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Opinions of Sunday, 23 November 2008

Columnist: Natogmah Issahaku

Developing The North ...


Background and Trend

In our current political dispensation, a lot of talk and promises are flying around to develop the north in order to bridge the existing development gap between the north and the south. With this new political paradigm, it will not be out of place for us (Northerners) to begin thinking, now, of how we will approach the development of the north in order to close the development gap when the next government is formed. The current talk of focusing some attention to the development of the North by our politicians should be greeted with enthusiasm and hope.

To develop the North, a holistic, synergistic approach is needed to facilitate rapid development. The three Northern Regions: Northern Region, Upper East Region, and Upper West Region, conveniently called the North, require consensual, efficacious planning, if we want to see accelerated development of our homeland.

Hitherto, successive governments since independence, with the exception of just a few, advertently neglected the North, and rather concentrated their development efforts in the South, which further widened the extant gap between the two geographical sectors. It is true to say that the deliberate pigeonholing of the North has a long history. During colonial rule, the British wittingly neglected the North – then Northern Territories, citing lack of mineral resources. Northerners, mostly unskilled workers, were used by the British to feed the factories and cocoa plantations in the South. To justify their neglect of the North in terms of socio-economic development, one of the Governors during the British colonial rule was said to have classified Northerners as “drawers of water and hewers of wood.”

Further, another Governor of the British colonialists described the North as a “wasteland that had no mineral resources, but energetic unskilled labor that could be used to support the socio-economic development of the cocoa-, timber-, and mineral-rich South.” The British colonial attitude set the tone for the intentional developmental neglect of the North. Nonetheless, now, we should place little or no emphasis on the way the British colonialists neglected the North because that belongs to history and does not warrant us over-dwelling on it. When the Nkrumah regime took over the mantle of governance after independence, a serious attempt was made to socio-economically develop the North. Evidently, several schools, factories, hospitals, transport, health, security, administrative infrastructures, among others, were established to support the development effort. Since the overthrow of the Nkrumah regime, no serious attention was paid to the North. The North, until very recently, did not even have reliable source of energy – electricity, and a university – two key basis of socio-economic development. Fifty years is a very long time, and if our fellow Ghanaians at the helm of governance wanted to help us develop the North they would have done so over the period. The fact is that, most of the governments did not have the political and human will to develop the North.

Now, in 2008, the gap is wider than ever before. The industrial capacity of the North has shrunk between 1966 and now. Similarly, the agricultural sector, the lifeline of the North, has also shrunk remarkably. Inversely, the population of the North has grown many folds over the same period. Education and literacy among Northerners increased substantially over the subject period, but that hasn’t translated into meaningful development of the area.

Shifting from the Old Theory to a New Theory of Blame for our Predicament

More often than not, I hear Northerners blame the British Colonialists for the development gap between the north and south. That argument notwithstanding, I hold the view that it is now high time we shifted the blame from the British colonialist to the successive post-independence national governments. Therefore, there is the need for us to consign the blame of the British to history. As a matter of fact, the Kwame Nkrumah government made genuine and serious attempts to bridge the development gap between the north and the south. Unfortunately that development effort wasn’t followed through to the end. Fifty years since independence from British colonial rule is a very long period, and if the successive governments had the political will and affection for the north they would have developed the north to close the gap between the north and the south. For instance, in the same fifty years since we gained independence, countries such as Malaysia, South Korea, and Singapore which were at the same development level with the northern Ghana at the time of our independence, have transformed their economies from underdeveloped (“third world”) status in 1957 to almost developed (almost “first world”) countries in 2008. Over this period, their governments, with the will and love for their countries were able to transform these countries. Comparatively, if our successive governments had the political will and love to develop the north that objective would have been achieved by now. We northerners should therefore stop blaming our continued development lag on the British and start blaming our governments for our predicament because they had fifty long years to help develop our area to grow at par with the south but they deliberately neglected us.

The Way Forward

Given the foregoing background, it is high time we (Northerners) took a part of the responsibility to rapidly develop the North. The mission and vision to develop the north should be a shared vision and shared responsibility of Northerners and government. We have to work as a unified front with the next government; not as separate entities or regions. The three regions in the North need to work in concert to eclectically harness ideas and plan strategies for development and present to the central government for implementation. The planning format should take more of a bottom-up approach rather than the usual top-down approach. Bottom-up approach means projects and programs will be initiated by the people of the north at community and regional level and presented to the government for consideration. The government can also initiate its top-down development agenda for the North alongside the bottom-up development initiatives that we would take. A “Marshall Plan” is needed to salvage the North from drifting farther apart from the South in developmental terms. Whereas a “Marshall Plan” should be the next government’s development initiative for the north, a Holistic, Synergistic Strategic Planning should be the initiative of Northerners. There must be goal congruence between government and the NADC.

The Approach

Northerners should come together as one people with a shared destiny. We should not allow our tribal differences to fog our resolve to develop our area; instead, we should use our tribal differences to our advantage by sharing and contributing ideas towards our collective development mission. The north is blessed with a rich stock of expertise and brilliant professionals in all fields bothering development. All we need to do is to adopt a transcendental (holistic, synergistic) approach to develop the North, because other tested approaches haven’t yielded any meaningful development to bridge the gap between our area and the South. The usual partisan approach has, until now, only led to isolated pockets of minimal socio-economic development in the north. Areas that support a particular political party in government have often received token development and areas that oppose the party in government have received almost nothing. Such partisan approach to development hasn’t helped the North in the past decades. Further, the strategy of each community or constituency fighting on its own for development hasn’t achieved any meaningful development in the north; hence the need for a new approach – a holistic, synergistic approach with all northerners acting as one concerted front.

Steps may want to take to approach the development effort are as follows:

1. A thirty-six member Northern Accelerated Development Committee (NADC) should be established.

2. Each of the three regions of the north should have twelve members in the NADC.

3. Membership of the NADC should be all-inclusive, thus non-partisan based, non-religious based.

4. All tribes in the north should have at least one representative in the NADC. 5. Women should be well represented in the NADC.

6. The regional NAD Committees should have sub-committees.

7. The Sub-committee members should represent the various sectors of the economy.

8. All NADC committee members, advisably, should be resident in the North to ensure effective meetings and communication. 9. The NADC should have Coordinators or Liaisons who will be attached to the various government ministries as link between NADC and the government in Accra. The Coordinators or Liaisons of the NADC may be based in Accra, but should maintain frequent contacts with members of the NADC in the north.

10. The three Regional Ministers should play a critical role in spearheading and facilitating between the NADC and the government. They should place the interest of developing the north and Ghana above their partisan interest.

11. The NADC should be able to meet, at least, once every three months to implement /coordinate strategies, measure/monitor progress, correct/re-direct the development processes.

12. The three Regional Ministers should meet with the NADC, at least, once every six months to assess, monitor, and supervise the development programs and projects. This should be done in cooperation with the NADC. 13. A NADC progress report should be delivered to the people of the North on annual basis. .

14. At least, once a year, the central government (president) should deliver a report on efforts made towards the accelerated development of the North and the achievements chalked so far.

15. Once a year, a joint NADC and government press conference should be organized to report on progress made thus far.

16. Once a year, a Northern Development forum should be organized for Northerners from all walks of life to interact with members of the NADC on progress made on the development front and to share ideas for development. 17. Each year, an Accountability and Responsibility (Audit) report should be presented by NADC at the Northern Development forum.

18. Each year, an independent, international audit firm should be invited to carry out a financial audit of the NADC activities.

19. Each year, an independent, international operational/process audit firm should be invited to audit/assess the development strides made in the period. An initial or pre-implementation audit must be done to serve as index for measurement in subsequent years. This kind of audit will take into account the level of socio-economic development in the north in tangible and intangible terms. 20. Accountability to the rest of Ghana must be manifested by NADC on annual basis.

21. A Northern Vision Committee (NVC) should be established to serve as a supervisory body over the NADC. This body should compose of northern elder statesmen/women with a shared vision of developing the north. The NVC should meet at least once every six months to assess progress made by the NADC.

22. An independent, bipartisan National Committee on Northern Development should be established by government to evaluate progress made in the northern development effort. Such committee should report once a year to the government. Majority of the members of the national committee should be from southern Ghana.

23. Establish a Northern Development Fund-Raising Organization with the objective of raising funds from within and outside Ghana for the northern development drive. We Northerners should and must be ready to contribute massively, financially, to support our development effort. We must no longer leave everything to government and foreign donors. The fund-raising organization will be answerable to the NADC.

To go about developing the North, we could adopt the most fundamental development planning processes as follows, nothing complex:

1. We (Northerners) need to have a clearly stated MISSION, that is, in the form of a mission statement and map out a clear DIRECTION as to how to accomplish our mission. We need to work with government and our northern development partners to determine how much financial and technical resources will be made available to us for our programs and projects and when they will be made available, so that we can effectively plan our development strategies. We should also be able to determine how much funds we (Northerners) can generate ourselves for programs and projects, among others. We need to be more self-reliant now than ever.

2. We need to create a realistic SHARED VISION for the North. Here, it is important we attach a target time within which the north has to catch up with the south. For instance, VISION 2025. This means that by the year 2025, the development levels between the North and the South should be the same and should be achieved. Northerners should see the whole of the North as one place that needs to be developed in concert because we share the same destiny, our political colorations notwithstanding.

3. Set achievable GOALS to realize our vision in order to accomplish our mission. The goals will be tied to the development projects and programs. There is no point in setting goals that we know we can not achieve. 4. Establish clear OBJECTIVES with tactically attainable TARGETS with regard to the projects and programs. 5. Establish effective channels of COMMUNICATION & FEEDBACK channels to ensure that our goals are achieved. 6. Have the right LEADERSHIP that can effectively IMPLEMENT and lead the development projects, programs, and processes. 7. Engage the RIGHT HUMAN, CAPITAL, and TECHNOLOGICAL RESOURCES in the projects, programs, and processes.

8. Establish a reliable CONTROL system and implement corrective measures to see to it that the vision is seen through in the right direction and the mission accomplished.

9. Establish BRAINSTORMING and IDEAS-GENERATING system to tap the maximum potential to facilitate the development process. Accept good ideas from outside the north, especially from our brethren in the south, in order to complement our stock of ideas. 10. Engage in a BOTTOM-UP planning strategy to complement government’s top-down planning strategy and ensure goal congruence. 11. Make a TRANSCENDENTAL PARADIGM SHIFT from the current development concept of “he/she who has political power has the economic power to develop the constituencies he/she wants” to a concept that seeks to develop all constituencies regardless of political affiliations.

My brothers and sisters of the north, if we can consider the above suggested processes, in addition to ideas that others may generate, then we could lay a sound foundation for the rapid development of our area – the NORTH. I am aware of the challenges ahead, and as they say, “where there is a will there is a way.” Once there is a political will, then there will be a way we can put our heads together and develop our area for the benefit of our posterity.

Thank you.

Long Live the NORTH! Long Live GHANA!

By: Natogmah Issahaku

(Northern Ghana Development Advocate)

Hails from Jisonaayilli, near Tamale.

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