Opinions Sun, 16 Sep 2007

Bui City Project -Which part of the river

Recently the President cut the sod for construction work on the much awaited Bui hydro electric power project to commence. The occasion was also used to unveil plans for the development of a Bui City, which the Minister of Energy described as an opportunity to develop another planned community along the lines of Tema. The project is expected to create nearly 3000 jobs for the teeming masses of unemployed youth in the country. This is all well and good and the nation has every thing to be grateful for.

However, the flip side to the project is that, one had expected that an opportunity to build a completely new city for the country, which would be laden with all the modern amenities, such as an Airport, schools, shopping malls etc., would have been an occasion to begin the process of trying to bridge the development gap between the north and the south of Ghana.

Regrettably, this is not going to be so, according to the plans we have sighted so far. As it is, while the construction of the Dam is going to affect the welfare and livelihoods of people on both ends of the Bui gorge, all plans for the Bui City project are geared towards the southern Ghana half of the river. While the harmful waste products of the construction process including possible flooding are being directed to the northern side. In my view this is not the best way to bridge the yawning development gap between northern and southern Ghana.

It has been reported in the media that some youths in the area, i.e. the Bole District half of the Bui River have been expressing their misgivings about the state of affairs and threatening some kind of action. I believe in a democracy, they have every right to express their concerns about matters that affect their welfare. It is only in autocratic states that the Government is always right. That is why in our country we have systems in place for the channelling of grievances, such us the courts and the commission on human rights and administrative justice.

The youth may disagree with the plans as have been unveiled by the ministry of energy, but they must always remember to use the right channels, otherwise, they might be defeated even before the actual battle begins. Whatever action they take, they must not interfere with the construction work; else they will be considered as saboteurs by a nation still reeling under the load an energy crisis. Besides, the site engineers and workers have no influence at all on the decisions regarding the implementation of the project. They are merely conduits for the execution of the project.

I do feel though that there are a lot of genuine questions that ought to be answered on this project, such as: What was the level of consultation between the affected districts/communities and the Bui Project Development Committee? Consultation between a District Chief Executive and the Planning committee would be considered insufficient for this purpose in my view. If the Bui City is going to be developed on the Brong Ahafo side of the river, what is going to be the plight of those people on the Bole side of the river? Are those people going to have to relocate to the Brong Ahafo region and become natives of that region overnight? Are they going to be given some resettlement compensation and just asked to move on? If the physical development associated with the project is being shared unfairly, what is the guarantee that the must touted jobs will not be similarly skewed?

This brings to mind the general question of the commitment of our leaders to the development of our country. As John F. Kennedy, former president of the United States of America so cleverly put it: “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” These are statements our politician love to quote, but find no meaning in their application.

Recently, we were all shocked by the gory story of a teenage girl who was chained under a bus, and was allegedly being transported to some village in the north to marry. Most people sympathised with the girl, while others condemned what they saw as a barbaric and savage custom of a backward bunch.

We all condemn the existence of so-called witch camps in some districts in the north and the female genital mutilation in some communities, but we have never bothered to ask what the alternative is. You don’t get a backward people forward, by one radio or TV commentary on their backwardness; you don’t do so by passing legislations which do not work; you don’t even do so by skewing national development to their disadvantage. You help to get them out of mass misery, you give them a meaningful education and jobs and society and hope. Indeed, you achieve it by giving the people some thing to look forward to otherwise they will remain backward.

Until you have put these measures in place, you are morally deficient to expect such a people to find their way forward.

Let’s consider development since this government came into power. Let’s for the purposes of argument, limit ourselves, to a sector in which this government is generally acknowledged to have done quite well: i.e. the road sector. How many roads in northern Ghana have been completed? Apart from perhaps, the Tamale Yendi Road, one would struggle to find another in the north. If any thing they have gotten worse. In northern region for example, the Bole-Bamboi Road which has been in every budget since the Pope was an Alter boy, is still struggling towards the finishing line and the Sawla-Fufulso road remains a seasonal footpath. Yet our politicians are the most vocal in defence of their parties. When it comes to talking for their constituencies, they stammer and struggle…

If this nation is really serious about development, then we must all in unison make a commitment to the development of the North. Unless we achieve parity in our development, like Africa has been described as “a blot on the conscience of the world” the north will be Ghana’s representative on the conscience of Ghana.

A friend recently wondered why people in the north keep voting. His argument? Politics has never benefited us, and it never will.

Let those who have anything to do with the Bui project hasten with answers, because the calm prevailing in the Bole area after the initial noises, may well be the calm before the storm.

Mohammed Gausu
C/o Buipewura’s Palace Buipe, N/R

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Columnist: Gausu, Mohammed