My journey to north; the truths, tales and perceptions

BY: Zadok K. Gyesi
A picture I took on my way to Bunkprugu
A picture I took on my way to Bunkprugu

It was Friday, July 24, 2015. I had gone to the now defunct “DKM” lorry station in Sunyani to board a Tamale bound bus. I had reserved a ticket for the journey the previous day.

The time was 6:32a.m. I had in my hand my carry-on bag in which I had packed a few things for my planned three-day stay in Tamale. I was going to search for an accommodation because I had then received a letter from my employers, the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL) that I had been reassigned to the Tamale office in the Northern Region from Sunyani in the Brong Ahafo Region. That was my first time travelling to the Northern Region.

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I took this photo at a village in Kpandai

The bus was scheduled to depart at 7:00a.m, however, due to what the managers of the lorry station described as “something beyond our control”, we left Sunyani for Tamale around 7:45a.m. My seat number was 17. It was on the left-hand-side. An elderly man in his early 60s sat next to me.

I visited the Salaga Slave Market

When the engine started, my dream of going to Tamale was almost certain. I was extremely happy, my mind educed several stories, tales and myths I had heard about Northern Ghana. The stories and tales were so many that at a point, I became confused as to which one to verify first on arrival. It was no laughing matter!

A visit to a shea butter processing factory in the Sagnarigu District

Let me share a few of these ‘stories and tales’ with you. Until I went to Tamale, I had imagined there were only grass in the north—with some scattered populations of baobab and shea trees.

I again believed that I could either see a lion or an elephant at any point. Similarly, I held the perception that I could see some of the wild animals I usually see in wildlife documentaries, including zebras, antelopes, and deer on the supposed grassland I been socialized to envisage.

I took this photo at the back of the Mion District Assembly

I must say that due to some of these beliefs I had preoccupied myself with concerning the region; sitting by the window was a great opportunity for me — at least, if for nothing at all, to satisfy my curiosity. I was steady in the bus. I never blinked. My eyes were wide open.

After Kintampo

Going past Kintampo, my hopes were almost roof-high. I had heard that as soon as you travel past Kintampo, you are almost into the northern territory. The story appeared to be true, for soon after we passed Kintampo, the vegetation changed.

I took this photo at Jagando village, close to Sang

I must confess that I am a bit touchy when it comes to phones, particularly while on a long distance journey. On this occasion however, I kept my phone in my pocket. I needed my eyes trained on our immediate surroundings, who knows, perhaps I was going to see a loose wildlife and there was no point to miss it - elephants grazing or preying lions.

I covered the Bimbilla conflict 'some'

Two hours from Kintampo and I was disappointed. No show. Where were the antelopes at least? The lions and elephants – the big game – could wait. In fact I could make do with anything wildlife, even a stray dog was going to be welcome sight.

I met these women building a house together when I was going to Bunkprugu

Above the shrubbery, big trees greeted us on both sides of the road. Some I thought, easily passed for processing as timber for exports. Bags of charcoal stood on the sides of the roads in most of the communities we passed along the way.

The 2016 Best Farmer in the Tamale Metropolis performing some traditional dance


By 1:20 pm, we were in Tamale. Wow! Is Tamale this beautiful? I asked myself several times! That was my first-day-experience in Tamale. Two days after arriving, I got an accommodation. I went back to Sunyani to prepare for my final relocation to Tamale.

Covering the 2016 general elections with my colleagues was an awesome experience

On July 26, I relocated to Tamale and worked there for almost two years. I met and worked with the locals. Very enchanting, devoutly benevolent and warm people. Some hosted me to ‘TZ’ and ‘Wasawasa’ parties. I picked a few routine sentences in Dagbani. I made friends and built ties I’m going to keep for a lifetime. I never saw a lion or an elephant on the loose. The Mole Park was the only place I was going to see any but I never had the time to go there. I visited many of the paramountcies. My point? There is every truth in the maxim, ‘travel and see’. You may likely shed your prejudices.
I left Tamale on April 29, 2017 to now work from Accra, my current location.

I participated in a lot of training programmes


Having stayed, lived and worked in the Northern Region as a journalist, I was able to verify the truths; discard the perceptions, and discover the tales about the region and its people.

I followed the REGSEC to Bunkprugu following their chieftaincy conflict 

I realised that there were many untold stories about the people from the north and the region itself. The region has not been featured well in the eyes of people, considering its vast and expanse diversity.

It is a hidden truth that many people, particularly from the southern parts of the country perceive the region to be ancient.

Southerners view the northern region from three angles - their views based on media reports; perceptions; and how the people from the area describe themselves.


The media may have contributed significantly to the development of the Northern Region, but they also stand accused for portraying the region in negative light to the outside world.

Community development reporting was one of my priorities in the Northern Region

For some media houses in the country, the only times the north get any attention and space is when there is “conflict”. Negative stories from the region are treated with special attention at the expense of developmental stories.

I also learned how to ride a motorbike although I could only ride on 'rough roads'

Mud houses and free-range grazing cattle are the permanent fixtures representing the north for such media houses. The beauty and warmth of the place and place take back seat.

I visited a lot of palaces, including the Bimbilla palace

Yes, travel and see, you are sure to fall in love with the breathtaking landscape of the region. It is second to none other region.

I took interest in 'Fugu, the traditional attire in northern Ghana

We lie to portray the place only as a rural community. We deprive would be tourists of partaking in nature’s diversity and blessing.

I visited the Gbewa Palace too

I have heard conversations suggesting that transfers to the Northern region is how some institutions ‘punish’ staff who require some reprimand or correction. Others have also allegedly resigned from their workplaces because of transfers to northern Ghana. No, this is no Siberia.


It is even more disheveling to know that the people of the region are very much aware of the slur the media holds about the region. They suspect that the “negative stories” are written by non-indigenes.

I took this photo after my last assignment at the University for Development Studies, UDS

As a development oriented journalist working in the region, I felt that there were a lot of positive stories that could be done to help advance the cause of development in the region. It is undisputed that many people view northern Ghana as poor. Although there is some element of truth in this, it is not totally true that people in the region are poor. The Northern Region is far better than most of the so-called well-to-do regions in the country. It is time to shine the light more forcefully on the region waiting to explode.
Till our paths cross again in Tamale, mpaɤa ya!

I attempted to climb this Boabad tree 

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