By Issifu Seidu Kudus Gbeadese
I write this with an opened and a sincere heart. No malice intended, no partisan inclinations, just a common stakeholder (Kawute) in the land of Jakpa. I do this with an utmost love for the culture, tradition and values of Gonjaland.
I eavesdropped in a conversation about a month ago. One of Gonjaland finest retired educationist and an accomplished traditional historian (Mr Mahama Sarfo) made some revelations which made me proud as a Gonjalander. His revelations indeed got me recollecting the past glories of the Kingdom; the chapters of the ancestral battles and conquers got well fitted into today’s story of craving for a region for Gonjaland. This struggles he said dates back in the 1980s. I don’t know if that is right but I think I heard him right.
As a young man in his early 30s, I can recollect the events in the days of Yagbonwura Bawa Doshie. I can vividly remember how he personally travelled in and out of Accra with this same pursuit. The struggling continued and caught much interest about a decade ago. In oneness behind the spear of Jakpa, Gonjalanders in every corner of the World left behind all personal parochial and political interests to pursue this same agenda our forefathers started.
Fast forward, that long dream is coming to pass. From the petitions to the hearings to the lobbying and now, the only process left is the much awaited 27th Dec referendum, we stood behind a common goal.
In the wake of all these good tales, what I haven’t noticed is our preparedness to take that bold step beyond the current crusade. Do we have a “PLAN” for takeoff? Maybe there is a plan to plan or even an existing plan in place which I don’t know or heard about, but whatever it is, I think we need some 10 years or 15 years development plan to a start with.
This plan when designed and adopted should envelope the social, political, cultural & traditional, economic constructs of our people. In gathering the pieces to get this grand plan, effective participation by all stakeholders (GLYA, GTC, District Assemblies, Offices of MPs(both past and present) other appointees from Gonjaland (both past and present), NGOs, CSOs operating within the and other interest groups) must be ensured.
As a baby region (after the 27th referendum), what do we want Savannah Region to be noted for? Which tag name do we want our human resource base to wear? How do we take advantage of the salt deposits in Wasipe or the gold deposits in the Bole traditional area or even the thicket of Shea which our mothers can’t even “harvest” the nuts up to 70% of their annual yield?
This when put in a blueprint should not only be binding buy should transcend any political regime and interests. We can tap into the Medium Term Development Plans of all our District Assemblies to design a framework within which bigger economic goals for the entire region will be extracted and pursued.
On cultural and tradition (CHIEFTAINCY)…there could be a deliberate push for a comprehensive 10-year peace roadmap to settle all traditional or chieftaincy related misunderstandings out of court while targeting a cleaner sheet of succession for the next generation. I know Gonjaland has one of the finest traditional setups and succession arrangements, but over time, political and other inclinations have come to subsume and dilute this arrangement. I think it’s about time we look at these old-aged arrangements and see where to refine to fit our current desires and where to entrench for the sake of preserving and safeguarding our culture, tradition and values.
There are immense opportunities for the Agric sub-sector and thank God Gonjaland has one of the finest but specialize brains in this sector. Dr Abu Sakara is a renowned Agronomist with expanded knowledge in many other areas in this industry. With him in the lead and other experts, we can develop a path for effective research into commercial shea farming.
There is a Shea Nut Factory in Buipe, how much indirect jobs has this created for our mothers over the period? While at this, we can advocate for the setting up of the satellite campus of UDS to swallow the Agric College in Damongo with a specific specialization in research for shea nut commercialization, cashew or even wildlife studies with Mole National Park as the Study Centre.
We can also redirect our focus more on the development of a road network to boost our local economies. We can get for instance the road from Damongo through Sor No 3 to Buipe connected in order to make it easy for raw materials (shea nuts) to be transported from Damongo, Sawla/Tuna/Kalba, Bole and the Upper West to feed the Shea Nut Factory in Buipe.
The farthest Municipal from the proposed capital is East Gonja Municipal Assembly in the Kpembe traditional area. Aside the principal road linking Tamale through Salaga to Mankango which needs serious attention, the plan can also look at an easy route linking East Gonja to Central Gonja without necessarily passing though Tamale.
North Gonja in Wasipe is still cut out because of the road network. How do we link the road to the Regional Capital to redirect the market to Damongo, Buipe, Sawla or Bole instead of the other nearby regions? If all these are properly laid out and captured, there will be a boost to our local economies with our mothers trading effectively amongst ourselves and outside of the region. Central Governments would not need to impose their agenda on us if only we can push for it to be adopted.
Gonjaland is getting a region and so what is next? Is our interest only to occupy the skeletal political positions and leave the main flesh for others to control and direct affairs in the long run? I am aware the land has skilled manpower in several fields, but is that enough? Today, when you venture into the Legal Industry, you can’t mention the 10 topmost movers in that industry without mentioning a name from Upper East; The Atugubas are a force in that industry. It didn’t happen by accident but out of proper planning. In the whole of Northern Ghana, our brethren from Upper West especially the Nandom area have more Doctors to boast of. The southerners especially the Ashantes and the Kwahus make more Entrepreneurs.
What do we want Gonjaland and for that matter Savannah Region to be noted for? Agronomists, Specialized Engineers, or what? Or we are satisfied with the current arrangement where there are no structured mentorship and sponsorship targeted at nurturing and sustaining talents? An arrangement where everyone is let off the hook to strive to survive? An arrangement where communities are not responsible for its offsprings?
What is the contribution of tourism industry to the land over years? Is this being tracked? Is it structured and well-coordinated to benefit the people within these areas? How much has the Laribanga Ancient Mosque and the Mystic Stone contributed to the overall development of Laribanga, West Gonja and Gonjaland at large? What about one of the biggest Wild Life Reserve in West Africa (Mole National Park)? What about the Slave Market in Salaga? Let’s plan to put all these to proper use in order for our youth to benefit.
The annual Gonjaland Youth Association Congresses can be converted into an “Economic Fair” to be observed every two years in a proposed traditional area or even out of Gonjaland (savannah region) in order to show what we have to the world. If GLYA desires to organize an “Economic Fair” even out of Ghana just to showcase the Daboya Smock to the World, I think it’s possible.
The social aspect of the annual congresses can still be maintained but this time to be conducted by the LOCAL LEVEL GLYA in between the years for the “Mother Economic Fair”. We can refine this program to fit the current demands. All these can be part of our agenda (plan).
We can’t fail the generations behind us. We will have stories to tell for the them to listen with pride. We can do this and direct the promises and agenda of any established government, so that the development of Savannah Region would be structured within the framework of our plan and not haphazardly done to please political parties and their assigns just to win or consolidate their political gains.
The government has promised a GHC 20m seed money for a takeoff. Although this isn’t enough to solve all our problems, but after putting the basic infrastructure in place to house the region and other allied institutions, what other thing can we do to set the path and direction for a takeoff? Remember we are coming to compete for resources with already existing Regions and well established ones of course. With this, a proper plan is the surest way to make us stay in the game.
LET’S REMEMBER THAT WHEN WE FAIL TO PLAN THEN WE ARE PLANNING TO FAIL. GONJALAND SHALL NOT FAIL! SAVANNAH REGION SHALL RISE TO SHINE.
LET US GO ALL OUT AND VOTE YES FOR THE SAVANNAH REGION. SAVANNAH REGION; MY REGION, YOUR REGION, OUR REGION. 10 DAYS TO GO.
Still the lone voice from Laribanga Mountains.