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Open Letter to Northern Regional Minister

2006-02-15 16:03:53
This article has been read 980 times.

It gives me immeasurable pleasure to pen you this letter as one of the humble natives of The Northern Region of Ghana. In this brief, I have outlined two messages to you. Both messages aren’t personal in any form or shape; rather they are from an objective standpoint.

The Honourable Minister,
(The Northern Region)
Alhaji Boniface Abubakar Saddique

Dear Mr. Minister,

It gives me immeasurable pleasure to pen you this letter as one of the humble natives of The Northern Region of Ghana. In this brief, I have outlined two messages to you. Both messages aren’t personal in any form or shape; rather they are from an objective standpoint.

Message one:

On behalf of all forward-looking Dagombas, and on my own behalf, I would like to congratulate you on the good job done, so far, on security in the Dagbon Traditional Area (DTA). You have done a reasonably good job, given the high security temperature in Dagbon following the murder of Ya Naa Yakubu Andani II (May Allah have Mercy on him) and forty-two others. I have to say that you have been able to sustain relative peace in Dagbon, as fragile as it may be, aside from the elections 2004 related murders of Issa Mobila, and three others, and the harassment of some individuals (political rivals of your government), which, by any measure, are reprehensible.

The whole world knows that you were not in charge of the Northern Region in March 2002 when those barbaric acts unfolded in Yendi. Since then, things could have escalated and lots of innocent lives lost in the Dagbon Traditional Area (DTA) had it not been for your vigilance and foresight in curbing sources of tension in the area. We applaud you for that and wish you more success at that. Please continue to be vigilant and pragmatic in your decisions in order to safeguard the security of all inhabitants of the area. We need continuous peace in the area.

To consolidate your achievements on security in the DTA and to avert any bloodshed in the future, especially when, and if, a date is set for the burial of Ya Naa Yakubu Andani II (May Allah Bless his soul), I wish to suggest the following:

  1. You ask your boss, the President, for a thousand impartial security men to see to security in Yendi - the security Achilles’heel of Ghana.

  2. A week, or so, before the actual burial day, the security men should mount checkpoints on all roads/paths leading to and out of Yendi to prevent movement of arms into the city.

  3. During the week leading up to the actual burial day, all houses in Yendi should be thoroughly searched for illegal arms. And do not search the houses of only your enemies and overlook those of your friends. All houses must be searched to disinfest Yendi of possible illegal arms. Basically, do onto Abudu (or Paul) just as you do onto Andani (or Peter). As the wise ones say: “prevention is better than cure.” I am neither accounting nor discounting the presence of illegal arms in Yendi and his environs (Due to the primogenital tradition the Dagbon State exhibits, the area, his people and settlements can be referred to with masculine pronouns). It is simply better to carry out such a thorough search to rid the area of any illegal arms than wait for innocent people to be killed before your security apparatus begin scrambling to control the situation, which might become uncontrollable in the immediate term. Such an exercise would also avoid a rehash of the shameful massacres of September 9, 1969 and March 25-27, 2002 which claimed the lives of thirty-three (33) and forty-(43) Dagombas respectively. The Good People of Dagbon do not expect even one more Dagomba life to perish during the impending burial of the Ya Naa. Do not underestimate the degree of carnage that could erupt if things were to turn ugly in Yendi during the anticipated burial and installation of the regent ceremonies.

If you implement the aforementioned preemptive measures I am confident that the probability of an armed confrontation during the occasion would become infinitesimal. If you fail to heed to this suggestion and something happens in Yendi during the impending burial of the Ya Naa, Allah forbid, please do not tell Ghanaians stories and give excuses, for you have just been advised, free-of-charge. It would therefore be considered intentional negligence on your part if something were to happen then.

Crucially, in order for your government to demonstrate that you are serious about maintaining peace in Yendi and that you genuinely want the slain Ya Naa Yakubu Andani II (May Allah’s Mercy be upon him) to be laid to rest soon, I would suggest that you take proactive steps now by preparing the necessary peaceful conditions for the burial by carrying out a thorough search for illegal arms in Yendi as soon as possible. As you are totally aware, the fears and pessimisms about security in Yendi during the impending entombment of the King is one of the prime reasons for the delay. Basically, there is the general feeling that several Dagombas may be massacred again, if people are allowed to continue to keep their illegal weapons. And one of the ways to allay the fears of the pessimists is to exhibit to the people of Dagbon and the nation that you can ensure total security in Yendi. Mere public statements in press conferences and on FM radio stations that “Yendi is safe and peaceful” do not necessarily mean or guarantee that the city will be safe and peaceful during the burial ceremony. Tangible and very practical action is needed, not lip service and assumptions. During the traditional ceremony it would take as little as just one misstep or misunderstanding between any two opposing persons in the chieftaincy divide to ignite a bloody armed confrontation in Yendi. And if no search is carried out to fish out illegal weapons in the city such a clash could result in a death toll that could exceed that of March 2002.

Let’s face it, after the events of March 2002 which brought about the mayhem and this stalemate, it is clear to all that the burden of proof of whether or not Yendi is secure and safe enough to peacefully contain the most emotional traditional events in Dagbon’s recent history without possible fatal incidents rests on your government. Your government failed the Good People of Dagbon once already, in March 2002; hence the consensual fear is that there is a high probability of another failure. It is therefore incumbent upon you to prove that you are not planning to fail the Good People of Dagbon again. Remember that it is normally difficult to get a second chance to make a first impression, yet, the Good People of Dagbon are giving your government a second chance to make a first impression - the first impression awaited from you is a practical demonstration to all Dagombas and Ghanaians that you have searched and rid Yendi of all illegal arms and that the traditional activities can commence without hinder or peril. I advise that you work more closely with the Kuga Naa, the caretaker of Dagbon, among others, to arrive at a mutually acceptable definition of what he would term as adequate security and the practical chores you need to execute in Yendi in order to convince him and his kingdom that no more blood will be spilt during the impending traditional burial of Ya Naa Yakubu Andani II (May Allah have Mercy upon him).

Failure to take such prudent measures would mean that your government is not whole-heartedly looking for perpetual peace in the area and should stop making public statements that “the burial of the Ya Naa is being delayed and because of that there can not be development in the area.” Of course, there can be no meaningful development in any insecure environment. You would agree with me that your government is the main cause of the delay in achieving permanent peace in Dagbon today, because, so far, you have failed to convince the Good People of Dagbon that there won’t be bloodletting in Yendi during the interment rites. The fact is that people may be habouring illegal weapons and waiting for an opportunity to use them, and that opportunity could be the time of the burial of the Ya Naa.

Mr. Minister, your government can approach this problem in one of two ways:

  1. Ask the inhabitants of Yendi to turn in their illegal weapons voluntarily within a given time range for commensurate cash rewards. And make it known to the residents that after the voluntary submission period a house-to-house search will ensue to retrieve illegal weapons by force. Security checkpoints should be mounted on roads/paths leading to and out of Yendi before an announcement for the exercise is made. This would forestall any filtering of illegal weapons from the city to the surrounding villages. And warn members of your REGSEC not to leak information regarding the exercise in advance of the official announcement. Given your government’s claim of the huge financial resources spent on security in Yendi it would be extremely helpful, feasible and cost-effective in the short- and long-term to embark on such an exercise. This exchange-of-guns-for-money exercise I am recommending here would cost your government less than 1% of the money you have spent, so far, in keeping Yendi quiet, and would be as low as less than 0.1% of the cumulative historical cost and future cost of keeping the peace in Yendi, if the situation drags on for a couple of more years. Evidently, the alternative to this recommended exercise is the buckets of financial resources that your government will continue to pour into the city to maintain the fragile peace and a possible armed confrontation and loss of lives. These tons of financial resources could otherwise be used for other competing development projects in the region. Also, in hindsight, had your government demonstrated proper leadership in March 2002, the Ya Naa and forty-two others would still be alive today and the buckets of financial resources you are putting into security in Yendi and constantly complaining about would not be called for. Politically put, your government shot itself in the foot.

  2. Plan a forced surprise house-to-house search to confiscate illegal weapons. This second approach, though could be very effective, may lead to a kind of resentment for your government, if not professionally handled by the security forces engaging in the search. In carrying out the search do not skip houses of your friends who may be harbouring illegal weapons and go after your enemies who may not have illegal arms. Partiality, in that sense, would only breed a new level of insecurity. To ensure that all houses are searched properly, the security forces will have to paint-mark any house that has been searched, to keep track of those yet to be searched. Enough personnel should be involved in the exercise in order to complete the search in one day. It should be noted that Dagbon Musketeers (Kambonsi) keep traditional light guns for ceremonial/traditional purposes. They should be allowed to keep their traditional guns and gunpowder. The Kambonsi and their residencies are normally known by everyone in all settlements across Dagbon.

Mr. Minister, do not brush off the foregoing suggestions that will facilitate the solidification of your achievements in the security dimension and the quest for perpetual peace in Yendi and Dagbon for that matter, because the only predictable thing about Yendi is unpredictability, and we do not need another surprise – the sort of obscenity and insanity we (Dagombas) and the rest of the world witnessed in March 2002, that cowardly and animally act which, forever, will form the incomprehensible tainted spot in our otherwise rich and proud history and culture.

Not surprisingly, the two primary reasons behind the prevalence of illegal weapons in the Northern Region are:

  1. The inter-tribal clashes (wars) that dominated the area in the 1980s and 1990s and the need for these tribes, back then, to protect themselves against other hostile tribes. And

  2. the need for the tribes in the area to protect themselves, even today, against members of their own tribes owing to chieftaincy and/or land issues, since national governments have demonstrated, time and again, that they are incapable of providing protection and security for them against their compatriots and other hostile tribes. I do not condone the possession and use of illegal arms in any society; nonetheless our government has to live up to its responsibility of securing and protecting the lives of all its citizens without fear or favour. The illegal weapons in the Northern Region, especially among the Dagomba, Nanumba, Gonja, and Konkomba communities, were therefore amassed during the 1980s and 1990s to execute those inter-ethnic campaigns, and the need to continue to keep the illegal weapons was prompted by government’s ineptitude in ensuring the safety of the subject tribes. Mistakenly, when those clashes died down, there was no disarming programme by the previous government to rid the region of illegal weapons. So the weapons that were used by these tribes to fight opposing tribes in those days are the same weapons that are now being used to execute internecine wars/clashes today. Yet, the current government is making the same error by not searching the right places for illegal weapons.

Mr. Minister, it is legally wrong, just as morally, to hold the view that because Yendi is a stronghold of the ruling NPP government it is of no interest or obligation for you to conduct an exercise to seek out illegal weapons. Such a partisan and naïve position can be rather self-destructive and backlash-able, because if an armed confrontation is triggered in Yendi protagonists as well as antagonists of your government will fall victims. Please do not pacify Yendi and turn him into the “Bagdad” (illegal weapons depot) of Ghana and the perpetual Achilles’ heel of our national security. Free Yendi of illegal weapons in order to give a lasting peace in Dagbon a chance, because a weapons-free Yendi would call for an immediate burial of the Ya Naa, which in turn, would pave the way for peace among Dagombas. We (Dagombas) know that you, at a personal level, were not part of the current quagmire; rather you are trying to be part of the solution. These suggestions are to help you be the solution.

Message two:

Mr. Minister, you, as head of the Northern Regional Security Council (REGSEC), called for the immediate closure of Yendi Secondary School (YESS) on April 6, 2005, as part of the preparations toward the proposed, but aborted, burial of The Ya Naa Yakubu Andani II, May Allah bless his Royal Highness’s soul. The students were sent home to make way for their dormitories to be used as lodging facilities for the security personnel that were charged with the duty of providing security during the intended burial rites. However, you failed to ask the students to return immediately to campus when it was abundantly clear, around mid April 2005, that the proposed burial was unrealizable and ample calm had returned to Yendi. Further, you also failed to direct the final year students to another boarding SSS in the region to prepare for the SSSCE exams, probably due to lack of concern for their future or lack of good judgment. You might not see the failure of the over three hundred (>300) students at the SSSCE exams as a big deal, but to many it is an issue that needs redress. The future of any country depends on its youth and how they fare academically. They are the future leaders of this country, and if they fail academically now, the country is bound to fail too in the future.

This lapse of judgment on the part of your administration had serious consequences on the performance of the final year students of YESS, as they were deprived of the necessary opportunity to stay back in school to write the traditional mock exams and to prepare for the critical SSSCE final exams. They were finally called back to campus only a few days before the start of the SSSCE final exams. Even though, the students did their utmost to perform well in the finals, the outcome turned out to be dismal. The August 2005 SSSCE exams results were the worst in the history of YESS, and the primary cause of the poor results is traceable to your decision made in April 2005, as head of the REGSEC, to close the school down for a protracted period without any sensitivity and regard for the future of the final year students. Everyone would understand if the school was closed down for all those months for security reasons, but that wasn’t the case. By the end of April 2005, most of the security forces deployed earlier in the month had pulled out of Yendi and the place was peaceful, at least, peaceful enough for the final year students to return to campus.

Now that you are aware that the YESS final year students failed massively due to your lapses, what steps are you prepared to take to correct the mistakes you made with them and to ensure that they re-sit the SSSCE final exams and do not become “drop-outs”?

Remember that these innocent students did nothing wrong against your administration, the nation, and the Yani skin. They are law-abiding, disciplined, and hardworking students who became victims of your political miscalculations and misjudgments. Do not punish them for doing nothing wrong, because they deserve better and they would have performed very well, as usual, if not for the unnecessary prolonged closure of the school. Also remember that some of them cannot afford to pay the SSSCE registration fee, and without your assistance their future will be doomed forever.

Mr. Minister, I would forgive you if you are unable to understand the importance of this message, because you are swimming in a pool of public funds and living in a cloud-cuckoo-land. Your head-end family members of SSS-going age are probably attending schools in the South and are enjoying part of the financial bootie you are harvesting today and you therefore have lost sight of the sorrowful plight of several bright, but poor students in the North. For your information, the reality faced by majority of Northern parents today is how to meet just one decent meal a day for their families. Life gets worse and harder by the day for the common Northerner. Many parents, though enthusiastic about their wards’ education, cannot meet the exam fees for them, simply because of the unbearable cost of living today.

Mr. Minister, I suggest that you find some sensitivity in your heart, as the political administrator of the region and as someone working for the development of the people, and pay a courtesy visit to YESS, meet with the headmaster, the teaching staff and the students to let them know that you care, and find out from the school’s authorities what you can do to help the students who performed badly. Let YESS authorities and students know that you do not only need them for their dormitories, but that you also care for the future and well-being of the students. For instance, during your courtesy visit to YESS you could arrange for all the students who performed dismally in the SSSCE exams to re-sit the exams free-of-charge: meaning your administration, together with the Northern Regional Education Authorities, would see to it that the students are registered for the exams and the registration fees paid for. Further, the students should be accorded the opportunity to go to any of the boarding SSSs in the region to take classes and prepare for this year’s (2006) SSSCE exams. As the registration for this year’s exams is drawing to a close I wonder what you intend to do to bring about the academic development of these innocent young men and women. Most of those who performed badly haven’t registered to re-write the exams because they simply cannot afford the registration fees, given the extreme hardships and poverty they and their parents/guardians are going through now.

Development should not be perceived from a narrow perspective. Seeing to it that these innocent students receive the opportunity to re-sit the SSSCE exams in order to improve their chances of becoming better citizens with a secure future is a form of socio-economic development, as micro as it may be. By the same token, to sabotage these students by depriving them of their right to prepare and perform well at the SSSCE exams is a way of retarding socio-economic development in the area.

Mr. Minister, I think that your administration owes the staff and the 2005 final year students of YESS an unqualified apology and redress. I strongly suggest that next time you need the YESS student dormitories to accommodate your security elements, say, in preparation for the entombment of the Ya Naa Yakubu Andani II (upon whom Allah’s Pardon May be), please remember to direct the final year students to another boarding SSS in the region to continue with their academic preparations. Just remember the saying, as funny as it may be, but it’s always right, that: “the people you meet on your way up are the same people you will meet on your way down.” You disregarded the academic lot of the innocent final year students after closing down YESS because you thought you wouldn’t need their dormitories again for anything in the future. But I can bet you that you are wrong, because I know that, sooner or later, you will go back to YESS and ask for the student dormitories again to accommodate your security forces.

I hope that you have the well-being of the Good People of the Dagbon Traditional Area at heart in a way I think you do and would demonstrate it by taking immediate action to correct the mistakes made in April 2005. Please do not deprive these decent, innocent kids of their only bastion of hope and key to a good future - education. You enjoyed a fee-free and easy education as a young man, say in the 1950s/60s/70s, and part of the ‘80s, but these young ones are not, because they live, today, under very uncertain economic environment and in a poverty-stricken era and often have to supplement so much in terms of school fees. And I am trying very hard to bring myself to believe that you would have treated the final year students of, say, Damongo SSS or Salaga SSS in the same vein you treated those of Yendi SSS, a school where the default tribe of the student population is Dagomba. As the Northern Regional Minister and political figure, it is expected of you to treat all citizens of the region equally and regard these kids as if they were your own, whether or not they and their parents/guardians belong to your political shade or ethnic group. We should divorce ourselves of ethnic biases and work toward the common good of all Northerners and Ghanaians for that matter. We need lasting peace and development in Dagbon! Long Live Dagbon! God Bless Dagbon!

Very Sincerely,

Natogmah Issahaku

Hails from Jisonaayilli, Tamale

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