GOOD ROADS are essential for the development of every country. For any economy to develop, transport must start off first which will later stimulate other sectors to develop in an orderly fashion. The Romans realized this centuries ago. Wherever they established themselves, they tried to improve the roads there.
Today, the governments of all countries in the world are building more and more roads to gain access to the remotest regions of their countries. Good roads play a significant role in achieving national development, contributing to the overall performance and social functioning of communities.
They link towns and villages and enable people of one place to communicate with or gain access to the people of another place. When food is scarce in one place, it can be brought from another place without much difficulty.
Even things which cannot be produced in one area can be brought from another area where they are produced in abundance. The invention of motor-vehicles has made it easy to transport goods from place to place. These vehicles, however, require good roads to travel faster. The better the roads are, the more goods can be transported from place to place. Thus, trade is improved.
In Malaysia, for example, the improvement of roads has made it easy for skilled workers from the towns to work in remote villages. The people of the villages, on the other hand, have been able to learn much from the towns. As a result, there has been a lot of improvement in the country in all spheres of activity.
Most importantly, in times of war, good roads help armies to move about without difficulties. Sometimes, a country is defeated in a war because its army is not able to reach a place in good time due to bad roads. Even the police may not be able to reach a place where there is some trouble if the roads are bad.
Many industries, businesses, state and private buildings, market centres and other valuable properties have been gutted by fire, and could not be saved by the Ghana National Fire Service as a result the bad nature of the roads in the country. For all these reasons, it is always necessary for a country to have good roads.
Roads in Northern Ghana
The above commentary must inform readers all over the world about the reason why most Ghanaians are extremely poor especially the people living in the three Northern Regions of Ghana. They are inarguably the most hardworking population of Ghana and contribute significantly to the country’s labour force, yet the most deprived.
They occupied more than half of the total land area of Ghana and contribute close to 50% of the total food and meat needs of the nation. The people of the three Northern Regions namely; Upper East, Upper West and Northern Regions are inarguably the leading producers of maize, rice, groundnut, millet, sorghum and yam among others.
So, therefore, there is no point in concluding that the people of the three Northern Regions of Ghana are poor because they are lazy, but because they are surrounded by extremely poor road network, which makes it unattractive and difficult for investors to relocate to the north.
Even local farmers end up losing a chunk of their farm produce every year to the bad roads because they cannot transport or get access to the market centres at the end of the season.
To hit the nail right on the head, the refusal of successive governments to pay attention to the extremely poor road networks in the three Northern Regions, is the major contributor to the poverty and underdevelopment of the area.
Majority of the people including chiefs, opinion leaders and even investors have over the years sounded throbbing appeals to successive governments of this country to tackle the development of the roads in the north but very little seems to be going on.
It is on records that close to 87% of the roads in Northern Ghana are unmotorable and poses real danger to the lives and socio-economic development of the people.
It would be recalled that the refusal of governments to develop the poor roads in the north became a major topic for traditional authorities in every meetings of the Regional Houses of Chiefs in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions in the last few years.
There have been series of demonstrations by some community youth and their leaders amidst road blocks and destruction of government properties with the aim of drawing governments’ attention to the deprived nature of their roads, schools and health centres especially during general elections.
Probably, the people have realized that it is only during elections that they can receive attention from the government, so they always have to go on rampage to drum home their pressing demands during that period. But all these actions have not yielded any positive results since governments withdraw attention immediately after the elections.
Some few years ago (exactly on 6th September 2010), the chiefs and people in 12 deprived communities along the Yendi-Bimbilla road staged a massive demonstration to desperately remind the government to walk its talk of ensuring a better Ghana for all.
The irate chiefs and their people, with support from some Community Based Organisations (CBOs), including the Ghana Development Community Association (GDCA), embarked on the demonstration to back their demand for the immediate construction of the Yendi-Bimbilla road.
They complained that that particular road had been captured in almost every national budget without any work commencing on it. What infuriated the people was the fact that, the 2011 budget, read by the then Finance Minister, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor, did not mention the Yendi-Bimbilla road, which they said was a ploy by the ruling National Democratic Congress government to deprive them of their share of road development.
However, the protestors, including the chiefs, wielded tree branches and placards displaying inscriptions like ‘No road – No vote’; ‘Our foodstuffs are rotting in the bush’; ‘2011 budget is incomplete’ and ‘Where is the Better Ghana?” among others.
The spokesperson of the chiefs and the people, Seidu Shaini Mohammed, in a petition presented to the Nanumba North District Assembly for onward transmission to the President, maintained that the nature of the Yendi-Bimbilla road had brought serious socio-economic setbacks to the people.
According to the protestors, there had been several cases of sudden deaths among pregnant women, who were unduly delayed on their way to the health centres as a result of the poor nature of the roads.
They asserted that some women in labour had died on bicycles and motorbikes, because vehicles were not ready to ply the road.
Several food items, including, yam, maize, rice and soya bean had also been locked up in the bush, due to the poor nature of road in the area.
Meanwhile, the Yendi-Bimbilla road is classified as an international road and connects travelers from the Northern Region to the Greater Accra and Volta regions and the neighbouring Togo.
As if that was not enough, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bunkpurugu, Solomon N. Boar in somewhere August 2013 held a ceremony in Tamale where he lamented over successive governments’ refusal to develop the road in the Bunkpurugu-Yunyoo District, which according to him, had aggravated the poverty situation of the people.
The MP said that, the Walewale-Bunkpurugu road, which is the major road in the area, had been neglected for far too long by successive governments, causing several accidents and grave inconveniences to farmers and traders.
Even though it is widely reported that the Bunkpurugu-Walewale road had been awarded on contract by the government in the run-up to the 2012 general elections, and that some work had already started on it, the MP vehemently challenged anybody, including government, to come out with documents to prove that the road had ever been awarded to any contractor.
He explained that his sources at the Ghana Highway Authority told him that they were on the road to do their normal regular or routine removal of sedimentary rocks developing on the road, and the government of the day used it as a campaign gimmick but no to tar the road.
Mr. Solomon Boar, who described the road as a life-threatening one, could not just comprehend why the Bunkpurugu-Walewale road, which is also of the great significance to the nation, should be neglected for so long by governments.
He indicated that the area contributes a lot of food stuffs and human resources towards national food security and development, and that there was no need for governments to play infantile politics with it.
Soon after his comments, the Member of Parliament for Kumbungu, Moses Amadu Yahaya also came out strongly to remind government about the deplorable nature of the Tamale-Kumbungu road, which has also received several promises from governments.
He identified the development of road infrastructure as the surest way the Kumbungu District could attract investors to improve on the socio-economic gains of the people.
The MP was confident that the development of the road network in the area would immensely open up the district, ensure smooth transportation of farm produce to the urban centres and also facilitate easy business activities.
The Kumbungu District, which produces a lot of foodstuffs, fisheries, sand and gravels for building purposes and also serves as the source of drinking water to Tamale is underdeveloped and has the worst form of road networks.
According to the MP, it would be very difficult for the people of the area, who are predominantly peasant farmers to have a meaningful life, if the roads were not developed to link the district to the northern regional capital, Tamale.
So far, out the 25 districts in the Northern Region in particular, only Yendi (Tamale-Yendi road) is a tarred road which was consciously built by government to enhance economic activities of the people. Districts like; Central Gonja, Savelugu-Nanton and West Mamprusi are accidentally enjoying asphalt roads because of their strategic location on the main Kumasi-Bolgatanga trunk road.
Commendably, works on the Fulfulso-Damango-Sawla road is ongoing but on a slow pace as well as the Tamale-Tolon road.
Government must do well to refocus attention to the roads in the north and also create other opportunities that would speed up the development of the Northern sector of Ghana since the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) is still crawling with almost an indeterminate fate.
“Adze wo fie a oye”
“Indeed a child whose mother is in charge of food preparation at the funeral house will surely not sleep with hunger!
But what does this slogan or phrase by the Late President John Evans Atta Mills – “Adze wo fie a oye” mean to President John Dramani Mahama, who is the first president coming from the Northern part of Ghana where poverty is endemic.
President Mahama is not in anyways oblivious of the development challenges facing the people of the north especially in the road sector. The President was born and natured in the north and had most of his education in the north.
So therefore his elevation to the highest of office of the land means a lot to the good people of the north, who undoubtedly expect so much from him and his government.
Incongruously, his appointment of a northerner Alhaji Amin Amidu Suleimani as Minister of Roads and Highways is welcomed as a strategic means to turn the roads in the north around.
The President and for that matter the Minister should not waste any more time fixing the roads up north.
Posterity would surely not spare the President and the Minister of Roads if their presence in the funeral house (governance) did not bring the needed change or transformation in the road sector in the north after the completion of their tenure.