I foresee tomorrow being a very emotional day as a new era begins in Ghana with the swearing into office of Nana Akufo-Addo as President. There will be the tears of joy of a dream come true, as well as the misery tears of those who find it all a nightmare; those who never foresaw this day.
Nevertheless, beyond the expected January 7 emotion and infectious euphoria, the feel-good factor that has engulfed many parts of the country since Election 2016, there are also some sober matters to be pondered.
For example, with so much gone wrong in recent years, from where, and how, does one begin to untie the knots?
Also, the fear is that given all the numerous big problems to tackle, the new administration might overlook some of the smaller ones. Yet, sometimes ‘small things’ need to be added to the priority list in order to achieve comprehensive success. In some cases, seemingly minor issues left unattended have the potential of affecting achievements.
Take attitude to duty and the recent gas tanker fire near the Trade Fair Centre, at La, in Accra. The Daily Guide of December 28 reported: “Moses Asaga, Chief Executive Officer of the National Petroleum Authority said the authority had found out that two bolts which should have tightened the lid on the gas tanker were missing.
“ … The pressure built up and because the lid was not tight, the pressure was able to force the lid open. It came out like a missile … and caused the fire.”
Apparently, somebody’s negligence led to this heartrending disaster leaving 11 dead and from which even the victims whose lives were spared may never quite recover.
Did we not hear of a similar incidence of negligence regarding ‘Black Wednesday’, June 3, 2015, when scores of precious lives were lost in the twin disasters of flooding and fire that Accra experienced?
The Daily Guide of June 6, 2015 reported that “the Ghana National Fire Service says its preliminary investigations indicate that valves that were not properly tightened caused the fuel to gush out from the Goil station.
“This allowed the fuel to float on the surface of the flood waters, and then came into contact with naked fire about 100 metres from the station.
“The explosion occurred when the fire spread to the underground fuel tank with the loose-fitting valve.”
Predictably, the matter of the “valves that were not properly tightened” soon got lost in the narrative.
Following the twin disasters, city authorities swore that there would be stricter controls, that even the siting of fuel stations within residential areas would be banned.
Yet, not too long after that, a new fuel station sprang up at Osu, in the part of the Ringway Estate that leads to the Osu Oxford Street, very close to the former US Embassy premises. That fuel station looks visibly squeezed into that densely populated area, so who gave the permission for it to be sited there?
For how long will lives be put at unnecessary risk due to carelessness, impunity or sheer greed?
And it’s now a cliché to say that Accra is wallowing in filth, a situation that surely will not be solved with the once a month ‘Sanitation Day’ alone. It requires a full time team working under sanitation professionals – and with tools.
It was the New Patriotic Party administration under President John Kufuor that not only saw the need to beautify Accra, but actually named a ‘Ministry of Tourism and Modernization of the Capital City’. Perhaps we don’t need such a mouthful of a name to achieve the objective, but certainly that project needs to be implemented.
One suggestion is that the now dead or dying Department of Parks and Gardens should be urgently revived and funded to do its work.
Accra needs to look like the capital city of a country whose people are proud of their nation; a country whose well-travelled leaders have seen how others with much less natural endowment have been able to beautify their capitals and even towns and villages.
I’m not talking about the occasional attacks on street vendors, vicious breaking of tables and kiosks of deprived people scratching a living. I mean a well-planned approach to making Accra deserving of the boast of Ghana being the gateway to Africa.
There is urgent need for new thinking, more pragmatic strategies which take into consideration the impact on people to be affected and working with them to achieve objectives.
Furthermore, any plans for the capital should include a serious review of the city’s chaotic street-naming programme. Whatever system was used had too many question marks.
As this column has pointed out a number of times before, apart from the disgraceful wrong spelling of names on the street signs, in many places there was little consistency: How can the same stretch of road at Kaneshie, in Accra, named after Dr K.A. Busia, be both a ‘highway’ and also a ‘high street’?
Another main complaint is that many of the new street names were not needed. All that was required was to have written the old, well-known, names on the newly-designed signposts. Renaming for no clear reason only leads to rejection of the new.
In summary, the Accra street-naming project should be part of the new Government’s ‘TO BE REVIEWED’ priority list.
Among the priorities, the original name given to the presidential office-residence complex should be restored. ‘Golden Jubilee House’, or ‘Jubilee House’, with which it was christened by the Kufuor administration which constructed it, should now adorn its frontage in golden letters.
It is fitting that the capital city has that imposing complex named to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Independence. Or, if a reflection of past history and the present is favoured, why not ‘Flagstaff-Golden Jubilee House’?
In the meantime, as this year Ghana will be celebrating its 60th year of independence on March 6, I suggest that the Akufo-Addo Government also needs to start thinking of a suitable structure – maybe another iconic bridge on the Volta River – to build and name in honour of the country’s Diamond Jubilee.