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Opinions of Monday, 15 July 2013

Columnist: Rashid, Mohammed Abdul

Tamale, a city of many colours

It was around May, on a rainy day in school during our end of semester examination, I was about to take my last paper for the semester and so I packed all my belonging in my bag. Just after the paper, my friend, who still wanted to spend some few days on campus followed me to the hall and was surprise that I had packed all my belongings and seem ready to catch the next bus to Tamale. He then asked “what at all is in Tamale that you Tamale guys cannot even wait for a day after exams?” I simple replied, “Follow me and find out.” That was not the first time I had had people ask me and other “Tamalians” in school such questions. Many others have asked me those questions, and sometimes will answer themselves again. They will say “is normal, no place like home abi?” but Tamale is not just a home, it is the city with many colours and definitely, the heartbeat of the sahelian. In fact, it represents the other side of Ghana’s diversity.

In 2007, a friend of mine from Ho in the Volta region of Ghana, was posted to Tamale to teach. He was so sad that he almost wept when he was explaining to me about the postings. At that time, I hadn’t visited Ho where my good friend hailed from but, my simple advice to him then was “try and go and if conditions are not good, request for a transfer”. Several years on, when we met at my good friend’s wedding in Tamale, he was asking me how he could acquire land to build his own house and settle permanently.
In the past, Tamale has had bad press, admittedly because of the attitude of some miscreants in the city and also because of bad journalism. Ghana has a lot of “arm chair” journalist who will suddenly become experts in the dynamics of an area upon a day’s visit. Tamale or for that matter the northern part of Ghana, has been a great beneficiary of this ill-journalism.
Tamale’s strategic location at the Sahelian endeared Ghana’s first President, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. He had plans of making Tamale the “New York” of Ghana. The Tamale International Airport project which started in 1964, the Lamashegu Industrial enclave Project and the extension of the railways to the north were all part of a grand scheme of transforming Tamale into a truly modern city. Sadly after his overthrow, all these projects have stalled ever since. Several years down the line, it seems impossible for Tamale to ever attain that feat, at least in the shortest possible time. If Tamale will live up to the dream of Nkrumah then serious work needs to be done. It is not too late though, because the city is still like a baby that can be tamed unlike other cities.
Truth be told, Tamale is not so endowed with lots of natural resources, the city however, is reputed to be the fastest growing or among the fast growing cities in West Africa. Tamale is growing in leaves and bounds; from a junction town in the 80’s to an emerging city in West Africa, this is indeed a great feat worth celebrating, considering the fact that the city did not receive serious attention from the colonial administration.
The traffic at the various bus stations and the domestic terminal of KIA to Tamale is increasing astronomically. The last time I checked, all the airlines to Tamale will normally have their services over-booked. Business men, holiday makers, tourist, religious people , pasture seekers, conference attendees and all matter of persons throng the city every now and then for one reason or the other. Each of these persons have something in common. They share in the belief of the Tamale people which is faith, yes! Faith in the opportunities of Tamale.
Tamale is likened to a big savanna Baobab tree, depending on where you hold you will have a different story to tell. The city represents many things to different people. For some, Tamale is ‘greener’ than anywhere in the world because the city is their money-making machine. The business men and women who have discovered the “goldmines” in Tamale are willing to stay or fly in and out every day for business.
For the likes of Kofi Akpabli (CNN Multichoice Award Winner), Tamale is like that beautiful girl you fall in love with upon first sight. It is normally a feeling you cannot explain but the heart burns passionately for that thing you fall for. Therefore most people at first visit to the city wish they could just stay forever.

And for some people, the city offers boundless freedom: the freedom to cruse on the roads freely without having to think about traffic congestion, the freedom to own a room even with minimal income and the freedom to eat wonderful meals at the lowest price ever and the freedom to enjoy the sights and sounds of the sahelian. This is one city the taste of “Waakye”, T.Z., “Tuubaani”, “Zimbegu” and other delicacies can blow your mind and keep a lasting impression you for a while.
Tamale is also the city of culture and so on a typical Sunday, the city is alive with weddings, naming ceremonies, funerals gatherings and other cultural and social gathering. That is why students at the Tamale Institute of Cross Cultural Studies (TICCS) will tell you, that in Tamale “Di nyala culture” which means in Tamale, it is all about Culture.
The night life of the city is a sight to behold, opines “The fun in Tamale doesn’t stop when the sun goes down. Some even argue that, that’s when it starts. Bars, clubs, lounges and live music venues - It’s all the reason for us to put our dancing shoes on and raise the toast to Tamale”

Tamale has also become the home for many young starters in life. The national Service Personals from the southern part of Ghana are trooping into town in their numbers and have had to retell the story of Tamale to their friends and Family back home. Tamale is providing them a comfortable place to start very well in life. People from different parts of the country and beyond are making it big in Tamale because they have faith in the opportunities that Tamale offer. You just need to jump into the bus to Tamale to discover yourself. Always remember that once you have faith, it will work out in Tamale.

That’s been my Tamale experience, wouldn’t you come and discover yours?