Hundreds have marched the streets of the Volta Regional capital Ho, Wednesday, in protest against plans to carve out a new Oti Region.
Wearing red and black – traditional colours of protest in Ghana, the mainly youthful protesters argue, the motive behind the creation of the region is untenable.
It is believed, the creation of regions accelerates development because it brings along hospitals, schools, financial institutions and a slew of public sector institutions.
The extension of the government bureaucracy into the region throws up job opportunities and improved urbanisation.
But the group calling itself ‘Asogli Youth’ in collaboration with another group,‘Volta Youth” says the key to development is decentralisation not division.
They said the central government should cede its powers and control to the districts to plan their local economies.
The decentralisation remains a nicely-expressed development plan in Ghana’s law books but development remains largely a central government activity.
This is what the youth want the Akufo-Addo government to relinquish to the grassroot level – the District Assemblies.
Dancing, clapping and hoisting placards some of which read “United we stand, divided we fall”, “don’t insult our intelligence Mr…”, “Don’t take our tolerance for weakness”.
The demonstrators charged down the principal streets under a larger banner inscribed with the protest theme “Save Volta Now”.
The protesters, mostly the southerners, say they will be denied the economic benefits of the resource-rich northern part of the Volta Region which is expected to carve out into a new region.
The northern part has cocoa, coffee and cola in a three-pronged cash crop contribution to the national resource basket.
The protesters reserved some stick for their chiefs whom they say have not demonstrated the same desire for unity as they have, even though some of their traditional leaders are behind a suit challenging the process to divide the region.
Some placards read “Do we still have chiefs in Volta?” “Stop behaving like crocodiles” and “Stop acting like cowards Volta chiefs”, as they marched to the Regional Coordinating Council to present their petition to the Regional Minister Dr. Archibald Letsa.
A leader of the group told Joy News, the division “should never, never, never happen”.
Up north, some 100km away from the demonstrators, residents in areas like Krachi, Biakoye, Kadjebi, Nkwanta North and south and Ntsumuru districts are as happy as the protesters are angry.
There is a buzz of expectation in these areas expected to constitute a new region. The chiefs say their 30-year old struggle to have a new region is bearing fruit.
Although resource-richer than the south, they are poorer in terms of social amenities and therefore see the creation as an opportunity to get much-needed development.
They have told a government commission touring these areas to hear submissions for the creation of the region that they will resist attempts by elements in the south to frustrate the division.
They have branded the suit in the High Court challenging the commission’s work as a “waste of time” and are prepared to support the government with their own legal team.
The creation rests on the results of a referendum after the president so directs, based on the commission’s report. The final say would then rest with the people up north, the law prescribes.
The south can only watch on as a ‘Yes Vote’ by 80% of the voters would mean the Volta Region created in 1956 is divided in 2019.