A 'New" Northern Region: Gonjas & Others- Rejoinder.

Sat, 31 Oct 2009 Source: Haruna, Mahama

It is interesting reading a feature under the above heading by Emmanuel. K. Anekunabe.

First of all I must I commend Anekunabe for accepting that, the creation of a new region out of the present Northern Region is a popular wish by the majority of people in the north and he fully support it too.

According to Anekunabe "as Ghanaians and inhabitants of the Northern Region, we need to delve into questions and challenges posed by this call for the creation, development and sustainability of the proposed new region is a legitimate concern". I totally agree with him.

I however strongly disagree with Anekunabe that there are views in some quarters that the issue is becoming a “Gonja Project “. I do not think he has any facts to back this fallacious thinking.

I wish to point out that the creation of a new region out of the Northern Region should be in the interest of all Northerners and not seen as the agenda of any group of people. Gonjas are not and will never agitate for an "ethnic" region. That is why they have always consulted some of the major ethnic groups before they make any move on this issue. Gonjas have even suggested the region be called "Savannah Region" and not "Gonja" or "Gonjaland "Region like the case of the Brong-Ahafo or Ashanti Regions.

Anekunabe stated inter alia "to avoid this 'Gonjanisation 'as feared in some quarters, there is the need for critical exploration of wider implications of the proposed regions. A broader process for engagement and dialogue of all the ethnic groups within the catchment area of the proposed region is very essential in order to buy-in and avoid resurfacing into the new region, the discrimination and inter tribal rivalries that have led to the disturbances and conflicts in the Northern Region".

It is true Gonjas are leading the agitation but they have always been cognisant of the fact that without the tacit support of other ethnic groups in the Northern Region and beyond, the request for a second Region out of the present Northern Region would be a mirage.

Anekunabe said because of the population of Gonjas, they wield enormous power in the Northern Region and that they also have strong influence in the two major political parties of NDC and NPP in Ghana.

Well it is just by sheer coincidence and luck that Gonjas have the influence Akunabe is talking about but I believe they are not abusing this influence. On the contrary they are using the influence to the benefit of all Northerners. Under the NPP administration the likes of Alhaji Boniface Abubakari Sadique, Alhaji Nurideen Jawula, Adam Zakaria, Alex Sofo and many others used their influence to fight for the concerns of all Northerners, likewise the John Mahama's in the current administration.

Anekunabe believes the Yagbon Wura's call for the new region is commendable. He support this call and that of other people for the proposed region.. Nonetheless, according to him "the Northern Region is not all about Gonjas and Dagombas because the region comprises several groups: Nanumbas, Mamprusis, Nchumurus, Konkombas, Chokosis, Basares, Lobis, Bandas and Mos among others". This is absolutely true.

Anekunabe, I must admit is not the first person to have raised this question. I know many people have asked why it should be the Yagbonwura (Paramount Chief and Traditional Ruler of Gonjaland) the one that should petition Governments to create a new region out of the Northern Region. Some have even gone to the extent of suggesting the King of Gonjas is simply demanding a region to be created based on tribal lines. I have heard people argue the division should not be based on petitions from a single King or demand from a single tribe.

These are arguments are legitimate but those who engage in such arguments are not being fair to Gonjas. Before Regions like the Brong-Ahafo and Upper West were created, who petitioned Government? It was obviously the Chiefs. In 2006, it was the Chiefs of the Northern Volta led by the President of the Volta Regional House of Chiefs, Togbe Gabusu with support from the Paramount Chief of Gbi Traditional Area, Togbe Agboka VI and the Paramount Chief of Leklebi Traditional Area that sent a fresh petition to Government requesting for the creation of a separate region in the Northern part of Volta to be called "Oti Region".

In fact many non-Gonja Youth groups, Civil Society Organisations, Pressure Groups, Opinion leaders and Politicians have come out to support the call for the proposed region to be carved out of the Northern Region.. ANEkunebe himself conceded that various articles and petitions championed by many groups including Gonja chiefs, politicians and intellectuals seek to set forth, defend and further advance the splitting or carving out a new region to achieve stable socio- political integration and balanced economic and infrastructure development.

It must also be explained that the people from Gonjaland comprise of autonomous ethnic groups like the Vagla, Safalba, Nchorba, Brifor, Lobi, Hanga, Tampulma, Mmara, Bartige, Mo, Pantra, Mibor, Norme, Nawuri and Nchumuru who are all privy to the Yagbonwura's petition. The agitation by Gonjas should therefore not be misconstrued and misinterpreted as an ethnic group asking for a Region. Far from that! In matters of this nature however we do have some being more concerned and forceful than others as well leading the agitation. In fact Gonjas have been lobbyed directly and indirectly Nanumbas, Konkombas, Nchumurus, Chokosis, Basares, Lobis, Bandas and Mos among others to join them in the agitation for a new region.

There is also this erroneous impression that Gonjas are agitating for a region because the Vice-President is from among them. In fact a friend recently questioned me why Gonjas have become louder in their agitation for the region. He told me that the fact that the Vice- President is a Gonja is not a license to secure a region for Gonjas. My answer was simple; 'Our agitation for a region to be created from the present Northern Region started before John Mahama was born'. In fact it was started by his late father E.A Mahama and others during the Kwame Nkrumah administration. I told him there were several petitions from Gonjas before John Mahama's first baptism of politics as a Member of Parliament for Bole-Bamboi.

Gonjas as I indicated earlier have always engaged opinion leaders and traditional rulers and youth associations from the other ethnic groups in the North. I believe there is a collective and united front among all Northerners for this course.

For instance the Northern Regional House of Chiefs recently passed a resolution asking government to divide the Northern Region into two or more Regions. The motion was tabled by the Kumbungu Naa-Iddrisu Abu and seconded by Wurugu Naba-Naa Professor John S. Nabila (President of the National House of Chiefs). Ironically non of these Chiefs hail from the Gonja area. Where therefore lies Anekunabe's the issue is becoming a “Gonja Project “?.

The preamble of Akunabe's feature is excellent. Yes there have been calls for a new region to be carved out of Northern Region in view of its size and the challenges of managing such a diverse region.

Let us all therefore agree that limited attention has always been given to the development needs of some parts of Northern Region by successive governments. Infrastructure development projects by governments such as roads, water, agriculture development, telecommunication, primary health care, educational facilities, access to the mass media and so on in their part of the region appear not to have been given the kind of importance like other areas.

There are so many problems responsible for the slow development of the Northern Region and one of the way of ameliorating these problems is the creation of a new region.

The state of the roads in the Region is generally bad. The only stretch of roads that are tarred (first class) are the Buipe to Tamale and the Tamale to Yendi stretch. Most roads are not motorable in the rainy season thus hampering economic activities, tourism and other basic health programs.

The shear size of the Region is itself a problem. The Northern Region is by far the largest in Ghana. It is about five times the size of Upper East, two times the size of Ashanti and God knows how many regions of the size of the Greater Accra can be carved out of Northern Region.

I think that the Northern Region is too big to be controlled from Tamale. It is too big to be one administrative division. The is the reason some Regional Ministers in the past considered the region as ungovernable. It needs to be divided into two manageable regions in place of this one amorphous and unwieldy region.

I strongly believe that the creation of a new region in Northern Region would solve these problems and also ensure the rapid realisation of government's decentralization policy and equitable distribution of the country's resources in line with the Directive Principle of State Policy as enshrined in the 1992 Constitution of Ghana. The creation of a new region would also remove all bottlenecks that impede the smooth administration and development of parts of Northern Region and therefore bring about an accelerated development as well as administrative efficiency.

By: Mahama Haruna

tel. Â 233 24 3313 113

eMail. maharun1@yahoo.com

blog. mahamaharuna.blogspot.com The writer is the Secretary of the Bole Branch of the Gonjaland Youth Association-Greater Accra.

Columnist: Haruna, Mahama