On the Zongo Ministry: #iZongo

Boniface Abubakar

There was an argument I saw recently about how the development of the northern regions would go a long way to stemming the problems of the Zongo communities. Acknowledging the administrative and legal challenges that ministry will face, the spirit behind the argument is commendable, in my view. The reason we have so choked a system of life in the capital cities is because of the poor levels of development in other areas. For obvious reasons, SADA has failed the very people it planned to save. Monies have been wasted down the drains…or flown into neighbouring countries. Talk of capital flight!


That argument, however, ignores the dynamics of migration. Today in the United States, we have first generation Americans whose parents are still immigrants. The level of growth in China or Mexico will not determine their decisions to leave their homes in Chinatown or New Jersey. Their immediate concerns are how to be accepted in the places of their births, how to make it in life as Americans and Brooklyn natives, not how to make money and go back to Rio in retirement. Sure, there is a sophisticated segment of every community that longs for heritage and worries about issues of identity. Otherwise, the majority of these people want to belong where they grew up.

The situation is no different for people in Madina Zongo for instance. Zongo no doubt derives from the idea of a satellite community; a place on the fringes of the world where people stay for a few days. A community of hotels, if you would, bound by the singular belief that we are here in transit, and even if we have built these houses, we do not own the documents entitling us to their ownership (in some cases, at least).

Brother, those days have long passed.

The generation of this day see Accra as their home the same way Boniface has made Madina Zongo his home. Regardless of the level of growth in the rest of the country, these people, myself included, are not going to move for the sake of it. Our roots are too deep, our connections too solid; Zongo is our home and our town. When the sun rises to the peaks of the minarets, it feels us with hope that another day has come for us to make it in life. To make it in life! Not to make so we can go home to a place we have never been to.

Forget the fact of Zongo being built on the foundations of Islam. The contemporary Zongo neighbourhood is more diverse in faith and ethnicity than many of the well-planned, gated communities. The bonds we have is a Ghanaian one. Between us we speak a smattering of Hausa and Twi and Kotokoli and Ewe, with wild-bellied Ga laughter to spice. Kwɛ!

The other problem with their argument is that they forget this is not a Zongo Ministry. Honourable Boniface is the Minister-designate for Inner City AND Zongo Development; I don’t suppose Inner City is just a fanciful adjective. There are areas with equal challenges in Accra and other places that are not Zongo communities. Alo?

For too long we have been in the doldrums unaware of what we have done as a people to deserve such contempt. The narratives have been horrible. If political powers are not misusing the wayward youth to fight their superficial battles, then it is musicians screaming to the world about how many Nima hoodlums they have on their side. It is so painful hearing them it is sickening.

On the political front, this is going to be a very important battlefield. For years NDC has enjoyed the support of Zongo communities. If the NPP government is smart, this will be their strongest weapon at uprooting the umbrella from Zongo…which means the NDC will have a vested interest in the promises the government claim to deliver. There is nothing better than a vibrant opposition to put the incumbent on its toes. If all the government can do is provide barbering machines and perming creams, the opposition will help us voice our concerns. Either way, it is a gainful marriage for us. The people of Zongo must learn to build permanent interests instead of permanent friends.

I am therefore glad that the first such person to head this ministry is one from Zongo. On a recent interview with Richard Dela Sky on Citi Eyewitness News, Hon Boniface reminded us all of how much he was a part of us. He speaks Hausa so eloquently it frightens me. Ahem, I am just saying! Such sweet talkers know how to get themselves out of a fix. But more importantly, they should be able to make sound arguments in our favour.

I pity him, almost. Almost because, the politician is not one to be pitied. He sized his ego in the mirror and realised he had broad shoulders and thick skin. His vocal chords churn sweet music to soothe the people’s plight. As a man of the elephant, he is sitting on a high mount, and so should be able to see the storm ahead and steer us clear.

Of course, we know it is all bluff! But by voting for him, by Nana Addo appointing him to a ministry that has the potential to shape the lives of his own people, the people of Ghana are calling his bluff!

No leader exists for the four walls of his estate. His success will only be measured by how much our lives have been improved. And so it is incumbent on all of us to offer him the support. Listening to him at the Ibn Taymiya Mosque of Madina Zongo, I was particularly glad he availed himself of everyone’s input. He pointed out how much Zongo, once a peripheral community, has come to occupy a central position in the city. In his view, Zongo could play an important role in the development of the whole nation. He declared himself an MP for all of Madina and not just for his political party. He reiterated Nana Addo’s reason for creating the ministry, namely the development of Zongo infrastructure.

Hon Boniface, I dey for you.