Opinions Thu, 28 Oct 2010

Holding Northern Politicians Accountable....

By Moses Kofi Yahaya

Hobbled by poverty and deprived of a consistent and sustained political leadership, the north continues to press on, however gingerly, unsure of every nimble step. On every economic and social index, from income to education, the north still trails the rest of the country.

In apportioning blame for the region's deep economic inertia, there is an irresistible urge to point at two convenient targets....the malfeasance of long-interred British colonial overlords and the astounding ineptitude of post independence civilian and military administrations.

One group that has consistently escaped excoriation is the northern glitterati....the educated and business classes. Well, not anymore.

In a blistering attack on the northern elite in September, a group calling itself the Northern Ghana Youth Network blamed the region's troubles on a leadership vacuum.

''The apparent squalor and poverty of the three regions is due to nothing other than deficiency in responsive leadership in academia, politics, religion and corporate business," the group lamented.

Depicting the northern elite as arrogant and excessively indifferent to the "plight of the youth and students coming from northern Ghana," the NGYND deplored the rank hypocrisy, incessant infighting and divisions among the northern educated and business classes.

Much of the group's ire was directed at northern politicians who it vowed to punish at the polls in 2012 if they did not show a renewed commitment to substantially improving the fortunes of the regions.

"We shall mount a public campaign to boycott all their activities including an operation no vote in election 2012 for the political parties," it threatened. Tough talk, won't you say?

While I don't agree with the entire premise of the "attack"....it sometimes bordered on petulance and wide- eyed exuberance....it nonetheless brought to the fore some uncomfortable truths about the northern elite...that they are solipsistic, abrasive and astonishingly oblivious to the economic hardships in the regions.

However one looks at it, there is no denying the fact that there is a nexus between the northern region's overall stagnancy and the anemic political leadership demonstrated so far by northern pols. This is a narrative that is fast gaining currency.

Northern politicians are a fractious band; for them political and tribal fealties are paramount and sacrosanct. In every discussion or deliberation, narrow and parochial interests resurface with unrelenting intensity. Any wonder that they have never closed ranks and forged a united front to push an all northern agenda.

Northern politicians are trapped in a time warp; they just can't seem to shake off old tribal prejudices and inherited bad habits.

Instead, amply nourished, they waddle up to their constituents and talk tough, but once ensconced in their parliamentary seats in Accra, they show excess diffidence by playing second fiddle to their southern colleagues.

Any northern politician who manages to break out of the box and begins to carve a path towards alleviating the region's perennial problems is hobbled by pettiness, intense professional rivalry and immediately labelled a firebrand.

If there are any legislative achievements chalked by northern politicians, their impact on the lives of residents of the region remains to be seen. Where is the evidence? The northern region isn't bursting at the seams with unbridled prosperity....its dilapidated hospitals and schools aren't revamped, modernized and staffed with home grown healthcare professionals and teachers and its crumbling network of battered roads aren't rebuilt, widened and asphalted.

Despite its potential to transform the region, the Northern Development Fund, a recently enacted policy isn't exactly a firewall against the relentless poverty. Truth be told, the NDF should have been enacted, nurtured, pushed and relentlessly pursued decades ago.

For long, northerners have stoically borne historic inequities foisted on them by colonial and modern governments without raising heckles and eking out a spartan living in an infinitely and unforgiving harsh environment. And contrary to prevailing views, northerners have gradually warmed up to the noble idea of self-help as an alternative to official largesse.

The north is capable of realizing its potential; all it needs is a leader in the mold of a charismatic Nelson Mandela or a dogged, persistent Ken Soro Wiwa, the slain Ogoni leader....who would emerge and lead her to economic renewal and prosperity....

The writer is a freelance journalist.

Columnist: Yahaya, Moses Kofi