A former Deputy Minister of Information has called on the government to admit to failure in the implementation of its flagship programme, One-Village One-Dam.
According to Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, evidence of what has been done so far suggest that rather than a Dam in every village in Northern Ghana, government has only provided ponds for few communities.
“They are not dams, they are ponds or dugouts,” he said on Joy News’ Newsfile, a current affairs and news analysis programme Saturday.
Mr. Ablakwa told show host, Samson Anyenini, the failure to keep this campaign promise has had a telling effect on the many poor communities in northern Ghana whose livelihood depends on the availability of water for farming purposes.
The ‘ponds’, which the former Deputy Education Minister maintained is most of the time dry, has not only infuriated members of the community where it has been done but have now become death traps to families, especially children.
“I must commend Joy FM for the documentary you put out. The chiefs you interviewed, there is one chief who said when he is riding his bicycle around where the Dams are located he does not want to look in that direction because it is an insult to him. They have even become death traps. Not long ago a schoolboy was drawn in it,” Mr. Ablakwa said on Newsfile.
A1 radio, a radio station in Bolgatanga, the Upper East regional capital produced a documentary focusing on government’s One-village, one dam project.
The government wants to build a dam in every village in the now 5 regions of northern Ghana in its four-year mandate. There are 15 districts in the Upper East region, each with more than a hundred and fifty villages on the average. Meaning the government should be building at least two thousand two hundred and fifty dams by December 2020.
It’s now eighteen months to that deadline and according to the documentary, forty dams are under construction with ten at various stages of construction in a district like Bongo.
The villagers where some of these 10 dams have already been built say the contractor used one week to complete them. The dam, the interviewees say, is so badly done that more than 6 people have drowned while trying to fetch water from them. One chief said the dams could only be fit for ‘sakora’ football parks.
There are conflicting figures on how much these dams would cost the country whiles the Agriculture Ministry, under whose watch the Ghana Irrigation Authority- the state department that has been building dams for years works- quotes 2.5 million, The Special Initiatives Ministry- an entirely new ministry set up to deliver this government’s grand campaign promises, quotes 250,000.
Whichever amount you work with, you can’t escape the fact that this is running into the billions if we were going to put a dam in every village. The Regional Minister and a District Chief Executive interviewed could both not tell how contractors for the project had been selected.
Was ‘One -Village One- Dam’ just for political expediency?
Following this development, Mr. Okudzeto Ablakwa, who is also the Member of Parliament for North Tongu has imputed motives to the government.
Calling the project to provide ‘One-village One-Dam’ a shopping list, he said the government had no clue on how to deliver on it and that it was mere attempts at enriching its electoral fortunes.
Having won power on these promises, the government he pointed out, is now trying to ‘wriggle’ its way out of those promises.
“We need to move away from this business of putting out a large shopping list and seeking to just win votes, ‘you let’s get the power, when we get the power then we will see how we wriggle our way through,’” he cautioned politicians.
The promise of One- Village One- Dam, he said had no implementation plan, and the government had no commitment to getting them done except for its electoral value.
“I remember we were asking ‘when you say one village one dam, have you even identified the number of villages? What is the total number of villages you have in mind? What is conceptualization? ‘” Mr. Ablakwa kept raising one question after the other.
But he added that the incessant media coverage that has been given to the project and complains from the chiefs and people of the community obviously demonstrate an ‘awakening Ghanaian’ who can no longer be taken for granted.
“The electorates have become discerning now. After 26 years of this 4th republic, we cannot sustain that kind of politics. We must move to an empirical and scientific way of carrying out our politics,” Ablakwa sermonized.
As a way forward, he called on the government to amend the promise from One – Village One-Dam to One- Village- One- Pond if that is what the government can afford.
He also called on politicians to take a cue from the development and make campaign promises which are sustainable and feasible in its implementation.
“Elsewhere they have even moved away from just promising. Every promise you make must have cost to it. Show the people how the funds will be generated,” he said.
According to him wild claims for the purposes of elections has the potential to affect the credibility of politicians and wane the confidence of the electorates in them.
“This matter further goes to delve a big blow to the credibility of politicians, campaign promises and the things we say for votes,” he told Samson Anynini, host of Newsfile.
We must be optimistic- Martin Kpebu
Sharing the panel with Ablakwa was private legal practitioner, Martin Kpebu who said Ghanaians must wish the project well despite its challenges.
According to him any effort aimed at providing a form of assistant to rural Ghanaians must be supported.
He says focusing on the implementation challenges alone is not the best way forward.
Assuming what the government is providing is merely a pond; it still can serve a useful purpose than the absence of it, he said on Newsfile.
“In every development, you may have hitches here and there. Everyone makes mistakes; we should ignore the mistakes and move on. It is about preferring substance over form. “
The government must punish erring contractors- Dr. Justice Yankson
A medical Doctor, who is also the General Secretary of the Ghana Medical Association, Dr. Justice Yankson agreed with the submissions of Mr. Kpebu.
He, however, added that contractors who have failed to deliver on the construction of Dams must be urged to do the work or punished if they fail.
‘ We should not allow this project to fail,” he admonished stakeholders.