A Trust Betrayed

Land of our birth we pledge to the,

Our love and toil in the years to be;

As we are grown to take our place

As men and women with our race.

Land of our birth, our faith, our pride,

For whose clear sake our fathers died;

Oh mother land we pledge to thee,

Head, heart and hand in the year to be.

“WHAT CAN WE SAY about of SADA? Thanks to very thorough investigations by Manasseh Azure Awune and Joy FM, we find SADA to be a sad story of managerial incompetence, insatiable greed, utter recklessness, criminal conspiracy, plain thievery and abominable corruption.”

These are not my own words. They are rather words quoted from the story by my elder brother, I.K. Gyasi in his article titled: “The tragic story of SADA,” published in the ‘The Chronicle’ of April 28, 2014.

Whenever I see the young girls from the North coming to the South in droves, I feel some pain in me as a Ghanaian. Though these girls may come in handy as head porters (Kayayei) or as house helps ( euphemism for maid-servants), they are sad reminders of our failure as Ghanaians to solve the problem which we claim to have inherited as a colonial policy.

The Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) was or is an independent agency for coordinating a comprehensive development agenda for the northern savannah ecological zone. This was a National Democratic Congress (NDC) campaign promise – that countered the one proposed by the National Patriotic Party (NPP). It was supposed to cover the three northern regions of Ghana, namely Upper East, Upper West, Northern Region, as well as districts contiguous to the northern parts of areas in Brong Ahafo Region and Volta Region.

To the planners of the scheme, it constituted Ghana’s response to the effects of climate change associated with floods and drought.

On paper, it was a beautiful programme whose main thrust was to promote sustainable development using the notion of a forested and green north to catalyse climate change reversal and improve the livelihoods of the most vulnerable citizens in the area. It was thought that the strategy being developed would provide opportunities for poor peasants, especially women, to own assets in economic trees, sustain their food crop production and protect the fragile eco-system of the northern savannah by managing the flood-prone river beds better.

Certainly, a marvelous programme, spawned out of plausible intention to try and bring the north and south at par, and as touted by Mr. Paul Victor Obeng, it was a laudable effort to bridge the developmental gap between the north and the south. Who says there is no poverty in the Volta, Western, Central, Eastern, Greater Accra and Ashanti Regions. But for the help I received from my teachers, especially Mr. Cornelius Amekugee, I would not have been where I am today.

The audit report exposes ‘managerial incompetence’ of a kind that belies the expected investment return. Why plant trees in the dry season. Why rely on a single company to rear Guinea fowls, instead of spreading the resources among the farmers in the north?

Ironically, all or most of the people who were supposed to superintend over the Authority are all people of northern extraction. Could anyone be blamed for arguing that these people have failed President John Dramani Mahama who is himself a Northerner, and appears to be rather passionate about the plight of the people in the area?

In his reaction to the damning report, Honourable Dominic Nitwul, the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bimbila has urged that the “President should really do something about the SADA thing. People have to be punished.

But we hear now about a ‘leaked report’ that avers that the tree-planting exercise was a success.

The trees were planted by ACI Construction Limited, a company said to be a subsidiary of Roland Agambire’s AGAMS group. According to the report prepared by the Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources, “the average percentage survival of all the planted species in the SADA plantations were very high (85%) with the highest (88%) recorded in the Eastern zone and the least (76%) in the Southern zone”. The ‘leaked report’ excites Edem Worlanyo, SADA spokesperson, who sees this as a proof “that the Authority has so far been diligent in its use of public funds.” The simple question to ask the researchers is: ‘what was the universe (the sample places) used?

In The New York Times of September 9, 2011, was a short piece: “Something is rotten with the State of Enron’. On October 28, 2001, A Berenson and R.A. Oppel Jr wrote “At the beginning of 2001, the Enron Corporation, the world’s dominant energy trader, appeared unstopped. The company’s decade – long effort to persuade law makers to deregularise electricity markets had succeeded from California to New York.

It ties to the Bush administration assured that it views would be heard in Washington. Its sales, profits and stock were soaring.

The Enron Scandal led to the bankruptcy of the Enron Corporation, an American energy company based in Houston Texas – a lesson could be gleaned from its failure even though government funds were not involved in the U.S. case cited.

There have been very successful Northern businessmen who did not depend on government resources to rise to the top. A few names readily come up: Aliu Mahama, Asoma Banda.

There have equally been quite prosperous southern businessmen, and these include Akenten Appiah – Menka of Apino soap fame; J.K. Siaw of Tata Brewery fame and B.A. Mensah of International Tobacco fame. The toil and sweat of these famous men cannot be assessed.

Unfortunately these three southern businessmen who started life selling things like chewing stick, cassava and newspapers before pushing their way into economic moguls suffered immensely under Jerry John Rawlings – the ‘father – founder’ of the NDC.

Sometimes I wonder why successful people do not return to their places of origin to live among their own people, and help them, instead of swelling the population and resources of places like Accra and Kumasi. Their presence in their villages of birth could have a great influence on the youth round about them. But who am I to advise people on where to live – in a free, democratic state like Ghana?

J.H. Mensah, the one–time Member of Parliament for Sunyani, writes in the Foreword to Akenten Appiah –Menka’s ‘The River in the sea’, As the story unfolds the constant theme is one of self –help and fortitude ….. tale of life of ups and downs…..that is different from the government getting involved in the business of starting up and running enterprises, which they mostly do very poorly….Let us learn as the Chinese have learnt from the great leader of their contemporary success Deng Hsiao Ping. ‘It is good to make money’. In this we agree with Abraham Lincoln (that)….’ Property is good’….First, we need to create the culture of wealth creation before there can be anything to distribute”

The SADA case stinks, President Dramani Mahama must “do something”. Perhaps, it is significant and noteworthy that he has instructed or directed the Board of SADA to act in consultation with the Attorney-General in terminating the contract.

The scandal are becoming one too many – Ghana Youth Employment and Entrepreneurial Development (GYEEDA) following on Woyome, Isofoton,…..you name them.

In the Enron Scandal, a U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan remarked: “In the Titomic, the Captain went down with the ship. And Enron looks to me like the Captain who first gave himself and his friends a bonus, the lowered himself and the top folks down the lifeboat and then hollered up and said, ‘By the way, everything is going to be fine. Is everything going to be fine in Ghana?

One theme sentence of Kwame Nkrumah’s speeches was: “The African is capable of managing its own affairs’. Did he mean ‘mismanaging’ instead of ‘managing’? A Book on Zimbabwe when it used to be Northern Rhodesia was entitled’ An ill-fated people.’ Could this aptly describe my own people, from……?