Madam Elizabeth Ohene’s writing prowess is not only worth admiring but also emulating. Her adroitness with how she weaves her thoughts regarding emerging social issues is amazing. I am an avid reader of her write ups which are mostly published in the Daily Graphic. I don’t want to believe that my love for her writing skills and depth of understanding of social issues are largely influenced by the fact that I happen to come from Abutia with her. Madam Ohene’s love for Abutia is seen in her reference of the town in some of her write ups and for me, this helps to put the name of the town in the mind maps of people. Also, my love for her write ups may also be due to the fact that she is an old student of Mawuli, a school we both pride ourselves in.
In her recent write up titled “Who Speaks for the Ewes?”, Madam Ohene presented personal opinions which had caught the attention of some people including myself. I however, disagree with some of her views which clearly seem to be in support of the creation of the Oti Region and at the same time against the views expressed by the Agbogbomefia Togbe Afede XIV of the Asogli Traditional area. Our elders say that “a leader’s handbag (ideas) is never completely empty”. This is symbolic of Madam Ohene’s writing piece. The bag in which she communicated from contained the wrong goods. I want to believe that Madam Elizabeth Ohene’s opinions as personal as she may make us believe may have emanated from people behind the scenes who speak through her as their chosen vessel. Her comments and demeanor I distilled from her piece, makes me feel she’s just a puppet in the hands of her puppeteers. Like the Berean Jews in Apostle Paul’s days, Madam Ohene should have thoroughly examined the issues calling for the creation of the Oti Region before coming out in a clandestine manner in what can be described as an attempt to silence people who hold contrary views. How I wish she was a Berean and lived in the era of Apostle Paul but that is past and gone.
While Madam Ohene claims to know her Ewe history very well, many will agree with me that this does not make her a repository or an authority of Ewe history. I well understand the position of Madam Ohene who cannot disagree with her kingmakers (the party in power) because two leaders do not fight in one house. As a proud young Ghanaian and an interested stakeholder in the affairs of Volta Region just like her, I have keenly followed recent issues relating to the proposed creation of the Oti Region from the Volta Region and matters arising. I must make it clear that I do not speak for any individual, chief or group in the region opposing the creation of the Oti Region.
Having followed issues on the proposed creation of Oti Region and statements made by people including the revered Togbe Afede (who’s earned this status over the years), it is important to state that Togbe Afede has in no way purported to arrogate himself as the spokesperson or King of the Volta Region as imperceptibly being suggested by Madam Ohene. Every individual not limited to citizens of the Volta Region have the right to express their opinion and dissatisfaction about an intended course of action that they believe will unjustifiably not be in their interest and in the interest of the larger society. It is very misleading to seem to suggest that one must be a constitutional authority before raising issues of constitutionality when confronted with an issue. This view is not only unfair but weak when it comes to the defense of the constitution. While it is important to note that the Supreme Court has the constitutional mandate to interpret constitutional matters and make rulings to defend and uphold the spirit and letter of the constitution, citizens also have a significant role to play in defending the constitution which includes reasonably speaking against issues in a constitutional way unless Togbe Afede has done otherwise. Or Madam Ohene wants to suggest that individuals or groups who are against the creation of the Oti Region should shut up as a perfect example of the expression of freedom of speech?
As a Chief with many subjects who has had to solve and continues to solve many conflicts not only in the region, Togbe Afede has a better understanding of traditional matters and how if not well handled can lead to flammable situations than Madam Elizabeth Ohene. The issue of the delimitation of traditional boundaries is a sensitive issue and if not well handled will likely serve as a source of conflict. This brings to mind years of unresolved land dispute between the people of Nkonya and Alavanyo in the Volta Region. One can only imagine the results of the forceful inclusion of the people of Akpafu and Lolobi Traditional areas who have expressed strong reservations and indignation against their likely inclusion in the creation of the proposed Oti Region. Yes, there are independent chiefdoms in present-day Eweland as argued by Madam Ohene but who says the people of Eweland can only speak against issues that concerns them only when they have one King who sees to all their affairs or must return to the rule of King Agorkoli? It is worthy to point out that different chiefdoms also in some parts of Northern Ghana are also protesting the split of the Northern Region with regards to the issue of traditional boundaries and securing their traditional identity and power.
Like how the Ashanti Region is made up of Ashantis hence the name of the region derived, the Volta Region perhaps may have been called Ewe Region but that is not the case. It will be an intellectual dishonesty to say that the Volta Region is made up of only Ewes and no one has said or made this statement anywhere in protest against the creation of the Oti Region and in defense of the regional unity for the Volta. I find it more worrying and regrettably snooping that Madam Elizabeth Ohene have failed to advance any strong arguments in support of the creation of the Oti Region but only to say that “Now I am not against the creation of the Oti Region but I am for peace”. For me and like many others, the call for the creation of not only the Oti Region but others as well is a lazy and unthinkable approach by politicians in their attempt to bring development. This approach by politicians is largely anchored on their selfish aim of amassing political benefits. The small gazelle they say (citizens) runs to save its life but the lion (ruling party) chases to fill its belly.
The mere creation of new regions is not sufficient to bring about the needed development but what is more important is to understand and prescribe the right development medication. Currently, what we are all witnessing can be compared to a medical doctor prescribing ORS to cure HIV/AIDS. If a leader loves you he makes sure you build your house on a rock. This government wants us to build our house on sand plated with rocks. Is the call for the creation of new regions not indicative that our much touted local government and decentralization system has comatosed and failed to address the felt needs of the local people? Is there no possibility to ensure that the system of local governance can be made to work effectively and efficiently in addressing issues of development? There is a saying that “if the owner of a land leads you, you can’t get lost”. I am quick to say that Madam Ohene and her political entourage feels Ghana belongs to them. That feeling is what is making us lost. If the distance between the areas calling for the Oti Region and the regional capital, Ho is far and the road linking these places is bad and making travelling frustrating, why can’t government hasten the process of completing the Eastern Corridor road project, or better, through its Ministry of Railway Development construct a railway system linking the northern part of Volta to the southern part? This definitely will reduce travelling time and will inherently bring some level of development. Strategic areas in the northern part of the region should not only be identified but through the deliberate efforts of government should be transformed into growth poles to magnetically attract development. These and many other creative avenues are what we can use to bring about development, reduce poverty and narrow the widening gap of inequality.
I want to make the point that a leader who understands proverbs reconciles difficulties. We must tread cautiously as a country and rather encourage diverse groups of people to learn how to live together and how they can collectively find solutions to the common everyday problems that confront them. Creating regions based on the request of particular ethnic groups and groups who advance the argument that they have a large share of natural resources is sharply against the efforts of national cohesion and a recipe for potential danger. It is time we did away with partisan politics and viewed issues through the lens of patriotism with the interest of the nation at heart.
NB: The writer is a Development Practitioner and Youth Advocate.