It is interesting how party manifestoes are becoming the norm rather than the exception in our body politic. Our politics is becoming one of issue based, and no longer about personalities, insults and mere sloganeering without any form of substance whatsoever. This shows the level of maturity of our a-little-younger-than three-decade-old multiparty party Democracy.
In just a little over five months, Ghana will be heading to the polls again to elect a President and a new crop of Parliamentarians if the Almighty God wills it. The enormity of the election means that the two major political parties that have dominated our 4th Republic are feverishly preparing their main policy document –manifesto – to woo the support of the electorates.
As this is being done, I suggest that the two major parties ought to give special place and consideration to the Volta and the Oti Regions in their manifestoes. The history and interest of these two regions are intertwined. Incidentally, the two regions have been a hotbed of some very unfortunate secessionist moves for some time now. Much as the State deserves some commendation for suppressing such threats by using Law Enforcement and the court system, it is important that as a country we begin to interrogate the main drivers behind these agitations.
We cannot forever sweep the issues under the carpet. There is no doubt that development or lack of it thereof in the two regions is at the heart of these ‘agitations.’ Any first time visitor to the two regions will be surprised about the regions’ state of development or lack of it.
Whilst we need to appreciate the efforts of successive governments in the Fourth Republic to bring some semblance of development to the two regions, the regions’ state of affairs unmatches their history, brand, image and perception. Many roads in the two regions are deplorable or are near death traps especially in the raining seasons. Jobs are virtually non-existent making the two regions net ‘exporters’ of young graduates to Accra, Kumasi, Tema and Ashaiman in search of menial jobs.
The state of markets in the regions is a sorry state of their deserved status, whilst many districts and big towns continue to lack health care opportunities. Against this backdrop, many people openly or quietly question the treatment of the regions when it comes to the share of the proverbial national cake. Some feel they are neglected or discriminated against. Others also feel there is a deliberate attempt not to provide them with development. This is why some people are dissatisfied.
So, as we prepare for the 8th general election in the Republic, the two major parties must consider addressing the peculiar needs of these two regions. This solution must start off with giving the two regions a pride of place in the manifestoes of the two major parties. There should be deliberate policy measures with dedicated budget lines to help address the needs of the two regions. Respectfully, I opine that it is about time the needs of the two regions were prioritized by the two major parties. The needs of the two regions must be brought to the front burner of political decisions. There should be specific policy commitments made to these two regions. There should be very practical measures aimed at addressing the peculiar challenges confronting the two regions as part of our efforts at holistic development of the country and reducing the disenchantment in the region.
The manifestoes must show a true commitment to the development of the two regions by creating a new and autonomous Development Authority for the two regions. This authority should be equipped with the financial wherewithal to carry out development projects in the jurisdiction. The Authority should be fashioned out in a manner that will promote Public-Private Partnerships. The Authority will have to address the road, water, sanitation, health and educational needs of the various MMDAs in the two regions. The employment needs of the areas should also be addressed by encouraging companies and private enterprises to invest in the areas of hospitality and tourism, agribusiness, aquaculture, services and warehousing in the two regions through the grant of tax waivers and tax holidays to such companies.
Although the stress on the national budget remains a challenge to the managers of the national coffers, the manifestoes must address the poor road infrastructure in the two regions to make life convenient for residents in the two regions. The much talked about Eastern Corridor road must be given a priority whilst efforts are made to construct other important roads in the two regions.
For instance, roads such as Abotoase – Jasikan; Chinderi –Anyinam; Chinderi –Grubi; Nkonya Akloba –Nkonya Ahundwo and Nkonya – Alavanyo in the Oti Regions must be given the needed attention. In the Volta Region, roads such as Akwetey – Waya; Adutor- Blamezado –Tregui –Kpordui Junction; Kpeve –Bame –Ho; UHAS campus; Bishop Herman College and Ho- Denu- Aflao roads must be prioritized to make life a bit comfortable for commuters of these roads.
A bridge must also be constructed to link Dambai to Krachi whilst the Sogakpe Bridge is made to undergo renovation. Investments must also be made in the provision of water in districts such as Adaklu, Ho, Akatsi and Biakoye. The Ho Teaching Hospital which was recently upgraded to its new status will require an upgrade of its infrastructure and facilities
Also, the two parties must address the unique history of the two regions. History is a tool of development and a tool of destruction. History, when wrongly told or written, can be exploited using some unsuspecting youths and naïve individuals. Half-truth is itself more destructive. Evidence abounds that there is so much disinformation and sheer ignorance about the history of the two regions. For instance, not many people are aware weather in the two regions or the rest of the country that the 1956 Plebiscite that brought British Togoland in union with Ghana did not cover the entire Volta Region as we have it today. They are not aware that the stretch of land from Adaklu Ahunda to Tongu and the Anlo areas as well as a portion of Kpeve and Peki areas were never part of British Togoland and for that matter did not take part in the Plebiscite. People are not aware that much of these areas especially the Keta/ Anlo areas were part of what was called Eastern Province of the Gold Coast. People are not aware of the historic roles played by Togbui Sri II together with Nana Sir Ofori Atta I( of the Eastern Province ) in the Legislative Council of the Gold Coast.
But more seriously, people either tend to forget or are unaware of the sacred fact that but for Komla Agbeli Gbedemah’s magnanimity and altruism to contest the Keta seat on the ticket of the CPP instead of the Accra Central Seat, he Gbedemah would have become the Leader of Government Business in the Legislative Assembly, and subsequently become the First Prime Minister of Ghana from 1952. Had Gbedemah selfishly attempted to contest the Accra Central seat at the time the legendary Kwame Nkrumah was in detention for his role in the ‘Positive Action,’ perhaps, Dr Kwame Nkrumah would not have contested the Accra Central Seat, win it and let alone become the Leader of Government Business in his capacity as the leader of the majority Party in Parliament.
History would have imposed that obligation on Komla Agbeli Gbedemah. Unfortunately, when the history of our independence is being told, we conveniently leave out some of these important personalities and events. Maybe it is the right time to revive the debate about the founding of Ghana. In the midst of this convenience and sheer ignorance, some people are heard saying Voltarians are not Ghanaians. That was not, cannot and will not be true. Some of these statements make the people feel concerned.
Thus, one of the manifesto commitments these two major parties can make to the two regions is a commitment of retelling and rewriting the true history of the two regions by composing an expert panel of Historians, chiefs and some who experienced the events of that period. Public education should be organized on the document using the NCCE and the Information Service. NaCCA, GES and the universities should also be engaged to make the content of this document a critical part of the History/ Social Studies curriculum of schools and universities.
This way, many unsuspecting youths in the regions who are being lured into believing some half-truths or non-existent histories will get to appreciate their own ignorance on the issues, and will not fall prey to any self-serving moves. It will clear doubts about some of the myths about the status of the regions. It will also help to correct some of the misconceptions the rest of the country have about the two regions. The state must not allow revisionist histories about the two regions to gain root any longer. Telling the true history of the two regions will reveal that the Anlo Youth Congress was one of the minority parties that formed the United Party of which the NPP is an offshoot. Retelling the true history of the 1956 Plebiscite, the processes involved and the documents thereof will help to correct much of the disinformation that has become a rallying point for the elements involved in the agitations.
The party manifestoes must also address the huge housing deficits in the two regions as well. As it stands, the two regions do not benefit from the ‘Affordable Housing Programme’ of any of our governments. Like the rest of the regions, these two regions also deserve those beautiful estates and state-of-the-art housing. It will inspire confidence in them about how the state cares for them too. To improve the economic fortunes of the two regions, the parties must use their manifestoes to develop agriculture and agribusiness in the two regions. The two regions boast of fertile arable lands for the cultivation of coffee, cocoa, yam, cassava, maize, and rice.
There should be deliberate programmes to empower farmers in the regions, and encourage the youths in the two regions to venture into agriculture by equipping them. Rice cultivation is a huge opportunity in the two regions that is yet to be tapped fully. There is the need to engineer deliberate rice cultivation, marketing and processing in the regions. Other produce such as tomatoes which often experience glut because of lack of market should have their challenges addressed by the manifestoes. The manifestoes must create a space for the MMDAs in the two regions to invest into agriculture and agribusiness. The regions abound in all kinds of water bodies that can be used to promote fish farming, aquaculture and tourism.
Considering that the two regions have huge potentials in the areas of tourism, the manifestoes must commit to tapping the potentials of the regions. Mounts Afadza and Adaklu as well as the Wli Water Fall have huge potentials for tourism in the areas. These centres will require modern hotels, eateries, good roads and publicity to open then up. There are huge tourist potentials in Nkwanta, Jasikan and Krachi areas that remain untapped.
In the area of education, the manifestoes must show commitment to expanding facilities at the University of Health and Allied Sciences [UHAS], Ho Technical University, the various Colleges of Education in the two regions as well as the upgrade of facilities in the Senior High Schools in the region. In this regard, attention should be given to schools such as Nkonya Senior High School, St Mary’s Senior High School, Bishop Herman College and Keta Business College among others.
It will be worth the while to fast track the process of providing regional university and Technical University for the Oti Region. The Southern part of the Volta Region may also need to be provided with additional educational institutions such as College of Education, Nursing Training College and Technical Institutes. Efforts should also be made to prospect for minerals in the two regions, and where they are found in commercial quantities, the State should take steps to sustainably exploit them to the benefit of the country and the people.
Meanwhile, the manifestoes must also find practical ways of addressing real or perceived discriminations, stereotypes and prejudices against people of the two regions. Just as government’s social interventions such as the Free Senior High School, National Health Insurance Policy, Youth Employment and School Feeding Programmes have provided national coverage without any form of discrimination, the manifestoes must also address any real or perceived discrimination in the recruitment into other state institutions and security agencies as well as the availability of other opportunities. The decision to decentralize the Scholarship Scheme is one such positive example worth emulating. In addressing these perceived discriminations and real or perceived divisions, the manifestoes may have to consider re-designating the Ministry of Chieftaincy and Culture to become the Ministry of Chieftaincy, Culture and National Unity with a core mandate to develop bipartisan and multi-sectorial approaches to eliminating all forms of discrimination, prejudice, stereotype and all forms of bias and negative characterization of people of the two regions.
Just as the issue of race is becoming a matter of international concern with calls on countries and governments to address the over 400 years of racial discriminations and prejudices, so must we in Ghana also begin to take steps to addressing all issues that do not promote national integration and unity. In this regard, the parties must give real life to the provisions in the Directive Principles of State Policy.
In conclusion, the people in the two regions only cry for development without being concerned about the party that provides it. The development of the two regions and the rest of the regions will go a long way in helping the country achieve the Sustainable Development Goals which our President co-chairs.
The writer, Gborse Nicholas Mawunyah, is a writer and conference speaker on topical issues in education, political-history, school leadership and innovations. Contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org. http://nicgborse.wordpress.com.