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Opinions of Friday, 15 January 2010

Columnist: Assam, Balemwo

Why don’t northerners go back home?

These questions keep coming up from the less conversant of the area, any time we talk of development in the north. Normally the questions are, why is it that northerners don’t want to go back to develop their land? Why do northerners complain too much? Some northerners are educated and rich, why don’t they go back to develop the north?

Let me concisely expand to the less conversant of the upper east, upper west and the northern regions. Most northerner’s subsistence is basically farming. It rains briefly within the year in this part of the country. Due to these acute climatic conditions, it has rendered the aforementioned regions disadvantaged as a result, lacks the competitive ability in their pursuit for total self reliance as compared to other regions.

Hope it’s luculent enough for everybody to comprehend the situation prevailing in the north. The conditions in the aforementioned regions demands serious consistent effort by the governments to provide infrastructure that will facilitate the provision of jobs.

Dr Kwame Nkrumah had unambiguous foresight that has brought us this far by initiating the free education in the aforementioned regions, to pull those regions bottom up, to enable northerners catch up with the prevailing trend in the world and to also fully contribute their quota to society.

General Acheampong built Tono and Vea irrigation dams for the northerners to enable them have some jobs even after the raining season.

President Rawlings made sure all the aforementioned regions had electricity. The electricity ignited a whole host of businesses in the area thus, created employment opportunities for our people. The bore-hole pipes in the villages have tremendously assisted northerners.

President Kufour built a stadium at Tamale; this gave employment to some of our brothers and sisters this will additionally motivate the youth in their pursuit for higher laurels in sports. The construction of the Bui dam gave our people jobs and will eventually assist in the provision of electricity.

Successive governments did their best by sustaining those programs, even though we would have preferred they all did more as compared to preserving what we already have over there.

There’s no doubt, some of our people are well educated. Thanks to Dr Kwame Nkrumah and successive governments that sustained the programs. But without the necessary basic structures put in place, there’s not much they can do over there. Those who had education are mostly government functionaries and don’t have the wherewithal to provide those amenities for the aforementioned regions. It’s true we have northerners who are rich in Accra, Kumasi and other cities. They got their money due to the infrastructure provided by the government in those areas and that made it conducive to enable them acquire their wealth. Ultimately they do contribute by paying taxes to society through the businesses they run.

Having said that, northerners who do not need infrastructure to take off, has already established their businesses over there. So if government provide the north with the necessary infrastructure, there’s no doubt not only northerners but most Ghanaians and foreign investors will surely go there to establish businesses.

Most northerners come to the cities because they have no choice, after that brief rainfall within the year; nothing is left for the people to do. In their effort to cultivate tomatoes in the dry seasons always left them saddled with debts. So, doing nothing necessitates them to sojourn to the cities to do something with their lives.

Some ask why rich and educated northerners won’t go back to develop their area? Will those questioning, tell us whether the rich and educated natives of Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi tarred their roads, constructed their schools, provided electricity, telecommunications and the internet facilities in those cities? Will those questioning tell us the form of contributions the natives of those cities made to provide those infrastructure which northerners are lacking? Northerners complain because, we are in a desperate situation, most of our people in the north cannot take good care of their families because, they have no opportunities to work. Our children are schooling under trees, our brothers and sisters are thronging to the cities to do menial jobs with disparaging names howled at them at the least provocation. Out of the rage, sometimes even trivial issues have turned into skirmishes resulting into lost of life and property. It’s the responsibility of the government to provide the necessary infrastructure for businesses to spring up in those regions to curtail the rural-urban drift.

Those questioning us, northerners do not begrudge anybody and have not stopped anybody from demanding anything from the central government. While we struggle with the pain of under-development, which has pressured some of our brothers and sisters into purgatory subsistence in the cities, it’s our hope every hamlet in Ghana will be developed as needed to enable the country thrive in progress. But ours is a dire situation because we don’t have cassava or plantain in our back yards neither do we have cocoa on our farms. The area is dry land stretching as far as the eye can see.

In this computer age when others are exploring not only the space but the moon for the benefit of mankind, some of our children have not heard or seen a computer before in their lives. Notwithstanding the free education, the situation is still very frail. It’s sad to see how those children struggle to those locations called schools, it’s disheartening to glance what these poor children go through sitting in those classrooms, and it’s an eyesore to see where and how some of those children crawl to write and read their books in dusty areas we call classrooms.

Government must tackle the schools, the paths we keep calling them roads, not only to the cities but to the villages too. We will repeatedly accentuate on those paths until we receive a sympathetic ear from somebody who will turn them into roads. Send broad-band to the north to totally link the area with high speed internet; this will bring a lot of employment opportunities to the area. The distinguishing hallmark of the northerner is hard work. Northerners are not asking for handouts, as you can all see for yourself with most of our people, be it the elite in society, they perform great, those with skills are very good in whatever they do, those without education or skills do all they can with raw strength.

It’s true we have northerners who are rich in the cities but will not go back. Those who have decided not to go are still apprehensive of the situation over there, what drove them away from the place is still lurking out there. Nobody will cohabit or befriend poverty. The government has not adequately tackled the infrastructural problem to create conducive atmosphere for northerners to stay there and work, to enable them fully contribute their quota to society. Breaking the slum dwelling areas in the cities alone will not solve the problem. What do you expect, if people don’t earn enough to rent houses in the city’s residential areas?

Nobody wants to relinquish his/her comfort zone to the cities where he/she will sleep with impunity and will be conditionally compelled to do menial jobs for a living.

Reticence on the subject of our grievances did not attract the necessary attention for development as expected. So we will now unceasingly repine until somebody listens to us with commiseration and pragmatically provide us with the necessary infrastructure, to facilitate job creation in those three regions. This will enable most of our people work in the north and be able to take care of themselves and their families without insomnia.

Balemwo Assam

Washington DC