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Opinions Sat, 8 Nov 2008

Why the people of Bimbila are not voting in this year’s election

Ever heard of Bimbila? Most likely not! It is a town known for big yams and situated on one of the oldest un-motorable Ghanaian roads i.e. the famous Trans-Volta Super Feeder Road (not a highway) that runs along the eastern corridor and ends in Keta.

Although Bimbila is Dr. Ibn Chambas’ home country, most people would never want to go there. Even those of us who come from there often get pimples and sweaty when we have to go there; especially in the rainy season.

In the last few weeks, some people in the Bimbila area have made up their minds not to vote in this year’s election. To them, there is no reason to vote because Bimbila is a forgotten community and development is nothing but an elusive concept.

The Bimbila-Yendi road (part of the Trans-Volta Super Feeder Road) is the town’s life-line to Tamale. Yet for the last 20 years, the town gets cut off from Yendi/Tamale in the rainy season and the town’s people get almost imprisoned until the end of the rains. The road has not even seen re-graveling for nearly 20 years; the last re-graveling was done in 1989.

Through the efforts of several people including Dr. Ibn Chambas, the NDC Government endorsed contracts for the road to be rehabilitated as part of the eastern corridor major road works stretching from northern region to Hohoe area in the Volta. However, after the 2000 election these contracts were abrogated, and nothing has been done to rehabilitate the road for 8 years. The deterioration of the road has reached an unacceptable state considering its significance to the national economy and the well being of all the districts that rely on it.

This year, the road has deteriorated to the extent that users of all forms of civilized transportation have had to defer their journey to Yendi and Tamale. If you decide to travel to Tamale you should be prepared to spend 5 hours to make the journey of 43 miles to get to the modern civilization of Yendi. All buses have to make a detour (heading south-east) via a bush track created by tractors for more than15 miles to reconnect with the main road some 20 miles towards Yendi. The Bimbila Hospital like most health centres in Northern region still depends on Tamale to treat patients with very critical health conditions, and yet it is almost impossible to get a patient to Tamale. The town’s water supply and related facilities have had some problems and although we can build huge presidential palaces with 30 million dollars, no one really cares to provide the town with a new and reliable water pump.

When PNDC came to power in 1982, I boarded one of the Yendi – bound wooden trucks popularly called ‘By Air’; because you had to sit on very top of the side frames. The driver of the truck said that he was excited about the new government because Rawlings would fix the road. Ironically, 20 years later, in 2002, I happened to board another Yendi-bound minibus driven by the same man, but who was now a chattering old man. I was seated in the front seat beside him and when he got tired of swaying and bouncing in the endless pot holes he said, I wonder when this road will ever be fixed. I reminded him of his excitement of Rawlings coming to power and the dream that the road would be fixed some 20 years earlier. The old man shook his head and said: I don’t think this road will ever be fixed; not even in the next hundred years…..if Rawlings did not do it, no one will ever do it. Perhaps the old man’s conclusion was ‘fatwa’ declared on the Bimbila road. The fatwa says ‘You shall never be fixed as long as you continue to be the source of all the yams that arrive in the markets of Accra, Tamale and Bawku’. This fatwa is quite serious. The way out is simple-If the people of Bimbila stop producing yams and instead discover a gold mine, their road will be fixed. Well, it has come to pass and after another 6 years, the situation has become more critical. All the politicians have been to Bimbila this year but no one is allowed to talk about the road. This story of Bimbila is not alone and so many communities share similar stories. The most incredible truth about our politics is that we are not allowed to say anything against a government that has not responded to our cry in our most hour of need. We have to keep smiling even if we are denied access to the most important lifeline. And this fear of the powers that be is a sign of the death of our morality and our assertive spirits.

Well, who can blame the people of Bimbila for not wanting to vote? They will be better off voting for Action Aid or Red Cross or GTZ or even Microsoft. In fact, to vote for NPP, NDC, CPP would simply mean prolonging the fatwa pronounced by the old man on this oldest super feeder road.

Dr. Ahmed Bawa Kuyini

CEVS-Ghana, Tamale

Columnist: Kuyini, Ahmed Bawa