems to have gone wrong and in trying to find answers to their decline, the writer and others like him have attributed the decline to an unholy alliance between Ahafos and Brong. I want to address these charges from a Brong perspective.

There is no argument that Ahafo has been in decline and if creating a region for them can result in accelerated development then I strongly suggest that the government must look into creating such a region as a matter of urgency. I do not however believe that Brongs have anything to do with underdevelopment in Ahafo and I will tell you why.

If human capital is the greatest resource for development, then my friends from Ahafo who have turned their backs on their place of their birth have inadvertently contributed to the decline of their towns and villages.

Or could it be that an obsession of a group of people who are trying very much to proof to anyone how much Ashanti blood makes up their DNA has become the bane to their development. Recently on my last visit to Ghana, I went to Ahafo to attend a funeral of one of my friends from school and I was struck by the effect of something we used to joke around our Ahafo classmates in school.

You see when I was in Secondary School, I had every reason to believe that Ahafo was a place beyond Kumasi to the south because of how our Ahafo friends came to school in Techiman.

You could pardon my ignorance then but blame it on a school curriculum that polluted my little brain with the geography of the Fjords of Sweden, Murray Darling Basin of Australia or Athabasca Tar Sands of Alberta Canada, instead of the geography of Ghana. For those of you who don't know our region very well, Techiman is a converging point where Sunyani is forty miles to the West and from there, Ahafo is only twenty minutes away.

Our Ahafo colleagues had a penchant of joining the Kumasi group travelling seventy five miles to the south to get on another bus at Kumasi to travel some sixty miles north west to Ahafo. You may say what is the big deal about how someone chooses to travel to his home town. The big deal is the psychological dependency this has brought to the people. At the funeral of my friend, I was surprised to notice that over eighty percent of the people I met have come from Kumasi for the funeral.

In the bars and all social gatherings, every conversation was about what was going on in Kumasi. When I inquired about all the friends I knew from school, they have all left the community and now living in Kumasi or elsewhere.

Now you contrast that with my visit to Techiman where I met most of my old colleagues in the town doing the same trading their parents used to engage in, albeit with a bit more scientific approach whether it was better marketing, bookkeeping or post harvest management of food items.

Their economic circumstances surprisingly seemed much better than someone like me who has returned from abroad. But there is a much better way to explain why Brong citizens have always come back to live and invest in their towns and villages. What has been happening to the Brong society is a great awakening in the identity and conciseness of who we are.

This awakening was pioneered by the first wave of Brong scholars who received education abroad and on their return, decided to stay in the region to serve as rule models and a conscience of a new generation of Brongs. Today it may seem so innocuous for anyone to choose to live in Brong Ahafo but do you remember the many Brong jokes going round at the time of our occupation under Ashanti Empire. Some of these Brong jokes have even persisted until today; ala yefiri Tuabodom.

In this context you can now understand why Brongs had such a serious identity crisis of who they were during this time in our history. Kumasi was our eternal capital period, and the wealth of the Brong citizen was denominated in the number of properties he/she owned in Kumasi. You can go to Bantama to check out how many buildings were put up by Brong citizens in Kumasi.

But men like Dormaahene Nana Agyeman Badu II, Dr. I L Ohene Gyan, Mr. AA Munufie, Lawyer Agyei Mensah, Mr. Kofi Ofe Ameyaw and a whole group of scholars returned to live and worked among their people and this began a process of rediscovery of a people who have been traumatized by two evils of colonialism, first under Ashanti rule and again under British Empire.

The transformation was evident in the early 1960s when you saw Brong nationals starting to de-invest in Kumasi and taking interest in the development of their communities. This process was consummated with the election of Dr. Kofi Abefa Busia as leader of the Progress Party. Remember what they said about the prospect of a Brong man leading the nation; mmere afri bini mu, to wit mushroom has grown out of shit. But they held their noses and elected Dr. Abrefa Busia to lead a government in 1969.

Today Brong Ahafo is a fledging region in its own right which does not show any sign that barely fifty years ago every decision about its people was made from Kumasi. It is sad that instead of uniting to demand from the central government our fair share of development funds to live out our potential, we spend needless time answering charges that Brongs have monopolized all political appointments in the region and have used political patronage for development to the detriment of other ethnic groups in the region. Ex-President JJ Rawlings brought Akosombo electricity to the region for the first time but he is not even an Akan. Ahafos have had a disproportionately greater share of political appointments in the region if you come to think about it.

The first appointment Ex-president JA Kuffour made to be the regional minister was Nana Ohene Seinti from Ahafo, he was later replaced by Mr. Debra also from Ahafo. For a region that prides itself as the bread basket of Ghana, in the final four years of Kufour Administration, Mr. Debra was the minister of Agriculture. Currently the most senior Brong Ahafo minister in Prof Atta Mills administration is Mr. Collins Dauda from Mim in Ahafo.

The deputy regional minister of Brong Ahafo region is Mr. Eric Opoku is from Ahafo. But you know what, Brongs don't care who holds what position in government because over the years we have grown weary of unfulfilled promises by politicians so we don't rely on government for our development needs.

The Roman Catholic Church alone has a much greater impact on the citizenry than the government in the area of healthcare delivery and education infrastructure. If in the end your people feel that they will be better off on their own, so be it.

I guess some of you cannot wait until the day you get your old name back under a new region; Western Ashanti. As for us in Brong, our transformation has been completed with the creation of our region. The psychological umbilical cord that tied us to Ashanti region was broken some fifty years ago and we want to keep it that way. While you wait for your new region to be created, I want to illustrate how apathy could affect development of your people.

I will use my personal experience to illustrate my point. When I was in college in Toronto Canada back in 1986, I was also an executive member of the Brong Ahafo Association of Toronto. It will interest you to know that during this time, there was not a single Ahafo citizen of Toronto who wanted to became a member of the Association. They were running away from any association with Brongs like a plague.

They preferred to be members of Asante Association of Toronto, but it was within their right of freedom of association and we respected that. In the year 1989 we set up a committee to look for ways we can support the healthcare delivery system of our region with medical equipment. Fortunately North York Branson Hospital responded to our application and approved donation of equipment that filled a forty feet container. Together with some essential items that we used the Association funds to purchase, we were able to ship equipment worth $220,000.00 to Ghana.

When the items finally arrived at Sunyani, guess who was the regional minister of Brong Ahafo region, the late Mr. Osei Wusu from Kukuom in Ahafo. Every single item in the container was distributed to health clinics in Ahafo. Surprisingly when this news was reported back to us at our general meeting, not a single member of our Association questioned the mode of distribution of our donation.

We wanted to support healthcare delivery in Brong Ahafo and that is where our equipment ended, end of story. I am a strong believer of self determination and the adage that no one should be held against their will. This is my reason for supporting the idea of a separate region for the Ahafo people.

Kofi Kyeremeh
[email protected]

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