Ever since President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo announced in his maiden address to the 4th Parliament of the 4th Republic of Ghana the decision of his government to, among other things, create Oti Region out of present Volta Region, the region has been thrown into turmoil. Reactions have been extreme with no middle ground in sight. The “Krachi Youth,” at one end, showers their applause on government, for, they see in the announcement, a realisation of their long-nurtured dream of Kete Krachi becoming a regional capital in Ghana. The “Concerned Volta Youth,” at the other side, condemned the announcement as being callous and vindictive, calling it a politically motivated move by the NPP government to break the front of its main political opponent, the National Democratic Congress (NDC), in the latter’s stronghold, the Volta Region.
The government has since the announcement gone ahead and created the new Ministry of Regional Reorganisation, with Hon. Dan Botwe as Minister. Apart from the information that a referendum would be held in 2018 in which at least 50% of the registered voters in the area would have to vote to decide the issue and that the issue would be settled by what 80% of voters say, the following are unclear at this stage:(a) What are the boundaries of the proposed new region? (b) Who decides the boundaries? (c) When will the boundary demarcation exercise be done or has it been already decided? And (d) Who would be qualified to vote?
Is it (i) the whole of Volta region or (ii) the people in the demarcated region only? Herein lies the fear of manipulation. If the government decides that only the people in the demarcated areas can vote, then the government will surely have its way. But if it’s the whole Volta Region that will be involved, then Oti Region will be stillborn and will never see the light of day.
Poignant questions being asked by angry Voltarians (Voltaians) include: (a) Why is government so bent on fractionating and disintegrating Volta Region? (b) Is there some hidden agenda?
(c) Does the complaint of a minority group or groups in a region automatically necessitate the creation of a region for them?
If the answer to the last question is positive “Yes,” then the immediate question that comes to mind is (d) In which of the regions do we have the most ethnic rumblings in Ghana? Northern Region, Eastern Region or Volta Region? (e) If the President is so anxious to address the concerns of minority ethnic groups, then why don’t we let charity begin at home?
If the aim of creating new regions out of the existing regions is just to appease minority groups by disintegrating well-established regions then the people of Volta Region wonder why it should start with Volta and not the Eastern Region, the President’s home region? Why don’t we start by carving out “Akwapim or Densu Region” and “Akyim or Birim Region,” out of the Eastern Region (where there have been century-long ethnic confrontations between the groups). Why not send the Juabens back to Ashanti, whilst Krobos and Adas move back to Volta Region? Perhaps the Gas would like to have their farmlands back so the people of Larteh, Asesreso and Adukrom would like to join other Guan-speaking people at Logba Tota, Nkonya, Akpafu, Santrokofi, Likpe, Lolobi and Kete Krachi to form Guan region. What is good for the goose is certainly good for the gander. In this era of globalisation, the move should be on integration rather than segregation.
There are dissenting minority ethnic groups in every region of Ghana and, if care is not taken, we will soon end up with “one dialect, one region.” It won’t be bad: Kokomba Region, Nanumba Region; Nzema Region; Sefwi Region; Denkyira Region; Wassa Region; the list will be unending. And since we like rivers, we could add into the cauldron the likes of Aboabo Region, Ankobra Region, Sesanso Region, Subin Region, Weweso Region, etc., etc. “The Ghanaian People” would be overjoyed, for everybody will have a regional capital at his/her front door and the much dreamt of, much-needed development will flow like manna from Heaven.
The Plight Of Oti Area
The Oti river, a tributary of the Volta river, joins the latter around the Otiso and the Kete Krachi area of northern Volta Region. This and the Nkwanta areas suffered tremendously as a result of the construction of the Volta dam. The people, who are mostly peasant farmers, had the means to livelihood seriously curtailed when their farmlands and ancestral burial grounds were submerged by the Volta Lake and they had to be moved to resettlement towns and villages on lands to which they bore no ancestral roots. Basic infrastructure, like schools, roads and potable water are absent. It was not until the late 1980s that electricity reached the area. Years of neglect by successive central governments have reduced the area to the rank of the poorest of the poor in Ghana. What these people need is massive infrastructure development, not partisan politics. If really the government is so concerned about their plight, then what is really needed is a special intervention, like the Savannah Accelerated Development Programme.
Road To Balkanisation
The creation of the Oti Region, with Kete Krachi as the regional capital, will be the surest way to set the Volta Region on the path of disintegration. If Kete Krachi is too far from Ho, the present regional capital, and, therefore, it must become a regional capital before the people of northern Volta can get development, then how about Keta, the traditional commercial hub of the Anlos and other coastal tribes of the Volta Region. Keta too must become a regional capital for southern Volta to assess development. Once the trend is started, there should be no reason why the Dayi, Kpando and Hohoe people wouldn’t clamour for Central Volta, with capital town at Kpando or Hohoe? This Oti Region idea will trigger the disintegration of the Volta Region. It should therefore be nipped in the bud.
North & South Volta
If because of the extreme length of the region, it must by all means be split to facilitate administration, then the suggestions of Togbega Gabusu V, the Paramount Chief of Gbi Traditional Area, is worth considering. In various radio interviews on CitiFM, Accra and Heritage FM, Hohoe, the Togbega made the following very provocative points: (i) He fully supports the government’s proposal to split Volta Region in two. (ii) He wants the new region to start from Asikuma Junction in the south (central part of Volta Region) to Kete Krachi in the north. (iii) Togbega proposes the names “Volta North” and “Volta South” for the two regions. (iv) Togbega wants 13 of the 25 districts of the Volta Region (from South & North Dayi, Afadjato South, Kpando Municipal , Hohoe Municipal, Biakoye, Jasikan, Kadjebi, Nkwanta & East, West and Central Krachi, Krachi Nchumuru) to be in North Volta. (v) The remaining 12 districts from Ho Municipal, Ho East & West, Ho Central Adaklu-Tokokoe, North & South Akatsi, North, South & Central Tongu; North & South Ketu and Keta Municipality will then form South Volta, with Ho as regional capital.
He was, however, curiously silent on suggestions for possible capital for North Volta. Besides, a close scrutiny clearly shows major differences between Togbega’s proposals and what the proponents of Oti Region mean.
Oti Versus Volta North
To a large majority of the Volta Region the “Oti Region” concept appears to be ethically driven and is, therefore, not readily acceptable. This is because, in the first instance, it appears to derive its origins from the frustrations of minority ethnic groups in northern Volta Region. It appears to be locally centred and therefore divisive, as the majority of the people in the Volta Region cannot identify with the Oti river. The question on many lips is “Why Oti?” Why not: “Asukokor” or “Amu” or “Dayi” or “Black Volta Region? Secondly, why would anybody want to carve out a sub-region out of a major region solely on the grounds of ethnic sentiment?
A respondent on one social platform warned that we should be careful in trying to force the Oti Region concept down their throats and that despite our ethnic diversification, there has been peaceful coexistence and inter-marriages until the NPP came out with this “huhuudiuos” idea of Oti Region. He warns that if any ethnic conflict erupts as a consequence, it should be put squarely on the doorsteps of the propagators of the idea of Oti Region. One therefore wonders why it appears to be some dogged determination to destabilise the Volta Region by setting Oti Region and Volta Region on a collision course. By the way, if Oti Region is used for the proposed new region of northern Volta, what shall we call the remnant region? Certainly Volta Region cannot be sustained? It will cause administrative and historic difficulties. It is in this light that I find Gabusu’s call for “Volta North” & “Volta South” thought-provoking, since both north and south will retain “Volta,” which will serve as a unifying bond to enhance the promotion of fraternal relations and cooperation between the two Volta regions.
The North and South Volta calls, being neutral and devoid of ethnic connotations, will defuse all ethnic sentiments and give all the people of the Volta Region the assurance that we will remain united and be proudly Voltarians (or Voltaians) before, during and after the split, if it ever takes place.
One big advantage of the Volta North concept is that, irrespective of which town is selected as the capital of Volta North, the new capital will see massive infrastructure development to bring it to a status of a regional capital and that will certainly be another plus for the Volta Region as a whole. Funds for that development will come from Central Government. Building of government offices, etc., and increased commercial activities will definitely open up avenues for employment and socio-economic development.
Volta North Region, with 13 of the present 25 districts of the region, will give the minority ethnic groups in northern Volta a region which they can regard as their own without the necessity of having to cede off any part of present Volta Region. Another positive development is that, for the first time since independence, these minority ethnic groups will find themselves in a region where Ewes will cease to be the dominant ethnic group. This new state of affairs will, hopefully, erase the lingering fear, suspicion and accusations of Ewe dominance in the Volta Region. Hopefully, this will eradicate the “Aryan and Barbarian syndrome” that is presently fuelling all the agitations for break-away. The creation of North & South Volta will level the playing field and empower all minority groups in the region to give of their best in regional development.
In summary, i. I would like to crave the indulgence of all to put our political and ethnic biases away and look at the issues involved: (a) Let’s bury the Oti Region concept. It is divisive. (b) If indeed the region must be split, then let’s critically examine the pros and cons of Togbega Gabusu VI’s proposal of North Volta and South Volta. There is a chance that with some astute political manoeuvring and dexterity we could turn it to our advantage. (c) If however we are definite that we don’t want any split at all, then let’s say so emphatically and to the government that we are not interested, so they would plough the referendum money into the Eastern Corridor Road to accelerate its arrival at Kete Krachi and beyond.
- If we think the split along the lines suggested by Togbega Gabusu VI is in the wider interest of the people of the Volta Region rather than to our detriment, then let us devote some time to interrogate it.
iii. Let’s educate our people on the issues at stake and just not give into hoarse shoutings and name-callings without articulating the issues and our views
- Please don’t let us make the same mistakes that our forefathers made during the 1956 Plebiscite. They refused to vote because they claimed the British Administrators, who were supposed to be neutral, were biased in Nkrumah’s favour. Don’t let us reduce the issues to Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo and NPP electioneering promises. No! That’s not the case. It’s about the wellbeing of our region.
- Let’s insist that all of Volta Region people are involved in deciding the future of the Volta region.
- If the arrangement is that only people from the demarcated areas will vote in the referendum, then it behooves the people of the Volta Region to fight for universal suffrage and, if this is denied us, we should boycott the referendum.
These are the issues. Let’s be dispassionate about our discussions.
God bless our beloved region and let it develop in peace, unity & tranquility.
*Dr. Komla Dzigbodi-Adjimah is a retired professor of mining / geology at University of Mines & Technology (UMaT), Tarkwa, Ghana. The Ghanaian-born holds multiple undergraduate and graduate degrees in geology and mining from institutions in Ghana, UK and Germany. His professional body memberships include several science and associations. He hails from the Gbi Community in Ghana’s Volta Region
By Prof. Dzigbodi-Adjimah