Manasseh’s Folder: The sad SADA story of northern Ghana’s elite

Manasseh’s Folder: The sad SADA story of northern Ghana’s elite
Source: Ghana | | Manasseh Azure Awuni | Email address:
Date: 15-04-2014 Time: 10:04:24:am
The SADA Afforestation site at Bawku Tampielim in the Upper East Region

The Akan Proverb teaches us that “Sε  wo krom pεtε  di wo nam a’ ebi ka,” to wit, if the vulture from your hometown eats your flesh, it leaves some. But the elite of Northern Ghana have once again demonstrated with the Savannah Accelerated Development Authority  (SADA) that some merciless home-based vultures do not only finish the flesh but they also chew the bones as well.

When the President John Evans Atta Mills’ administration gave birth to SADA in fulfillment of their 2008 manifesto, SADA was handed over to northerners as managers. Though a few districts of northern Volta and Brong Ahafo Regions are beneficiaries, the main beneficiaries of SADA are the three regions of the North.

Then Vice President, John Dramani Mahama, was very instrumental in the implementation of SADA. I know this because I have been at the Northern Development Forum meetings, where Dr Sulley Gariba, who was a Senior Policy Advisor at the office of the Vice President, made a number of presentations to this effect.

Eventually, Sulley Gariba, became part of the four who drew up the SADA policy. I am aware the remaining three policy gurus who put together the policy with Dr Gariba, are northerners. In the beginning of the SADA story, it was an all-northerners’ affair.

I am told that apart from Vicky Okine, P.V. Obeng and Akwasi Addae Boahene, all the board members of SADA, including the Chairman, Alhassan Andani, are northerners.

In another instance, all the management team members of SADA are northerners, apart from the Director of Finance.

All the consultants of SADA I know are northerners.

All the service providers of SADA I know are northerners. I am referring to the individuals whose companies implement SADA’s projects and programmes.

So in effect, it is fair to say that it is the northerners who have messed up. The journalist reporting the mess is a northerner. And the government ministers (Haruna Iddrisu and Mahama Ayariga) who have tried to rubbish the reportage and defend the mess are northerners. The President who is overseeing the mess and the imminent collapse of SADA is a northerner.

When I posted a similar thing on Facebook, some friends of northern descent were offended. To them, SADA is a national programme and should be seen as such. Besides, the analysis according to them, puts northerners in bad light.

My intention is not to hurt the good people of northern Ghana. People from the north are just like any other Ghanaians. Until recently when some crooks have soiled our image, northerners were known for being very honest and truthful. I am told the Twi word “Pepeni” which is considered derogatory by some people, was actually coined from the northerners’ insistence on justice because the northerner wants everything “pεpεεpε.” So I don’t intend to put northerners in bad light.

What I tried to put across is simple: the elite of Northern Ghana have been mainly responsible for the woes of the area. In fact, sitting in Accra and looking at northern Ghana this way is just like sitting in Europe and looking at Africa. Our continent is not miserable because something is wrong with the African.

The African, like northerners are among the most hardworking and intelligent, people on earth. So there’s nothing wrong with the northerner. What is wrong is with the leadership. It’s just like how the elite politicians of Africa are super rich and buying expensive property in foreign lands while their people suffer. It’s a story of the elite making money from the miserable masses. Funds from donors always abound. But they never reach their intended target. That’s the story of the north and its elites.

It was no mistake that SADA was given to northerners to handle. It is impossible to explain hunger to someone who has never been hungry. If someone who has never been hungry starves another person, you don’t fault them very much. But if someone who has tasted, seen, touched or smelled poverty is put in charge of an intervention programme aimed at helping the poor, we assume they will do well because they understand the plight of the people.  With SADA, we thought policy makers from the north understood their own people and problems better, and would be in the better position to help.

Unfortunately, that has not happened with SADA. And now they are blaming the one telling the sad story.  

I recently walked out of the office of a prominent northerner feeling sad. He looked at me and said: “From the way you are going about  with your reports, I am sure you are allowing people to use you to settle their personal scores.” This was after he questioned my motive for doing the story on SADA.

That was not the first time I had heard such a thing. Since the SADA story started airing on Joy FM, some people have told me the story will collapse the programme. And I am sure if SADA collapses, many people with this school of thought will blame the boy from Bongo.

But who should be blamed: the one who caused the mess or the one telling the story of the mess?

Reports of this nature are not meant to collapse the programme. SADA is a well-intended programme. Extreme poverty in Northern Ghana is real. I will be hurt if SADA collapses, but its current state is a waste of the nation’s resources. It is enriching a few people while majority of the intended beneficiaries will never hear of it or benefit from it in their lifetime.

The problem of SADA is the hands running it, and not the programme. Reports of this nature are meant to put light on the dark spots so those concerned will act.

Sadly we have a president, who in my view, is not committed to fighting corruption and tackling problems head on. I formed this opinion when I worked on GYEEDA. And SADA is confirming it!

In January this year, I requested an interview with Management of SADA. I was asked to present the questions to which I needed answers. I emailed the questions and my sources said they were forwarded to the Minister of State in Charge of Development Authorities.

Later that day, I was at a SADA afforestation site near Zebilla in the Upper East Region filming a documentary with my crew when my phone rang. It was Bismark Adongo Ayorogo from the Northern Patriots for Advocacy and Research (NORPRA), a pressure group in northern Ghana.

“Manasseh, are you in the newsroom?” he asked.

“No, I am up here doing a story on SADA,” I told him.

“Good. Why I called is very related to what you are doing. We have heard the President has ordered SADA to cancel the afforestation contract and we want a platform to congratulate him.”

“Where did you hear this?” I asked.

“It’s a press statement from the Office of the President,” he said. “It’s all over the internet.”

“Disregard it. It’s a senseless press statement,” I told him and gave him the reason.

I had in my hands documents which showed that the Afforestation contract expired in June 2013. The Company, ACI Construction Ltd wrote to SADA requesting that the contract be renewed. Management of SADA wrote back and declined to renew it. I had all the correspondence between SADA and ACI Construction Ltd and did not understand why in 2014, such a statement should come from the office of the president. Meanwhile, all the money had been paid to the company. So what was the President ordering SADA to cancel?

Was it that the Office of the President did not have these well-documented facts or it just wanted to deceive Ghanaians like it did to my good friend at NORPRA?

Sadly, this is what is happening to the current SADA investigation by Joy FM. My good friend, Mahama Ayariga, was defending the report even before he saw it. As it appeared he was wrongly briefed.

For instance, management of SADA said the reason for spending so much on the trip to Turkey was because three officials travelled three times. Mr Ayariga, on the other hand, said it was because 15 district chief executives were part of the trip. SADA said the trip was to facilitate sister city relationship between Turkey and seven district assemblies. So how many district chief executives did each assembly have. These inconsistencies and the real issues of SADA will be another subject for this folder.

But I just fear for SADA. I don’t know the fate of SADA as of now, but if the programme collapses, a few facts should not be forgotten:

SADA was a noble intervention given to northern elite to run because they understood the terrain and the problems of their people better. The implementation was spearheaded from northern Vice President’s office when it started.

The programme started getting bad with poor management. The Northern Vice President had become President and had the power to shake up the people in whose hands the fate of the poor masses of northern Ghana was placed.

But he didn’t do it. He rather started ignoring SADA. In his 2014 budget, SADA was missing. In his 2014 State of the Nation’s address, there was no mention of SADA.

As for the intentions of the boy from Bongo, posterity remains the truest judge. But it must still be noted that he is a victim of such injustice perpetuated by the northern elite of yesteryears and does not need any more inducement to fight it.

He may have ended up as a truck pusher at Agbogbloshie if his father had not escaped to Kete-Krachi to secure a job as a night watch man, which he does till today. If this is not enough to push him to fight for the underprivileged, then he could pass for a useless young man.

The writer, Manasseh Azure Awuni is a Broadcast Journalist with Joy 99.7 FM. His email address is