This year’s national Independence Day parade was held in Tamale, the capital of the Northern Region. With all things being equal, why not? But all things were not equal. It was hyped up as a very unique event which was dreamed up as a kind of gift to the people of Dagbon and especially to the new Ya Na’s glory! This hype was fed to Ghanaians in the days leading up to the event over and over, at the centre of which was the developing “Great Leader” prinzip, featuring Nana Addo-Danquah Akufo-Addo, who is now claiming undeserved credit for the enskinment of the new Ya Na. Check out the huge billboards showing him and the Ya Na claiming that Dagbon was grateful to him!
These claims gloss over the real history of how come Dagbon was decades without its overlord and whose government was in charge when the original sin – the murder of Ya Na Yakubu Andani II – was perpetrated and which failed to either find the perpetrators or prosecute successfully those who were eventually sent to court as the likely suspects. Nana Akufo-Addo was Attorney General then.
As the Asantehene, the man who brokered the final settlement said, the search for peace in Dagbon started with the then incumbent, J.A Kufuor, under whose watch the regicide occurred, and then to J.A. Mills, to J.D. Mahama and finally to 2019 when all the pieces fell in place and a new Ya Na could be installed and so no one person could claim credit. The NPP and Nana Akufo-Addo now claiming credit for peace in Dagbon, is one of the most cynical insults that the perpetrator of a crime can direct at a victim.
But here is a question: should the celebration of our Independence Day, which is a national affair become an ethnic reward?
Let us be careful of not falling prey to populist trickery. Let us not destroy the good things in our political tradition – the main ceremony in celebrating 6th March takes place in the capital city for the obvious reason that on the same day across the country, the regions and districts also mark their locally branded editions.
And so, March 6 2019 was held in Tamale, with the NPP hoping to reap what political mileage it was looking for. But what are the real facts?
The Independence Square, originally the Black Star Square was constructed by Ghana’s Founder, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah. After several years of use, it had become old and decrepit. The PNDC of Flt. Lt. Rawlings undertook a major rehabilitation and gave it a massive face lift in the eighties of the last century. The Square after that served us very well to the present, but age and wear and tear have turned it into something of a death trap and unfit for major national events. This is therefore the real reason for moving the 2019 parade out of Accra and not for the reasons the hype put out. For obvious propaganda purposes Tamale was targeted. It was neither for the love of Dagbon nor respect for the Ya Na but simply because it could be milked to divert from the original sin – the murder of Ya Na Yakubu Andani – which the NPP still carries. The Tamale event was a big lie!
Value for money: Already in the public domain are figures purported to be the relocation costs from the Independence Square in Accra to the Tamale Sports Stadium: U$3 million (equivalent of GH¢ 16,500,000.00) budget earmarked and approved for the Tamale event. This figure is from a leaked government memo from the Chief of Staff to the Finance Minister, requesting for the release of the said funds. It reveals what a source described as a shocking list of overpriced items and contracts given to one party bigwig after the other. One glaringly questionable item is the provision of 10,000 pieces of umbrellas budgeted at Gh¢ 1,160,000.00, making each umbrella cost Gh¢ 116.00.
Refreshments for 20,000 spectators was budgeted to cost Gh¢ 2,000,000.00 with refreshment for each spectator costing the tax payer Gh¢ 100.00. Transportation for chiefs and clerics (Islamic and Christian) cost Gh¢ 1,200,000.00 with hotel accommodation for government officials costing the taxpayer Gh¢ 1,500,000.00. Of striking incredulity is the hotel accommodation for the Northern Region Minister, who already lives in the region. The hotel accommodation bill in his name for just a night is listed at Gh¢11,350.00!
Perhaps what would incense Ghanaians most is the cost of toilet paper for additional portable toilets placed around the stadium. It is budgeted at a jaw-dropping Gh¢ 216,432.60. An item listed as ‘Party Security’ is budgeted to cost the taxpayer Gh¢ 115,000.00 with many other incidentals listed in budget… Instead of taking credit for the Tamale parade, there should rather be a probe.
Another big tab awaiting the Ghanaian taxpayer is the damage that may have been done to the Tamale Sports Stadium. The Police Park, where such events are normally held in Tamale is not big enough and so it fell on the Sports Stadium to host the event. In its over eagerness to score cheap political points, the government failed to factor in the design limitations of a small sports stadium to host a major military parade. As a result, thousands of marching soldiers’ boots, truck tyres and armoured vehicle tracks did a lot of damage to the delicate grounds of the facility, the repairs of which, the already overburdened taxpayer has to bear – all because of the “Great Leader’s” megalomania! Why did the government lie about the disrepair at the independence Square? There are comprehensive media reports on that.
With a decaying Independence Square crying for rehabilitation, and the Tamale Sports Stadium seriously scarred from unwise use, perhaps the undeclared millions of US dollars being expended on the national cathedral to nowhere, can be diverted to a more nationalistic cause…
A Commentary by Oli A. Rahman