General News of Wed, 5 Jul 201721
Feature: 10 things Upper East is crying for and who to blame for it
As to the reasons the Upper East has been wallowing way behind the others in everything that is supposed to exist, those who have a ‘third eye’ can always point to us where the rain is whacking us in the heads and why we are in a thick fog about the future.
The good things the others have in abundance, which are not found in the Upper East, are not scared of coming to us because of some violent disputes that are related to land, to chieftaincy or to something else. There are more reported violent conflicts, more protracted disagreements headlined on newspaper front pages about the other regions than there are in the Upper East, yet they are comparatively overdeveloped.
Below are 10 things you will find in the other regions but, for reasons best understood by those who know better than I do, are missing in the Upper East- very much to the displeasure of over 1 million people. They are missing generally as a result of “what successive governments have done to us and what we, too, have done to ourselves”.
The ‘Shifting’ Airport Site
Shameful Stadia in Homeland of Abedi Pele and Sons
There is not a single structure in the region which natives who are sports enthusiasts can proudly point at as a stadium.
The structures the region calls stadia are so disappointing that strangers wonder why the great Abedi Pele and his accomplished footballing sons look indifferent to whatever happens in their region of origin even if the Ghana Football Association, in collaboration with the Ministry of Youth and Sports, has something against the people of Upper East.
The so-called stadium in the regional capital, merely a bushy piece of land with crumbling walls awfully surrounding it, is only fit for shooting horror movies one of which may earn an Oscar nomination. What is supposed to be solely a sports ground is being used today also as a free 24-hour public toilet and a reliable rendezvous for immoral activities as the facility is not secured.
That park has been one of the most patronized grounds for daylight open defecation. It has been a plot ‘demarcated’ or ‘endorsed’ for unrestrained open defecation by the sheer silence of those who are paid to act. Only a few years ago, an aborted baby was dumped in a weedy corner of the park. The baby was found dead, using its own placenta for a pillow. Timely find prevented stray pigs from chewing the body of the beautiful but unwanted infant. A park where happy children are meant to gather for rapid physical and mental growth is what has turned into a fallow den where unspeaking newborns are dumped to die under the watch of duty bearers!
A Travel-hopeful Region without a Passport Office
Lots of responsible young men and women in the region do have travel intents but their attempts are met with needless frustrations. A region where many people are still held in ‘poverty custody’ does not need an extra burden of travelling to another region with all the risks and the expenses involved to obtain travel passports.
If the office rooms of the Ghana Immigration Service are too choked to establish a passport issuance desk in the Upper East region, I am sure the land is not too choked and no amount of compensation for acquiring a portion of land for a passport office is worth one life or lives that may be lost on the road one day as people continue to endure the 2 hours of a road journey to Tamale and another 2 hours coming back in a bid to own an essential travel document for moves that would benefit not just the travelling individual but also the region in the long run.
A Rehabilitation Centre that needs Rehabilitation itself
If ever there was one rehabilitation center in Ghana in desperate need of rehabilitation itself today, it is the Bolgatanga Rehabilitation Centre for persons with disabilities in the Upper East. You may prefer to be wrongfully locked up in a military guardroom for a month to doing a deserved jail term of just one week inside one of the decomposing rooms of that rehabilitation center.
The neglect of that facility, which is the only training school in the region for physically disabled and vulnerable persons who want to acquire employable skills so they can say goodbye to the unrecognized ‘Beggars Union of Ghana- BUG’ to join the benefitting workforce in the region, only shows how little or hardly someone cares about the region and about the PWDs whose federation keeps growing as we all are potential PWDs- persons with disabilities or deformities.
The center has been closed down for 7 years because government cannot provide the disabled apprentices with feeding grants as well as teaching and learning resources!
There is power, so much power, in meeting those behind you after you have met success. Bill Clinton, the 42nd President of the United States, only shook hands with President John F. Kennedy, the 35th Commander-in-Chief of the US Armed Forces, from a crowd when he was 17 years of age and got inspired to later in life run for the presidency in the United States. More examples abound around. A donation of jerseys personally made to school and community football clubs by the prominent footballers who have their roots in the region is yet to happen for once. And one can only expect that more future stars would be inspired through such encounters. There are many rusty-looking children in your communities whose great destinies are tied to just a handshake with you. But you have been so far away somewhere else all your life, shaking hands in absentia and voting by proxy. Your hand is badly needed at your roots. So is your thumb in the village!
But one good thing about Upper East
Whilst I am also still asking to know why this region, with lots of women empowerment advocates in its inexhaustible reservoir, is yet to have a female district coordinating director from the era of British Ghana up to now, I have also kept wondering why the region, unlike her siblings, does not have a newspaper or a television station to thoroughly showcase its values, identity and worth.
Needless to say, this is the only region in Ghana yet without a roundabout at a time the others are talking about interchange. The few traffic lights in the region, found only at 5 junctions in the regional capital and at 1 spot at Bawku, are ‘clinically dead’. They have joined their ancestors- the telephone booths installed in some secondary schools in the region some years back.
I think it is a simple formula. The region may only need to do what the others do to earn the same good results they have. Maybe it is time the region spoke in one voice. And maybe it is time the individuals, both natives and strangers, started thinking less about themselves and their families and more about the tomorrow’s wellbeing of the land.
Not too long ago, celebrated preacher, Rev. Eastwood Anaba, led his church in an all-white-shirt route march to the RCC block, demanding an immediate stop to transfers of habitual drunks in the civil service from the south to the north as punishment. As to who made the Upper East a punishment ground, a dumping ground and a ‘forsaken’ sector of the country, we could blame both the hawks (successive governments) for doing the ‘robbing’ and the hen (the region) for ‘abandoning’ its chicks.
But there is one thing I love about this land aside from its beautiful landscape and numerous though undeveloped tourist sites. I have always said if the Frafras and the Dagaabas were to live together alone in one community, there would be no need for a police station there. It would be the same if the Kassena-Nankanas and the Gonjas, the Kusasis and their in-laws, the Dagombas and the Moshies, the Mamprusis and the Moshies or the Builsas together with the Sissalas and the Gonjas among other ethnic playmates in the north were to live in one neighbourhood. These ethnic pairs are playfellows whose deep-rooted bonding and undying passion for jokes that bind, irrespective of the ages or the social statuses of the players involved, know no boundaries.
Some time ago, a Dagaaba teasingly held a Frafra baby over a boiling pot of pito (a popular local beer in the north brewed from guinea corn) and was throwing the toddler up and catching as people watched with a bit of unease. As he continued doing so, the baby slipped and dropped in the pot. It was a disaster. But the matter did not end where many would expect- the police station. It was resolved among them. And fortunately, the baby also survived.
Another drama reportedly came up at Wa in the Upper West region some years ago. Former Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University for Development Studies (UDS), Professor Saa Dittoh, a Frafra, was reading a newspaper one cool evening in front of a structure by the roadside. As he flipped through the broadsheet attentively, he was also carefully sipping some fruit juice intermittently from a beautiful pack placed on a table before him. He crossed his legs and was enjoying himself alone. Then, suddenly a young Dagaaba, who was returning from work, sneaked to that table, picked the drink and raised it close to his eyes as if he wanted to inspect the label.
Stunned, the professor closed the newspaper immediately, uncrossed his legs and sprang to his feet to watch in wild silence from behind a pair of eyeglasses.
What on earth gave this young man the nerve to walk to my drink and, without saying a word to the owner, picked it right in front of me, the highly respected professor might have whispered to himself whilst praying for a third person to join him to wonder.
But the young man was not in a hurry at all to respond as he continued to inspect the label carefully in silence whilst the Pro-Vice Chancellor looked on in tense awe. Horror! The professor, with a big proud pair of the Frafra tribal marks on both cheeks, must have screamed whilst holding his own waist firmly in front of the unconcerned-looking Dagaaba whose eyes were glued to the label.
When the intruder was done with the label inspection, he smiled and quaffed everything in the pack- to the utter shock of the veteran lecturer! The young man twisted his lips with satisfaction and rubbed his chest after gulping the sweet contents and, then, asked with a smile why a Frafra man, and not a Dagaaba, should think he deserved a nicely packed beverage. The professor burst into laughter and whipped the man lightly with the newspaper. And that was the worst he could do after recognizing that the trespasser, though an unfamiliar face, was from a playmate ethnic group. They had good laughs, exchanged pleasantries, shared contacts and parted ways. You do not need to waste resources in putting up a police station where Frafras and Dagaabas live together. They have no use for one! You may have to use the fund for a school project or a dog meat processing factory. But if it is a police station, they would have no use for one!
Whilst the distressing depth of the under development we see in the region may be blamed on successive structures and the region itself as a society that has been singing a discordant tune for development all along, you may also agree that a joint Nobel Prize for Peace is long overdue for all the ethnic playmates in the region, and beyond, whose inter-ethnic tolerance, far old in years, has remained a strong promoter of the peace and the development that would benefit not only the natives but the strangers as well. It sounds like the assurance from the old adage that says, “When the branch is at ease, the bird that perches on it also would be at ease”.