We have now had the chance to watch and listen to the vetting of Dr. Archibald Yao Letsa by the power of the network—YouTube, specifically. We must congratulate Dr. Letsa for holding up for the Volta Region and dedicating 30 years of his working life in supporting the people of the region in various capacities until his nomination. Another area for commendation in Dr. Letsa’s presentation is his ability, as a government-nominee for the position of a Minister, to articulate the inchoate government vision of one-district one-factory policy in ways that fleshed out the concept, specifically, in relation to the Volta Region. We are quite certain that the need for the development of aquaculture in most parts of the region has been the call by many, including the Anlo Youth Council (AYC). You can follow the preemptive article by AYC in which AYC highlighted how the concept could work in their part of the region (Follow a press statement by AYC here: http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Anlo-Youth-council-welcomes-Nana-Akufo-Addo-503488). While these are accolades to be proud of, it must be pointed out that the just-confirmed Volta Regional Minister was unsuccessful in convincing many of us on two important fronts: the reasons for his government’s intention to carve a new region out of the Volta Region and his explanation on the influence of Western culture on what is supposed to be an “authentic” Ghanaian culture. These two important issues are the centerpiece of this article.
In regard to the NPP’s intention to carve a new region out of the Volta Region, a committee member argued that landmass and population size have been the main drivers for the need to create new administrative regions and districts. He then asked: “what then is actually informing the president’s decision of creating another region out of the Volta Region?” The member then juxtaposed the Volta Region with the Ashanti and the Eastern regions, in terms of landmass and population size, and concluded that both regions are larger than the Volta Region, but are not penciled for any such partitioning. In response to this question, Dr. Letsa state that:
The Volta Region is long—from the Coast to Tamale…poverty is endemic in the northern
part of the Volta Region, and they have [reference to Northern Volta} always demanded
for Oti Region…If you must move from Domanko to Ho to process papers as a teacher
or a nurse, or a pensioner, is quite tedious. And many people have to spend the night
behind Oti River overnight before getting to Ho. So, if the regional capital is close to them,
it will be fair…as far as development is concerned, the smaller the better.
(Ghanaweb TV, 2017, Feb. 15)
In effect, Dr. Letsa argued that the partitioning of the Volta Region is purely for development purposes and not for political reasons. With the landmass argument, indeed, the Volta Region stretches from the Coast to the North, sharing in almost the entire ecosystems of the Country. The length of the region implies that some towns and cities are far removed from the regional capital, Ho, which places some locations within the region at a disadvantage in terms of travel time and distance to the regional capital. The facts, however, do not corroborate Dr. Letsa’s arguments.
|Regional Capital||Town/City||Via/Route||Distance from Capital (km)||Population of Region|
2. Nkawkaw -Asino
|102 + 130
Ghana Statistical Services: Population census of Ghana 2010
From the population census of Ghana, It is clear that the objective to carve new regions out of existing ones cannot be driven by population density, particularly in the case of the Volta Region. If population density were the reason, the Eastern and Ashanti regions are more densely populated than the Volta Region and should be the ones on the chopping table for the intended partitioning. A closer look at the figures in table 1 show clearly that in regard to the distance from the administrative capital of any region to its outflanked hamlets, the Volta Region is not the worst faring. In fact on that score, too, the Volta Region should be the least to be considered.
What had probably beaten the imagination of the then-nominee is that the length of the Volta Region, from the Atlantic Coast to the Sahel on the fringes of the West African Guinea Savanna is that, the road network is a simple straight one, connecting towns and villages up north and down south. Other regions do not have such luxuries. The colonial road and rail networks in mineral-rich resources regions simply followed where those resources were located and how to open up those frontiers for exports. Post-independence development continued this trend. Fortunately, current thinking in national development has shifted to long-term economic thinking. A by-pass at Nsawam has created a respite for every traveler from the Greater, Volta, Ashanti, and, indeed, any part of the country on that route. A by-pass at Akatsi also did same. The eastern corridor road when faithfully done will save the country several millions of dollars in transportation and release several man-hours for other productive work. It would also make the route more attractive to our neighbors up north, and, by economic multipliers, generate more passage for the Tema Harbor and the Kotoka International Airport.
The then-nominee’s argument fully gave way when he asserted that people traveling from across the River Oti, beyond Domanko, to Ho have to spend the night on the banks of River Oti, and when they eventually cross, spend long hours on the road to the regional capital to conduct administrative business. Granted that the then-nominee was ill-informed, we civil society cannot allow this to pass, particularly to inform a serious policy such as the division of the Volta Region. There is a very good bridge on the River Oti and the road is fairly good too. Please find evidence in table 1. More so, the notion of equidistance between any regional capital and all towns and cities around it is a mirage. Some cities and towns will always be advantaged in terms of distance from their regional capitals. For example, those who travel from Winneba to Cap Coast would have to cover more distance to Cape Coast than those from Saltpond.
We are also aware that the frontiers of economics as a discipline have expanded and continues to expand since the days of the early gatherers and hunters. However, some economic principles have endured or stayed the test of time The concept of economics of scale is one. It is thus misleading and/or perhaps erroneous for the then-nominee to argue that “the smaller the unit the better the development” without advancing this seemingly new concepts fully. Beyond that it must be noted that each context would determine what is feasible. In the Ghanaian context, the smaller the unit cannot be better. What is the overhead cost of running one regional capital (in this case X4)? To carve four new regions require the replication of the administrative apparatus of all the existing ministries, departments, and other administrative parastatals in the newly created regions. While this has the potential to create some new jobs, it certainly will bloat government expenditure and increase cost to the taxpaying Ghanaian. Considering the facilities that are to be made available to each regional minister, regional director of education, regional director of this and that department, the question then arises: what are our priorities as a country?
It is important to point out that to argue that teachers, nurses, pensioners, and all others who have any documents to process must travel to the regional capitals to do so is an indication of how we have failed to evolve systems that facilitate government business around the clock, without individuals having to travel for long distances. It is erroneous to argue that teachers have to travel to their regional capitals to process documents. District capitals have always served as clearing hubs for all documentations with institutions such as the Ghana Education Service, the Ministry of Health, and the National Service Secretariat among other government agencies. We can and should continue to deepen the decentralization process across the country, especially using technology to connect far flung areas of the country to their district capitals.
To add to that, technology has made it quite possible these days for individuals to transmit whatever information that is needed in their district and regional offices without having to travel to these locations. By employing current technologies in these transactions, the speed of processing teachers’ salaries (a recurrent problem), the avoidance of risk involved in traveling, the expenses involved and the time spent on the road are all curtailed to a very large extent. The point is that if the now-Minister is arguing that due to the location of the administrative capital of the Volta Region, there is the need to carve a new region out of the region to reduce the travel time for those who live farther away from the regional capital, one can presume that his government has not considered properly how it can infuse technology into institutional procedures to close these gaps. As Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng rightly pointed out during his vetting, our underdevelopment is traceable to technological deficits. Thus, if a government whose Minister is trumpeting the use of technology to close the development gap in our part of the world cannot demonstrate this by incorporating available technologies into government operations to lessen the burden of our citizens, it raises the question of whether the vetting platform is only setup for highfalutin language that has no bearing on government and governance activities on the ground.
If Ghana indeed has the resource to create four new regions, we would think that such resources are better invested in rural development and the creation of a new capital city to move our national capital away from what has now become a deathtrap. The notion that Accra has now become a deathtrap cannot be contested. Not even with the building of the so-called Dubai-interchange at the Kwame Nkrumah circle. Let’s learn to use our resources prudently as a developing country and not to be driven by excessive politics of convenience. Ghana is too small a country to have 14 regions, 275 parliamentarians, and 216 districts (the latter which might increase to 300 or more with the creation of four new regions which will automatically trigger the creation of new districts). The cost of running these institutions have overburdened the economy!
Dovetailing with the foregoing is the issue of culture. Our youthful population is full students of many subjects, including that of culture and communication. We believe that it is important that opportunities such as the vetting of ministers are utilized to educate our compatriots on some of the erroneous notions they hold about certain topics, including culture. Contrary to this expectation, some of the questions and the responses were definitely uninspiring. On culture, a member of the vetting committee expressed her concern over the bastardization of Ghanaian culture by Western culture. According to her “Ghana is gradually losing its culture as a result of the influx of the Western culture. What would you do to help preserve the rich culture of the people of the Volta Region?”
Indeed, we had expected the then-nominee to use the platform to educate the Hon. Member who asked the question and many of us listening on the culture of our people. Unfortunately, the then-nominee reduced that great opportunity to festivals, Kente, and tourism. Does it mean that Western culture is making it difficult for our people not to wear Kente, celebrate their festivals, or embark on domestic tourism? As it were, Western culture became the target of individuals who think there is something known as “authentic” Ghanaian or Voltarian culture that is being bastardized by Western culture.
We begin with the simple premise that culture is a way of life of a people. Thus, every human is a cultural being, who is immersed in a cultural endeavor in one way or the other—be it the application technologies, the practice of medicine, clothing and fashion, methods of teaching, drumming and dancing, the practice of religion, even the way we respond to emergency situations, etc. To the extent that we agree that everything is cultural, the question then arises: which aspects of our culture is under threat from Western culture? We had expected the then-nominee to probe the MPs question further in order to narrow down the conversation to the specifics, but he rather reduced the opportunity to educate to Kente, festivals, and tourism. How the West impedes the celebration of Hogbetsotso, the wearing of Kente, or domestic or international tourism, we do not know.
To the best of our knowledge, it is preposterous to take the position that there is an authentic culture anywhere that is under threat by other cultures. It is best to assume that cultures are in constant interaction and no culture is an Island own its own. The so-called Western culture itself is an eclectic amalgamation of different things at different times. When one listens to African American blue grass, it reminds one of Tsapulegede kekem banya of the Southern Ewe, an indication of how African culture has influenced and continues to music in the new world. When one applies computer technologies to work, it must remind one of how the technology hub of Silicon Valley, itself a collection of minds from around the world, has influenced the ways in which we use technology in today’s world. We can go on and cite a thousand and one examples to underscore the point.
It is thus dangerous to view culture in monolithic and homogenous terms. When we view culture this way, what we are saying is that culture is timeless and uniformly distributed among people from the same cultural background. If we may ask: what hair, shoes, and clothes was the woman who asked this question wearing when she asked the question? What car did she drive to the vetting? Was she in Kinki hair, Kente clothes, and Kumasi made sandals to underscore her authentic African culture? When Mr. P.V. Obeng suddenly fainted in the middle of the road in Accra, what became of him? When our late president, Professor Atta Mills collapsed, what was his fate? These are all cultural manifestations. Culture is nuanced and culture is expressive. Its manifestations have implications for us. If we should view our emergency response systems as products of culture, we will repudiate ours as inadequate to deal with the realities we have created around us. In this case, Western emergency response systems, what the Hon. Member might regard as a negative incursion on our culture, will be more appealing and acceptable to us. Culture is dynamic and we must learn new ways of doing things while rejecting their aberrations and excesses.
Clearly, Dr. Letsa has failed on these two fronts to convince the generality of Ghanaians on these matters that have been discussed in this piece—partitioning of the Volta Region and the place of culture in our development equation. A rejoinder is thus expected from the Volta Regional Minister, Dr. Archibald Yao Letsa, on these matters to bring clarity to the issues in contention.
By Prosper Yao Tsikata, Ph.D. & Mayor Agbleze, Mining Engineer