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Opinions of Sunday, 16 November 2008

Columnist: Akosah-Sarpong, Kofi

Walewale, and Mahamudu Bawumia shed tears

By Kofi Akosah-Sarpong

Some of the fine points of the on-going electioneering campaigns in the run-up to the December 7 general elections are that aspiring candidates are exuding all sorts of views and emotions, and demonstrating whether they know and understand project Ghana. Over the campaigns, the impressions from politicians scheming to rule Ghana have been mixed, but the underlying conclusion is that how do all these coalesce in the final analysis into Ghana’s progress.

One striking feature of the sizzling campaigns, with all its comedic turns-and-twists, is Mahamudu Bawumia, a former deputy governor of the Bank of Ghana and the vice presidential to Nana Akufo-Addo presidential candidate of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP). On the campaign trail in the much more developmentally disadvantaged northern regions, Bawumia, a Canada PHD economist, revealed how dire the bread-and-butter issues are in the northern town of Walewale. He was overwhelmingly struck by the level poverty at Walewale, and he wept.

That is some of the rude development awakening issues emerging in Ghana’s development as democracy increasingly opens the country for development scrutiny both by Ghanaians like Bawumia and international non-governmental organizations. Personally, as trainer for the Toronto, Canada based Journalists for Human Rights I spent some time in the northern parts of Ghana in 2006. I was shocked at some of development indicators I saw. It was as if the north isn’t part of Ghana and there are two Ghanas – the prosperous south and the deprived north that are diametrically opposite in all development measures.

Who said democracy isn’t good. Here is a former Bank of Ghana top official who has been shielded by his cozy office in Accra and hasn’t been seeing what actually obtains on the ground, more seriously the grim poverty of Walewale, being released by the on-going democracy energy to see better the worsening development challenges of Walewale. And the impact is shock and awe, and weeping.

Yes, there are emotions and howling for development at Walewale but part of the reason for Walewale’s material despair, as is most parts of northern Ghana, may not be due to extreme poverty within the soup of deplorable development indicators but prominent figures like Bawumia and certain ancient inhibiting cultural values that have entangled the progress of the people.

As Bawumia’s Walewale indicates, for long the complains have been that northern elites, rich men and women, and those connected nationally and internationally have not being helping their homelands as are other Ghanaian groups such as the Asantes and the Kwahus. More tellingly, when northerners migrate to the south to work most do not return to aid development or help in the development of their homelands as is the case with other ethnic groups such as the Asantes.

In this sense, part of the Walewale story is that the 56 ethnic groups that form Ghana have to learn from each other the positive cultural attributes – here co-operation and unwavering communalism as a progress fertilizer no matter the degree of poverty.

Bawumia’s trepidation of Walewale’s desperate development indicators reveals that Walewale have been closed off from the rest of Ghana’s progress and has left Walewale spinning in mid air and wheeling around bad development indicators and destructive superstitions. It is as if while Ghana is moving forward, Walewale is moving backwards.

But by the grace of the on-going democratic dispensation, Bawumia is in Walewale to sell the NPP for December 7 general elections and is taken aback by Walewale’s poverty. What a place to sell one’s party policies and programmes! And Bawumia rose to the Walewale occasion with cries, emotions and awakening. This made Bawumia to re-affirmed Akufo-Addo’s announced ambitious US$1 billion Northern Development Fund that seeks to bridge the development gap between places like Walewale in the north and the south.

Despite Walewale’s grim poverty that saw Bawumia expressing grief and his confirmation of Akufo-Addo’s US$1 billion Northern Development Fund, part of Walewale’s development predicament may be due to certain ancient inhibiting cultural values that have been entangling Walewale’s progress. The on-going Ghana-wide thinking, discussions and campaigns to refine certain hindering cultural values that have been entangling progress is as Walewale as it is pan-Ghanaian. But the negative cultural issues are much direr in the northern parts, of which Walewale is, than other Ghana regions.

Bawumia, part of the new generation of Ghanaian elites/leaders and a northerner, will help Walewale and other northern lands if he joins the campaigners and thinkers attempting to polish certain parts of Ghanaian values that have been hampering progress, in addition to his party’s US$1 billion Northern Development Fund.

It is through such cocktail of dosage to uplift Walewale from acute poverty that Bawumia will not cry again.