It is an ultramodern storey building, painted in gold and cream colors and decorated with the black, red, white and green colors of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
Nothing short of the word spectacular can be used to describe the newly-built Bolgatanga East Constituency office of the NDC.
The building estimated to cost around GHC 350,000 has the bold inscription; “J.D MAHAMA OFFICE COMPLEX” on it with two paintings of the umbrella symbol of the NDC below the inscription. It is strategically located off the DVLA road at Kumbosco, not far away from the defunct meat factory.
Member of Parliament for Bolga East, Dr. Dominic Ayine who is also the Deputy Attorney General and Minister for Justice put up the constituency office in fulfilment of a campaign promise he made to the party’s delegates during the NDC primaries in August 2012 at which he was elected the parliamentary candidate for the area for the 2012 elections.
The Bolga East Constituency was one of the new constituencies created in 2012 by the Electoral Commission.
Since the NDC has offices in all constituencies, to have a new office for a newly-created constituency is not a bad thing. However, the amount invested in this office, looking at the needs of an infant constituency like BolgaEast, is seriously baffling to a lot of well-meaning people.
In June 2014, I was one of journalists who covered Dr. Dominic Ayine’s tour of projects he had executed in his constituency. The tour took us to see some school buildings he had put up in attempt to cut down on the number of schools under trees in his constituency and to encourage more children to go to school. It was after this tour that Dr. Ayine revealed the plan to put up a new party office for his constituency. At the time, only the foundation for the project was being dug. When Dr. Ayine spoke to us journalists, he said that the funds for the project were being raised through his friends and well-wishers – people he had met and become acquainted to, by virtue of his position. In fact, he advised his colleague MPs to emulate his example and often try to find other ways of raising funds for projects in their constituencies instead of always depending on government.
That Dr. Ayine raised funds on his own to put up a constituency office for his party did not look like a bad idea. However, seeing the building now, learning how much it is estimated to cost and knowing the inherent economic problems that exist in his constituency, some people think that the Bolga East NDC office complex is an ostentatious project that has no positive economic impact on the people of the area.
Personally, I do not think we can boast that a constituency that was created only four years ago has already met all its development needs for the MP to be spending an estimated GHC 350,000 on a constituency office for his political party.
In the run-up to the NDC primaries in November last year, Dr. Dominic Ayine in an interview on the Morning Show of Bolga-based A1 Radio was confronted with this very issue. The host of the program told Dr. Ayine that some people were of the opinion that a party office was not necessary and that the money could have been invested in something else. Dr. Ayine’s first response to this was that; building the office was his first promise to the NDC delegates when he was elected the party’s parliamentary candidate for the first time in August 2012. He explained that when the NDC lost power in the year 2000, many landlords across country who had rented office space to the NDCevicted the offices because they were afraid to be associated to the NDC, now that there was a new party in power. According to Dr. Ayine,he was personally unhappy about the development and wondered why the NDC had failed to build its own offices in all the years that the party had been in power. For him, it is better to own office buildings than to rent them from people.
In that same interview on A1 Radio, Dr. Ayine in responding to the criticism that the money used to build the NDC office could have been invested in better things like schools and clinics,confirmed what he told us in June 2014. He said; he sold that idea of owning an office to some of his colleagues (mentioning Tony Lithur as one of them) and they liked the idea and donated monies to him for that purpose. He said if he had told these colleagues that he wanted to put up for example; health infrastructure, they would have told him to go to government.
In the same interview on A1 Radio, Dr.Ayine said it was ‘interesting’ that people said he was not creating jobs. He went on to explain that he bought the building materials for the project frompeople within the constituency and hired boys from the same constituency to put up building. He said some of the walls of the building were not straight and the building did not have the best architectural edifice because it was built by foot soldiers but he was happy with it,since he had created jobs for his people through the building.
So I ask; now that the building is almost complete, where will these youth get jobs? Did they make enough money from this building project to be able to start up their own businesses and employ others or will they have to wait until there is another building project to get jobs? These people as Dr. Ayine said, are foot soldiers; which means they are his party loyalists who got jobs from him to do for a while. So what about the other jobless people in the constituency who are not foot soldiers or party loyalists? Where should they get jobs to do?
Dr. Dominic Ayine also justified the need for the office, saying that his house had become a place where he met party people for various reasons and so it was necessary to have a place where party business could be “structurally organized” to make the party effective on the ground. All the constituencies have party offices so it is not a bad idea for Bolga East to also have one. But did he need to invest as much as GHC 350,000 in a party office for an infant constituency like Bolga East?
Dr. Dominic Ayine mentioned some things he is doing through corporate lobbying to help his people – boreholes and a library. I am personally aware of the library, a new market project, some of the boreholes and a few schools. No one is saying that Dr. Ayine has not done anything. Perhaps he is doing is best but I know that the economic potentials of Bolga East are far too enormous to be left untapped until an NDC constituency office is complete.
The defunct meat factory is located not too far away from this new J.D MAHAMA OFFICE COMPLEX. The Zuarungu Rice Mill is also within Bolga East. It is defunct. The road that passes in front of this spectacular office leads to the meat factory, the regional office of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), the Health Assistants’ Training School and to the center of Zuarungu, the constituency capital. This road is in bad shape and needs work. There is general unemployment in Ghana and Bolga East is not left out. I am not saying that GHC 350,000 can fix these problems. But if Dr. Ayine has the lobbying capabilities that can produce such an edifice for an NDC constituency office, should he not be lobbying to fix the things that have the potential to bring general economic improvement for his people first?
The money used to put up the office is not taxpayers’ money so maybe we cannot begrudge the MP for what he decides to do with it. But let’s imagine the impact ofinvesting at least half of the amount, empowering farmers to do dry season farming.
There is a school called Abolato Primary school located at a community called Nyorkukor near Zuarungu in the Bolga East constituency. Government adopted the school in 2009 from a private person and started a new six-classroom block that never advanced beyond the foundation stage. The school currently operates from someone’s private uncompleted residential facility. I got the photos below from the school, just a few hours before publishing this article.
At least 75 children in this school study under very uncomfortable conditions. I am learning now that the school was only recently captured to be worked on under the Ghana Education Trust Fund (GETFund), yet it has been a government school for almost seven years. So what is the point in having an NDC constituency office worth an estimated 3.5 Billion old Ghana Cedis, when a school like Abolato Primary School still exists in the constituency?