GNA Feature by George-Ramsey Benamba
Accra, Feb. 9, GNA - Creation of new regions formed an integral part of two major political parties in Ghana; the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic (NDC) especially during their campaigns for the 2016 general election.
While the former promised in their 2016 Manifesto to create six more regions on account of proximity and the growing needs of development, the latter also promised to create five more with similar reasons.
Laudable as the ideas were, people of the suggested areas embarked on campaigns to ensure that the promises of the politicians bore fruits.
The Genesis of creation
It came to pass that the NPP led by Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo won the 2016 general election convincingly and was sworn-in as the fifth President of the fourth Republic on January 2017.
To appease the beneficiaries and fulfil his campaign promises, the President created a new and strange Ministry which sounded quite odd in the ears of most Ghanaians; the Ministry of Regional Re-organisation and Development.
President Akufo-Addo during his appointment of Ministers of state appointed Mr Dan Kweku Botwe, Member of Parliament for Okere as the Minister of the ‘virgin Ministry.’
To hit the ground running, the Minister after his vetting and confirmation started with a number of consultations with chiefs and other stakeholders in the places earmarked for the creation of the regions.
It was therefore not surprising that when the proposals were finally made, the people in those areas received it with alacrity. Amidst jubilations of drumming and dancing in some cases they people believed it was their ‘liberation time.’
Then came the presentations of cases, hearings and vetting. This gave the applicants the opportunity to present their cases, provide defences and tangible reasons to justify their demands for separate regions.
The committee or vetting party moved from region to region to give the applicants the hearing to justify their demands.
In all about seven places proposed to have separate regions. This they did by collecting signatures of chiefs and prominent persons from those areas to make a case for their people.
In the Brong and Ahafo region, the Bono East and Ahafo regions were proposed, while the Northern Region had the highest proposals of North East Region, Savannah Region and the Eastern Corridor Regions, but somewhere along the deliberations, the proponents of the Eastern Corridor region, seems to have chickened out in the process.
In the Western region the northern parts of the region made a special appeal and it was therefore a matter of time for them to realise their dreams, while the people of Northern Volta also appealed for the creation of Oti region, which later received some amount of resistance from some others who thought otherwise.
As part of the procedure, referenda were supposed to be held at all the areas that appealed for new regions. It demanded that about 50 per cent of registered voters in the areas turned out for the voting for YES and NO.
It also demanded that out of the turn-out, 80 per cent of them should vote YES to give the people the opportunity to have a separate region.
Subsequently, all the proposed regions received high endorsement, which served as a precursor for government to negotiate for the creation of challenges.
Although people of various regions teamed up irrespective of ethnicity, religious and political inclinations, those issues are likely to serve as impediments in their bid to choose Regional capitals, Regional Ministers and even other auxiliary staff.
Their ability to effectively handle this issue will pave way for their effective take-off to accelerate growth and development.
Government has announced that regional capitals of the six newly created regions would soon be announced and I believe that will mark the beginning of the controversies which need proper handling to avoid crisis.
Recently Mr Kwesi Jonah, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG), suggested to government to choose already developed towns as capitals for the newly created regions.
He said infrastructure such as good road network, sufficient accommodation facilities for prospective government officers must be prerequisites for the selection of the capitals for the new regions.
According to him, deciding on that basis will make it easier for further development to take off in the region.
“If you create a new region and you want a relatively accelerated rate of development, you may want to go in for a city or a town in this new region which already does have some minimum infrastructure, enough good roads, enough for housing for civil servants that will be coming in and so on,”
His position is countered by some who have argued that based on that fact that new regions were created to accelerate growth, local communities with little or no infrastructure must be considered as capitals.
LOBBYING FOR CAPITALS
Although all connoisseurs have already called for the use of developed towns for capitals, chiefs, politicians and ethnic heads are busy everywhere lobbying the powers that be for the capitals.
In the Bono East area, which received a massive YES endorsement to the carved out of the Brong Ahafo Region, there are wide campaigns to have Techiman named the regional capital.
In the Savannah region, which was created out of the current Northern Region, some groups have begun pushing for Damongo to be made the regional capital, while others are also pushing for Salaga to be named the regional capital.
In the Ahafo area, four towns; Goaso, Duayaw-Nkwanta, Bechem and Kenyasi are said to be leading the race to be regional capital, while others believe Bechem or Goaso will end up being named regional capital.
In the North East Region, places like; Walewale, Gambaga and Nalerigu are the likely contestants for the capital.
In the Oti area, there is an intense campaign by the chief of people of Buem to have Jasikan named as the regional capital for the newly created Oti region.
In the Western North, there are Sefwi-Wiawso, Bibiani, Enchi, Asankragua, Adabokrom are all likely candidates for the capital.
According to the Regional Re-organisation Minister, Daniel Kweku Botwe selecting a capital will not be done in a whimsical manner as heeding to interested parties lobbying for it.
“This is what they have been fighting for decades, their forefathers wished they could have certain things.
“The next stage for regional creation and selecting a capital is when we come together and get support from technocrats and take a decision,”
An overwhelming majority (98.64 per cent) of registered voters who reside in the Oti area voted in favour of the creation of the Oti region, out of the Volta region last year.
Nifahene of Buem speaking at the Oti Region referendum victory rally had said Jasikan best suits the capital given its historical role as the headquarters for the then Buem-Krachi District Council.
Nana Opraw Akuamoah added that Jasikan is also geographically positioned in the Oti enclave and have the needed infrastructure to kick-start the administration of the new region.
Meanwhile other towns in contention may be Worawora, Dambai, Keta Krachi and Nkwanta.
After the creation of the Regional capitals, the next centre of attraction will be the selection of the Regional Ministers.
This is where all relevant factors such as; religion, ethnicity and partisanship will come to play.
While some might be considering political affiliation as the major mode of selection, others may consider ethnicity and religion.
In the Ahafo, Bono East, Western North, North East and Savannah regions, religion and ethnicity may not have a toll on them because of their relative homogeneity, but the same cannot be said of the Oti Region, where there are so many ethnic groups and different religions to flex their muscles.
It would be expedient for government to effectively engage all stakeholders to come out with regional capitals and Regional Ministers that can handle the regions on merit and not based on religious, ethnic and political affiliation.
Again, stakeholders in various regions need to team up and reconcile their various ideas in order to come out with workable plans that will accelerate development.
Traditional Authorities need to liaise with all the stakeholders to iron out issues that could escalate into troubles and end up undermining the purpose for which the regions were created.
Government also needs to adequately resource the new regions to catch up with the older ones to reduce the rural-urban migration for non-existent jobs.