The President issued the constitutional instrument (CI 116) to give legal backing to the new North East Region (NER). This constitutional act of the President brought closure to the several years of demands for secession from the Northern Region. The calls that culminated into the referendum, held in December 2018, were based on the argument that the NE areas do not get their fair share of the national cake and that the vastness of the then Northern Region detached the people from the governance. During the calls, the people spoke in unison, prayed to the same ancestors and demonstrated that commonness of purpose was their cardinal anchor. Any resident of the NE area was either for the creation of the region or against it, the latter branded as enemies of progress. Until the ebbing moment of the advocacy for the new region, no one bothered about regional capital. What everyone cared about was the success of the referendum.
The development, post-referendum, particularly regarding the sitting of the regional capital has not only exposed our hypocrisy as people but the hidden motives, the cover of the darkness in our hearts. I have said severally, elsewhere, that we cannot start this journey of a new region on falsehood and deceit. Neither can we journey on a ‘tussle of the titans’. The discussions around the regional capital lacked honesty, openness, and one key spice, participation. As a people, we must collectively be responsible for this shortfall, for no one initiated a discussion. Here we are, seemingly divided over a very small part of the bigger cause. It will be cowardice to put the blame on any politicians. The President and his Vice only responded to the pulse of the people of the NER. We the people of the region called for the region, under the leadership of our lord, his royal highness, Naa Bahagu Mahami Abdulai Sheriga and through our lord, again, we suggested where we want the capital to be, advertently or inadvertently. To blame the President and or his Vice for the chosen regional capital is “to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it”
I must, however, assuage any sense of disappointment. We must understand that any disappointment is a lesser price against having to grapple with the problems of basic health and education facilities. Any disappointment is a lesser price of having to be detached from governance. Any disappointment is an opportunity cost of being in a group, a community or kingdom. We can never truly develop if we can’t make compromises. Fortunately, it is early in the day and we can sedate any pain including the sense of loss. We need to get back to work and to start a process of engagement that will put the new region on the pinnacle of regional leagues in Ghana. To achieve greatness, the following but others need to be pursued.
• A regional development plan: As a matter of urgency, the NER will need a plan that sets forth the long-term development goals of the region. This plan will outline the building blocks for growth and the synthetisation of the development needs of all communities. It will spell out the physical infrastructural development, human resources development and the economic growth of the region. I am acutely aware that the coordinating council will be responsible for the consolidation of districts’ development plans, and that actual planning and implementation is at the district levels. But the regional plan would provide the strategic direction for the operation of the districts. The kingdom with the government can work effectively to ensuring that the development plan does not philander with political parties.
• A balanced administration system: Local government recruitment is usually based on competence. However, where employment has “local content provisions”, we need to involve hands from four corners of the region to the extent possible. The fight for regional capital is the fight over employment and development opportunities. Doing this will provide hope and a sense of belongingness. Closely related to this is political leadership.
• Decentralisation of agencies: In line with the regional development plan, there must be a conscious effort at decentralise key departments across the region. This point was highlight by the President in his speech.
• A strong civic responsibility: The awareness of the people of the people of the region regarding their responsibilities and rights will hasten the pace of her development.
• Safeguarding the suzerainty of the kingdom: The Nayiri is the embodiment of the people of the new region and beyond. Occupants of the skins deserve the utmost respect, allegiance, and cooperation. To this end, we need to divorce the Nayiri from the administration of the new region. This is the only way the institution of chieftaincy and the powers of the Nayiri would not be anaesthetised by the hurly-burly of politics. The King’s court must avoid acts the would expose the skins to ridicule. This is not to suggest that the Kingdom has no role to play in the administration of the region.
We must be happy that the dream of the region is now a reality and we must also commit ourselves to build this new region. In fact, the creation of the new region will not address all the challenges confronting us as a people. It will not eliminate unemployment, it will not end the phenomenon of flooding or bushfires. It will only provide an avenue to ameliorate some of the challenges. We must understand that we have a common enemy – poverty. So, when we are happy that the regional coordinating council next door to you also be concerned about how those who are 45km radius will have the full benefit of the new region. Just as the campaign for the new region required everyone on board, the administration of the new region will require the same. No one wins and no losses. This is the only way we can inspire hope, in the dawn of the new region.
Finally, the NER region, like the other 5 new regions should be grateful to the President, the Vice President, and the responsible Minister, Dan Botwe for helping the people realise their dream. Like our lord , the Nayiri, said, “… the people of the North East Region owe you [President] a huge debt that we cannot be able to pay, until the end of time”
God bless our Homeland Ghana.
Long live the NER.
KB Mahama, Ph.D
Hiroshima University, Japan.