My January – February 2023 “cross-over” was from Tamale-Bolgatanga to Wa-Tumu.
Having spent the last week of January in the Upper East Region, it was now the turn of the Upper West.
As the Passion Air aircraft descended into Wa Airport, what struck me was firstly the reflection of the aluminium roofing of the buildings, knowing aluminium to be a good conductor of heat, and secondly the greenness of Wa.
Again, this time we landed on the tarmac of an airport.
On my last visit in 1998 with students of the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College (GAFCSC), the Ghana Air Force aircraft landed us on the rough untarmaced surface of the Wa airstrip.
Interestingly, when I told family and friends, especially the younger generation, that I was at Wa, the question some asked was, where is Wa? When I told them where it is, they asked what had taken me there.
Wa is the capital of the Upper West Region of Ghana. Until 1983, the whole of our northern land mass bordering Burkina Faso was one big region called Upper Region, with Bolgatanga as the capital.
In 1983, however, the Upper West Region was carved out of Upper Region with Wa as the new capital.
The other half of the Upper Region became the new Upper East Region with Bolgatanga still the capital.
Towns in the Upper East Region include Navrongo, Bawku, Zebilla and Paga, known for its Crocodile Pond.
Towns in the Upper West region include Nadowli, Jirapa, Nandom, Lawra, Hamile and Tumu.
Tumu is the capital of the Sissala East District, one of the eleven districts of the Upper West Region.
Sissala East shares a border with the Upper East Region.
At dawn on February 1, 2023, we set off under armed escort for Tumu.
Tumu is close to the border and with recent happenings in Burkina Faso resulting in thousands of refugees crossing to Bawku in the Upper East Region, the Commanding Officer of the 10 Mechanised Battalion,
Wa would not take any chances.
The 160km journey took about three-and-half hours.
After interacting with troops teaching them about Gender Mainstreaming, our return trip also took three-and half hours, arriving back at Wa at 6pm.
Even though some work is said to have been done on it, the road between Wa and Tumu is generally bad.
When our team travelled from Tamale to Bolgatanga earlier on our Upper East visit, I thought the road was bad, having seen it in a better state twenty years earlier.
For our Wa-Tumu trip, we wore facemasks not for fear of COVID-19 but to prevent dust which filled our air-conditioned bus from making a direct charge into our lungs.
At Tumu, we had a happy reunion with Rev Col David Bansibo (Rtd), the immediate past Director of Religious Affairs (Chaplain-General) of the Ghana Armed Forces. He is now the Parish Priest of the Catholic Church at Tumu.
When I met my retired senior colleague at the airport, he said until commercial air flights came to Wa, it took him thirteen hours by road from Accra to Wa.
A native of Wa, he is so appreciative of Passion Air’s commercial flights to Wa which have reduced travelling time to one-and-half hours.
However, once one lands at Wa, moving to the districts is a nightmare as one has to travel on bumpy and dusty tracks called roads.
Certainly, my travels to Nandom, Lawra and Jirapa some twenty years ago were not as bad as I experienced to Tumu this time.
The people in Upper West lamented that while the roads are dusty and bumpy in the dry season, they are quickly converted into quagmires in the rainy season with vehicles carrying foodstuff routinely getting stuck in the mud for days.
In the process, foodstuffs they carry especially perishables, get rotten.
Over 60 years after independence, the state of our roads in Upper West makes me wonder what we are as a people, and what the people we vote for to lead us are.
So, what have the MPs and politicians in the Upper West done for their region through the government, just as we asked when we were in the Upper East Region?
I am not oblivious of the fact that, in Accra where I live, the roads are not the best. Indeed, while the adjoining Community 20 has been fully asphalted, the lamentation in my Community (18) as well as 19 is that, we do not have any important persons like MPs/politicians living here.
Hence in a residential area which attracts high Property Rates by the Tema Municipal Assembly (TMA) and equally high Ground Rent by the Tema Development Corporation (TDC), roads are simply bad.
However, for roads linking regional capitals like Tamale-Bolgatanga, and Wa to a district capital like Tumu with the potential for economic activity, their present states are lamentable.
Under President Nkrumah in the 1960s, Bolgatanga had a meat factory which canned meat called Volta Corned Beef.
Pwalugu had a Tomato Canning Factory.
Talking to some youth in the two regions, they are disillusioned because they feel completely cut off from Ghana.
To them, government after government has put them on the back-burner.
Indeed, on the news on February 9, 2023, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Ghana threatened to picket in front of the seat of government with some youth from Bawku, if government does not show interest in them.
However, they also admitted that, the numerous internecine and ethnic conflicts in the north have not helped development.
The large numbers of troops and resources pumped into the north on a regular basis to manage conflicts could have been more positively invested in development.
Without peace, there can be no development, especially in the face of scarce resources.
Incidentally on Wednesday, February 8, 2023, Joy FM discussed the terrible state of the Accra-Tema Motorway.
This killer-stretch with almost daily accidents/casualties, in spite of all the lofty promises to fix it, has now become Accra-Tema “Motor-No-Way,” far from the safe Motorway Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah built in 1965.
By the way, why do we get offended when we are called an “underdeveloped” country, and prefer the euphemism, “developing” country?
For, it is said, admission of the problem is the first step to a solution. Probably a trip away from Accra like I have just had will make us more humble and talk less!
Leadership, lead! Fellow Ghanaians, wake up!
The writer is former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association, Kenya & Council Chairman, Family Health University College, Ghana.