It is instructive that after the referendum, the reported ecstatic mood of the people in the proposed six new regions of Ghana was more like the joy of newly-weds than the tinges of regret, and even sadness, sometimes experienced by the newly divorced.
A certain nostalgia is not surprising after a divorce, no matter how awful the marriage had become, because there would have been some positives in the union.
But in the case of the would-be regions, what is striking is the apparently near universal euphoria, and the landslide ‘yes’ votes.
The four regions from which the new are being carved are Brong-Ahafo, Western, Volta and Northern.
The proposed new regions are to be known as: Western North, Bono East, Ahafo, Savannah, North East and Oti.
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The referendum question, on December 27, 2018, had been simply, “Are you in favour of the creation of (name of proposed region)? YES/ NO?”
In the case of ‘Brong Ahafo’, my special interest, as reported by the Daily Graphic of January 2, “Comparatively the highest turnout of registered voters was recorded in Ahafo …. A total of 276, 763 people, representing 99.68 per cent voted YES, as against 675, representing 0.24 per cent, which voted NO.”
Similarly, for the proposed ‘Bono East’, the turnout was 85.82 per cent and the voting was 99.50 per cent.
For the record, my father, the late Mr Boahene Yeboah-Afari, was credited with playing a very crucial role in the creation of the Brong-Ahafo (B-A) Region nearly 60 years ago, on April 4, 1959.
Thus Dr Kwame Nkrumah appointed him the first B-A Regional Commissioner (Minister) as I stated in my book about him, Conversations With My Father.
An early supporter of Dr Nkrumah, Mr Yeboah-Afari later joined the New Patriotic Party (NPP).
When the region celebrated its Silver Jubilee, the then administration under Flt-Lt. J.J. Rawlings honoured my father at the anniversary commemoration in Sunyani, as depicted by a photograph in the book.
Therefore, for people like me, I believe it will take a while to get used to the disappearance of ‘Brong-Ahafo’ from the map of Ghana; having to say goodbye to ‘Brong-Ahafo’. Indeed, I’m feeling quite nostalgic about it.
It was a matter of pride for me that my region was the only one of Ghana’s 10 regions to have been created as an alliance of two peoples, the Brongs and the Ahafos, symbolised by a punctuation mark, the humble hyphen being the bridge.
I also revelled in its audacious, fond nickname, ‘Brilliant Achievers’, coined from its initials, B-A. Now both of my ‘credentials’ are lost, terminated by the overwhelming referendum results.
Indeed, the referendum enthusiasm was so high that it is alleged that some electoral offences took place, allegedly by some EC staff, evidently, all in a bid to ensure a ‘YES’ success.
In an initial report, the Coalition of Domestic Election Observers (CODEO) expressed concern about some alleged electoral infractions during the referendum and asked for a thorough investigation.
However, despite the dissolution, the ‘Brong-Ahafo’ still maintains some uniqueness: the Ahafo part is the only one of the six which in effect is ‘divorcing’, exiting an alliance or ‘marriage of political convenience’.
The others are leaving their original regions.
The referendum background: During Election 2016 campaign, then presidential candidate, Nana Akufo-Addo, pledged that if the NPP won, they would settle the petitions-for-new-regions issue through a referendum, a Constitutional requirement.
Thus the referendum was the fulfilment of an NPP campaign promise. Ironically, the creation of B-A, too, had been in response to a campaign promise made by Dr Kwame Nkrumah and his Convention People’s Party during the 1956 electioneering, as explained in my book.
No doubt the legal processes for the new regions have commenced, and after Parliamentary approval new maps of Ghana will be issued showing 16 regions, instead of 10.
In effect the ‘Ahafo’ referendum results have dismantled the work my father did which led to the creation of the region. But as he was always a pragmatist, I believe that he would have understood.
I was aware that at one time or the other, long after my father had left the scene, there were murmurings in some quarters that development in the region was lopsided.
If the Regional Minister came from the Brong part, the grumblings were that the Ahafos were not getting a fair share of the regional kenkey; if he came from the Ahafo side, one would hear that the Brongs were being discriminated against.
And, notably, as far as I can remember, such appointees were always a ‘he’, never a ‘she’ – no women.
However, I do however remember periods when the regional political head had been an ‘outsider’, from another region.
Following the December 27 referendum, despite the GHȼ20 million seed money the Government has allocated to each of the six new regions, I still have a couple of funding questions.
Clearly people in the referendum areas believe that as soon as they gain their ‘self-government’ the expansion denied them for so long will be addressed immediately.
But how realistic is that?
If over the years lack of funds was responsible for the unequal development, would a new region solve that problem?
And if previously the money had been available, what led to the complaints about unequal development?
Anyway, I hope that the office responsible for redrawing the map of Ghana will ensure that as soon as the legal papers are finalized, the new map of Ghana will be in circulation.
I have seen on the Internet what is supposed to be a post-referendum map of Ghana which, to my bewilderment, shows both ‘Brong-Ahafo’ and ‘Ahafo’.
Not that I mind! I would love to be able to still describe myself as coming from the ‘Brilliant-Achievers’ Region.
But if the people of Ahafo have voted so emphatically to be decoupled from ‘Brong-Ahafo’ should ‘Brong-Ahafo’ still feature on a map of Ghana?
That map shows that some people are confused about what the referendum was meant to achieve – and it will surely confuse others!
My book, Conversations With My Father is on sale at: the Ghana International Press Centre (GJA headquarters), Accra; Kingdom Books and Stationery Ltd nationwide – Accra, University bookshops at Legon, KNUST, Kumasi and Cape Coast; Graphic Communications Group Ltd offices – Sunyani, Koforidua, Takoradi and Cape Coast; Sir Charles Bookshop & Stationery, adjacent Barclays Bank, Sunyani; and PAWA House, Accra. Price: GHȼ100.00.