The New Patriotic Party (NPP) on Saturday August 25, 2012 launched their 2012 campaign Manifesto amidst pump and pageantry at their regional delegates conference held at the Accra International Conference Centre ahead of the 7th December polls. The ceremony was graced by top and leading members of the party such as the flag bearer Nana Akuffo Addo-Danquah, the party chairman Jake Otanka Obetsebe Lamptey, former president JA Kuffour and his vice Alhaji Aliu Mahama and also present was Ambrose P. Dery the honourable member of parliament for the Lawra-Nandom Constituency who also doubles as the deputy minority leader in Ghana’s parliament. It is significant to add that it was Ambrose who phenomenal did the exegesis on the thematic area of Transport & Water under the Chapter Three of the NPP manifesto which deals with Public Investment to provide Basic Amenities and Support Job Creation.
Before I get into an in-depth and critical analysis of the NPP manifesto and its potential ramifications for northern Ghana, it is very material/imperative for me to first of all give a synopsis of the history and a general overview or portrait of what is meant by northern Ghana within the geospatial, economic and sociopolitical context of modern Ghana in order to engender a holistic or comprehensive appreciation of the issues.
The history of northern Ghana as a British territory started after the Berlin Conference of 1884 when the British colonial government saw the need to extend its sphere of influence and boundaries northwards in order to take advantage of the lucrative trade and brisk commercial activities including the trans-Sahara Berber trade north of Asante and to contain the vast expansionary antics of the French north of the volta. To this effect the molato George Ekum Ferguston was sent on three missions to the northern territories between 1892 and 1895 in order to conclude treaties with the leaders and chiefs of the north west ie Bole, Daboya, Wa, Nandom etc. to allow free trade and also not to make treaties with, or accept protection of other European powers without the prior consent of Britain; in short they were to become British protectorates other northern territories were such as Dagbon were, however, annexed through war.
My expose on the history of northern Ghana will not be complete without dedicating some few lines to discuss the deliberate colonial policy that perpetuated the evil of reserving the north for the supply of the cheap labour force for the mines and plantations of the south as the “drawers of water, hewers of wood,harrowers of land and breakers of rocks”. To this purpose the colonial government did not undertake any infrastructural and educational initiatives in the northern territories until the later part of the 1900s.
Whilst the first form of western education in southern Ghana began since 1529 and Mfantsipim the first secondary school in Ghana established in 1876 the only semblance of western education in the northern territories began very late with the Catholic white fathers’ school in Navrongo in 1888 and later formalized in 1909 for the purposes of training the priestly and evangelistic class for missionary work in the northern territories. Efforts by the missionaries and the native authorities to develop education were vehemently discouraged and deliberate steps were taken by the colonial government to stifle the development of education in northern Ghana. For instance the “Dagaabas in Nandom were regarded as a high spirited and excited people and if educated were likely to cause trouble for the British colonial administration”; such and others were some of the flimsy excuses and biases used by the colonial government to perpetuate its negative educational policy in the northern territories until 2 march, 1909 when the first colonial elementary school was opened in Tamale whilst post middle school education was delayed until1944 when the first Government Teacher Training College was established in Tamale and following through that 7years later with the establishment of the first Government Secondary School in 1951 also in Tamale.
Northern Ghana is situated between 8°-11° N latitude and 0°-3° W longitude, the area being delineated is about the north of the Lower Black Volta River, the White and Red Voltas and the Oti and Daka rivers, that drain the area into the volta basin. Northern Ghana shares international boundaries with the Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east and Cote D'Ivoire to the lower southwest; in the south northern Ghana shares regional boundaries with the Brong Ahafo region and the Volta region.
In Ghana’s vegetative and ecological classification, northern Ghana forms the grassland savanna belt, its climate and vegetation is similar to that of other Sahelian countries with a single increasingly erratic rainy season which lasts from June to November. Weather patterns have changed over the years with the rainy season becoming much shorter and flooding and drought more common. Almost every year floods submerge large tracts of cultivated farm lands, wash away food stocks and crumble homes, leaving most northern families hungry and destitute. The major economic activity of the region is agriculture and crops grown include corn, millet, groundnuts, okro, sheanuts, and rice whilst cattle, Sheep, goats, chickens, pigs and guinea fowls are also raised. Because of the long dry season mostly extending roughly from November to May, many people leave the region to work in the southern part of Ghana for at least part of the year.
According to the 2010 housing and population census, northern Ghana has a combined total land area of 97,702 Sq Kms representing 41% of the total land mass of Ghana and a population of 4,228,116 with a density of 43 comprising 2,077,474 and 2,150,642 males and females respectively representing 17% of Ghana’s population. Administratively and politically northern Ghana comprises of three regions namely: Upper West Region, Upper East Region and the Northern Region.
The NPP 2012 campaign manifesto for the December 7th election dubbed a programme of transformation with the catchy mantra of “Transforming Lives, Transforming Ghana” through “Building a Free, Fair and Prosperous Society” if not for anything, I must say it is a piece of academic brilliance and a quite comprehensive thesis on the political and developmental options available to the discerning and good people of Ghana. In this write-up, I do not intend to carry out a wholesale analysis of the NPP’s 2012 campaign manifesto but rather to do a critique of it within the perspective of northern Ghana.
A cursory perusal of the manifesto throws up the following structural information - the manifesto has 59 pages and 6 chapters covering the thematic areas of:
I. Building the Foundations of Free and Fair Society
II. Economic Transformation Prosperity and Job Creation
III. Public Investment to Provide Basic Amenities and Support Job Creation
IV. A Disciplined and Safe Society
V. Creating Opportunities and Promoting Enterprise
VI. Ghana in a Wider World
Chapter 3 of the NPP’s manifesto under sub-theme 4 headlined “Developing the North” spells out the party’s vision for the northern regions of Ghana stating “It is our (NPP) firm belief that it is important to develop the savannah regions to bridge the development gap between north and south and ensure that the whole country can share in the opportunity for wealth creation.” Scanning through the manifesto I identified 11 programmes/policies that broadly have impact on northern Ghana of which 6 are broad or generic programmes whilst 5 being northern Ghana specific.
The specific programmes/policies for northern Ghana in the NPP 2012 Campaign Manifesto are:
I. Develop the three public universities; expand the two UDS campuses in Wa and Navrongo into autonomous universities into academic centres for excellence for agriculture, ICT and languages attracting students from Ghana and beyond
II. Change the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority (SADA) to the Northern Development program with dedicated source of financing.
III. Continue to upgrade the Tamale Airport to an International standard which has immense commercial value to support the domestic aviation industry and to promote trade between Ghana and her Sahelian neighbours to increase trade and create jobs for people
IV. In partnership with the private sector ensure that all economically active areas are connected with first class roads across regions and districts including the flagship projects such as the western corridor roads Wa-Tumu-Navrongo road, Walewale-Bunkrugu and Fulfulso-Damango-Sawla road
V. Continue with the achievement of the Kufour Government to build stadia in the remaining six regional capitals – Cape coast, Ho, Sunyani, Wa, Bolga and Koforidua
On the other hand the broad programmes/policies for northern Ghana in the NPP 2012 Campaign Manifesto:
I. Free Universal Secondary Education
II. Introduce an aggressive irrigation programme in the North to ensure all year round agriculture
III. Provision of technology to boost production and productivity in the sheanut, sorghum and cotton industries. Private operators in this sector will be encouraged through fiscal and other incentives, to invest in these industries
IV. In partnership with the private sector we will develop interchanges, flyovers and overpasses in our urban areas to deal with the costly incessant traffic whilst connecting all regional capitals with first class roads
V. Improve the roads in the North and develop a railway system to open up the regions to facilitate exploitation of their mineral and agricultural resources and enhance their investment and economic attractiveness
VI. Provide incentives to businesses to establish or relocate to the northern regions and enable them compete effectively which will generate considerable employment
In my considered opinion, the NPP through their 2012 manifesto have been shabby and lame in their policies and programmes for northern Ghana and has not shown an honest concern and desire to address/possibly reverse the historical developmental and educational gap between the south and north of Ghana. As a son of northern Ghana with a burning concern and unflinching desire to see and have that part of mother Ghana lifted out of the unconscionable clutches of poverty, depravation, high illiteracy rate, inter/intra ethnic strives/conflicts that regrettably thwart the smooth strides of equitable development and advancements of the area.
Notwithstanding, I find the NPP flagship policy of Free Universal Secondary Education under which admission, textbook, library, science centre, computer, examination, utilities and free boarding coupled with the expansion and upgrading of the UDS campuses at Wa and Navrongo to full-fledged universities as a bold step and gargantuan opportunity to have more northern children getting secondary and university education. This I strongly believe will kick start the development of a large pool of educated and possibly skilled human resource base within the northern sector which will be the groundswell for its developmental endeavours. I am particularly taken in by the commitment statement for the policy that “Although the cost of free secondary school education will be high at an additional 1% of Ghana’s total income, the alternative of a largely uneducated and unskilled workforce is a situation Ghana cannot afford.” My hat doffs out to them for such a bold policy choice for mother Ghana and I vehemently condemn any voice that shall rise up in opposition this golden and policy choice.
Another major campaign deliverable which is of immense developmental opportunity to northern Ghana is the promise to construct the western corridor roads of Wa-Tumu-Navrongo road, Walewale-Bunkrugu and Fulfulso-Damango-Sawla road in conjunction with the other initiative to “improve the roads in the North and develop a railway system to open up the regions to facilitate exploitation of their mineral and agricultural resources and enhance their investment and economic attractiveness”. I am of the sincere conviction that, if these major road projects are done carried out will interconnect and interlink the three regions of the north thereby reducing travelling time and cost and also open up access to the vast natural resources such as gold, iron ore, clay, bauxite, other rare minerals, timber, sheanut, cotton, Dawadawa, peanut, sorghum etc and the tourists sites such as the mole game reserve, the pre-colonial Larabanga Mosque, the Wichiau hippopotamus Sanctuary, the Gwollu Slave Defence Wall, the Salaga Slave site, George Ekem Ferguson’s tomb and the gothic Nandom crucifix stone minor basilica church etc for exploitation for their economic development and empowerment of the people. It will also further increase the volume of goods and services (International trade) between our northern neighbour Burkina Faso in line with the drive for intra-Africa and the Ecowas trade treaties.
In the light of the fact that, northern Ghana has a much shorter, single and erratic rainy season lasting from about June to October for which reason many virile young men and ladies migrate to the south do menial jobs during the long dry season period; the NPP manifesto promise though vague to “introduce an aggressive irrigation programme in the North to ensure all year round agriculture” should be warm welcome news to all and sundry who have their umbilical cord linked to northern Ghana. It is my humble view that rather than dismiss such a laudable policy initiative for the development of northern Ghana we the stakeholders should rather seek and demand more policy commitment on the specific areas such irrigation projects will be executed in the north as “politics is about the allocation of scarce resources.”
Another commendable campaign promise in the NPP 2012 manifesto is the commitment to construct stadia in Wa and Bolgatanga, this I believe if executed will profoundly promote the develop of the sports and entertainment industries in the Upper East and West regions of northern Ghana not to talk about the immediate collateral benefit of job creation for the willing and available craft men and youth in the area.
The other good developmental promises for northern Ghana though flippant and vague such as the “development of a rail network to link the southern and northern parts of Ghana” and the promise “to create incentives for businesses to establish or relocate to the northern regions and enable them compete effectively to generate considerable employment,” need further interrogation and answers from possibly the Danquah institute or the NPP campaign manifesto team to clarify and concretize them into specific beneficial deliverables for the good people of northern Ghana.
According to the renowned political scientist Harold D. Lasswell, Politics is about “who gets what, when, and how" and another theorist put it as “the authoritative allocation of resources”; guided by these theoretical bases of politics, I hereby edge all daughters and sons of northern Ghana to stand up to demand more commitment and specific explanations from the NPP on these vague though good promises in their manifesto to ensure that as a group our common interests are duly protected.
By: Peter Yepfaasan-Yaa Zaato
An Independent thinker and Business Consultant
Bekye, P. K., 2009. 75 years of mission and Development in Nandom (1933 - 2008). Takoradi: St. Francis Press, Ltd. Takoradi.
Mahama, I., 2009. A colonial History Of Northern Ghana. 1 ed. Tamale: GILLBT Printing Press.
Ministry Of Education, Accra, 1991. History For Senior Secondary Schools. Accra: Safeway Printing Works Ltd., Accra.
New Patriotic Party, 2012. New Patriotic Party (NPP) Manifesto For Election 2012, Accra: s.n.