Creation of new regions: An indispensable panacea for perennial underdevelopment?

Ghana Thinks

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All people everywhere crave for development in whichever form we look at it. We all admire and wish for good schools, hospices, roads, industries, markets among others not only because they are status symbols, but more importantly because, they make life livable and comfortable for people.

The search for these forms of development is so strong that, lack of them makes people feel marginalized and let down by people whose duty it is to allocate these developments equitably. They, in the process of venting their anger, propound all forms of theories to explain their 'neglect' and ill-treatment in the hand of duty bearers. They sometimes single out for mention a supposed 'colonial pact or policy of exclusion', their lack of representation in the government of the day, as well as their remoteness from the geographical source of political and economic power as the doings of their pitiable state.

The clamor for development is no new thing in Ghana. As we say, 'It is as old as Adam', but in recent times, the call has gathered momentum, and citizens everywhere, are using every legitimate means to demand what they feel belong to them. In some instances, some have threatened a vote en masse against a sitting government if a particular need of theirs is not attended to with a sense of alacrity.

Others also put forward certain demands before the political parties as conditions precedent before they could vote for them. These tendencies are healthy ones; they are not meant to hold governments to ransom, nor blackmail them. They are not indicative of those people's avarice. Instead, they show citizens' participation and accountability in our Democratic Dispensation. They are positive responses to their own disappointments in the hands of politicians and duty bearers in the past.

So as was to be expected, ahead of the 2016 general elections, one issue that dominated the campaign was development. The various political parties responded to it by prescribing some key policy issues such as fee-free senior high school education, restoration of canceled teacher and nursing trainees allowances,  and the more reverberating one: the creation of additional regions.

Being the victors of the 2016 general elections which they won massively and convincingly and after assuming the reins of power, the NPP, with 'Development in Freedom,' as its motto, has been doing quite a lot in fulfillment of its manifesto promises. Indeed, every objective analyst can attest to their boldness in policy implementation so far.

The government, led by its leader, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has been fierce in policy terms. The government has not shied away from implementing bold and sometimes unpopular measures and policy interventions aimed at ameliorating the plight of our people.The implementation of the free senior high school programme, creation of additional regions and the implementation of the paperless system at the ports are some notable examples of such bold initiatives,  not without challenges though.

This piece, however, seeks to discuss the creation of additional regions as development tools. Sitting from afar, I can feel the passion in the President, just like his predecessor Presidents, to bring development closer to the people. I can feel his zest to have every part of this country see some appreciable level of development during his tenure. Indeed, I admire his candor with regard to the implementation of his campaign and manifesto promise - the creation of new regions in line with Article Five of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana.

In justifying the creation of these new regions whose creation process is already in motion, the government holds the view that it is unacceptable for some citizens to travel almost four hours to get to their regional capital be it Takoradi or Ho. But there was an interesting justification given by the four hundred chiefs from the northern part of the Volta region for their demand for a new region. That reason, which is not new is that there is a colonial policy to underdevelop their side of the region and in extension, some parts of the country.

This, as they said, is responsible for their sordid state of underdevelopment.  This reason, I say,  is not new because other people, other than our brothers and sisters from the northern part of the Volta region had made similar comments in the past. It is therefore important that this myth of 'colonial collusion against certain parts of the country' be addressed.

A look at the reasons for the coming of the Europeans to Ghana and Africa will do the trick of demystifying this age-old 'collusion theory'. The Europeans - Portuguese, Dutch, Danes, Brandenburger, Prussians, and the English - did not come to Ghana and Africa to develop it. They did not come with any development blueprint for the Gold Coast now Ghana. Their only reason for coming was exploitation of our natural and later, human resources in the form of slaves.

They were in search of raw materials - gold, manganese, bauxite, diamond, oil palm among the rest - to feed their fledgling industries back home. They were in search of virgin markets for their manufactured goods because of protectionist policies in Europe at the time. This ambition was what drove them to grab lands through treaties and force. Such ambitions necessitated the building of railway infrastructure in resource-based areas in the Gold Coast. Such ambition informed the construction of forts and castles as warehouses and fortresses in the coastal areas of the Gold Coast from Keta in the east to Appolonia or Nzima in the West.

So, the provision of every bit of infrastructure in the Gold Coast was clothed in this imperialist ambition. A look at the railway map of Ghana reveals this startling fact. It explains why there are no railway lines in Ho or Nkwanta for instance. The harbor built in Takoradi was not meant to develop Sekondi-Takoradi. It was to facilitate easy transportation of commodities to and from Europe. It was no deliberate plan to underdevelop some parts of Ghana by neglecting others. It was about what the Europeans wanted, and where they could get that which they needed. Thus, it is a historical fallacy to argue that there was a colonial conspiracy to deprive some parts of the country of their share of development.

What we called development, mainly in the Southern part of Ghana is a product of the colonial agenda of exploitation. It was no coordinated and well-intentioned plan of development of the Gold Coast. It was not borne out of any conscious strategy of developing some parts of the Colony whilst underdeveloping others. It was far from it.  The so-called development of the South by the Colonial masters was an accidental one.

Meanwhile, following the heels of the European merchants were the Missionaries ( Catholic, Basel, Wesleyan, Bremen, AME Zion). They, like their governments and merchants, were also based mainly in the coastal areas and the immediate parts of the interior of the Gold Coast. With the mission of evangelization and the propagation of the Christian faith, they set about building schools and later, health facilities mainly in the coastal areas of the Gold Coast, and later the interior which included but not limited to Aburi, Akuapim- Akropong.

It was the provision of these schools first as tools of evangelism, which later turned out to be a panacea for development in much of the coastal areas.This further explains why there is some level of development in the coastal and the Southern parts of the Gold Coast.Thus, the so-called development of the Southern part of Ghana is down mainly to the early arrival of formal education. In the case of the deep interior and the northern parts of the Gold Coast which include areas such as Kete Karachi, Nkwanta and Dambai, the spectre of inter-ethnic wars in many parts of the Gold Coast especially in the coastal and the forest zones discouraged the Missionaries from going beyond the coast and the immediate interior areas to propagate the gospel through the building of schools.

They were also challenged strongly by Islam which had already taken root in most of those areas during the Trans-Saharan Caravan Trade which predated the coming of the Europeans. Thus, with the exception of few instances, Christian schools were late in reaching these areas. And since the development of the coastal part of Ghana is due largely to education, its absence or late entrance to some parts of the country accounts for their current state.

Indeed, this explains why almost all the  good secondary schools in the country - Wesley Girls, Adisco, Mfantsipim, Presec Legon, Arch Bishop Porter Girls, Bishop Herman College, Mawuli School, Prempeh College, St Louis Girls and Ola Girls, Ho to mention but a few are all found either in the coastal areas or the Southern part of the country. It was not down to any deliberate colonial pact or agreement of underdevelopment of these parts of the country.

The existence of such an agreement will mean there was a deliberate plan to develop some parts of the country. If that were true, then the question will be which part of the country was a beneficiary of the deliberate development agenda of the  Europeans/ English? Of course, it was not Kumasi, because it was one major victim of the British imperialist agenda in the Gold Coast. It suffered outright burns in the hand of the British imperialist forces with an ambition to conquer the Asantes whom they saw as a bigger threat to their imperialist and exploitative agenda. It was not Ho; neither was it Cape Coast nor Akyem Abuakwa.

Now, back to the consensus manifesto agenda of creating new regions out of some of the existing ones. It appears consensus because both the NPP and the NDC promised to do it if they won the 2016 general election. Maybe, the only difference will be the method of doing it. It may also be about how many regions they will create and where the boundaries will be located. As for those nuances, I know there will be no consensus considering that the constitution itself is not specific to those fine details.

To the extent that these political parties have the recognition that some of our people are denied development and so, must be helped is itself apt and commendable, but that recognition should not be taken to mean that all is well with the other halves of those regions they intend to split. It does not also mean that since time immemorial, the state has shirked its responsibilities completely towards those parts of our country.

The Northern side of the Volta Region and the Savanna areas of the Brong-Ahafo Region, for instance, have all been beneficiaries of the pro-poor programmes of Northern Scholarship and the Savanna Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) initiatives. Their continuous underdevelopment notwithstanding these interventions simply means that the state ought to do more for such areas. So, as we are all aware, soon, students will have to unlearn the fact of Ghana having ten regions with ten capital towns to relearn the new fact of Ghana having fourteen, fifteen or sixteen regions with some not too familiar capital towns. Those offering Geography will also have to relearn how to draw the map of Ghana to reflect the new creations. Some people's birth certificates will also have to be redesigned to include their new status.

Labour unions and even government departments such as the Ghana Health Service, the Ghana Education Service, and the Ghana Statistical Service will all have to relook at their data collection regime. New letterheads ( in all the 'affected' areas) will have to be redesigned to reflect the change. At the level of central government, the composition of Cabinet will also be affected since the Constitution enjoins the President to uphold regional balance in the composition of her/his cabinet.

Who knows, our legal luminaries and governance experts might even consider proposing to the government to consider increasing the Cabinet composition from the current upper limit of nineteen to say twenty- three or more  Ministers of State as currently enshrined in article 76(1) of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic.

Further, the future appointment of Ministers will all be affected. Institutions such as the National House of Chiefs will all undergo some change in composition. These and many others are the ramifications of our desire to have new regions created. I have no doubt however that, with the array of expertise and institutional knowledge available to us as a stable Democracy, we shall once a