Opinions Wed, 26 Dec 2012

What is Good for Northerners is Equally Good for Southerners

The significance of National Flags, especially in global sporting competitions, cannot be over-emphasised. They serve not only as means of identity, but also a symbol for a country's history and ideals. It was not for nothing that Mrs. Theodosia Salame Okoh designed the current flag for Mother Ghana. This symbolic design took place in 1957 when the country attained political independence. As many of you are aware, the flag of Ghana consists of Red, Gold, and Green horizontal strips with a five point Black Star in the centre of the Gold stripe.

The colour red represents the blood of our forebears who died in the country's struggle for independence. The gold/yellow stands for the country's mineral wealth; whilst the green symbolises our agricultural wealth. The black star, no doubt, represents the hope of Africa.

It could be deciphered from the above that every Ghanaian, had at least, a family member who sacrificed his/her life for the benefit of the present generation at the time of the political struggle. Therefore, the choice of red as one of the 3 colours of the National Flag was no doubt, in the right direction.

Though Ghana boasts of mineral wealth, the location of these minerals is limited to certain regions in the country. For instance, among the 10 Regions, it is on record that major minerals such as oil, gold, diamond, manganese, and bauxite that fetch enough foreign exchange for the country are located in Western, Ashanti, and Eastern Regions. The unevenly distribution of these mineral deposits could be one of the main reasons that accounted for the choice of Unitary Form of government after independence. This is because Ghana's first president, Kwame Nkrumah did not want any of the regions to lag behind in terms of socio-economic development.

The same could be said about the country's agricultural wealth. Since time immemorial, agriculture has been the backbone of the Ghanaian economy. From east to west, and north to south, at least one form of agricultural activity takes place. From fishing, to farming, and animal rearing, every Ghanaian is convinced that truly, our economy is agrarian. The choice of green for our flag, which incidentally matches the natural colour of the forest, could be said to be without any fault.

However, a critical observation of the agricultural products that fetch significant income for the nation, in terms of their contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are obtained from the forest belt. Here again regions such as Brong-Ahafo, Western, Ashanti, Central, and Eastern come to mind. That is not to say that other regions do not produce anything, far from that. But it is an undeniable fact that the above-mentioned regions are the major producers of cocoa, timber, and foodstuffs. Cocoa alone gives the nation $2bn every year.

It is therefore the expectation of all Ghanaians that at least, the wealth of Ghana could be spread in such a way that the regions that produce a greater part of the country's wealth have their fair share of the national cake, if not a greater share. This is because there is an adage that says; " nea oyam ahwahwade3 no, ompopa ne nsa kwa". "3na , de3 wabr3 nso na odie". But, is that the case in Ghana? No!

The people in the above-mentioned regions suffer for John Mahama and his Northern brothers to go to school free. They attend school free from kindergarten to the university without paying anything. After schooling, they become Ministers of State, Members of Parliament, Vice Presidents, but they have the gut to tell Ghanaians that the Vice Presidential position is no more exciting to them. Some of them marry more than necessary and produce children as if they are drinking water. Instead of building their houses and setting up their businesses in the north, they build their mansions in Accra, work in the cities, and later complain about lack of meaningful development in the north. If you look at the number of Ministers in the current administration who are from the north, one wonders why people cry foul about lack of development in the area. This John Mahama, in his own wisdom, thinks that the northern part of the country lacks medical doctors so he deemed it fit to send 250 Northerners to study medicine in Cuba without thinking about the hen that lays the golden egg for Mother Ghana.

A Southerner, who paid for the cost of his entire education decided to use the country's resources to expand the free education policy to the rest of the regions and people began to rain insults on him. Some of them even said free things are of poor quality. If so, why does the NDC government boast of increasing the capitation grant from GHC3 to GHC4.50 per child per year? Why don't we allow parents to pay for these fees?

The other time I had a debate on the radio with an NDC representative in Kumasi, he said education in the north is not entirely free because they pay for everything barring feeding. So I retorted, what is wrong with the government extending that benefit to students in the south? He had no answer to that. Strangely, in spite of all this blatant unfairness, there are millions of southerners who side with the NDC to reject free SHS. Surprisingly, some of these southerners could not even continue their education beyond the junior high school level due to poverty; some of them are still aware of the struggles their parents go through when schools re-open, yet because they have been influenced with short term monetary gains, they even tease some of us on the free SHS proposal. My late father, though a cocoa farmer, could not cater for my secondary education until my sister sold her pieces of cloth to see me through.

Sometimes, in the face of this emotional experience, we have no option than to draw people's attention to this institutionalised educational discrimination but we end up being tagged us tribalists, ethnocentric, among others. But how could people sell their conscience and reject free secondary education for their own children? I can't just understand it! "3nti de3 wapoto amano afe no, okyiri s3 odebo mu bi anaa?". If free education was limited to the southern part of Ghana, what would be the perception of our northern brothers?

At least, it would be morally fair and justifiable to extend such freebies to children of the very people who sustain Ghana's economy by dint of their hard work. The other time the chiefs and people of Western Region reminded John Mahama of his 10% oil revenue promise, hell broke lose. So for how long will southerners sit down for them to be used as hewers of wood and drawers of water to perpetuate the existence of John Mahama and his sycophants whilst our people die in abject poverty? Remember, our forebears fought against the whites when they felt cheated along the line, so how much more John Mahama? Indeed, if we wanted somebody to cheat us, should it be John Mahama and his NDC? I don't think so because if John Mahama and his brother, who now owns a private jet, did not have free education, probably both of them could have been on the streets as Kayayes (head potters) or farm labourers like my nephew who did not have access to secondary education. However, I take consolation of the fact that the discerning, selfless, and patriotic Northerners like Dr. Bawumia, who are beneficiaries of free education, have come out boldly to justify the need for free education for every child. At least, he has been honest with the Ghanaian people.

In conclusion, I call upon Ghanaians to stand up against this injustice or forever we all perish. All Ghanaian children need free education and not only John Mahama and his family. If free education is good for Northerners, it is equally good for their southern counterparts. We can't sit down unconcerned only for our knives to be used to dissect reptiles of all kinds. Discrimination in any form should be nipped in the bud. I've spoken the truth and if I should die for it now, so be it after all, all die be die!

God bless Ghana! God bless Kufuor!!

Katakyie Kwame Opoku Agyemang, Enfield. London.

(Free SHS Ambassador)

A native of Asante Bekwai-Asakyiri

Official blog (www.katakyie.com)

katakyienpp@yahoo.co.uk 07577626433

"Vision, coupled with persistency, results in true success"
Columnist: Agyemang, Katakyie Kwame Opoku