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Opinions of Saturday, 17 March 2018

Columnist: Kwaku Badu

Rejoinder: Does the creation of districts contribute to poverty reduction? - IMANI asks

In fact, I was extremely addled and could not demit my puzzled countenance upon glancing at the caption of IMANI’s article which was published on ghanaweb.com on Friday 16th March 2018. The caption, (‘IMANI Asks: Does the creation of districts contribute to poverty reduction?), so to speak, seems squeamishly sophistic and euphemistically oxymoronic.

IMANI, as a matter of fact, stated the obvious: the creation of districts won’t necessarily bridge the ever widening social mobility chasm. Corollary, IMANI’s further exegesis on the topic under discussion somehow becomes inconsequential in my humble opinion.

IMANI laments: “Once again, we have crafted 38 districts out of existing 216 districts, but the reasons are not rooted in science.

“I wonder why we never learn. “It has become a political ritual for politicians to chop existing constituencies into new districts as if the ghosts of European powers dividing Africa into parts like trophies after hunting as occurred between 1881-1914 reside in them.

“We have scrambled and partitioned the country into further puzzles occupying large swathes of nothingness and somehow believe by some magic development will follow”.

Well, it is manifestly clear that the mere creation of extra districts cannot bring prosperity unless the government of the day resorts to rational distribution of national resources. Does it mean then that the creation of extra districts is immaterial? I do not think so.

To be quite honest, I am not sure whether IMANI has a passing acquaintance or familiar with the purposes of administrative, geographical and political demarcations at all?

In any case, administrative, geographical and political demarcations are not limited to Ghana. Take, for example, the United Kingdom has been divided into 48 counties, used for administrative, geographical and political purposes.

In fact, there are a total of 326 districts, made up of 36 metropolitan boroughs, 32 London boroughs, 201 non-metropolitan districts, 55 unitary authorities, as well as the City of London and the Isles of Scilly which are also districts, but do not correspond to any of these categories.

The story is told, in a historical perspective, that by the early 17th century, all of England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland had been separated into counties.

“The older term shire was historically equivalent to "county". In Scotland for instance, shire was the only term used until after the Act of Union 1707.

“Since the early 19th century, counties have been adapted to meet new administrative and political requirements, and the word county (often with a qualifier) has been used in different senses for different purposes. In some areas of England and Wales, counties still perform the functions of modern local government (Wikipedia).”

It is also true that the Federal Republic of the United States has about 50 separate States. And, there are 94 federal judicial districts, including at least one district in each state.

Suffice it to state that the geographical divisions have done nothing to hamper the development of both the United Kingdom and the United States.

In fact, if anything at all, the divisions have rather aided or facilitated the development of the geographical areas in the United Kingdom and the United States respectively.

There are more examples around the globe. But even if we use the examples of the United Kingdom and the United States, we can somehow dismiss the author’s suggestion that the creation of extra districts is useless and therefore those in support of the idea are probably not reflective thinkers (emphasis mine).

In a related development, in 1983, the then head of state, J. J. Rawlings, successfully supervised the split of Upper Region, which gave us Upper West and Upper East Regions.

Was Rawlings’s decision to split Upper Region borne out of sheer ignorance? It is big no.

It is also worth mentioning that geographical divisions for administrative and political purposes started long before Rawlings’s decision to divide the Upper Region.

It must be noted that the colonial administration started along the coast with their capital in Cape Coast till 1877.

Gradually, the Ashanti Territory was added, followed by the Northern Territory and finally Togoland through a plebiscite on 9th May 1956.

After independence, there was the need for the creation of a political region out of the Western Asante.

The expedient idea was however supported by some chiefs within the Bono and Ahafo areas particularly the Techimanhene, whilst some chiefs and their subordinates opposed the creation of the new region.

As it was expected, some Ghanaians did not acquiesce with President Dr Kwame Nkrumah move for the creation of a region out of Asante. But Ghana’s first president, Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s vision for the creation was beyond ethnic and political shenanigans. For, if anything at all, he was certain that such division would promote the socio-economic development of the Bono and Ahafo areas of Ghana.

For that reason and other useful considerations a new political region was created out of the then Western Asante known as Brong Ahafo Region on 4th April 1959.

It was however believed that one of the key considerations for the creation of the Brong Ahafo was its landmass but not necessarily based on its population at that time (Kipo 2009).

In sum, geographical demarcations in a peaceful country cannot be referred to as extraneous. And, who are we to oppose such a move if the residents of the said precincts decide to embrace the idea anyway?

K. Badu, UK.