It is now or never for northeners

Feature Article of Thursday, 11 April 2013

Columnist: Okofo-Dartey, Samuel

Knowing the truth and being blunt with it is the best liberator of the soul. However, it is so unfortunate that due to political, tribal and other affiliations, we tend to compromise the truth in the face of indisputable evidence. The truth in this matter is that the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) is now a cosmetic showpiece. The commitment on the part of the government of the day appears to be a flame in the wind; it is unstable and less intense. The authority is almost associated with comedy and ridicule.
When the authority was given a legal backbone in the middle of 2010 although it was conceived in the latter part of 2009, we were told it was a bold initiative to reduce poverty and engender accelerated economic development in the three northern regions and certain portions of the Brong Ahafo and Volta regions. The political dimensions of this initiative were greatly harnessed by the NDC government and catalogued among the unprecedented projects initiated under the Better Ghana Agenda.
But events in recent times have stirred a lot of suspicions leading to the questioning of the true purpose behind the setting up of the authority. There is little to show for the huge capital investment pumped into the activities of the authority. That is why the foul guinea fowl flavour is seeping through every pore of the Ghanaian society in the most bizarre fashion.
The 15 million cedis (150 billion old cedis) guinea fowl project appears to be attracting attention for the wrong reasons. The only proofs to this gargantuan investment are only six hundred live guinea fowls and the paltry 20 eggs. A friend humorously suggested that a greater portion of the birds that were bold enough have flown to Burkina Faso to lay eggs where the weather seems favourable. And for that matter the government should be grateful to God that the timid ones remained.
Another investment under SADA that has raised questions is the afforestation project that has so far cost the government 32 million cedis (320 billion old cedis). It is shocking to note that less than 20 percent of the five million seedlings planted actually survived due to the unfavourable condition of bushfires, dry soil, heat etc (See ‘NDC HOT OVER 470 BN SADA TREES, GUINEA FOWLS’-
If this piece of information is anything to go by, then, Ghanaians and especially our friends northerners should really brace themselves for bitter times ahead. It took the watchful eyes of the opposition to uncover this rot at a time when information on the activities of SADA were visibly scanty. If that is how SADA is going hang its dirty boots in public, then it should arm itself for a barrage of criticisms and public enquiries.
In all these, there is a sense of betrayal and deadly collusion to deprive the poor people of the north their pound of flesh through a careless appropriation of hard earned public funds. And there is no shuddering in stating that there are Judases in government who are aiding the somewhat chief Judas to milk their own kith and kin.
If one takes a cursory look at the Mahama administration, it is clear cut the president has been gracious to his own in terms appointments. Even in the civil and public services, the northerners occupy a good portion of the pie chart. Mention must be made of the fact that SADA which is predominantly meant for northerners is headed by a northerner. So why is it that such a laudable project meant to alleviate the deplorable plight of those called developmentally marginalised be so much fraught with scandals? Or is it that some people are insensitively riding on the platform of extreme poverty in the north to siphon state funds to fatten their private purse? Only time will tell.
It is therefore crucial for our folks up north to recognise nobody can development their land for them other than themselves. Just as no foreigner can develop Ghana, so must they see themselves as catalyst of change and not depend on politicians who only need their votes to perpetually entrench themselves in power.
Those of us who cannot stand the seemingly unceasing phenomenon of ‘Kayayei’ in Kumasi and Accra must be bold enough to tell the President some of his blood relations are suffering in hardship when SADA which is meant stem the tide of rural urban drift is sailing in troubled waters. It is pitiful the way these head porters sleep in slums, give birth in slums and at the end of the sun’s full travel, they earn little to keep body and soul together.
In the midst of these woes, nature is also having its day up north. Although, the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) has exceeded its budgetary allocation, some of the affected victims are yet to receive relief items. It seems therefore the north is nothing but a fertile ground for political and monetary exploitation.
However, as we prevent the dog from getting closer to the meat, so must we proper place the meat out of the reach of the dog. The northerners themselves have a role to play in properly positioning themselves for economic development. Development in itself thrives not in the midst of war, burning of houses, tribal feuds and unfruitful youthful agitations.
The recent fiery skirmishes between Konkombas and Bimobas are a recipe for erasing the interest of potential investors in that part of the country. Existing projects stand a stalemate if our friends pursue the path of vengeance other than peace and prosperity. The Abudus and Andanis for sometime have been reminding us that the bad blood between is far from over. It is also on record that the northern part of Ghana has the most hot spots or volatile places in the country.
In short, the northerners have to take a portion of the blame for the state they find themselves in. You cannot have an olive branch in one hand and sword in the other ready to strike. Chieftaincy disputes in that part of the country is rooted more in personal vendetta and interest other than a religious pursuance of the line of succession. If these negative tendencies are allowed to brew unchecked, any developmental project like SADA will definitely be a sewage in a waste pipe.
It is at this juncture that I call on well meaning northerners down south irrespective of their tribal stock to redirect their hearts to their homeland. God has been gracious to some of them and they command unimaginable wealth.
Others are now ministers of state, doctors, teachers and responsible men in our society. They must not forget their roots as they build mansions and buy expensive cars when they are doing little to rebuild the fallen walls of their ancestors. Even if the government is handicapped which I doubt, it must have the heart to adopt Akufo Addo’s idea of constructing hostels for these head porters in the major cities to ease the accommodation challenge facing their own.
In this vein, I call on President Mahama, Haruna Iddrisu, Maham Ayariga, Asuma Banda and other northern giants to heed to this Macedonian call – nobody can best set the northern developmental drive other than themselves. Now SADA which being is managed mostly by northerners must live up to its mandate without the scandals it is grappling with.
Once again, it is now or never for northerners in this country. They must boldly hold our leaders accountable. Those who follow politics blindly and for the sake of it must think twice. Northerners are Ghanaians in every regard I suppose. But if caution is thrown to the dogs in the face of mounting challenges, then it stands to reason that the tag of the north being the least developed region will be a perpetual emblem.
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