In the 6th July, 2012 edition of the Ghanaian Chronicle, a story headed above was attributed to the Volta Regional Minister, Hon Henry Ford Kamel, which we initially thought was a case of off-target reporting. However, after waiting for so long without any reaction from the Minister, we the concerned constituency Youth and opinion leaders in North Tongu, are compelled by the silence to correct the erroneous impression created by the story.
Whilst in a meeting with the National Peace Council, who had called on the Minister to 'explore how to bring lasting peace to Hohoe and other hotspots in the region', he reportedly accused government officials, who demarcated the boundaries for the newly created districts and the sitting of their capitals, of 'failing to execute a good job,' and being responsible for the chaotic situation arising from the demarcation.
The Minister said that Battor-Dugame did not merit the status as the headquarters of North Tongu District. In his words 'protests that have greeted the naming of Battor as the capital for the newly created North Tongu district could have been avoided, if those who took the
decision considered a number of factors. It is unfortunate that, having just taken over the Region, the Minister should make judgments over sensitive issues he had no full grasp of.
Instead of lauding the government and its officials for a job well done, and instead of taking steps to foster peace, he sought to apportion blame, thus driving a wedge between brothers and sisters of two traditional areas; Dorfor and Battor; the two main contestants. But we want to believe that he was misinformed by some self-interested people hence his stance and blunder when he had not heard from the others and has no knowledge of the area, an approach which defied fairness.
Is it true that the Minister said 'the Dorfor Traditional area, which comprises of Fodzoku, Torgorme, and Volo was far bigger than Battor, yet the capital had been given to the latter?' Whoever bitterly 'disinformed' the Minister must be ashamed. The stark truth is that, North Tongu District Assembly/Constituency is made up of six traditional areas;
Mepe, Battor,Volo, Dorfor, Torgorme and Fodzoku. Each of them is separate and sovereign. Dorfor Traditional Area, therefore, does not comprise Volo, Torgorme, and Fodzoku. They cannot be said to be subservient to the Dorfor Traditional Area nor its constituent.
It must be made clear that the new North Tongu District has its boundary coterminous with the boundary of the North Tongu Constituency. What then did the government officials get wrong in the demarcation? In any case, does boundary consideration alone constitute the criteria for awarding district capitals when he, the minister, admitted that 'a number of factors' ought to be considered? Even if size were the sole criterion, there was no way any other Traditional Area in the district could have beaten Battor to it.
For the information of all, we believe that the committee considered factors such as centrality of the Headquarters and other facilities such as schools, good roads, electricity, assembly hall, police station, good communication system, residential accommodation, hospital etc., so as to cut down on cost. Certainly, Battor-Dugame is poles ahead with these facilities. We wish to refer the Minister to the Ghanaian Times, Saturday, October 29, 2011 (page 6) for some information.
As evidently contained in the records, the process of choosing Battor-Dugame as Headquarters of the new North Tongu District Assembly was very transparent and unbiased involving all the traditional areas as well as Paramount Chiefs, Opinion Leaders and relevant government institutions.
In all the stakeholders' meetings, the Dorfor Traditional Area and other contestants or interest groups participated fully and enthusiastically signed all the memoranda of understanding without duress, happy that they eventually would get a district with its headquarters. It's in the light of this that we find the Minister's statement not only distasteful but shocking and highly embarrassing with the potential of reversing successes painstakingly chalked up.
About complaints against Battor-Dugame for being preferred and chosen over Juapong, we forthrightly consider this as an issue of a careless candidate giving a wrong answer to a question in an examination hall and coming out to blame the examiners instead of ruing his mistakes. This is because on Monday 3rd October, 2011, when the immediate past Regional Minister, Hon Joseph Amenowode, convened a consensus meeting at the Regional Administration, Ho, on the creation of the new district and its headquarters, representatives of Dofor Traditional Area, one of the three interest groups that vied for the headquarters, proposed DORFOR ADIDOME as against BATTOR-DUGAME, suggested by representatives of Battor and Mepe Traditional Areas. The Dorfor group did not consider Juapong as fit enough to be the headquarters and, therefore, DID NOT recommend it.
The stakeholders then mandated the government to apply the criteria for the creation of District / Capital as in the Local Government Act 462 to the two proposed towns (Battor-Dugame and Dorfor Adidome) and select the one that met the benchmarks. The representatives accordingly agreed that the decision of government would be binding on all of them. In view of the above, would the Minister not admit that it was hasty and very wrong for him to have passed judgment that Juapong was not selected because government officials did not 'execute a good job?' By the way how would he feel if in the future his successor casts such slur on his comprehensive work?
It is obvious that the chiefs and opinion leaders of Dorfor, Volo, Fodzoku and Torgorme Traditional Areas have withheld from the youth and anyone who gave them a listening ear the truth about the processes and deliberations leading to the final selection of Battor-Dugame, as against Dorfor-Adidome, which they put forward. They keep accusing innocent people of denying Juapong of the district capital, when, in fact, Juapong had not featured at any of those critical deliberations. They should explain why they preferred Dorfor-Adidome to Juapong, which seems to be the choice of the youth.
Is there anything that they know of which the youth are not privy to? It is mind boggling why they should now be proposing Juapong in the media and through the new minister when of course a platform had been provided for them but they voluntarily chose to side step Juapong. Or have they now discovered certain things about Juapong which were missing at the time they fronted for their people at the deliberations? The Hon Minister must ask them.
It must be noted that from 4 November, 1952 up until the NLC government collapsed the local government administrative structures in Tongu and fused them into one District, Battor -Dugame was the Administrative Capital of the then Upper Tongu District. Why did those complaining now not challenge the unmatched administrative roles played by Battor-Dugame in those days? What was/is the status of those towns being proposed?
We cannot imagine that the Hon. Minister would endorse the Dorfor Traditional Council's arbitrary decision to prevent the Assembly from collecting legitimate tolls at the Juapong market, constructed with the people's taxes and not with royalties from Dorfor Traditional Council on grounds that Juapong should have been made the district capital. By not stopping that action, the Hon. Minister may be seen as not only condoning but also conniving with an illegality and revenue leakage to the state, more so when he was meeting the National Peace Council.
We call on relevant authorities to let people understand that the creation of Districts and their capitals is the prerogative of the Government, as such they must cooperate. As the Hon MP Charles Hodogbe rightly advised at the stake holders' meeting on 3 October, 11, in Ho, the possibility of the creation of another district in the future is high. Therefore, the unfriendly posture of a few people of the Dofor Traditional Area, who made false claims to the Minister, must be condemned for the development of the district.
Again, It will be of great benefit to the Minister if he can reach for the tape on what the late President HE Professor JEA Mills (May his soul rest in peace) told the people of Dorfor Traditional Area when he last visited Juapong in response to their agitation over the sitting of the headquarters. It's only then that he'll be best informed about the true situation rather than listening to self-seeking individuals.
We wish to conclude that the unfortunate statements attributed to the Hon Minister would have been avoided if he had checked the facts from available records at the Regional Administration and those against whom the allegations had been made. We would also urge him to have a good understanding and a firm knowledge of any case that comes up before him before pronouncing judgments. Battors are very peaceful people whose goal is cordiality with others and are very much worried by this negative development. We hope that the Minister will visit the District soonest and see things for himself.
Edward Dzoboku, Box 1, Battor, VR.
(For and on behalf of the North Tongu Constituency Youth Group and Opinion