In spite of reluctance to get embroiled in this Oti Region creation brouhaha, I have been compelled to add meat to what I wrote after breaking my silence in the face of some unpalatable and false claims being made from both sides. Following requests and admonitions from far and near, I don’t think I have a choice not doing so. You therefore have to bear with me as I meander through the fissures of the complex articulation of interests at play, the historical contours, personal memoirs, … the whole shebang in the eclectic narrative. I have exceeded myself, going beyond my reportedly “piquant style” to the subversive that will make the teeth of the prim and proper prudes grit. I offer no apologies when war drums are being beaten.
AN EWE/AKAN SCHISM OR NDC/NPP DIVIDE?
We have been reading and hearing about the ethnic and partisan political undertones this Oti Region creation quest and opposition to it has taken. That’s misleading for a start. Just as it is very wrong for those against to make this an Ewe/Akan schism, even if the Akan elements were the driving core or instigators of the Oti Region movement – which is not entirely the case - it is equally wrong to make it an NDC/NPP thing. I believe there are many NPP leaning people who are opposed just as many known NDC stalwarts and supporters within the Oti enclave are ardent supporters of the creation of the Oti Region. After all, it was part of the NDC Manifesto too and President Mahama was widely reported as promising to create Oti Region if re-elected. This fact is not in dispute and no need to waste time on it. I shall delve into the ethnic imbroglio later.
AN AGENDA FOR DEVELOPMENT?
Even if ill-thought of, - which I believe it is - the NPP also thoughtlessly but opportunistically played along with the demands for the creation of the Oti Region, incorporated them into their myriad of promises to implement if they won the elections. Development of the areas to be carved out is being touted as the reason for the creation of the new regions, the Oti Region inclusive. I did not read anything like that as being a ground for creation of new regions in the Constitution, by the way. The logical thing to ask both parties which have been taking turns to misrule, misgovern and keep the country underdeveloped - not only those areas to be carved out - is to show to us the researches they had undertaken to support the creation of regions for development concept. Or, the evaluation reports on say the Upper East and West Regions which showed that their creation has led to their development. Failing that, any such research by one of the yearly “book and research allowances” consuming academics who did not spend the “allawa” on cement blocks or roofing sheets for their uncompleted retirements houses, which indicated that they (NPP & NDC) could not develop the proposed Oti enclave, and the other areas penned for new regions, because of geographical reasons which can be fixed by creating new regions, and not by some other means. And, can they tell us if they have developed the central and southern VR and the other areas in the other regions going to be split? Or, is it a case of their inability to develop the regions as they stand now because of long distances to reach regional capitals? Hmm! What kind of reasoning is that? When I say we have ignorant fools and morons, apart from many being just mere “thieves and thiefettes”, misgoverning us with the support of intellectually bankrupt and blissfully and purposively ignorant bureaucrats and technocrats who are not deemed capable of managing even power plants, people say I am unduly insulting! The little knowledge I garnered before I dropped out, experiential knowledge acquired over the years and my ongoing involvement in the futile campaign for Ghana to retain and consolidate the Production Sharing Agreement instituted by PNDCL 84 for our upstream oil and gas sector, as even recognised by Tullow, has made me to lose total respect for the intellect and integrity of the governing class and the so-called Ghanaian elite. If the well-bred persons (tee! hee!) are offended by my caustic remarks, well I am just being honest and damn the consequences! They can dance to the war drums being beaten to the coast to bail the sea at Keta!
A VENAL ELITE
It has been decades since I belonged to the State Formation and Building Seminar Group of the Department of Administration and Organization Theory of the University of Bergen which started a similar course module in the School of Administration, Legon, but I can debate to the ground these wannabe leaders and their advisers on this subject. The ignorance and mediocrity in thinking and actions in public policy in our distressed country is just overwhelmingly too much to stomach any longer. We who can hit our chests and proclaim ourselves as better enlightened, indeed civilised, must now have to lead the posse to tar, feather, parade and chase out of town the savages keeping us underdeveloped and tagged “developing people” forever! Remember, Ken Kuranchie, that ebullient savage, came out of prison for badmouthing the Supreme Court justices a presumably civilised man and proclaimed that Ghanaians were not civilised. I have promised to write on civilisation since then but before that, we need to have a look at who the elite of Ghana are, using proper elite study methodology as only French Marxists and sociologists are capably doing in Africa. This does not dwell on ethnic origins only but most importantly social origins. Yes, like “who born them self”? So I ask: who are really these geezers?
The little research on the elite in Ghana identified them as comprising firstly scions of the freed or escaped slaves who actually constituted the nucleus of the Gold Coast colonial administration (the Army and Police in particular), then scions of the traditional (royal) elite and the ordinary subjects. Practically most of them born before 1960 are first generation educated people from illiterate peasant, animal husbandry, petty trading, artisanal fishing backgrounds. I am aware that Dr Irene Odotei some years back collected appropriate data to make this kind of analysis possible, so we shall eventually come to explaining things like why the Ghanaian elite is venal, rent-seeking, irredeemably prone to corruption and theft of public resources, lack empathy for the underprivileged, clueless in bringing development about, etc. Meanwhile, an opinion poll survey to find out which of them is more venal, based on the geographical areas and ethnic groups they come from will be interesting.
MOST DISTRACTING GIMMICKS
Without doubt, this region creation idea is just another of the Most Distracting Gimmicks (MDGs) being rolled out by these venal elite in the plethora of confidence mechanisms they keep on inventing to fool the citizenry into believing that the powers-that be are concerned about their well-being, and creating some new regions will bring development to them. In reality, it is just another creation of a power base or fiefdom for a conglomeration of chiefs, the local elite and the corrupt, city dwelling elite, some of them on retirement or about to retire, with no empathy for the people; the same venal class from both the NPP and NDC who have failed to bring the pork home over the decades in the first place.
A HISTORY OF DISCONTENT
The lingering discontent is not new though, granted that the area has been very much deprived, just like much of the hinterland of Ghana, the southern VR too. I was brought face to face with it in far away Norway in the ‘90s, when I was confronted with claims that Ewes - Anlos in particular - had given a raw deal to those cocoa growing areas of the VR. (Yes, Surprise! Surprise! Osafo Marfo and his ilk, the VR indeed produces cocoa too in the Oti enclave and so the suspended Eastern Corridor Road passing through that area deserves to be constructed from the Cocoa Fund!). The claim was made that instead of the usual share-cropping - say abusa or abunnu - found in the cocoa growing areas in the other regions, the lands were sold outright cheaply to the first settler farmers who included Ewes, Krobos and Akans from the Gold Coast who came from the south when the British took over the area at the beginning of WW1. I became aware of some Anlo neighbours having cocoa farms in Ahamansu, etc., during my elementary school years but did not know anything about the land relations. Later on, I learned more about cocoa farming in the northern sector of the VR. When at 6th Form in Mawuli School in the mid-1970s, for instance, we learned from a mate from Bodada, Buem, how his father became an unrepentant cocoa smuggler. His first bag of harvest was contemptuously thrown on the ground by the Purchasing Clerk as not even fit for “abinkyi”. He picked up the beans and upon advice crossed the Republic of Togo border with his head load and was astonished at the reception befitting a Chief Cocoa Farmer he received, starting with people struggling to become his carrier to the buying centre where he got a price far better than he could dream of in Ghana! We also showed Jonathan, our Ga mate from a prominent Ga family who came to 6th Form from Wesley Secondary School, cocoa for the first time. He too got 1 in Geography but was shocked to learn that cocoa was being grown in the VR too. The questions he asked still ring true and are demanding answers today: why do the Akan students complain then when Ewes and those from the VR receive CMB scholarships too and why couldn’t the recipients say that cocoa was being grown in the VR too? The unpalatable truth is that those city Ewes, especially from the southern VR most probably did not know either! As for those Ewes from the mid-VR (Weme) and those from the Oti enclave – the Guans, the Akans, etc., - as a whole, I myself had experienced their unfathomable and apathetic silence when some of us were arguing with the likes of Dr Kofi Ellison in the ‘90s on the Okyeame forum that the VR produces cocoa too! And, of course, in Legon in the ‘70s, I read from Dennis Austin’s Politics in Ghana:1946-60 about how my sleepy town of Anloga became the “political barometer” of the Gold Coast because he claimed Anlo cocoa farm owners were not happy with newly elected Nkrumah’s decision to accept Arthur Lewis’ advice not to increase cocoa prices while proceeding with the cutting of swollen shoot diseased trees besides backtracking on the hated poll tax bill. Ewes thus have economic interest in the Oti enclave and its future.
Enough with cocoa, as if it is the major contributor to agricultural GDP! It is not. I had debunked the over focusing on cocoa in the development and wealth creation discourse in an article denouncing such an assumption in relation to someone who did not know that the VR produces cocoa too. The article dwells on the pertinent issues too here and shows how I have almost single-handedly been dealing with the issues now engulfing the nation.
Read More: The Kind Of Nonsense We Live With - PART 1
It must be pointed out that there were already Ewes in those areas from pre-colonial times and under German rule who see that area as their homeland too, even if they arrived as migrants centuries earlier. After all, besides the autochthonous or indigenous central Togo linguistic groups who were the aboriginal inhabitants, Ewes arrived much earlier than some now clamouring for the creation of the Oti Region. So should interest not also be taken of the views of those who desire continual union too with the rest of their kinsmen down south or up north because they think that will protect and advance their socio-economic development much better? Can such a converse desire for union not even form a basis for altering the boundaries of two regions?
In any case, is there indeed any evidence that support the implied claims that those in central and southern VR have been monopolising development projects to the disadvantage of those in the northern part, the allegation which is at the root of the discontent? Are development projects planned and funded from Ho, and the other regional capitals? These are just some of the questions that really required exploration and answers to determine whether Oti Region needed to be carved out of the Volta Region because the Constitution clearly stipulates a need for the creation of a new region, not only a substantial demand.
It is a known fact that actual cash and food crop growing areas all over Ghana are not developed with social amenities due to many reasons but the fact that up to 75% of cocoa and associated food crops are still produced by migrant farmers, as first mapped out by Polly Hill way back in the 1950s, being a major reason has not been given much attention. However, the big towns where the chiefs and landlords live can boast of at least fine houses and big mansions, built from proceeds of hefty shares from share-cropping like the “abusa” system. For the northern VR, the chiefs and landlords largely lost out on this source of affluence from land rent from past deals, thus generating resentment which is wrongly directed at Ewe farmers and others in different occupations in particular who are suffering the deplorable conditions in the area with them. With a similar national attack on Ewes, the angst of Ewes has thus been aroused by this apparent ploy to isolate and hem them in by further balkanising them and cutting them off from their lands and sphere of influence, so the reasoning goes. But this is not only an Ewe thing, as many other linguistic groups have been drawn into the fray and many have bought into the narratives of the Oti Movement propagandists while others are having second thoughts. The queer aspect is how age-hold intra-Ewe disunity was initially exploited to get the support of some Ewes within the expected Oti Region which included Hohoe District then, with Togbega Gabusu being one of their vocal advocates then.
In any case, what will be the impact of dismembering a region on the separate units, for example the central and southern VR, as indeed two (three for the Northern Region) new regions are going to be created? So, should everybody not be allowed to express their minds and fears which can then be allayed if unfounded, instead of the brazen attitude and arrogant disrespect and disregard shown by the Commission set up to collate views? The Commission indeed did a shambolic job. I understand it hasn’t even published its report for public perusal. Unbelievable! I will like to read the chapter in which it proved that development indeed will occur in the Oti Region once carved out. And, where it adduced proof that Ewes indeed discriminated against the Oti enclave area in sharing development projects even when Dr Obed Asamoah and other NDC gurus from the area were more powerful in the NDC than the Tsikata family, practically hounding even Captain Kodjo Tsikata into exile in S. Africa. Can Dr O. Asamoah and the Krachiwura, for instance, tell us what they have done with the money to compensate victims of the Akosombo Dam?
As it is, the whole thing is like doing impact studies and taking remedial actions to mitigate the impact of the Akosombo Dam on the upstream areas and completely ignoring the downstream areas, with dire consequences for the communities downstream. These are the crux of the matter that should even be what any commission set up to gather views should have tackled; not a mere porous call dubbed a “substantial demand” or petition to create a region or merge regions for reasons which might prove to be indefensible. After all, there are other measures to redress the claimed underdevelopment of particular areas in the regions. For example, effective and meaningful decentralisation and devolution of powers to the districts and assemblies with increased budgetary allocations to support better social infrastructure such as roads, hospitals, post offices, banks and schools so that no one needs to travel to regional capitals for such facilities. I had, for instance, in a series of articles called exactly for that, as the present structures are truly not working. That is why I consider it very unfair and shocking that the South Ketu District, which is bigger than a couple of constituencies elsewhere, was not split into two time in the recent re-demarcation exercise, as the residents have been demanding for a long time. I, for instance, even called for the dissolution of the moribund and ineffective regional houses of chiefs to be replaced by District Judicial Chambers of Chiefs (DJCC).As
I have more to say on the development of our rural areas, as expressed in other articles like this one below and an unpublished conference presentation.
Read More: OPENING UP THE RURAL AREAS [OF GHANA]. PART 2
However, I would like to dwell on the ethnocentric bent the Oti Region creation has clearly taken rather than a quest for development in Part 2.
Andy C.Y. Kwawukume