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Opinions Sat, 27 Jan 2018

Open letter to the Northern Regional Security Council

On the 10th of December 2017 there was this vicious and callous attack on market traders in Najong No.1 which left four people dead and several injured. As it was at a market place and on a market day in the village, casualties included women and children. The assailants had carefully chosen their target to exert maximum pain.

Two weeks after the incident, with no arrests or any signs thereof, Najong No.1 Elders (NNE) held a press conference in Tamale where a number of issues were raised including the inaction of the Deputy N. Regional Minister and MP for the constituency, Mr. Solomon N. Boar (Daily Guide, 22/12/2017; Ghanaweb, 24/12/2017).

On 3rd January 2018, the MP held a press conference, “MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR BUNKPURUGU CONSTITUENCY & DEPUTY MINISTER FOR NORTHERN REGION ADVISES THE BAUK CLAN IN THE BUNKPURUGU-NAKPANDURI DISTRICT NOT TO INFLAME TENSION WITH FALSE ALLEGATIONS CONCERNING THE SENSELESS SHOOTING INCIDENT IN NAJONG NO 1 ON THE 21ST OF DECEMBER 2017”(from Facebook) to rebut the allegations. I have read the two press releases.

As a citizen of the area, I wish to comment on these blame games. I believe that the honourable MP has the right to defend himself but in so doing, his rebuttal raises a number of questions, bordering on leadership qualities and inane political diversion.

People interested in the welfare and development of the area have noticed a pattern, that ever since the first major conflict in the area in November 1985 at Bimbagu, most of the subsequent conflicts have had a common denominator; “the clan” hereby referred to as “the people” of a sitting MP. In recent times, all the conflicts have involved “the people” of sitting MPs and on one occasion a District Chief Executive. People of MPs seem to be emboldened by the presence of “their man” in Parliament and easily take to arms. From the periods of Mr. J. Y. Labik to the second term of Mr. Solomon N. Boar, all the periods have experienced armed conflicts involving sitting MP’s people. The only period we had a respite was the one-term period of Mr. Berrick Namburr.

Aware of this pattern, when the Najong No. 1 Elders heard rumours of an impending conflict in Sayoo, to be staged after the December 2016 elections, they tried in vain to meet the MP; not even through his campaign manager. Well, the Honourable MP could be right; after all, he was not the security agency. Notwithstanding this fact, he had the power of influence.

Today, we now know that he did not want to get involved (ref. his rebuttal). And as if that was not enough, the Honourable MP boasted that he did not even campaign in the area. If he did not campaign in the Sayoo area because he did not want to have any dealings in conflict areas, we know that he campaigned in Bunkpurugu. To the best of my knowledge, no place in the constituency or even the whole Bunkpurugu/Yunyoo District was hotter than Bunkpurgu itself prior to the 2016 elections.

By not campaigning in Sayoo and boasting about it, the MP shot himself in the foot. That good leaders always want to work towards goals that are greater than they are, refers to people with visions. He missed this opportunity. It was a chance to demonstrate the art of leading others to deliberately create a result that would not have happened otherwise; good leadership. Running for political office involves many challenges. He ought to have stood to the challenges instead of backing away. Mrs. Nancy Reagan once said, "A woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong it is until it's in hot water”. Likewise a politician, s/he should be measured by what s/he will be able to achieve out of troubled waters. Yaser Arafat, Yitzak Rabin, Simon Perez, Nelson Mandela and Frederik W. de Klerk were all awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in troubled waters.

However, all is not lost. My suggestion is, as Deputy Northern Regional Minister, member of REGSEC and MP for the constituency, Mr. Solomon Boar can do more for peace in the area if only he has the political will. Initiate dialogue. Involve level-headed Bimobas who are peace oriented and will say the truth as it is. Task them with finding out some of the causes of this recurring menace, why sitting MP’s clan often fight their neighbours, root causes and resolutions.

Additionally, in his rebuttal, the MP described one Mr. G.D. Yandam as the spokesperson for the Najong No. 1 Elders at the press conference. Moreover, in the next segment he turns around calling him a political opponent who wants to put him down. In my candid view, the Honourable MP is only shooting the messenger. In modern day political discourse, we have seen powerful politicians “shooting messengers” by calling credible media houses fake news. The reason? Simple. They present news not favourable to them. Shooting the messenger is an emotional response, and not the right course in self-defence. Self-defence is a right notwithstanding.

The Najong No. 1 Elders named a number of persons in their press release and gave reasons.

Again, in my humble opinion, it was needless for the MP to come out defending all the accused persons. This defence again does him a disservice. As Deputy Reg. Minister, he chairs REGSEC meetings (I may be wrong). If he comes out to defend “his people”, his neutrality will be compromised if and when such a case comes before the REGSEC because of his self-interest vis-à-vis the outcome. And, it was exactly for this reason that the Najong No. 1 Elders asked that the MP should step aside.

Cues of proaction

I am not a police officer. I do not know how the police conduct their business but I can see the disparity in the results of police duty in Bunkpurugu in relation to other conflict areas in the region. The Northern Regional police command are more active and results-oriented in other parts of the region than in Bunkpurugu. For example in Bimbilla, it took only two days to make arrests and declare two people wanted in the case where gunmen carried out an attack on a club house killing three people and escaping on motorbikes (citifmonline.com, Jan 13 2018).

In contrast, seven weeks after the Najong No. 1 shootings, people are still waiting and wondering whether the police are giving the perpetrators enough time to fleece their evidence.

On 13th January, when Gonjas and Tampulmas clashed in North Gonja district, the police rushed in and made arrests (See “Police arrest 40 after Diisah, Salugu attack” Ghanaweb, 15/1). The Regional Minister immediately invited the Wasipewura and his elders and the Tampulima Chief and his elders to a meeting in Tamale” (Ghanaweb, 15/1/2018)

The Regional Minister, Mr Salifu Saeed further warned that

“We will not sit down and allow anybody or any chief to jeopardize the peace of the area, and we are ready to arrest any chief found fuelling tensions in their communities” (citifmonline.com, 15th January 2018).

He added

“his outfit will ensure that any individual or group that tries to jeopardize the security in the area will be dealt with in accordance with the law” (citifmonline.com, 15/1/2018).

Such briskness and alacrity is what we lack in BY/D. Local politicians have failed us. I am sure my honourable MP took this as a cue from his boss that actions speak louder than political rhetoric.

We would love to see a better Bukpurugu/Yunyoo District with politicians and power holders who will not sit down and allow anybody or chief to jeopardise the peace of the area and will be ready to arrest any chief or individual found fuelling tensions”; thanks to Hon. Salifu Saeed.

In another related case, the NPP MP for Bimbilla even offered a ransom for credible information leading to the arrest of criminal perpetrators. I should not be misunderstood, I am not asking for the MP to pay for information leading to arrests, but insisting that our politicians should be more proactive. Once Mr. Solomon Boar has been mentioned in this case, his integrity will be judged by the developments in and of this case because of his actions and inactions.

Conclusion

The spate of troubles in the area produces an outcome more complex than just the quest for landownership and chieftaincy. The trauma and violence produces a youth fraught with psychological disorders and substance abusers. According to the World Health Organization, mental disorders are the single most common cause of disability in young people. When people attack market places, shooting and killing Kandahar style, these are signs of a decadent society. This is the more reason why our politicians and power holders should be preoccupied with addressing the problem instead of the blame games.

Kpamka Elijah Kombat

Social commentator

20th January, 2018

Columnist: Kpamka Elijah Kombat