I am in the Western Region on duties, not usually associated with my everyday activities.
(At a suitable time, I shall write about what has brought me here).
As they have never shied away from saying, I have been hearing “the best comes from the west” over and over again in the 15 hours since I arrived here.
I suspect I shall be hearing it throughout the one week I am going to be around here, going through all of what is left of the old “Western” region and the incoming “Western North”, and if you have heard of a clumsier name, I would like to hear it.
I am told there is a movement to change the Western North into xxxxxxxx.
I haven’t met anybody yet here in the Sekondi-Takoradi area who seems uncomfortable or unhappy about the referendum that has sliced off a big chunk of the Western Region.
Thus far, when they talk about Ghana’s riches coming from the “Western Region”, they refer to the whole of the old “western”, and when they say that they “carry most of the weight of Ghana” on their shoulders, they refer to the whole of the “old western”.
And when they say that they have not had the development that would be commensurate with their contributions to the wealth of the nation, they refer to all parts and not just part of the Western Region.
Nobody has suggested that slicing the region in two indicates a sinister plot against the people of the Western Region; nor has there been any threat of war.
I am sure not everyone is deliriously happy about Western North, but they certainly don’t think that the two regions would now be enemies because of the referendum.
I have also met two of my favourite people. The Regional Minister, Dr Kwaku Afriyie, who is a Western North man and is not likely to remain as the Regional Minister for the old, new Western Region, or whatever we should call it.
I don’t know if he is going to be appointed Regional Minister of Western North, but even if he is not, he will probably be content that this long hoped for and long fought for region has become a reality.
What is more, having finally made it into parliament, after having tried for so long, he is enjoying being a Member of Parliament (MP).
There are two reasons why he qualifies as one of my favourite people: the first reason is he farms nutmegs.
He is a successful medical officer, a politician; he has made it into parliament at the fourth time of asking, a hotelier of sorts, a successful cocoa farmer, but it is growing nutmegs that makes him attractive to me.
It takes eight years after planting a nutmeg plant for it to start fruiting and it takes someone with courage, patience and a determination to take a long-term view, to undertake nutmeg farming at the time he started.
He now harvests and sells nutmeg. Something tells me he wouldn’t be amongst those who took their money to Menzgold.
If you grow an exotic spice like nutmeg, that is a good reason for you to be a favourite person of mine.
A second reason goes back to when he was Minister of Health in the Kufuor Administration.
We were in the middle of difficult discussions about the budget, the kind of arguments that you have when the baseline is: there isn’t enough money to go around.
In the midst of the heated discussions, Health Minister Kwaku Afriyie said he was ready to give 10 per cent of his budget to the Roads Minister, because, according to him, if the roads are in a good state nationwide, everyone can reach a health facility within 30 minutes.
He can then concentrate on the training of medical personnel and equipping the health facilities that we had, instead of trying to build one in every village.
I don’t recall that his suggestion had universal acceptance, but it qualified him as a favourite person of mine. I have enjoyed his company this first day in the Western Region.
My first day here also entailed being in a group that paid a courtesy call on Nana Kobina Nketsia V, Omanhene of Essikado.
Now, that is another favourite person of mine. He and I go back a long way to my North Labone days and the start of our arguments when he was not a chief and I certainly had no idea he would ever be a chief.
On Monday, he continued his argument about cultural illiteracy.
I think he mentioned the referendum but there was nothing to suggest there had been a traumatic event with half of Western Region being taken away.
I will have to go to Brong Ahafo and Northern regions to see how they are handling it all before I make a definite conclusion on Western.
Nana Kobina Nketsia had his favourite subject of cultural illiteracy on his mind.
He is persuasive but I had decided long ago that on the subject of Kwame Nkrumah, he and I would go on our divergent paths.
Today he said he was not an Nkrumahist, but a “Sekyist”. I would sign up to a Sekyist any day, even though I must say that today Nana Nketsia was not the star.
The star was his 96-year-old mother, who was buried in the day’s newspapers when I was shown into her room.
Her grip was firm, she said we needed to have women in critical areas of governance and the economy.
I knew she was on top of things when she started lobbying a very important personality for a job for “a good woman” and she had the CV ready on her side table.
Nana Kobina Nketsia V gave me a copy of his tome, ‘’African Culture In Governance and Development, The Ghana Paradigm’’.
I have a very good reason not to start on his book yet. This Christmas, my friend Mary outdid herself in her usual impressive hamper.
Apart from all the usual goodies in the hamper, Mary gave me two books: ‘’Fighting Corruption is Dangerous’’, by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Michelle Obama’s ‘’Becoming’’.
I have brought both books with me and I am hoping that by the time I get back to Accra I would have finished them.
I am expecting the other stops on the trip to be as stimulating and provide the background for the books.
There will be stops in Half Assini, Nkroful, Axim, Agona Nkwanta, Prestea, Tarkwa, Wassa Akropong, Enchi, Asankragwa, Sefwi Juaboso, Sefwi Debiso, Sefwi Wiawso, Diaso and Bibiani.
I can’t think of a better way to start the year than with people who appear, at least to the outside eye, to be so much at peace with themselves.