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Opinions of Thursday, 18 April 2019

Columnist: Alhassan Andani

New Regions: If I were government and regional minister

Scores of law-abiding Ghanaians lived to see their hard work bear fruits on the 27th of December last year. They had long to have a region of their own. As a straight shooter, I wish to state that I was anti new regions but in the end my voice was muzzled by a majoritarian voice. I wish to also commend the petitioners who pressed home their demands without intimidating duty bearers with cudgels and machetes.

I would have stuck my chest out and say our democracy is maturing but whispers into my ears evince that CODEO published a report revealing a wide of electoral irregularities characterizing the referendum. And the infamous Ayawaso blockbuster movie would make me look cockamamie if I say the fundamentals of our democracy is strong. Welcome to Ghana. One step forward, zillion steps backwards.

I have followed the debate from the day the need for new regions was mooted. Others felt deprived and needed to be uplifted. Some felt cutoff and needed to be brought in. These are enough justifications, however, gerrymandering has never redound to the benefits of the target areas. We had Upper West and Upper East but we have not up our game in fighting poverty in those areas. The access of some public services remains costly and unavailable.

The only passport application center in Tamale serves the three northern regions. It is a complete irony to say in this scenario that slicing Ghana into pieces would make the cost of accessing government services affordable. The new regional ministers must not only be new in new regions. They must administer with a paradigm shift.

Rains are pouring in Accra and flood waters are killing people like it does every year. It is every year thing. In fact, an annual ritual. Still we are waiting for angels to land from heaven to fix the drainage system in Accra. Several Illegal structures on water ways yet no political will to demolish except to desilt gutters. I don’t know a whit about engineering but as a citizen I know that, even before a Singaporean town planner can fix the settlement problem in Accra, structures must be demolished.

Let’s summon the needed political will to raze these structures to the ground. We can desilt all we can, floodwater would continue to kill how many it wants. The new regions must not become like Accra. We all sat aloof for a benign puppy to become a wild dog, only for us to go to Singapore to bring a vet to tamed it. The new regional ministers must make town planning a topmost priority. They should catch their regions young and they shall be theirs forever. Government pledged a 20million cedis. I know the announcement will not die with the wind. The money would definitely come.

According to the UNDP, Ghana generates circa 30,000 tonnes of solid waste annually and 86% of the waste are recoverable through recycling. In a related topic, Accra generates in excess of 3,000 metric tonnes of waste in a day. Having a PhD in astrophysics is not a prerequisite to know why Accra generates this quantum of waste. Everything is in Accra and everybody wants to be in Accra. Comfort and convenience is what everyone craves. If you have a salary problem as a public servant, controller and accountant general is at your doorstep.

Where to get your problem fixed is a stone throw unlike someone in Tamale who has to visit a white elephant with the “controller and accountant general” inscription only to be referred to Accra. The city would forever be populated until such a time the problems of the public servant are solvable in Tamale. The over ambitious plan to make Accra the cleanest city in Africa would forever remained a pipe dream. If your country is poorly decentralized, plans to make its capital the cleanest city in Africa would backfire. Call me a Cassandra!

The Savannah region has seven districts with Damongo as its capital. From the Accra lesson, I hereby opined that state institutions must not be concentrated in Damongo. The spreading of state institutions across the districts would not bring about a populous regional capital in the offing. The mere presence of a regional electoral commission in Salaga can force the authority to fix the road and other infrastructure problems.

Same is applicable to North East with 6 districts and Nalerigu as its capital, Ahafo region with 6 districts and Goaso as its capital, Bono East with eleven districts and Techiman as its capital, Western North with 6 districts and Sefwi Wiaso as its capital and Oti region with 8 districts and Dambai as the capital. Six regions, one-size-fits-all master plan to decentralized and avoid the Ghanaian chronic heavily centralization of public services. New ways of thinking is urgently needed lest they [ the new regions] become version 2.0 of the chronic red taping and centralization problem of Ghana.