Written by Nkrabeah Effah-Dartey
When President JA Kufuor took power in 2001, he nominated me for the position of Deputy Attorney General and Minister for Justice. I was so happy. Then two weeks later, he called me to his office and said he had decided to reshuffle me, instead, to the Ministry of Local Government.
He said something that changed me overnight. He said: “Local Government is where actual governance and politics take place.”
Reader, I confess unashamedly that in spite of Achimota Legon and Sandhurst, and 17 years at the bar at that time, I was a complete novice in ‘Local Government’. What is Local Government?
I went and met Hajia Alima Mahama, a lawyer and Deputy Minister, and my mate at Legon, Kwadwo Baah Wiredu, as Minister. After three months, I started thanking God for being Deputy Minister for Local Government. THAT IS WHERE THE ACTION IS – LOCAL GOVERNMENT.
For as long as the National Democratic Congress (NDC) kept Kwamena Ahwoi as Minister for Local Government, they won every election. They changed Kwamena, and they lost. Just take a look at all elections in Ghana – the personality of the Minister for Local Government has a knockout influence on who wins the elections.
It is true, because the President is one man, here today, there tomorrow. He cannot be everywhere at the same time – he is not God. So he rules through regional ministers, who rule through the district chief executives (DCEs).
You know, Local Government is so strong in Europe that over there, their national parliaments are not on ‘Constituency’ basis. No! Rule yourself at the local level and let us all rule ourselves at the national level.
And, it makes a lot of sense, because the problems of the thick forest belt BEKWAI are very different from sea-ravaged KETA, and very different from semi-savannah ZEBILLA.
News filtering in through the media say that the youth of Ho, Volta Region, are up in arms against the government, demonstrating on the streets that there is no need to divide the region into two, and that the money to be spent on creation of a new region can better be used for the greater development of the region. Some of the placards read: ‘Volta is not for sale!!’
I am sorry, but the youth of Ho have no case at all.
In the first place, geographically speaking, even though the Volta Region is not the largest region in Ghana, it is the ‘longest’ region, so much so that successive regional administrations have always throughout, whether NDC/NPP/CPP Progress Party, all administered the region as South Volta and North Volta.
In fact, the only reason why successive governments have refused to create a North Volta Region is that those agitating for north as a region do NOT want HOHOE – a major metropolitan center – to be part of the new region. Hohoe has a High Court, Divisional Police Headquarters; it has a Bank of Ghana office, and has all the infrastructure to serve as regional headquarters, but those who want a new region say no, they don’t want Hohoe to be part of it.
Instead of forcing Hohoe down their throats, successive governments choose to ignore the problem altogether, and leave matters as they are, which, in my view, is not for the greater good of the people.
Reader, in case you do not know the Volta Region, let me guide you geographically to the place as at today.
Most of us know the coastline of the Volta Region, from Tema through to Ada, then branch left towards Aflao, passing through Sogakofe, Dzodze, and Aflao, with Keta and Akatsi lying south and north respectively, inching upwards through Kpetoe to Ho, the regional capital.
You can also enter the region after the Adomi Bridge through Juapong, then branch right at Asikuma to Ho, the regional capital, leaving Battor and Adidome in the basket.
At Asikuma you turn left to the 17 towns of Peki, then at Have, either you continue upwards to Hohoe, or you branch left to Kpando, through Worawora, then upwards to DAMBAI.
From Hohoe you drive upwards to the Buem capital, Jasikan, then off you go upwards, Kadjebi to the left, then over to Nkwanta, up north, before you enter Bimbilla towards Yendi.
At Dambai, you cross the Volta by pontoon to western south west of Kete Krachi – reader, I knew the Volta Region, thanks to the Local Government Ministry for four years, and contesting for the New Patriotic Party (NPP) flagbearer and General Secretary twice.
Reader, the problems of Kpassah, Krachi, Dambai are very different from rain forest belt of Peki, Ho, Kpandu, and very different from the coastal belt of Sogakofe, Keta, Denu, and others.
When we say that we are creating a new region out of the Volta, all we are saying is that we are bringing the Central Government of Ghana closer to the people in the northern part of the Volta Region. That is all!
Imagine you are the District Director of Education in Krachi West District, at Kete Krachi, and there is an emergency. IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO TRAVEL FROM KETE KRACHI TO HO THE REGIONAL CAPITAL AND BE BACK THE SAME DAY (even if you have your own car!!!) – the road network, the unreliable pontoon service, and the distance… but if they create a new region and place the capital at DAMBAI (which I recommend) that should not be a problem.
Similarly, there is no regional boss sitting in Ho who can travel to Nkwanta, Kpessah, Dambai, Krachi and return the same day.
So, why don’t you, for administrative convenience create a new region, CLOSER TO THE PEOPLE?
The argument that the new region will be dividing the region on ethnic or tribal lines IS NOT TRUE. In fact, it is very unfortunate that there is a perception that everybody in the Volta Region is an Ewe – that is not true. The Ewes are prominently in the South, but even so, there are AKWAMUS in Juapong, part of the Volta Region. Up north, there are Ewes, Akans, Nchummuus and others.
As Deputy Minister for Local Government, I followed Elizabeth Ohene to campaign for her in a remote village in the Ho West Constituency in the 2004 General Elections. I told the chiefs who assembled that the NDC keeps saying Volta Region is ‘our World Bank’, but look at your roads, and look at you in darkness, no electricity – vote for a government that will think about you, not to chop money in your name and leave you. Elizabeth lost the election to Francis Agbotse, but Elizabeth told me she won massively in that village.
The act of creating a new region is NOT politically motivated. The groundswell is to ensure accelerated development of the area. The youth of Ho should continue to enjoy their priviledged city life in peace and allow those in the semi-savannah areas of DAMBAI or NKWANTA also to see something!!!
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