Northern Region, future business hub of Ghana –a rejoinder

Sat, 2 Sep 2006 Source: Jeffrey, Peter

Dr Kwame Nkrumah and Dr Kofi Busia both saw the potential of the Northern Half of Ghana, its strategic location and it’s potential to the whole future development of the country some 40 to 50 years ago and thus set in motion the development al agenda to turn the region into the most developed region in Ghana. Their agenda was more strategic, as they saw the economic benefits to the whole country. Those who were close to both leaders and are still associated with the current main parties can attest to this assertion.

Dr Nkrumah’s free education policy in the Northern region was partly influence by his social agenda and ideological dogma as some commentators would want us to believe. Dr Nkrumah’s master plan for the northern regions was to first and fore most develop the human capital of the whole region and then gradually introduce the developments that he envisage would help to uplift the whole country. Sadly the powers that be saw Nkrumah more as threat to their plundering of Africa and eliminated him. On his death bed in Bucharest in Romania, Dr Nkrumah admitted to the mistakes his regime made.

His master plan for Tamale is well known by all. Tamale was to be transformed into a major metropolis and the biggest road and air transport hub to serve countries further north as well as to bring to the south food and cash crops for internal consumption and for export.

The Progress Party government of Dr Kofi Busia also had similar 5 year development plan for the Northern half of the country. Dr Busia’s plan span from Kintampo (in his home region of Brong Ahafo) to WA and Tumu in the far north of the country.

The Progress Party government of Dr Kofi Busia saw the economic benefits of Dr Nkrumah’s master plan for the Northern regions, thus the reason the free education policy instituted by the CPP regime was left in place.

The climatic conditions of the region was such that both Dr Nkrumah and Dr Busia had in their 5-year development plans to invest heavily in Agriculture and light industries that would be the backbone of the drive to make Ghana self sufficient in food production. The plan had in it a satellite township based on Milton Keynes in England.

Although the crisis in Dagbon has overshadowed the region’s potential, it is now incumbent on policy makers to ensure that peace prevail in Tamale and its environs.

In order to forestall the sort of ethnic hostilities we are witnessing in Dagbon, Dr Nkrumah encouraged inter-tribal marriages in Ghana. Although before Dr Nkrumah came onto the political scene, intra-tribal marriages in the West African sub-region was not a new phenomenon as results of migration.

Those in the north often migrated to the south to work in the mines, in the cocoa fields and as labourers in the south, thus the rise of Zongos communities in most southern towns and cities.

As was highlighted in the previous article, sportsmen and women from the north or those with northern parentage gained prominence in their adopted towns and cities. In Kumasi, footballers including late Baba Yara and Salisu, former Kotoko players and later managers like Abdul Razak, Sunday Ibrahim and Malik Jabir made a lasting impression on the whole nation. In Accra, Suyani, Sekondi and various towns nationwide the story was the same. In the field of politics, business and academia our fellow brothers and sisters from the north excel. In his manifesto, Dr Arthur Kennedy pledge to invest more in biotechnology at the school of medical science at University of Development Studies (Tamale), University of Science and Technology medical school (Kumasi) and University of Ghana medical school, Korle Bu, Accra.

The strategic location of University of Development Studies demands that major investment must be targeted at the key colleges of the University such as the school of Medicine and dentistry, the school of agriculture and school of adult education. University of Development Studies, Tamale stands to become one of the important research based Universities in the sub-region. Dr Arthur Kobina Kennedy has floated the idea of establishing an Aeronautical College at University of Development Studies in partnership with a major University in United States. Arthur Kennedy wants to see the fist Black African to go to space to be a Ghanaian trained at UDS, Tamale. The onus is now on the Northern caucus in parliament to push for such investments not only from the central government, but from private businesses and non-governmental bodies.

Within the African American and African Caribbean community in Diaspora, it is a known fact that majority of their fore fathers might have been taken from the northern regions. Salaga Slave market bear witness to this horrendous crime against black people. Perhaps as Ghana’s 50th independence anniversary approaches it is wise for the Northern caucus in parliament to embark on pilgrimage to the Americas to encourage the black diasporas to go back to their roots……..as well as encouraging them to invest in the land of their fore fathers.

Ghana and the North in particular can and should encourage dual citizenship for the African Americans and African Caribbean as a sign of reconciliation and brotherhood. Many of those who were taken from the continent hail from Ghana, majority from Northern Ghana. By encouraging our brothers and sisters to “come home” should be seen as a way of building a successful one motherland for all our people. We did not aid the slave raiders but surely some one somewhere owes our brothers an apology.

On his “Message of Hope” crusade Dr Arthur Ebo Kobina Kennedy recognised the huge potential of this constituency and pledges to encourage them to think of their homeland. He directly appealed to them to return and help build the motherland and a place that they can proudly call HOME without any racial connotations. Of the few presidential candidates who do have realistic chance of winning the presidency, only Dr Arthur Ebo Kobina Kennedy, the current NPP front runner wants to entice the large investment opportunities among the African Americans to the north. On those road shows, Arthur Kennedy spoke passionately about the north and the need to ensure the master plan drawn by Dr Nkrumah modified and implemented. Like Dr Nkrumah, Dr Arthur Kennedy (not an Nkrumaist, but a realist and a true patriot) wants to ensure that the North achieve its true potential.

Perhaps Dr Hilla Limann and our current vice president personify how far the policies put in place by Dr Nkrumah and Dr Busia is yielding fruits. Now the essence is for us to move this process further by encouraging investments in the north from Ghanaian entrepreneurs both at home and in Diaspora. The African American business community can and must be encourage investing in Ghana and the north in particular. There is no denying the fact that Ghana too is their motherland. They are also the children of the sikaman (Gold coast). Our brothers and sisters from Diaspora should not be seen as “obroni” meaning “Whiteman or foreigner” but as Hon Jake Obetsibe Lamptey stressed, as “ayemi”or”brother/sister”.

The whole region is one honey pot that must be advertised as such. To start off, some of the ministries and governmental departments or core functions of some these departments in Accra must be transferred to the regions. The passport office is one such department that must be based at the centre.

The fisheries department can be based in either the central region or the Western region with some sections of that department split between Volta Region and Greater Accra region.

Dr Arthur Ebo Kobina Kennedy did acknowledge that the amount of food produce that are left to go waste in the 3 Northern regions during the harvest season is insane and blamed this on the lack of transport infrastructure by previous governments. Kennedy asks why a region so endured with fertile soil and good climatic conditions should go hungry. Kennedy was emphatic with his criticism and the need to pull resources together irrespective of allegiances or political affiliations. Kennedy is the only presidential candidate who has floated the idea of a “national unity government” with a master 5 year development plan to transform Ghana from a backwater third world economy into a middle income country with a Gross Domestic Product of $1000.

This might seem a monumental task for the former radical student leader of National Union of Ghana Students, but this is a man who put his own educational development and promising medical career on the line to defend the rights of his fellow citizens. On his “Message of Hope” crusade, Kennedy said “every boy or girl” born in Ghana should be given the same opportunity to succeed irrespective of tribe or region.

Papa Owusu Ankomah and John Dramani Mahama are two other potential leaders who have commented on the need to urgently develop the northern half. These leaders and others acknowledge that in other to halt the migration from the northern regions to the south, the massive investment is needed in human and physical development in the north. Let us hope that as preparations for CAN 2008 enter its final phase Tamale regains its former glory. It is sad and ironic that a region so rich in agricultural land should rely on food aid to survive. Dr Nkrumah, the man who brought free education to our northern brothers and sister would be turning in his grave to see his beloved region bleeding to death. This should and must never be allowed to happen.

God bless our homeland Ghana. God bless Tamale and the 3 northern regions.

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

Columnist: Jeffrey, Peter