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Opinions of Thursday, 1 March 2018

Columnist: Sir Courageous Konadu

Creation of new regions: focus on proposed oti region to be carved out of Volta region

Ghana used to have nine (9) regions namely Volta, Eastern, Greater Accra, Central, Western, Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Northern and Upper Regions. In 1983 during the regime of the Provisional National Defense Council (P.N.D.C.) headed by Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings, the number of regions was increased to ten (10) as a result of the splitting of the then Upper Region into Upper East and Upper West.

Today, the government of the day has deemed it very important to create more regions to fulfill a campaign promise by the ruling New Patriotic Party prior to the 2016 elections. To achieve this feat, a whole ministry is created and Mr. Dan Botwey made the minister. The regions targeted to be split include Volta, Northern and Western.

What are the reasons being assigned for the splitting of these regions? In the case of Volta region, I have made frantic efforts to find out the reason(s) informing the move to create another region out of that. I have followed through the meetings/public hearings organized by the Commission of Enquiry set up to look into the creation of the new regions from the 16th to 20th January, 2018 in the Volta region in Ho, Kete Krachi, Nkwanta, Kpassa and Jasikan and Nsuta respectively. In all these hearings, the reasons for the proposed creation of the new region as clearly stated are;

a. that, the only way the affected area (the northern part of the Volta region) can see any meaningful development is when a region is created for them.

b. that, jobs (employment opportunities) will be made available for the people in the area, hence the reduction in the rate of unemployment in the area.

c. that, it is an opportunity for the non-Ewes to break away from the dominance of the Ewes .

If indeed these are the reasons, then I am afraid, the region better remain the united Volta Region as we have it.
Let readers think through these few questions:
1. Must a deprived/underserved/under-developed area be created as a region before the area can see development? The answer certainly is No! The Provisional National Defense Council/National Democratic Congress governments both under the leadership of Chairman Jerry John Rawlings has been accused by the people of the Volta and other regions for developing Ashanti region to its current enviable state neglecting the Volta region where he hails from, bearing in mind the perception out there that the N.D.C is a Volta Regional party. The truth is that, notwithstanding the comparatively larger and more populated Ashianti region, the then government did not split Ashanti into two separate regions before developing it. If the government is taking the size of the Volta Region into consideration as a major factor, then what of Ashanti and Eastern regions? Why must Volta be split into two different regions looking at its comparatively smaller and less populated state as compared to the above named regions? The current government can focus and concentrate on developing the northern part of the Volta region without necessarily creating it as a region.

2. What is development? What are the indicators of development? And how can an area automatically see development because the area is created a region? Development is defined and explained by many and various authorities in their own words. In simple terms, and to the ordinary person, development is all about seeing an improvement in one’s living condition. In other words, development means "betterment" in one’s living conditions. In short, development means growth in ones finances, health, education, portable water, security, food, roads, etc. How can one be convinced that if the northern part of the Volta Region is created as a region, the very deplorable roads will be attended to or will become very good roads? Or, how can one be convinced that the health, education and other socio- economic conditions of the people will be improved simply because the area is made a region?

3. How will the jobs be created for the youth who are unemployed? The only jobs that will be available if a region is created are for the politicians (the government) and not for the ordinary indigene of the area. What are these jobs? The position of a Regional Minister and the deputy? If a region is created, of course, regional departments will be created. Thus Regional Education Directorate, Regional Health Directorate, Regional Agricultural Directorate, etc. The regional Police commander or the regional Education Director for example, will surely be persons who are already serving officials in the system somewhere else who will be transferred to the area to head the departments. It is not the unemployed youth in the area who will get those jobs. So how does the ordinary indigene gets the job when a region is created?

3. Where are the proposed boundaries? Which districts will comprise the proposed new region? To be specific, is Hohoe Municipality part? These are pertinent questions because one of the reasons making the rounds for the need to create a region for the northern part of the Volta is the claim that the non-Ewes are breaking away from the domineering Ewes. That claim is unfortunate, sad and unacceptable because it creates the "we and them" feeling among the people and must never be encouraged. That notwithstanding, if Hohoe Municipality is not part, what happens to the communities in the Hohoe Municipality that are not Ewes. The people of Likpe, Akpafu, Santrokofi and Lolobi just to mention a few are not Ewes yet are in the Hohoe district.

4. Where will the regional capital be located should the region be created? This is a question that the people of the affected area need to ask and find an answer to. Will it be Kete Krachi, Nkwanta, Kadjebi or Jasikan? Make no mistake by deciding that the region be created first and later the location of the capital will be decided. That will be a sad mistake on our part. If Kete Krachi is made the regional capital, those in the Biakoye, Jasikan and Kadjebi districts will seriously be at a disadvantaged end. How will they access the regional capital? How can one move from Bowiri or Nkonya to Kete Krachi when Ho is closer to them and motorable? The reason for decentralization is to reduce the distance/ gap between the people and their immediate authorities. The people of Bowiri, Tapa and Worawora in the Biakoye District should learn from their past experience. The Biakoye District was originally part of the Jasikan district. They fought for the creation of the Biakoye District without collectively deciding where the capital would be. The people of Bowiri who are four kilometers (4km) away from their former capital Jasikan, now travel through Akpafu, Santrokofi, Hohoe (all in the Hohoe district), then through either Gbi-Wegbe-Alavanyo or Golokwati-Gbefi and Kpando before getting to Nkonya Ahenkro, the district capital. The people of Worawora hitherto, in minutes got to Jasikan, their district capital. Now, they travel through Tapa Amanya-Kwamikrom before getting to Nkonya Ahenkro, the new district capital. Is that development?

5. Who says that the people of the northern part of the Volta Region (non-ewes) are the same people? Every community is a unique, distinct and a different group of people. If one will even want to narrow it down to the five (5) major ethnic groupings in Ghana, we have the Guans and Akans. There are also the Adeles and the Akposos for example who are neither Guans nor Akans. The fact of the matter is that, one of them shall surely dominate the others just as it is being believed that the Ewes have dominated the Volta region.

6. What is the proposed name for the region? Is it Oti? Why Oti? Who decided on the name? Why not Asukawkaw, Konsu, etc. but Oti if it is the name of a river we want to use? Oti comes nowhere near Volta. Why ignore a name like "Volta North or North Volta" so that the rest of the region also adopts a new name, "Volta South or South Volta" since the south automatically also becomes a new region?

What is the importance of history? In 1983, the hitherto Upper Region was split into two regions. The reasons given then were the same reasons being talked about today: to develop, to create jobs for the indigenes, etc. Today, more than thirty years after creating the Upper East and Upper West regions, those regions remain the most under-developed, underserved and deprived regions in Ghana. Over thirty years after the creation of the Upper East and Upper West regions, they (Upper East and Upper West) have the highest unemployment rate. Where are the jobs by merely creating a regions? That accounts for the exodus of the teaming adolescents and young adults to the south in search of non- existent jobs. The people of the northern part of Volta must hasten slowly because not all that glitters is gold.

The communities and people of the areas to be affected by the creation of these new regions should carefully ponder over how their lives will change for the better, before they join others in singing the chorus.

In this modern time and age, all over the world, people/communities/societies are merging to develop. Communities/societies/people are removing physical barriers and boarders to develop. Yet, we in Ghana want to split to develop. Yet, we in the Volta region want to split to develop. Let us as individuals reflect over this. We should put behind us at least, for once, partisan politics in this matter. Let us as a people do a lot of work to find out what we hope to achieve should the creation of the “Oti region” become a reality.

Before we make any decision, let the people know where the capital will be and why the name Oti region and not Volta North or North Volta?
Posterity shall not forgive this generation if we make any decision today that negatively affect generations yet to come. Power belong to us the people!